The R & B Legend Rufus Thomas (1917-2001) would probably make a million if he had been a bass fisherman. His 1962 “Walking the Dog” was a top 100 for 14 weeks. Of course, we older bass fishermen had been “walking the dog” for years before his hit tune. The term was generally associated with a “Spook” type topwater lure that had no inherent action, but was made to look like an injured baitfish by manipulation of an angler’s rod creating a side-to-side motion. So what’s with this “walking the worm” stuff?
Well, it’s an old trick that pre-dates iPods and satellite radio. In fact, the walking worm technique might be just the ticket to save your day when facing low water and loads of aquatic vegetation.
Some of my favorite lakes become so choked up with matted grass that most anglers just go somewhere else. Ok with me; just means less competition for those hungry bass that wait in the slop for easy meals. The grass also means better living conditions for both the bass family and their prey. It provides cover, shade, and oxygen. You’d be surprised to find that the water temperature is several degrees cooler under grass mats than the nearby open waters. All factors combined draw bass into this “jungle.”
While most hot weather fishermen are dredging deep crankbaits and jigs along river ledges, you’ll find some cruising the mats looking for small breaks and holes where the walking worm is a real killer. Not only is grass a great holding area but, so are lily pad fields. The contrast is most grasses give of life supporting oxygen; pads take up the precious gases. Still the shade and cover of pads attracts prey and predator. My fishing buddies and I have found bass to be in shallow pads with water temperatures in the low 90s even with deeper, cooler water nearby.
Worm walking accomplishes a number of important factors critical to bass fishing. The subtle, non-threatening appearance of a food source that triggers the easy pickings instinct coupled with the variety of speeds that can be utilized in the presentations makes for an ideal shallow water lure. For instance, when the fish are most active in low light conditions, sight fishing for feeders can be absolutely heart pounding. Minnows being chased by murderous marauders can be compared to “shooting fish in a barrel”. Simply cast in their direction, give a twitch or two and hang on. Many times you will see the telltale V wake as the fish heads to the lure. This is where steel nerves are essential. Don’t set the hook immediately as the bass may have only the worm. A three count is usually sufficient, then haul back really hard!
Picking out likely pockets and breaks in the grass or pads is, in itself, gratifying. I compare it to target shooting.
There are times when you must let the worm sink a few inches before you walk it back. Other times, you crawl it over cover until it gets to an opening. Always be prepared. Some strikes are explosive; others are silent and almost motionless. Your line may just twitch or begin slowly moving away. When in doubt…..set the hook.
Hook size and weight are varied. Very shallow fishing requires no weight and at least a 3/0 hook. You may want to go a little deeper with a heavy 5/0 or even a weighted hook. In cases of heavy vegetation, you can go with a thinner hook and impale your worm on the pointed end to make it more weedless. Recently, some are attaching a small spinner blade to the rear end with a “hitch hiker” spring and swivel. Senko style or floating, it is all the same. Color is dictated by light condition, bait color, and personal preference. Bright colors such as bubble gum or candy corn seem to work better in low light while white or green shades in bright sun. Scent sprays might be appropriate but their slimy, slick texture does make it easier for worms to slide through heavy cover. Some even spray their worms with WD40!