fbpx
Skip to content

The 5 Crucial Steps of Fishing Walking Baits (Yep! These are the Secrets Pros Never Give Out – And Now They’re Yours!)

Failsafe 5-Step Blueprint To Fishing Walking Baits - Your Fast Track Short Cut That Increases Your Cast-to-Land Ratio Nearly 400%!

Fishing with a topwater walking bait is a real art and I don’t have a magic wand that will teach you how to do it. The only way you’ll acquire this skill is through a lot of practice. However, what I can give you are detailed examples of how it’s done… and… give you those examples in such a way I bet it will be very illuminating for you.

In this report you should plan on learning the following:

  • The single most important factor to get the correct action out of your lure – every time!
  • How to tell where the “sweet spot” of a fishing spot is… And where all the bass are located… And… how to avoid spooking them!
  • How to use the secret of your body’s natural “fultrums” to bring your lure to life… using only “twitches” from your wrist! (Once you understand this secret, even a noobie fisherman can be start fishing walking baits like a pro in less than 15 minutes!)
  • The one “overlooked” spot to fish a topwater! (It’s silly and dumb, but most anglers over look this spot… and its not fishing docks)

So by the time you’re done, I’ll try to give you a few “aha!” experiences on the art of fishing walking baits. The way I’m going to do this is to give you a step-by-step way to fish this lure, but to ensure you have the correct lure and the right gear to make you successful. 

Walking Baits Primer

By far one of the most popular topwater baits, only rivaling poppers. All of the baits in this subcategory are pencil or cigar shaped and often made from hard plastic or wood.  Nearly all of them are armed with 2-3 treble hooks, and have an internal rattle to draw the attention of nearby bass. 

Their characteristic claim to fame is the “walk-the-dog” action that not only bass but other predator fish cannot resist. 

The best examples of topwater walking baits has to be the Lucky Craft Sammy and the Zara Spook

Step 1 - Understand How To Fish A Walking Bait

To learn how to “Walk-the-dog” with your lures. You need the right gear. Aside from having a specialist topwater walking bait, its nearly just as important to have the right gear. Luckily, we can “walk” you through how to perfect this technique…ya I know that was a dumb joke.

All kidding aside, this is what you’ll need…

Bait:  Start with a Lucky Craft Sammy 105 or Zara Spook as they are the best walking baits to begin with.

Learn the Walk-The-Dog retrieve

It’s not just about casting your lure out there and reeling it back in. 

The ‘walk the dog’ action is created the quickly jerking the line and then briefly pausing. If done in rapid succession it will create a zigzag on the retrieve. The best walking baits will have the action looks like a scared/fleeing baitfish.

There’s the speed of your cadence, how aggressively you fish your lures… and… you will need to consider other things as well; do you stop during the retrieve? If you do, how long should you pause? There’s all kinds of ways you can trigger more strikes.  But for right now we’re talking about the basic retrieve. 

This is how you do it:

  1. Starting with a good lure that lets you walk the dog action quickly and easily.
  2. The biggest thing I want to remember when learning to walk the dog is the term, “jerk the slack”. 
  3. What I mean by that is to just learn to jerk the slack line that’s sitting on the water. You don’t want to line in the water being tight. Because if you try this technique on a tight line you’ll “pull the lure” and it will cause the bait to jet on the surface directly toward you.  
  4. Using your wrist, jerk/pop the tip of the rod downward 3-4 inches and then just as fast, bring the rod tip back up. The movement down and up is FAST!
  5. If you do this action right, you’ll jerk the slack with the tip of your rod which gives the bait the ability to zigzag from side to side and glide from one side to the next.  Like an injured bait fish, the bait will move right to left in a zigzag pattern. 
  6. As you’re retrieving it, reel in a little bit of the excess line because otherwise it makes it impossible to retrieve it correctly.  Remember to keep some slack in the line.

So remember:

  • Cast out your lure
  • You always want a little slack in your line to give your lure the freedom to zigzag
  • Jerk the slack with a small sharp pop your rod tip
  • Reel in the excess
  • Repeat
  • Avoid “pulling the lure”

Troubleshooting; If you’re having trouble, ask yourself these questions…

Did you start with the right lure like I recommended?

Are you starting your retrieve on slack line? Remember, your line cannot be straight. It needs to be slightly wavy in the water.

Are you jerking the slack only? Pretend the lure is not there – focus on jerking the slack only.  I feel this is the biggest hangup that new anglers face. It takes practice. 

Is the motion fast?  It’s down and up really fast.

Basic Retrieve #1 - Eat Me Now!

Once you feel comfortable with starting the walk the dog retrieve, then it starts becoming a question finding the right cadence that triggers the fish to eat your lure while still walking the bait. 

Once you get brave with making the lure walk from side to side, you now must put it to use…

One of the best techniques is to have 2-3 different cadences ready to go. Use these cadences until you make up your own…  Every word is a pop and (-) are pauses – count one-one thousand. If you see the words combined the lure is to jerked quickly without pausing between words.

  1. Eat-Me-Now—Eat-Me-Now—EatMeNow—– Eat-Me-Now—Eat-Me-Now—EatMeNow—
  2. EatMeNow——EatMeNow—–EatMeNow
  3. Eat—Me—Now—Eat—Me—Now—

After the initial cast and the lure splashes into the water, wait for the ripples to lessen. Let the bait sit still in the water.  WHY?  That’s because when the walking bait lands in the water it will get the bass’ attention and they will swim over to it to investigate it. Once you start giving the lure the action of the dying fish those bass will seize an easy meal. 

Make sure you intentionally put pauses in your cadences. Most of the time the bass will strike the lure after it stops.

Basic Retrieve #2 - Target structure

Targeting structure can be a phenomenal way to trigger a bass to bite your walking lure. 

Structure can be the form of a lay down, a dock, or a point, it’s any piece of hard object the bass would be relating to…

The more isolated the structure the better.. 

Start by casting your lure past the structure – not at it, not in front of it, past it…

As before, let it settle, and then start to walk the bait closer and closer to your target structure…

As you walk in your bait, get the bait as close as you can to the structure… if you can knock into it, do it. 

Once you are right up next to the target structure, pause the retrieve for 2-3 seconds.  The bite should happen once you kill the bait.  If no bites, give the walking bait a little twitch to trigger the fish to bite…

If you get no bites after that, and you’re confident that piece of structure could have a fish on it, cast to the structure 2-3 more times with varying retrieves – always remember to pause when your lure gets to the structure. 

If you’re still not getting any bites… don’t waste your time… move on to another target structure nearby.

Basic Retrieve #3 - Target shad boils

Targeting shad boils with a walking bait can soooo fun.   To be successful, you just have to know how to do it the right way. 

If you don’t know what a shad boil is… it’s a slang term for the phenomenon when the bass chase the shad to the surface of the water… and… trying to escape the bass the small shad will jump out of the water.  And from a distance the water will have a patch where it looks like it’s boiling. — Thus the term, shad boil… anyway back to what I was saying…

Finding shad boils can be pretty easy if you’re at least nearby.   First you’ll often see birds sitting close together on top of the water.  Second, you’ll see big splashes of the bass attacking shad on the water.  Lastly, you may see bass breaching out of the water chasing shad.

Ok, so what do you do when you see this?…

As quickly as you can motor up to it.  Try to avoid turning on the big boat motor.  If you’re close enough, turn your trolling motor on high and zoom over there. 

A solid rule of thumb I remember learning from Pro I was fishing as a co-angler was never get between the deepest part of the water and the bass… 

You see, if you motor up and you block the way to deep water the bass tend to feel threatened and they will stop themselves from chasing the shad and retreat to deep water quickly…

However if you come in on an angle leaving the deep water lane exposed the bass tend to ignore your boat no matter how big it is.

Fishing the boil…

Like before, cast your lure past the boil (if you can) – sometimes boils are the size of a couple of basketball courts.

I don’t recommend letting your bait settle once it hits the water… just start working it, and walk the dog. As before, let it settle, and then start to walk the bait closer and closer to your target structure…

Most anglers I talk to start with a fast aggressive retrieve with very few pauses… but if you’re not getting any bites either slow your retrieve or work in a few more pauses.

Step 2 - Knowing When Is The Best Time Of Day To Fish A Walking Bait

When the weather is hot most anglers (including myself) don’t like to fish in the sweltering midday heat.  Thankfully, a walking bait is best used early in the morning or in the evening.

Shad, minnows, and bluegill will travel to the surface to feed in low light conditions, bass naturally follow and use the dimly lit water as a means to ambush their prey.     

However, when the sun is shining the brightest (and you’re willing to brave the heat), you can catch some large summer bass with a walking bait – yep it’s true.  

But this tactic requires you to search and find shade. The deeper and darker the shade, the better it will be.  Also, the more isolated the shade is the better chances it will be sheltering a fish.  Target the structure as described earlier in this report. 

Also, bass will chase shad in the middle of the day… especially if there is a storm or a low pressure system rolling in. 

It seems like the fish (both baitfish and bass) somehow know there’s a storm coming so they come to the surface to feed… and… the bass will chase the shad in the middle of the day. 

Lastly, if there is overcast conditions, bass use this opportunity to take advantage of the lower light and will chase shad at any time throughout the day.

Step 3 - Knowing When Is The Best Time Of Year To Fish A Walking Bait

Walking baits will work whenever a bass is willing to take a topwater, but most fishermen prefer to fish them during a springtime, summer, or in the fall

Step 4 - Knowing Where The Best Locations & Conditions To Fish Walking Baits

The ideal places to fish with a walking bait vary depending on the kind of lake and structure that is available to you. Not to overwhelm you, here is a list that I created to help me narrow down some great locations to fish these walking baits.

Structure – Finding locations that bass could use an ambush point is always a smart initial decision. This can be a dock, bridge, jetty, laydown, point, channel swing with steep rocky banks, or vegetation mat.

Helpful Tip: One of the most overlooked spots to fish topwater walking baits are boat ramps - especially in the evenings. Once all the yahoos exit off the lake and the sun start to dip into the horizon, the boat ramp will come alive. Cast your lure as shallow as you can and work the sides and over the main ramp.

Main lake structure – However, you can also target main lake humps and ridges if you know that bass are located there. 

Bluegill and shad spawns – Additionally, walking baits excel when fished around bluegill beds, areas where there is a shad spawn occurring, or while they are in the pre-spawn, post-spawn, or even during spawning – but walking lures best fished when there is a ripple on the water and not completely breezy… if it’s calm and slick it’s best fished with a popper or a wake bait.

Anywhere a shad boil is occurring – Walking baits are great for fishing in open water conditions, especially when bass are chasing shad (as discussed earlier)…

Feeder creeks – If you see a feeder creek actively draining into the lake, throw the lure 2-3 feet into the mouth of the creek and work the bait into the main lake 7-10 feet. 

Natural lanes – Submerged trees and stick ups that form “lanes”. Throw down these lanes or past the bases of the trees.  Find and target the biggest trees with branches coming with a foot or two sticking out of the water. 

Breezy conditions – The water will “mask” the odd shape of the lure and will frequently draw strikes.  Use a lure that is loud.  Fish parallel to the banks where the wind is blowing against. Spooks and vixens work great for this.

Water Clarity – Walking baits can work in both clean and stained water.

However, fishing your walking bait too slowly creates issues in clear water. When bass see anything out of the ordinary, they may stare but hold off on striking.

Bass shouldn’t be able to view the lure for too long in really clear water, keep the pauses brief pauses.  Keep the rod’s tip down and prepare to set the hook.

 

Overcast days – bass will move from deep water to shallow water chasing bait. this gives you the opportunity to target them with a walking bait.

Step 5 - Knowing What’s The Best Walking Bait Colors For Bass and Why

Choosing the color for your walking bait isn’t as simple as picking the prettiest one in the pack. You need to consider a few things when selecting the color of your walking bait, including water clarity, the geographic area you’ll be fishing in, and the forage species found native to the lake you are fishing on. 

If you’re casting into clear water (you can see >3 feet under the water), you’ll want to choose a lure that you can see through… in fishing there is a slang for transparent baits and they’re called either ‘ghost’ or ‘phantom’ colors. On the other side of the coin, if the water you’re fishing is stained (you can see 1-2 feet under the water, then you’ll want to go with an opaque colored lure. 

If you’re fishing in open water, off a point, or if you see bass chasing bait fish on the surface in open water then you’ll want to have several shad colored lures on hand. These will mimic the prey fish of the area and will be natural colors, such as gray, white, or silver.

However, if you’re close to shore, if a structure consists of something such as boat docks, floating vegetation patches, or boulder piles you should have some bluegill or bream colored lures ready to be tied on.   These will mimic the prey fish of these areas and will take the color in tones of green, brown, yellow.

The geographical area and native forage species go hand-in-hand when choosing a walking bait color. In some areas, you’ll find that one or two colors perform much more effectively because it mimics the native forage species found in the region.

Below I created a list of baits that will work in most water conditions. Keep in mind this is not the end all, be all list.  It’s just a list of recommendations to get you started on the right track.

Note: under each lure I also included a link to Bass Pro Shops to shop for this bait… I noticed that on Amazon its a crap-shoot whether or not they’ll have it in stock.

I separated the list into the following categories:

  • Best shad colors for clear water
  • Best bluegill colors for clear water
  • Best shad colors for stained water
  • Best bluegill colors for stained water
  • Best walking baits for dirty water or for night fishing

Best SHAD color for CLEAR water

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best BLUEGILL color for CLEAR water

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best SHAD color for STAINED water

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best BLUEGILL color for STAINED water

**Note: Baby bass and frog patterns work really well in stained water near shoreline structure or vegetation. 

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Walking Baits for DIRTY WATER or NIGHT FISHING

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

#ad / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Step 5 - Knowing What’s The Best Setup To Fish A Walking Bait

Rod

Casting rod medium backbone, with fast action tip 6’9”-7’6”. You want the backbone to be strong enough to hook the fish buy have a tip that can act as an shock absorber to the bone crushing topwater strikes that come with this style of fishing.

For heavier lures (>5/8-ounce) you will need a more robust medium-heavy casting rod to be able to set the hook and fight the fish. 

On the other hand, if the lure is lighter, (1/2 ounce or less) then it will be easier to fish the bait with a medium-light casting rod

Reel

Having a dependable reel with a smooth drag is very important. Having a smooth drag when fishing topwater baits is key, because with the fish bolts the drag will keep up with the fish. If the drag is poorly made it will have a stop-and-go action, the fish can snap off the line.

Line

15-25 pound monofiliament leader tied to a 50-65 pound braided main line is recommended.  A braided backing has phenomenal casting ability and will not cause line twist and it floats!  The mono also floats, will not get wrapped up in the front hooks and has some stretch to it, so I can act as a shock absorber. Some prop baits come in really large sizes and is going to require a larger pound-test size.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Make sure a split ring is attached to the front line tie of the lure. This will give it even more action in the water.  
  • Lures with the tails down in the water tend to walk a little easier for beginners. 
  • Adding a feathered treble hook is not a necessity.  Keep a tally of how many fish you catch with your best walking baits with and without the feathered treble hook. 
  • Let the fish tell you what they want.

Last Cast...

We know there are a ton more applications, a ton of different baits with different characteristics. And we’ll dive more in depth with those subjects later, let this be your Walking Bait Blueprint that give you the most value and the fastest leg up.

I really hope you use this blueprint I created and published for you.  It truly can shave off months to years off the learning curve for you.

Above all, make sure you practice and have fun because this can be one of the most enjoyable fishing techniques that you will master, and can put a ton of fish in the boat at the same time.

– Featured Article Of The Month –

Click On the Picture To Learn More!

Other Bass Fishing Articles Just For You...