In many ways, Jordan Paullo is your stereotypical NAFC member. He fishes hard, spends more days on the water than solid ground, and is constantly trying to figure out a better way to catch fish, whether it’s smallmouths and largemouths in a tournament or striped bass on the Connecticut River near his Coventry, Connecticut, home.
This quest for success led Paullo to help Yum Bait Co. create a new plastic design—the 9-inch Forktail Dinger—and a fast-moving, foolproof way to fish it for linesides of all stripes. He calls it “Walking The Dinger,” but you might say it’s a walk on the wild side.
The bait is a salty, scented second cousin of the original Yum Dinger, with a fork in its tail for better action. The tactic is downright deadly.
“It works anytime stripers are feeding within seven feet of the surface and the water is relatively clear—at least three to four feet of visibility—because the fish have to be able to see the bait,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if the fish are schooling over 50 feet of water or in a shallow tidal rip, as long as they’re near the surface, you can catch them by Walking the Dinger.”
Paullo grew up fishing the Great Lakes and Champlain, and his love of black bass runs deep—he fishes the pro bass circuit and does quite well. But his passion for striped bass is equally strong. He spends much of his time as a striper guide, putting clients on fish in the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.
It was there, on the unforgiving brine, that Walking The Dinger was born. “It’s a very easy way to catch a lot of fish,” he says. “Most people tend to fish lures too fast, but you really can’t do that when Walking The Dinger because the bait performs well at high speeds.”
The good news for sweetwater fans is the technique works equally well on inland rivers and reservoirs. When Paullo showed me its ins and outs on Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita last season, he proved its merit on landlocked linesides.
And its simplicity.
“You fish a Forktail much like you would a Zara Spook,” he says. “Cast, reel in the slack and begin a quick retrieve, moving the bait with 1- to 11/2-foot downward jerks of the rodtip. Pull the bait, take up slack; pull the bait, take up slack.”
The goal is to make the Dinger dance about six inches deep, darting from left to right. “A soft plastic has 10 times the action of a hardbait,” Paullo adds. “When a Dinger darts past, feeding stripers can’t help themselves.”
Thanks to its lifelike look, the Forktail Dinger excels on calm days under full sun. “It looks natural dancing along just beneath the surface,” he says. “Dingers are also great follow-up baits for topwater lures like Cordell Red Fins and Creek Chub Super Knuckle-Heads.”
Color choices center on pearlescent hues that mimic baitfish. “Anything that looks like alewives, herring or shad is good,” he says. “If the water gets a little dirty, though, I might switch to a bubblegum or purple-and-black pattern.”
To maximize the bait’s action, Paullo rigs the Forktail weightless on the 9/0 XCalibur hook Yum supplies with 4-packs of the baits, and ties direct to 20-pound fluorocarbon. “You basically Texas-rig it,” he says. “Except that you want a slight bend in the body, for more action. Run the hook bend about 1/8 to 1/4 inch past the point where the bait would be straight.”
Time To Walk
Paullo begins Walking The Dinger in saltwater current rips when water temperatures reach the 52-degree mark in spring. “The best are in six to seven feet of water, on flats off the main river channel, or on giant sand flats in the sound,” he says, noting, “I prefer the outgoing tide because the current is stronger. The fish may wander a bit on an incoming tide.”
He looks for stripers holding shallow at the tail ends of current-washed gravel and rock bars. “The fish will be facing up-current, on the edge of the drop, or just over the deep water.”
Paullo positions his boat just below and to the side of the target area, and launches long casts into the middle of the rip, ahead of the fish. From that point on, it’s a simple matter of walking the bait home until a striper attacks.
“You can also Walk The Dinger for fish schooling in the open water of big inland reservoirs, but I like current because it concentrates the fish and positions them in predictable ways that make it easy to know where to cast,” he says.
On Ouachita, Paullo and I looked for linesides harassing shad over classic spots including flooded timber, old channels and just off the tips of main-lake points. “Wherever they’re busting baitfish on top in clear water, this will work,” he says.
The technique holds water all through the summer on Paullo’s salty sweet spots, and on inland lakes until stripers go deep to escape rising water temperatures. When this happens, he trims a few inches off the head of the Forktail and threads it on a 1/2- to 1-ounce leadhead.
“Stripers love its action on a jig, and it’s a great way to recycle beat-up baits,” he laughs. “I’ve taken some monsters jigging 40- to 50-foot holes in Connecticut’s Thames River in the fall this way. Still, walking is my favorite.”
Indeed, Paullo’s topside Dinger dance is a deadly new way to take stripers in salt and freshwater. And, with the baits in full production this season, there’s no reason for NAFC members not to take a walk on the wild side.