Dog Days are for Walking the Dog

By Jeff Samsel

The origin of the term “dog days of summer” is astronomy related, having to do with the star Sirius (the Dog Star) rising and setting at the same time as the sun. To me, it means something different. The dog days, from my experience, rank among the best days, for “walking the dog” with a surface lure and prompting sportfish of various kinds to crash the surface.

Walking the dog, which refers to making a surface lure move rhythmically from side to side by repeatedly twitching the rod tip, works wonderfully for covering water and drawing fish from a broad area because the lure keeps moving and the steady surface disturbance allows fish to zero in on a target. Most walking lures also have a rattle of some sort to help draw in fish.

Early and late hours tend to produce best during the dog days, but don’t limit walking the dog to those hours. I’ve enjoyed sizzling action for various species through the hottest parts of many summer days.

A Heddon Zara Spook is the original walk-the-dog lure, and various members of the Spook family remain among the best for walking. Other outstanding lures for walking include a Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow, Bomber Badonk-A-Donk, a Heddon Spit’n Image, and certain poppers, including a Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper and Heddon Pop’n Image.

The best walking lure to use any given day depends in part on the setting and the kind of fish you are targeting. For smallmouths and redeye bass in a small stream, it’s tough to top the slender profile and small size of a Zara Puppy. That said, if you’re walking the dog in a saltwater bay to call up redfish, snook or speckled trout, a Badonk-A-Donk or Super Spook might be a better bet. For striped bass, a Jumpin’ Minnow often gets the call.

Major variables, along with size, include profile, sound and simply the way an individual lure walks. Some naturally walk with a high, gliding action, while others ride low to displace more water and move more deliberately.

With any walking lure, beginning each rod movement with the line slightly slack and snapping it tight is key to a good walking action. The actual action can be altered significantly based on the length and quickness of each rod movement and the cadence of the whole presentation. Long controlled glides and quick, short darts each have their place.

My personal favorite setting for dog days dog walking is knee deep in a smallmouth stream or waist deep on saltwater flat, but that may have as much to do with where I’d prefer to be standing on a summer day as anything else. Wherever you like to fish during the dog days, try a little dog walking!

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