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If you have a heart condition, it is recommended that you
avoid fishing behind this dock because
the effects of hooking a spawning bass
could be hazardous to your health."
the Surgeon General hasn't posted any signs like this on any of our
lakes yet, but the
perils of trying to land a thrashing largemouth behind a dock might
be more than the faint-hearted can bear.
"A guy who has a heart condition doesn't want to fish
for big spawning bass behind docks," says Bruce Gier, a
tournament angler and owner of Gier's Bass Pro & Liquor Shop in
other Midwestern lakes spawning bass seek the shelter of flooded
timber and lay-downs, but on Gier's home reservoir, Lake of the
Ozarks in central
dock's location is the key to finding spawning bass.
Gier locates the majority of nesting bass behind docks in the
backs of coves, except during the latter stages of the spawn when he
concentrates on main-lake condominium docks.
real pattern exists as to which docks hold spawning bass. Gier notes
that he doesn't seem to find them in exactly the same places every
year. "You need to
go back in the most
awful looking area you can find," Gier says. Any dock that has
pillars is a prime target because bass will spawn next to every
prime target is a dock with two or three sets of cables running from
the pier to shore. "The
docks that seem nearly impossible to get behind are the ones where
the fish congregate best,"
Gier says. In
most cases, the fish are unmolested because the average angler shies
away from the menacing cables.
addition to keeping anglers away from the spawning territory, cables
also serve as security blankets for bass. Some fish spawn right
under the cables. "They
seem to know that they can deal you some fits on those dock cables
and they can," Gier
Some bass also spawn in the open areas behind the docks. Even
if the dock has plenty of cover, Gier wastes little time fishing
behind it if he fails to find a nest (a round, shiny spot on the
spots that are barely visible in 8 feet of water usually hold bigger
fish. Bass spawn at
various depths on fluctuating lakes affected by spring rains. Gier
finds most of the spawning bass on
Gier finds a nest close to the bank, he tries to catch the bigger
bass first by working
deeper water and then gradually moves in shallower to catch the
smaller male fish on the nest. "A
lot of guys make the big mistake during spawning time of fishing for
the bass they can see," Gier says. "If the big fish is
there, of course, go ahead and get her. She is generally lying just
out to where you can't see her, though."
However, in a
tournament, Gier concentrates on catching
limit of keeper-size fish initially and then works on the kicker
fish. When the spawn reaches its speak, Gier can catch a limit
fishing behind five docks in a row.
depth of the cables determines where Gier positions his boat behind
a dock. If the cables
droop deep enough, Gier slides his boat on top of them and uses the
cables to hold his boat in position. When the cables hang above or
on the surface, Gier keeps his trolling motor next to the moorings.
"I don't have any paint on the shaft of my trolling
motor because it's constantly rubbing against the cable."
Once he finds nesting bass, Gier offers them a wide range of
lures because he feels the fish will eventually bite.
"You just have to have a giant arsenal of every kind of
plastic lure known to man," Gier
says. He either flips or
pitches to his targets, or
casts with an underhand sling to skip the lure under walkways and
strategy starts with heavy-duty
equipment and then scales down to lightweight
tackle as he moves in closer to the fish.
During his first presentation, Gier stays
back far enough to where the fish is just in sight.
As he moves in, he switches to lighter line and smaller
can come close enough to where you can spook off
the fish but it will
come right back," he says.
When using line as light as 4-pound test, Gier can move
within 10 feet of a spawning bass and still coax it into biting.
In murky water, you
can use as heavy as 20-pound test line behind the docks, but since
Gier mainly fishes the clear water of the lake's North Shore area,
he usually scales down
his line size. For aggressive fish,
Gier selects bait-casting equipment and 10-pound test line. "I
feel I have a little bit of an advantage with this heavier
tackle," he says. His favorite lures for this application are a
brown 1/4-ounce jig and brown No. 11 pork frog or a Hula Grub in
earthworm or crawfish colors. With most of his lure choices, Gier
prefers crawfish or
earthworm colors (brown, dark green, motor oil), especially for
finicky fish. "If
you have a fish that's in the mood or about half ticked off
at your bait, then go ahead and throw something
suggests that you can even catch aggressive fish on sunny days with
a cotton candy or pink-and-chartreuse plastic lizard.
bass shun his jigs, Gier changes to spinning tackle, 8-pound
test and soft plastic baits. His top lure choices are 4- and 6-inch
plastic lizards and plastic
The next step in Gier's scale-down approach involves 6-pound
test line and 4-inch plastic worms on a No. 1 wire hook. "You
stay with that as long as you can and as a last resort,
when you just have to have that fish, pick up the little
stuff and throw
everything you can at them," Gier says.
"little stuff" Gier resorts to consists of trout fishing
tackle, an ultralight rod and reel with 4-pound test line and a
small plastic trout worm impaled on a tiny hook. Gier sticks the
hook through the head of the worm and leaves the point exposed to
ensure a good hookset. This
rig is especially effective on fish that Gier has missed a couple of
times with his larger lures. "What
have you got to lose? You can't
catch that fish the
other way, so you might as well go to the real light stuff,"
When a fish strikes, Gier carefully pulls his line to set the
hook. A soft
touch and a sharp hook are critical, especially when fishing with
light tackle. "On spawning fish, it's unbelievably important to
have a sharp hook. That
thing has just got to be
like a needle," Gier
advises. He also
suggests that you remain calm if you see a big fish hit your lure,
otherwise you'll jerk too hard on the hookset and break your line.
real challenge comes after you've set the hook. Trying to weave a
stubborn bass through a maze of cables, pillars and other obstacles
can be a pulse-raising experience.
Gier catches most of his 5- and 6-pound fish on the heavier
line (8- and 10-pound test) with his drag set light. "You can
turn a 6-pound fish during the spawn with
line. It's a trick but it is possible,"
he says. Since spawning
fish tire easily, Gier usually lands them if he controls their
helps Gier land the smaller male bass (15- and 16-inch fish)
on the lighter tackle. He has even landed bass after they
have jumped over a cable and looped the line around to where it was
ready to form a knot. But when a 4-pounder smashes one of his
mini-baits on 4-pound test line, the bass has the edge. "He's
the boss. You have to
leave it up to him as to whether you're going to land him or
not," Gier says. "That
doesn't usually last too long. It's usually Fish 1, Gier 0."
With a lack of obstacles behind the dock and a little bit of luck,
the heavier fish can still be landed by keeping slight rod
pressure on the bass to wear it out and then guide it toward the
the light tackle is no match for a
bruiser bass behind a dock loaded with
brush piles. "That's where the big boys win every
time," Gier says. "If
those fish bury their heads in the brush
while pulling 4-pound line, I don't care if Houdini is
holding the rod, the fish is going to win."
checking your line improves your chances of catching fish behind the
docks. Gier advises retying your line whenever it rubs
against a cable. "It's
over for your line if it touches that cable," he says.
your heart can take it, sneak behind a dock this spring and try to
coax a bass from its
spawning hideout. For information on lodging and other facilities at
of John Neporadny's book, "THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing
Guide" are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the
web site www.jnoutdoors.com.