“That exactly the type of dock that we’re looking for”, I told my partner as I pitched my finesse worm about 3 feet under the front corner. “And that’s the kind of fish we’re looking for”, I said as I set the hook on our 15th fish of the day. We’re fishing Ross Barnett and it’s mid April in Mississippi so the spawn is mostly over and the fish are out guarding fry. It’s the kind of day that’s perfect for teaching an aspiring fisherman and that’s exactly the game plan for today.
I’m fishing with a neighbor who mentioned that he hated fishing docks during a casual conversation one day last week. Since fishing docks is a technique that I’ve always had a lot of success with and enjoyed, his dislike fascinated me enough that I asked him to come out this weekend and see it I couldn’t change his attitude.
On the ride to the lake, I explained my approach to dock fishing. First, we’ve got to consider the type of day. Sunny and cloudy days should be approached differently.
On a cloudy day, the fish are going to be roaming around and more active. Even though they are more aggressive, they are not positioned as well; so there is no telling where you will catch them on the dock. On these types of days, I will throw mostly moving baits, like a crankbait, spinnerbait or fluke. Because the fish are more active and not in specific spots on the docks, the faster baits allow me to cover more water and search for those aggressive fish.
On sunny days, like the day we were fishing, the fish will be in very specific spots on the docks, mostly relating to the shade patterns. This is the type of day that you always want to check out the docks on your local lake. With the fish positioned in the shade, you want to slow down your approach and fish slower baits like a jig, finesse worm or shaky head.
My personal favorite is the finesse worm, Texas rigged with a pegged weight. The pegged weight is critical when fishing docks because you will be pitching, flipping or skipping the bait to get it under the dock. By pegging the weight, it will stay next to the worm and make it fall straight down where it lands under the dock. I will vary the weight depending on the depth that we are fishing, but most of the time, I’m using a 1/8 oz with a 1/0 Gamakatsu EWG hook.
Boat position is probably the most important part of dock fishing and is the area that most casual fishermen understand the least. I will always fish the dock from all angles, working my way slowly in and out following the shape of the dock. This approach will allow you to work your bait from different angles until you determine where the fish are positioned on the dock.
I’ve found that most of the time, most of the fish in a given area will position in similar places on the docks. So once you’ve caught a couple of fish, you can focus on fishing the higher percentage areas of the docks. Favorite areas for the fish to position are on the outside or inside corners, walkways, ladders, stairways or where the dock meets the shore. This is generally determined by time of year and water temperature. They will generally be shallower in the spring and fall. Summer calls for deeper water.
I prefer fishing docks in the spring and summer since those are the two seasons that dock fishing really shines. Since docks are always located along the shoreline, a lot of them are located in spawning areas. During the spring, bass will move into these areas and use the docks for cover during the spawn. After the spawn like today, there are fry in those same areas, so both guarding and feeding bass are abundant.
Once summer gets here, the docks provide shade and cooler water as well as a perfect ambush point for bass to feed. The bass will typically be on the deeper docks or docks that are closer to deep water during this time of year.
So the next time you’re driving around looking for that next favorite fishing spot, check out those docks you generally drive right past. Who knows, you might find out you love fishing docks, I know my neighbor does.