While out on the water, you’re going to encounter many different scenarios. Sooner or later you’re going to have to get your lure/fly/bait into a tight spot or change up your retrieve to help entice a strike.
In this article, we will go over two casts that can help you reach those tight areas (one for conventional tackle, one for the fly rod) and teach you one of the most exciting retrieves for top-water conventional lures: “walking the dog.”
If you have ever watched professional tournament anglers on TV you’ve noticed them spending a lot of time making short casts around docks, trees, weeds, etc. That’s because fish love places that give them cover from other predators and shade from direct sunlight, depending on the season.
Sometimes you can make a short normal cast to deliver your lure to these areas; other times, you’ll find that you want to get that lure into a very tight area such as under a dock, a submerged log, etc. This is when knowing how to pitch your lures becomes a useful skill.
The cast is a fairly simple one. Start by pulling an arm’s length of line off your reel and keep it pinched in your fingers; either lock the reel or keep your thumb on the reel to stop more line from spooling off. Swing your jog forward and let the line slide out of your non-casting hand. This is a cast that you’ll want to practice either on the water or at home.
Here’s a fun game to play to practice at home on the lawn. Use a heavy jig (1/2 oz to 3/4 oz, preferably weedless to help prevent snags). Place a hula hoop about 10 to 15 feet in front of you. In the middle of the hoop place a full pitcher of water.
Once you get to the point of landing it in that pitcher cast after cast, start changing up your distance to the pitcher by taking a few steps back or forward. You can also switch to lighter or heavier jigs if you really want to have fun with it.
Another trick you’ll see a lot of the pros do is called “walking the dog.” This is a retrieve method that gives your topwater lures a very dramatic side-to-side swimming presentation. This only works on topwater lures that are one piece and have a smooth nose — topwater Zara Spook-style lures and frog patterns.
The best time to target bass with this retrieve is just after the springtime spawn and into the summer months when they are most active in shallow areas. Keep a close eye on your lure, too; this method of fishing usually leads to some of the most dramatic bites you’ll ever see. Often you’ll even see the fish jump out of the water to attack your lure.
To start, make a normal cast and leave a small bit of slack in your line. Give your rod a short quick jerk and then reel up some of the line on the spool, making sure to leave some slack in the water, then jerk the rod again in the same direction.
The key is to be fast and make sure you leave a small amount of slack in the water after each retrieve. You know you’re doing it right when you see the head of your lure dart dramatically from side to side.
A normal fly cast relies on the weight of the fly line to load the rod with enough spring tension on the back-cast to propel the fly forward during the forward cast. While this is easy to do when you don’t have trees or anything else behind you, it’s almost impossible on small streams in the woods.
The bow cast is great to use in areas with heavy cover for distances up to 20 to 30 feet. To do the bow cast, strip a small amount of line off your reel (roughly the amount for the short distance you want to cast to).
Carefully spool it up in the palm of your hand – we don’t want to turn it into a rat’s nest. Then pinch the extra line with your thumb and pointer finger, making sure your fly is hanging down from the wad and not part of it.
While keeping your rod semi-parallel to the stream, use the line in your hand to pull back to put tension on the rod like it’s a bow. Release the line in your hand and see where your fly lands.
Practice this cast at home on your lawn to get a good feel for the right amount of rod tension and distance that you can hit accurately.
Here’s a fun casting game you can do at home to help you practice this cast. Take a hula hoop and hang it from a tree. Hang it just high enough so the bottom of the hoop is either touching the ground or just above it. Now step back and practice trying to flick your fly into that hoop using the bow cast.
In conclusion, fishing is a very dynamic sport. Practicing these three skills will help you become a better angler and catch more fish.
You can even expand the two casting games laid out here into one large one on your lawn to play with either your kids or your fishing buddies the next time they come over.