Pro Bass Fishing Techniques: Walk the Dog
When it comes to bass fishing, there really is nothing quite as exciting as topwater fishing. Dancing a lure across the surface requires a focus on speed and cadence unlike any other. Your reward for this level of attention and precision? Dramatic strikes, as bass explode from below.
There are many styles of topwater lures and different techniques you can use to fish them. The most versatile of which is to “walk the dog” for bass.
In this article, we will cover how to walk the dog, our gear recommendations to use, and some mistakes to avoid.
What Is Walking the Dog?
Walking the dog is a retrieval technique that imparts a sharp back and forth movement on a topwater lure. Through this twitching, the idea is that you are imitating a crippled baitfish fluttering on the surface. While this bass technique sounds simple, success comes from practice. Follow along, and you’ll soon see what we mean.
How to Walk the Dog – Step by Step
Step 1. Cast
Yes, this sounds obvious, but often we will be working a lure over cover in an attempt to draw fish in for a strike. The longer the cast, the more time you have for the lure to work and, thus, more chance of a strike.
Step 2. Position Your Rod Parallel to the Water
Not high up and not down toward the water. Staying at a neutral level will allow your wrist to do the work in the next section, while keeping you at the ready to set the hook.
Step 3. Allow the bait to sit
Count until at least ten before beginning your retrieve. The noise of the bait landing is enough to draw interest, and the floating silhouette can draw a strike before it even moves.
Step 4. Twitch the Rod Tip
A slight horizontal twitch of five or six inches will cause the lure to swipe back and forth. If you have ever fly fished, this is the bass angler’s version of a barrel cast. The responsiveness of the slackline being twitched is enough to work the bait.
Step 5. Reel the Slack
A crank or two will give the bait the forward motion you want. If you notice you are reeling taut line instead of slack, slow down your retrieve.
Step 6. Twitch Again
Over time you will develop your cadence or rhythm for walking the dog. Stick with it, and you’ll be able to walk without thinking about your speed.
The Best Lures for Walking the Dog
The lures used when walking the dog are lipless and primarily cigar-shaped; I’ll now cover a few of my personal favorites, including a hybrid style.The Zara Spook by Heddon is one of the oldest bass lures still in production. Dating from the 1920s, the Spook comes in colors and sizes suitable for any game fish. Since we are covering bass fishing here, it is preferable to pick up a few between three and four inches. A solid white or clear option should be in your tackle bag, as should a black. Depending on moon conditions, an angler can fish both at night.
The Spook also comes in a Chug’n Spook model that features a cupped mouth. This version displaces extra water when twitched, an excellent option for days when the water is a bit choppy and you need a little more pop (literally).
Rounding out the spook product line is the Wounded Zara Spook. Just like the Chug’n Spook, this a great choice if you need a lure to make more commotion. A slightly faster retrieve with this lure gets the props turning and thus kicks up plenty of white water. I prefer to use this lure on venues with less vegetation, so the props can twist freely.
Lastly, I’m sneaking in my secret weapon. In all fairness, this lure isn’t a traditional walking the dog lure, but it has been pressed into service and saved the day on many occasions. When the water is calm, and even the Standard Spook won’t work, I like to walk a Weightless Zoom Fluke. When rigged with a weedless hook, this soft plastic lure can dance over hydrilla. Word to the wise, though, it will sink if not retrieved. This can be beneficial during pauses.
A weedless hook keeps your soft plastic fluke ready for a walk
The Importance of Cadence
As I mentioned, establishing a cadence with your retieve is critical. For those who didn’t take band in high school, cadence is the rhythm or pattern of your retrieve. In the case of walking the dog, your cadence includes both the twitch and reeling actions.Not only will you be able to consistently repeat a retrieve with a well-established cadence, but the repetitive sound of your lure “walking” will draw fish to your bait. A regular pattern is far easier to hone in on and strike than an erratic fast-slow retrieve.
Saying you need a cadence doesn’t mean you can’t pause your retrieve, but that’s something you probably want to experiment with once you’ve got some solid experience walking the dog.
Getting the cadence right was critical for this fantastic bass
Recommended Gear for Walking the Dog
Your ideal rod for walking the dog is a medium-heavy action rod between six and seven feet long. The medium-heavy action allows the rod to transfer plenty of movement into the lure while being able to respond aggressively to strikes.
Since you are keeping your rod tip close to the water, a rod longer than seven feet becomes ungainly. After twitching the rod tip back and forth for several minutes, a long rod will start to feel particularly heavy in your hand.
You want a fast retrieve reel in order to smoothly pick up the slack line between twitches. For baitcasting reels, look for a ratio of at least 6:1, with a 6.4:1 being even better. Trying to retrieve the slack with a slower reel will be frustrating, as you have to constantly crank to try and keep your cadence up.
LineWhen it comes to walking the dog for bass, there are two schools of thought for line. Some anglers prefer to use monofilament because it gives some shock absorption. Others prefer braided line because of the responsiveness when twitching. Both are appropriate choices, and you should consider the water you are on.
I find that 12 lb mono is sufficient for most applications and when using braid, 55 lb provides a good breaking strength without being too heavy for your average lure.
Braid vs mono… In this case they’re both great options
Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes are part of learning to fish. With that said, hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes when it comes to walking the dog.
Use the Right Gear
We mentioned line choice. Using fluorocarbon is a lousy choice for walking the dog. The line sinks and will completely throw the lure’s movement off. Stick to braid or mono.
Let the Lure Sit
Allow the bass to key in on your bait before you start moving it. It floats! There is no rush to start cranking. Count to at least 10; 20 would be even better. I cannot tell you the number of fish that have struck my topwater as it was lying motionless after a cast.
Slow Down Your Retrieve
Slow, gentle and consistent back and forth movements are what will catch fish. Swinging your rod like a sword isn’t going to bring results; it will give you a tennis elbow long before you have a lunker chase down that spook.
Top Tips for Walking the Dog
1. Pause Your Popper
While walking the dog, try pausing your retrieve. Doing so, especially with long retrieves, can give the bass a chance to close the distance between them and the lure. Make sure you have your eye on the lure when you pause, so you are ready to set the hook.
2. Carry Pliers
For the angler that only travels with a full tackle box, this won’t be a problem. Some fishermen, like myself, will try and carry as little as possible while making a few casts.
Topwater lures usually hold treble hooks. With the aggressive strikes that bass hit these lures with, it is not uncommon for more than one barb to impale the fish. As good stewards of the resource, it is critical that we unhook them swiftly and with as little damage as possible. With this in mind, having a set of pliers to hand is an absolute must.
With sharp treble hooks around, do yourself and the bass a favor and remember your pliers
3. Managing Missed Strikes
Missed strikes happen. While it goes against everything you will probably feel in the moment, you must keep your cadence the same. If a bass has committed to a strike, there’s a good chance it will turn around and try to hammer the lure again. By keeping your retrieve the same, the bass can adjust their attack and strike again, this time hopefully with more success.
Walking the dog is viewed by many as one of those once in a while bass fishing techniques. Walking the dog is, however, one of the most productive approaches and very few techniques cover as much water with the same success rate.
By mastering this style of fishing, an angler can call lunkers from the depths with a regularity that will make you wonder what on earth you were thinking throwing a worm before.