Originally created 05/30/99

Try walking the dog and catching the fish


Secret code?

No, just a fishing technique that dates back to the early 20th century days after James Heddon & Sons of Dowagiac, Mich., introduced the Zara Spook to fishermen.

"Spooks" back then were carved out of cedar and the superior buoyancy of wood played an important role in the top-water lures' acceptance by fishermen, particularly those who fish for largemouth bass.

Today's Spooks are made of hollow plastic in which rattle chambers containing BBs can be found. The sound is an extra-added attraction that gets the fishes' attention.

While plastic doesn't float as high as wood, the lures still continue to produce fantastic catches of bass and sometimes striped bass and hybrid bass, particularly in Strom Thurmond Lake.

Present-day Spooks are manufactured in two sizes -- regular and Super. Both work, but the latter is preferred over the former because its added weight makes for easier long-distance casting. That's a must when lake waters are gin-clear and fish are easily, er, uh spooked by boats moving in too close.

Smart fishermen who buy the lures replace the smaller factory hooks with a size larger quality treble hooks and add a split ring to the eye to which line is affixed for even greater action.

The action is called "walking the dog."

Cast the lure, then retrieve it by sharply twitching the rod tip. The Spook will lurch to the right, then to the left, and a rhythmic retrieve works best. That keeps the lure coming on a left-right-left-right pattern.

Such action produces vicious strikes from bass apparently thinking the lure is an injured blueback herring or other food fish. Sometimes the fish miss and the fishermen must keep the lure moving. Sometimes they'll smash it two or three times before a hookup.

Warning: such results may be hazardous to the health of fishermen with heart problems.

Anglers using spinning rods and reels will find the longer the rod, the easier it is to control the lure on the retrieve. Rods of 6 1/2 to 7 feet in length will fill that bill when held high during the reel-in.

Conversely, those who fish with bait-casting or spin-casting rods and reels may prefer a 5 1/2 -foot or 6-foot rod and a reel equipped with high-speed retrieve. Fishermen stand up, point the rod tip toward the lake surface, and twitch it in that "walking the dog" rhythm.

Ralph Barbee Jr., of Evans is among fishermen mopping up the bass this time of year by fishing a Spook he modified by scraping off the paint, lightly sanding the finish and making it transparent with a coat of clear fingernail polish.

But a white-bellied Super Spook with its original paint attracted the biggest bass of four caught on a recent trip.

One of the fish deposited into the boat's live well regurgitated a blueback herring whose coloration was like that on the lure.

Most bass are now to be found on and around long shallow points, particularly those with some sort of cover like rocks, stumps or brush around which baitfish can hide. The fish are to be found on outer points, not secondary ones and not those in the backs of coves. If a deep-water channel is nearby, so much the better.


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