Let’s Look Back – Part 34

It didn't take Bobby Murray long to show the bass fishing world his talents.  He brought this beautiful stringer to weigh in one day at the first Bassmasters Classic held at Lake Mead in 1971.  Bobby won the event.  He also took the Classic crown again 10 years later. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It didn’t take Bobby Murray long to show the bass fishing world his talents. He brought this beautiful stringer to weigh in one day at the first Bassmasters Classic held at Lake Mead in 1971. Bobby won the event. He also took the Classic crown again 10 years later. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As I detailed in my previous column, the “Dog Walker” rod Gary Loomis was marketing for a time in the early days of his rod building business was designed especially for fishing a Zara Spook.

He named these rods “Dog Walker” because it’s a technique called “Walking the Dog” that has kept Zara Spooks on the market ever since they were introduced by the Heddon Lure Company way back in 1939.

Did these lures start getting results right off the bat? They must have. The records show that the Spook was the first of the Heddon lures to top one million in sales. I’d also be willing to bet that this wondrous old lure has probably had as much or more written about it than any other bass bait.

Gary built his Dog Walker rods to recommendations I had provided. I don’t recall for sure how long these rods were made – they didn’t sell all that great. I’ve always figured one of the main reasons they didn’t was most anglers wanted rods that could be used for a variety of angling tasks instead of a rod designed for one specific purpose.

That was undoubtedly one reason. There were also a couple of others. For starters, Gary’s Spook rods were really short by present-day standards. My recollection is that the samples Gary built for me were 5-feet, 2-inches and 5-feet, 4-inches. When was the last time you saw a present day bass rod made to those specifications?

Gary made me three of these rods. Much as I hate to admit it, I’ve parted with all three of them. I gave one to a friend, busted a second and loaned the third to someone but never got it back. That’s why I can’t say exactly what the lengths of those rods were.

In my previous column I mentioned there would likely be other anglers who aren’t going to agree with me regarding the rod length and actions I favor for my own Zara Spook fishing. I’m not saying rods of other lengths and actions can’t be used for making a Spook do its thing. I am saying that for me the shorter rods with a short handle were ideal.

These rods were made with excellent flexibility in the upper end of the rod but lots of strength in the lower section. The rod’s action gave the user who really knew how to use it the ability to make a Spook do everything but talk.

I’ve often thought that Spook fishing can be called close combat. I say that when thinking about rod positioning as well as what it needs to do once it gets a Spook out there where the fish are holding. That’s one of the reasons I loved the rod’s short handle.

I like to get the lower end of a rod I’m using for Spook fishing just as close to my gut as I can get it. And much of the time I’m going to use that rod pointed down close to the surface as I work the lure back to the boat. I can’t do that nearly as well with a long handled rod.

I can get by with a longer rod if I’m throwing the Spook way the hell and gone out there toward the middle of the lake. Then I can keep my rod tip up and still manipulate the Spook to a degree. But when I’m fishing around cover with a number of pockets or indentations that seem almost begging me to get my lure in there accurately, I want my rod tip just inches above the water surface and the reel tucked in close to my belly.

As I’ve mentioned a time or two here in my Let’s Look Back columns, I had a chance to participate as a writer in all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics. In those early Classics the writers who participated got to fish out of the back of the boat. There was a payout for the writer who managed to weigh in the largest bass caught during the three-day event.

This is the Zara Spook that was a favorite of tournament anglers during the early years of the Classic. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

This is the Zara Spook that was a favorite of tournament anglers during the early years of the Classic. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

In some of those early Classics, especially the first five or six, I found that I’d have sometimes spent as much time fishing bass as had some of the contestants I was paired with. Things started changing in a hurry as the years went by. This had become abundantly clear by the time the 10th Classic was staged at Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Island area of upper New York State.

If you’re familiar with the history of the Bassmasters Classic you know that a talented Arkansan named Bobby Murray won that first one on Lake Mead in 1971. He won the Classic crown again in 1978. I talked to a number of other writers who had been paired with Bobby and I knew what they had to say about his ability with a rod and reel and overall bass fishing know-how.

I was to find out more about that myself when that 10th Classic was staged. I was paired with Bobby Murray myself on one day of the competition. The Zara Spook was to play a role in the way things turned out.

The weather was miserable for a good part of that Thousand Island Classic. The morning launch was held up for more than hour on the day I was paired with Bobby. Howling winds early on made getting into certain areas of the lake next to impossible.

I’ll never forget what that rocky shoreline Bobby pulled our boat up to looked like when we were finally able to leave the launching area and get there.

Mini white caps were still clobbering the point Bobby obviously wanted to fish. That surprised me a bit, but there was something else that surprised me even more. That eye-bugging surprise came when he picked up the first of the rods he had all rigged and ready.

I’ll be danged if that rod he started with wasn’t rigged with a Zara Spook. Now I went to that Classic with some pretty firm ideas where Spook fishing is concerned. I remember my first couple of thoughts when I saw Murray fire his Zara Spook up into that rough water along the rocky point.

I’d always figured, you see, that a Spook was far and away best when used to fish quiet water. What in the world was this guy Murray, a former two time Classic winner and firmly established as one of the best in the business of bassin’, doing wasting his time throwing a Spook with the way these water conditions were?

Well, I found out the reasoning behind Bobby’s lure selection. Turns out some of my pet theories weren’t quite as great as I thought. I’ll share what I learned that morning in my next month’s Let’s Look Back column.

I’ll also share some additional thoughts you might find of interest.

  • Ralph Manns

    Perhaps it is merely because I’m an old fart and have too many years of “muscle” memory, but I prefer to fish my top-waters with a 5.5 ‘ pistol-grip rod. I am more accurate in casting this rod than with any of my longer, long-range rods. And, the one-handed grip lets me impart fast walking action to spook-type baits and poppers like the Yellow Magic that I can’t get with a long rod. For some of us, the preferences of pros aren’t always the best choice..