DOCK BASS TIPS
By Ken Poor
On many lakes docks have replaced logs, trees, stumps and brush as natural habitat for bass. To a largemouth bass, docks or piers are nothing more than a pile of wood that provides them a safe place to hide, a great feeding opportunity and protection from bright sun light. For the angler willing to take the time to master the techniques for fishing docks, you will find that pulling a bass from the twists and turns of a dock is a very challenging, but rewarding experience.
The time of year or season is your first consideration when fishing docks. Bass move to the protective cover of piers shortly after they complete the spring spawning ritual. About the same time the water temperature on the main lake has warmed up and weed beds are starting to develop. Bass will stay around the piers throughout the summer and well into the fall – as long as conditions remain suitable.
Have you ever wondered why some piers seem to hold more fish than others? Easy question – All docks are not created equal. When you select a dock to fish there are some features that will separate the best ones from all the others. The better docks are the big older, wooden docks with lots of pilings, with some weed growth, close to deep water and with minimal people activity.
If there are four jet skis, a diving board, powerboats and kids toys on the pier you can bet the bass are hiding on the other side of the lake. Use a lake map to find out where deep water swings in close to shore and look for the best piers in that area. Also, look for marinas that have large numbers of piers and suitable depth, but with minimal people activity. Spend some extra time fishing these types of piers and you are likely to pick up some bonus fish or even a big bass.
Pay attention to the sun when working piers. Bass are an ambush predator and the sun provides shadows not only for bass to hide in, but also for bait fish or other critters that are looking for a place to hide. Bass don’t have eyelids, which can make them uncomfortable in bright sunlight, but the main reason they are under piers is to hide and ambush prey as it swims by. That is why they hang next to the pilings and other types of underwater structure.
The major challenge when fishing a pier is getting your lure far enough back under the pier so that you are reaching the spots where the big bass are holding. Proper boat positioning is half of the challenge and using the right technique is the other half.
Keep the wind at your back and sun in front of you, trolling motor on low and quietly drift in close to the pier. Once you are in close to the pier run your trolling motor as little as possible. With the sun in front of you, your shadow doesn’t fall on the area you plan to fish and put the bass on alert.
A medium action bait casting rod and reel spooled with 12 to 17-pound monofilament works quite well for most of the bigger lures used for fishing docks. Smaller lures will match up better with a spinning outfit, spooled up with 8-pound-test line or even heavier line. A spinning rod and reel works well when you want to skip small lures under a dock floor. Fishing docks is tough on your line, so check it for nicks and wear often.
Three techniques that work well for piers are skipping a Texas rigged plastic worm or plastic creature, flipping a jig and pig or small spinnerbaits or buzz baits. On calm, bright days, bass will move back under the pier as far as they can and skipping is the best way to reach them.
Flipping can also be a great way to catch dock bass especially on lakes with stained water or just after a cold front passes. Depending on the water depth, go with a 3/8 or ½-ounce bass jig dressed with a pork trailer. Flipping is an accurate way to present a bait when you can get close to the pier (stained water) or in low light conditions when the bass are holding tight to cover during a passing cold front.
Spinner baits or buzz baits are a good choice when bass are feeding aggressively and accurate cast are not the main concern. Typically, bass are most likely to chase down a spinnerbait or buzz bait on cloudy days with a light breeze, during stable weather patterns or early mornings and late evenings.
Any bright sunny day is a good time to fish piers, but pay attention to details and the other opportunities piers may provide. Remember the sun moves across the sky from east to west and the shaded side of the dock will change during the day. Work the docks several times and from different angles throughout the day. Bass will move around under the dock to re-position themselves in the shade so that they will have the best opportunity to ambush an easy meal.
When most fishermen are calling it a morning and heading in for lunch and the sun is directly overhead, they may be missing the most productive time of day to fish piers. Another time to pay particular attention to piers is at night and during low light conditions when bass move out from under the piers to feed.
Also, try to make the best use of your time while moving from pier to pier. Have a spinnerbait or crankbait set-up on an extra rod ready to make casts to diving platforms, boathouses, pontoon boats or any other piece of cover in between the docks you are fishing.
Dock fishing has its responsibilities. Keep in mind and always respect the fact that the docks you are fishing are private property. Never make a cast when you could hit a boat moored at a pier or snag the canvas cover on a boat. Do not throw under a dock if there is a chance of losing a lure that may hook someone that swims around the area. If you do snag – retrieve the lure. Treat the dock as you would like people to treat the dock if it was yours.