If there is one tactic that I can teach someone to master in a day of fishing, it would have to be walking the dog. The fact is, I’ve done it with several of my guests over the years and it has generally worked to perfection. It generally works to perfection this time of year when the fish are focusing on the surface and looking for bluebacks so learning this tactic can be very rewardingand now is the time to learn it.
I guess I’ve been using these walking baits for years when I think back to how many years a Zara Spook has been in my tacklebox. Before it was bass, it was stripers and before it was stripers, it was bass for me so I think topwater walking baits have been a favorite of mine for a while. The technique itself is kinda like learning to dance, you need to be able to find a rhythm and use both hands for different tasks at the same time. I know that may sound hard but once you get the hang of it, you’ve unlocked a door to a whole new fun world of topwater.
On Lake Lanier we have a very healthy population of Blueback Herring that have mixed rather well with the threadfin shad population so there is an abundance of food for the bass and striper population. The bluebacks in particular tend to stay closer to the surface during certain times of the year and the fall is one of those times that our blueback population gravitates towards the fleeting surface warmth from the fall sunlight. During the fall it’s like the last hoorah before the bait starts moving deeper into the ditches where they make their winter home until the following spring and the bait spawn.
During the fall the bluebacks may be in smaller groups or larger schools and they move around both shallow and deep. It’s the shallow bluebacks that become the most visible target, both visible to us the fisherman and visible to the bass because of the backdrop of the surface. One of the most important aspects of being successful with topwater is watching the surface and listening for surface activity around you. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a fish surface behind my back while fishing and turned around, made a cast and caught the fish. I also like to constantly scan the surface around me for surfacing fish and if I see fish surfacing in the distance I make a mental note of it and visit that area a little later. Often times the surfacing fish will still be active in the area for a while so to me it’s worth a check even 30 minutes after I saw the fish surface.
One of the main benefits of walking the dog is the excitement of topwater blowups and the subsequent hookups that often come with it. The other day I was chatting with a friend and I explained that I compared walking the dog to having an endless amount of tries for a prize at a carnival game of chance. Each cast is another opportunity to win the prize and there are endless opportunities out on the lake in the fall when walking the dog.
I’m partial to spinning gear here on Lake Lanier and about 75% of the fish I catch are 2-4lb bass and the rest are stripers in the 5-10lb range. Since Lanier is a clear reservoir I strictly use fluorocarbon by itself or flourocarbon with braid. When I’m walking the dog I like to use about 30 feet of 8lb Tatsu leader with a 12lb braid main line. The rod I’m using is a 7′ 3″-7′ 6″ MH fast action or fast tip and the reel is either a Penn Fierce or a Shimano Ci4. I want to make a long cast and the braid gives me the strength and sensitivity I need if I hook up with a fish with a lot of line out. I like to use my walking bait against the grain of the surface chop of waves. Let’s face it, the fish are looking up and the surface disruption made by the walking bait going against the wind and chop is much more visible to the fish than if the bait was moving with the chop. That’s been my experience with surface baits therefor I’m using my “Spot Lock” function on my Minn Kota a lot during the fall when we have wind. The biggest trick to walking the dog is being able to crank with one hand at the same time you are moving the bait with the other hand. You’ve got to be able to do both at once to keep the bait moving fluently and looking somewhat realistic to the fish. I like to use my index finger as the control point for my rod hand. Every twitch of my wrist goes through my index finger and down the rod. At the same time my other hand is doing the cranking in rhythm. It takes some practice but once you master the rhythm then you can work on the speed and believe me, the speed is very important as sometimes the fish will react to a faster speed but just the opposite to a slower bait so play with your speed till you find a trend. Another factor to consider is sound. Sometimes a walking bait with a “one knocker” sound or one larger ball bearing is preferred by the fish and sometimes the rattle of smaller bearings causes the react. Sometime a silent walking bait is the best approach but the point is to play with walking baits with different sounds this time of year. Size is another factor and a good sized walking bait for starting out is the 4-5 inch variety. Once you kinda get the hang of walking the dog then try some larger stuff. I can promise you that these big spotted bass won’t turn down a large 6-8 inch walking bait out on a main lake hump on a windy day.
Right now is the right time to work on walking the dog on Lake Lanier, whether you are fishing from a boat or walking the shoreline of one of the many parks here, it’s a tried and true method for both bass and stripers over the next few months. Here’s a video I made about 5 years ago in late September using the walking bait for some morning bait. It should give you and idea of how to use the technique.
It happens ever year about this time and it’s been a constant reminder that fall is on the way. At my old shop where I used to build tackle, the windows of the shop faced the south and every year the noonday summer sun would light up the back windows of the shop but as the days started growing shorter in late summer the angle of the sun would start to droop to the south. Since the angle of the sun would slowly get lower in the south in late summer, instead of direct sunlight in the windows the trees to the south would cause the sun to cast shadows through the windows and the area would be shaded all day until the following June.
Since this is our 3rd fall here at the new house on the lake I’ve noticed that the same shadows are cast every year in our little cove. Soon the leaves will start to turn and those humid days will be replaced by passing cool fronts and much dryer conditions. There is usually a time in mid to late September when the water starts to make that shift and starts getting cooler and I noticed yesterday that the water temps were barely holding at 80 degrees. First time we’ve seen 80 for a few months.
My week started with a run out to the main lake on Monday morning and found very little wind to work with but there were pockets of chop on the lake that I could work with. I started with the emerald popper and threw it around points and humps where I could find a little surface disruption but to be honest, my morning topwater bite has been really lacking. I can get a few to come up but these bass know that the surface activity is driven by bluebacks and bluebacks don’t like to come to the surface until the sun gets high in the sky, like around noon. I moved from location to location on the main lake but around lunchtime the wind picked up a little and I found a large blow-through that was just loaded with bait and fish. The schools of bait were being blown over an old road bed of sorts and the stripers and bass were ambushing the bait on the leeward side of the roadbed. I broke out the big black pearl OG and started bombing it into the wind and bringing it back down wind where the fish were set up. First I was able to catch a nice spot but after that it was all big stripers and they were aggressive. I started catching one on every cast using the black pearl OG till finally one of the big stripers broke me off. It was a humbling lesson in checking my line after every catch. It was a clean break and it was more than likely from a nick in the line. I waited in the area for another 30 minutes hoping the fish would shake it out but it was to no avail as the black pearl was gone….
I was heartbroken because I was just getting into a grove with the bait and it was gone. I went back home after catching a few other fish here and there on smaller baits but my day was ruined. There was a bright spot as I had ordered 2 more OG’s and they were coming in the mail Monday evening so I had something to look forward to.
Tuesday I got out with my buddy Mike and our plan was to throw big baits for big fish but the weather had other plans for us and it was a day of hit and miss fishing with very little wind to work with so we had to got to the smaller subsurface baits to get good bites. Shortly after lunch the topwater bite turned on but with very little wind to work with, it wasn’t like it was on fire. We popped a few good ones on the surface stuff and called it a day in the late afternoon. Here’s a couple nice fish and probably our biggest 2 of the day.
Wednesday was a wash this week and the weather was pretty nasty so I stayed in and worked in the shop. Most of ya’ll already know but LJ and Cory over at Lanier baits are selling the Emerald Popper now and I think they should be stocking most of the stores around here with the popper. Hopefully very soon they’ll all be all stocked up on poppers before the fall popper bite really gets going. Lisa and I discovered the Emerald Popper in Sept. of 2014 and this month makes it’s 7th anniversary of fun with our little popper. We’ll have more on the popper later including a little video on how and where to use the Emerald Popper. Stay tuned.
So Thursday rolls around and the weather is still kinda nasty but it was the kind of day I like for fishing. These fish are banking on us fisherman staying home on the rainy days so they take a few more chances during bad weather. On Thursday I had my new OG’s ready and really wanted to give them a workout in the big chop out on the main lake and as luck would have it my crank battery died leaving me stranded out on the main lake in the wind, whitecaps and rain. I made a quick battery swap with one of my trolling motor batteries so I could get back to the house but before the battery issue I managed to give the OG’s a work out. It was mainly stripers but I did find a few nice bass on the new OG’s and I really had a good time out in the nasty conditions before the battery trouble started. When I got back to the creek I stopped and drift fished a few points since my trolling motor was basically dead. I found out late in the afternoon that the fish were really responding to the Z-dog walking bait I’ve been using from time to time so I just started rolling the the Z-dog and ended my day with it. Here’s a couple pics from my day and a video of the Bone OG 40 gm in action.
On Friday I made a little run out in the creek after charging the batteries and putting the old crank battery in the mix with the other 2 batteries for the trolling motor. It got me back on the water for a couple hours before the bad battery killed the trolling motor. I mainly just stayed close to home and used the little Z-dog on points and humps with brush. Here’s a few more pics of some late week Z-dog damage and I included a YouTube video “On the Cast Away Deck” from the week. Lake levels are up around full pool and the corps is still moving water during the afternoons and evenings.
This is a recipe I picked up years ago and I still make it once every few weeks. I’m pretty sure this dish isn’t very health but it’s very delicious and somewhat easy to make. I like to serve it with quartered potatoes and a green vegetable. Here’s the ingredients.
1 pound of chicken tenders boiled
1 can of cream of chicken soup with herbs
8 ounces of Velveeta cheese cubed
1 can of original crescents
1 full soup can of milk
salt and pepper to taste
I like to boil my potatoes and chicken in the same pot to save time.
Once the chicken is done I set it aside to cool and finish boiling the potatoes. When the chicken has cooled I break it into pieces and start my cheese sauce on very low heat so the sauce doesn’t burn when it thickens. Preheat your over to 375 degrees at this point.
Add a good pinch of chicken to each of the unrolled crescents and continue to stir the cheese sauce. You may need to adjust the added milk to get the perfect thickness for the cheese sauce. Place your chicken crescent rolls in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
I guess you can get the picture from here. Enjoy!!
This is that week in September when we start to see the first signs of Autumn with the entrance of a mild but dryer cool front. When I woke up this morning the temperature was down in the upper 50’s and I actually thought about something a little warmer to wear this morning when I hit the lake shortly after dawn. This week we had some warmer more humid days early in the week but by weeks end we are experiencing a touch of early Autumn with lows in the 50’s and highs in the low 80’s. Don’t get me wrong, I know we are in store for more hot days over the next few weeks but the last 2 days are just a reminder that fall is on the way.
A few weeks ago I ordered a few new baits from Cast Company called the “OG”. It’s been all the rage here lately on the lake and I’ve been seeing some very nice fish being caught on it. The problem is that a few weeks ago I cleaned the man cave and I misplaced my OG until this past weekend when I found it and decided to give it a whirl this week. It’s a bigger bait and I was throwing it on my baitcaster mounted on a 7 foot rod with some heavier flouro. One of the best parts about throwing a big bait like the OG is that I can cast it a mile and the bottom line is that the more time your bait is in the water, the better chance you have of catching a fish.
“Tuesday morning I worked in the shop but in the afternoon I lit out for the main lake with the OG. No kidding, on my first stop with the bait, I was slinging it out in the wind off a reef marker and after a few casts, BAAAMMM!! one of my biggest fish of the year smoked the OG on the surface and it looked like an absolute “TRAIN WRECK” when she hit it. I knew it was a big fish right away and I enjoyed every moment of bringing the fish to the boat. Here’s a pic of my first fish on the Cast Co. 40gm OG“.
That was all the convincing I needed and from that point on this week it’s been on the deck and if I can find some wind I’ve been throwing the OG. This week the only two rods I’ve had on the deck is the OG and the popper. It’s all been topwater this week and I’m having fun learning about my new bait. I’ll give an expanded report on the OG next week when I get a full week with it and I also get to try the other two colors that are coming in the mail on Monday. Stay tuned for more on the OG. The water temps are cooling and as I write this the temps were around 83-84 degrees. The lake level is a little less than a foot above full pool and the corps is moving water in the afternoon. Below is a little bit of video I made this week catching a couple of nice stripers on the OG and some memorable fish from the week.
My first memory of gravy was when I was very small and my grandmother would make fried rabbit gravy that she made in an electric skillet. I used to watch her mix the flour with the used grease drippings and then add the milk. She would quarter potatoes and the gravy would be served on top of the potatoes to go with the rabbit. She also made the gravy in that electric skillet for biscuits and gravy in the morning. You may want to play with the ingredients just a bit but here is my best guess at the amount of everything. I just wing it and I don’t measure anything, I just know how much to use.
1/2 (6 ounces) package maple flavored sausage (or any flavor sausage you prefer). Note: Use bulk sausage instead of sausage links.
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup of finely chopped onion (optional) (Lisa doesn’t like the onion) (Not Southern!)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Brown the Maple sausage in a non-stick skillet
Add the butter and onion once the sausage is broken down and browned
Add flour and Worcestershire sauce and stir thoroughly
Add milk slowly and continue to stir.
Once it begins to simmer it will thicken. Continue to simmer until desired thickness. If it gets to think I just add a little more milk.
Once desired thickness has been reached, remove heat and pour into a serving dish and pour over your biscuits.