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Dock Fishing 101
Darin Roddick-Small


Whether you are fishing new water or your favorite waters, it is always worth spending a little time hunting for bass around docks. With the rate of development on our lakes and rivers these days, it is hard to go anywhere without a few docks that are worth fishing. But, this does not mean that all docks are created equally. There are many factors that will influence how good a dock can be. In this article I will discuss a few of these factors, as well as how I like to attack docks on the waters I fish.

The Anatomy of Docks
What makes a dock worth fishing? I have found that there are a few things that all of the best docks have a few of the following things in common. These factors may change due to the body of water you are fishing, and the time of the year, so make sure that while you are looking at different docks, you still must pay attention to what the fish are trying to tell you.

Water Depth
One of the first things to look for when locating docks to fish is their relation to deeper water. Docks that are in, or right next to deeper water will give bass a place to escape to if there is a drastic weather change, or another stressor. Docks will many times give you clues to how drastic the depth change is in relation to the shore. This can be seen when you have some docks that are much longer than others. Most docks are constructed to give the homeowner better access to deep water for use of their boats and swimming activities. When there is a shallow flat, the docks will tend to be longer and may indicate that this stretch of water may have vegetation on the inner stretches of the dock.

As I said before, there are times when fish will not always follow set guidelines, cold water periods and the spawn are such times when you may want to probe the shallows around docks more carefully. Bass are drawn to these shallower areas due to the warmer water and sunlight that their young will need to survive.

Additional Cover
One thing that will drastically improve the quality of a dock is if there is additional cover such as weeds, rock, or wood around. By having additional types of cover, it gives more ambush points for the bass, and will draw in prey to that area. Don’t just rely on the visible cover, many times there will be additional cover located out of view from the recreational fisherman that may be a major factor in holding fish to a particular dock. Whether it is natural structure such as submerged weeds, a rock pile/bar, or a man-made structure such as tires, old trees, or other garbage that has been discarded into the lake. These man made attractors can sometime be given away by the appearance of the property the pier is located on. If it is in disarray, it may mean that there could be additional objects in the water. If the property owner has garbage/junk on land, it will many times find its way into the water.

Dock Construction
This factor can really be a big factor in which docks you will concentrate on. I have found that by really keying on a dock construction, you can more, or less, predetermine where fish will be located.

There are a couple of major features that I like to focus on when I am dissection a new dock. The first is what material the dock is made of. I have found over the years the best material for holding bass would be wood. An added bonus to this would be if there is any carpet lining the edge of the dock. Many times carpet is used as a bumper for protecting boats at the dock’s edge. The reason these two materials are attractive to bass is because algae and other microscopic organisms can easily adhere the surface of these materials. These microbes then feed the small aquatic animals that the bass themselves feed on. Metal is the other material that many docks are made of. Metal will still hold fish, but tend to not have as much algae growing on the support pilings.

Another major factor while looking at docks is the distance they are located above the water level. Docks that are constructed close to the water’s surface offer two major things to bass. The first benefit of a low dock is that it offers more protection from the sun. The higher it is, the less protection from the sun there will be. The other major benefit that low docks offer is protection from the average fisherman. The lower docks offer less of a target for the less accurate fisherman. Many of these low docks are more, or less “protected” from fisherman.

How To Fish Docks
I like to fish docks in a progression. I will usually start by trying to provoke a reaction strike around the edges of the docks looking for more active fish. After working those types of lures, I will slow down and really work each dock over to locate the less active fish, always paying attention to were each fish is relating to a particular portion of the dock. What follows are some of the different tactics that I will employ on the docks that I encounter.

Reaction Baits
The first thing I will tend to throw around docks is a swim jig. I prefer to throw one of the Brovarney Baits in the 1/4 ounce. I like to throw their bluegill patterns, such as Blue Devil and BC’s Gil, in the spring as well as craw patterns if there is a strong crawfish forage base. In the late summer, through the fall, I will switch more to the shad patterns such as Brovarney’s Gringo color, or my personal favorite Glory. I will mainly work these jigs around the edges of the docks as I stated before, but may work it in a little closer to the docks and even under, if I feel that is the best way to draw the bass out.

Flipping Lures
After I work the perimeter of the docks I will come back around and switch to a flipping technique. For this I will use one of the following lures: Brovarney’s Thumper line of jig, or their ball head jigs. I prefer these two jigs to other lines because they are hand tied and this allows me to make modifications to the jigs and I will not loose strands due to the common rubber bands that are used to hold the skirts on other brands of jigs. When flipping, I will work each dock pole while keeping mental notes to see where the fish are positioning themselves on the docks. I tend to use heavier tackle for this presentation because I am working around “heavier cover”.

When I am not flipping jigs to docks, I will work them with salt series tubes by Venom Lures. These tubes are enhanced with Mega Strike fish attractant, which I feel gives me an advantage over ordinary salt impregnated tubes. Depending on the conditions, I will also dip the tubes in a dye, like spike-it to give the tube a little extra flare.

Finesse Presentations
When conditions call for it, I will downsize and slow down. For this type of fishing, I have a couple of favorites. The first would be rigging a 4” creature bait onto a Venom super do jig head. I have found this to work very well for skipping docks. The weed guard is an added benefit if there are weeds, or any submerged wood around the docks. A 4” ringworm will also work well for this presentation.

If the fish are in a negative mood, I will skip a salty sling, made by Venom lures under the docks. At times like this, I will dead stick these baits. For both of these presentations, I will use a 6’6” Med Heavy rod with 8-10 pound test line depending on the conditions.

A Final Thought on Fishing Docks
While you are venturing into the world of dock fishing, I hope that you are able to use some of this information. I would encourage you to remember to pay attention to what the fish are telling you. Although these suggestions may work most of the time, bass like anything, will adjust to what the environment is doing, and that includes fishing pressure and other human activities.

Please feel free to take a look at any of the lures I have mentioned at the following sites:

If you have any questions on this article, please feel free to contact me using a pm through his sight.

Tight Lines and God bless
Darin Roddick-Small
Future Bass Pro Staff
Brovarney Baits Pro Staff