Walking the Dog

by Louis Bignami

You don't really need a leash for this, but it's probably in the top ten techniques for excitement. While it's most usual for bass, the system works for stripers, big fall brown trout, muskies, various saltwater fish and, if you can find a small enough lure, even the odd crappie.

Perhaps the nicest aspect of the system is the involvement. The lure, a floating plug called, at least by "bass bashers," a stick bait, has no real action and lacks the wiggling scoop and other oddments usual on plugs.

The system requires a nice cast to cover - pads, sunken logs, reef edges or moor. Then it's tighten up the line and give the plug a short jerk as you start to reel. As a rule, your rod tip is held down when you're casting from bank or boat so the lure won't hop out of the water.  

As you continue to slowly reel you simply switch your rod tip back and forth and the plug should dart from side to side. This works wonderfully well at times.

The best times to use this system seem to be early and late in the day when fish are closer to the surface.

The system also works well when you have fish attaching bait on top, although at such times I favor a spoon that can be dropped below the action to pick up larger-than-average fish.

Last year, while musky fishing in Wisconsin, I learned a lot more than I expected about rod lengths and their relationship to angler height and boat freeboard. What you want is a rod that's just long enough to almost reach the surface. This makes the traditional "lazy eight" sweeps at the end of the cast work easily.

A number of lures work for this method. I'm particularly fond of smaller lures for more action. L&S Bait has a new "Top Dog Surface Walker" that looks nice. However, my favorite lure for twenty years is the Rebel "Jumpin' Minnow."

Finishes should match the typical baitfish. In my area silver scale or a rainbow trout finish seems the best bet. When we lived in striped bass country I favored a traditional red head, white body plug.

I suspect I've caught 30 or 40 different freshwater and saltwater species with the system, but its virtues are the enjoyment you get from cast and switch motion that's reflected by the side-to-side dart of the lures.

The most exciting aspects of this are the massive swirls you get when fish slash at the lure and miss. The usual reaction to this is a big jerk - aside from the one holding the rod - and a lure flying back into the angler's face. The best method is to simply continue the switching until you feel a fish and then set the hook.