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Fishin the docks!
By Glenn Walker


Regardless of where you go in the country or what body of water you plan on fishing, the chances are pretty good that there is going to be at least one boat dock on that lake or river.  With these man made creations, come a prime location for bass to in habit.  Fishing boat docks is a very dominate pattern on numerous bodies of water throughout the summer months. 

Docks can be made out of a variety of materials, but the two different types of docks are floating and non-floating.  Floating docks are usually not connected to the bottom in any way; expect sometimes with a single metal pole to keep the dock from moving.  Non-floating docks either are on wheels or posts that come in contact with the bottom of the lake.  Another factor one should consider is if the boat dock looks new or not.  I like docks that are on the aged side, this is because older docks usually have an abundance of algae and other weeds growing on the parts of the dock that are in the water.  Older docks also have been in that area longer and the bass are more accustomed to those docks then one that has just been placed in the water.

 Several factors will determine how the bass will be positioning themselves on or around the boat dock.  The three factors that play a role in where the bass will position themselves on a boat dock include:  time of day, current, and additional forms of cover.

The time of day plays a big role in if the bass will be buried all the way underneath a dock or if they will be sitting right on the edge.  During the lowlight hours of the day, bass will sit on the edge of dock and when a feeding opportunity presents itself, they can quickly take advantage of the food.  When the sun is directly overhead bass will take protection from the hot sun and go underneath as much dock as they can.  This puts the bass in cooler water than if they were sitting out in the water that has the sun beating down on it.  Hiding underneath the dock, also puts the bass in a very good ambush point where they can grab a small bluegill, minnow, or insect.  Remember the sun moves over the course of the day and the shaded side of the dock will change.  Try working the docks several times because fish will position themselves where they have the best opportunity for an easy meal.

Another factor that will move the bass around a boat dock is the presence or lack there of, of current.  If a boat dock is situated in a lake or a section of a river that has little to no current, then bass will try and set up on the dock where the current will ever so slightly hit that dock.  This again gives the bass the cover of the boat dock, but also an ambush point, when food is washed by the dock through the current.  Now if the dock is located in current, a bass is not going to be able to hold all day on the edge of the dock where the current is strong.  The bass will seek out protection from the current by tucking behind a pole, wheel or floating barrel.  These small little current breaks offer an angler an easy target to catch some quality bass.

The last of the three factors that I consider when I am fishing boat docks is looking for other forms of cover in relation to the dock.  These other forms of cover can be a traditional brush pile, weed line, rip-rap, or the more non-traditional moored boat, tire, etc.  Sometimes you may be able to go down a whole section of docks and get a bite on almost every dock.  Other times you will maybe only get a bit every so often.  Going back and examining these docks can be extremely helpful in establishing a pattern.  You may find the bass are holding only on docks that have 2 foot of water or less on the back side, with 5 plus feet on the front and a submerged weedline in the immediate vicinity.  These other forms of cover all provide additional ambush opportunities for the bass.

Now that you have established a pattern within a pattern on the boat docks, you need to select the best presentation for the conditions that you are faced with.  When fishing on a calm bright blue-sky day, when the sun is straight up, the bass will try to tuck as far back as they can get.  This is the type of days when “skipping” works best.  I like to use a 6’6” Quantum Tour Edition spinning rod.  This rod is perfect for skipping because it has a soft enough tip so can quickly and effectively skip your lure across the top of the water and into the areas way underneath the dock.  You do want a rod with enough backbone though, because you must quickly turn the bass around, so it does not get you wrapped around the dock.  The objective is to get the rod parallel to the water so the lure hits right in front of the object and keeps skipping until it stops under the structure you are fishing.  This technique is very beneficial because you are putting your lure in front of fish that might not have seen a lure recently.  This becomes very important on lakes or rivers where fishing docks is popular and the fish get a lot of pressure.

Gambler Ace
Top: Texas Rigged
Lower: Wacky rigged-
with O Ring

When fishing docks, especially when I am skipping lures underneath them I like to throw a Gambler Ace that is wacky-rigged, the action of this bait free falling underneath a dock drives bass crazy.  I like to keep my color selection pretty basic, so I focus on three colors, June bug, watermelon red, and shadow blue glitter.  To keep the number of baits I go through to a minimum, I put a plastic o-ring on the middle of the bait and then put the hook through the o-ring, but not through the plastic.  To help me get a good hook into the bass, I like to use a larger hook, then other anglers use, so I go with a 1/0 Eagle Claw extra wide gap hook.  However, if I am fishing clear water lakes I will switch to a smaller number 1 Octopus style by Eagle Claw.

 The Ace can also be rigged Texas style, which is very effective when the bass are cruising around the boat docks and holding on the edge.  Just cast the Ace beyond the dock and work it back slowly just beyond the edge.  It is important to rig the Ace so it falls straight on a 4/0 or 5/0 extra wide gap hook.  This way it s a natural looking presentation as it slowly cascades down the face of the dock. 

Other lures that I look to when fishing boat docks are weighted Texas-rigged plastics and swim jigs.  Both of these baits can be skipped back underneath a dock, flipped into openings, or cast to the open water surrounding the dock.  A wide variety of your favorite plastic baits will work around boat docks.  Several choices that I would recommend are a tube and a craw.  A tube to me is a great all around plastic bait that works in many situations.  A craw works well around docks that have rip-rap on them; in these rocks are crawfish in which the bass are feeding on.  When I am flipping a Texas-rigged plastic on docks, my goal is to hit every hole that I can.  This way you are putting your bait in front of the bass as many times as you can.

Throwing a swimming jig around a boat dock is extremely effective when the bass are feeding on shad or bluegills that inhabit the surrounding area of the dock as well.  Keying in on white color jigs when they are feeding on shad and brown and green jigs when they are feeding on bluegills are good color choices.

The last thing I want to talk about when it comes to dock fishing is having respect for the owners dock.  Bass fisherman as a group get a collective bad name because we drive the fast boats and supposedly don’t have any respect for anyone else on the water.  Well when you are fishing boat docks you are putting yourself in the public’s direct eye.  You can do two things with this, the first being, to continue the stereotype that we have or be polite and respectful and show that cabin owner just how classy bass fisherman can be.  Using common sense is the first thing, if someone is on their dock or around it, don’t fish it.  If you do get snagged, do what you can to get your lure back, but if you can’t cut your line. 

With the hot sun shinning on the water now, I think it is time for me to get on the water and go chase some dock bass.  I hope to see you out there on the water!!