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CrustyMono

How I fish Docks

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In this thread I will talk about my strategy to fishing docks. Feel free to add comments or suggestions.

Docks can be a great place to find fish. I serves as a home for bass and small fish. The fish feel protected there. Docks are also a great ambush point for bass on baitfish. The best docks for fishing are ones with large surface area, made of wood, has a pontoon boat on it, and can easily be skipped under. Access to deep water fast is also a must. Don t underestimate the metal docks, or docks with out boats. Although less likely to hold fish, the still can. Here is a 5 pound bass I caught on a metal dock for example:IMG_2980.JPG

I like to fish docks with several different baits and presentations. Swim jigs, skipping jigs, paddle tail swimbaits, senkos, wacky rigs, rattle traps,squarebills, walking baits and spinnerbaits are many of my favorite techniques. I do not typically fish all techniques in one day. Instead, i match the aggression level of the bass to the style of bait. The more aggressive the fish are, the more aggressive my baits will be. In early mornings or overcast fall days, i will throw the moving baits for reaction strikes. In tough conditions, i will throw less daunting baits like small swimbaits and swim jigs and senkos weightless. More active fish will not hold as tightly to the docks as less active. I typically fish the perimeters of docks with moving baits then pick off the ones tighter to cover last. 

 

I hope my experience fishing docks will help you catch more fish. After all this is what this place is about, right? Here are some more big dock fish from Pennsylvania where fish aren't typically huge.fullsizeoutput_2c3.jpeg

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Docks are one of my favorite pieces of cover to fish, because they ALWAYS hold fish. Not every dock, but if there's docks on a lake with bass in it, somewhere, there's a dock with fish under it. Another thing I like about dock fishing is how I can almost always pattern the fish when they're under the docks. There's several little lakes near me with lots of docks, and then the dock fishing capital of the midwest is only a few hours drive (LOZ). There's lots of different kinds of docks; wooden docks, plastic docks, concrete docks, metal docks, floating docks, anchored docks, docks with foam floats, plastic floats, or metal floats. There's docks with wood pillars, concrete pillars, and metal pillars. There's docks with cables, docks with ladders, docks with lifts, docks with boats, docks with rod holders, docks with hanging walkways, floating walkways, just a ton of variables and it can get overwhelming.

One of my first things that I think is one of the most difficult parts, pretend the docks aren't there. Look at a map, find the places the fish want to be even without the docks. The docks that sit on those places are going to be your high percentage docks, the ones that hold the most and biggest fish, the most often at that time. Then you have to fish those docks thoroughly to try to get a few bites to figure out what the fish are doing. When you get a bite, pay attention. Those bites are the fish talking to you, telling you what you need to know to have a successful day on the water. 

I like to fish docks with several types of baits but I will always have a skirted jig, a stickworm either wacky or T rigged weightless, a shakyhead, a bladed jig and/or spinnerbait, a buzzbait, and a swimbait. The jig is usually my primary attack bait because I can put it almost anywhere and I can fish it anywhere in the water column. The shakyhead will be to dissect the dock further if I get a few bites and want to see if there's more fish that are just too finicky to eat the jig. The stickworm is skipped under walkways, docks floats, boats, and pitched to potential holding areas like dock post, swim ladders, and crossbars. The bladed jig, buzzbait, and swimbait are all fished similarly, along the edges of docks and inside dock stalls, especially around floating docks and extra bonus points if there's shad, gills, or other baitfish seen around the underside of the docks floats. 

Once I get a bite and pick the dock apart, I'll fish the adjacent docks and see if fish are holding on nearby docks or just that one. I also make note of where on the dock the fish were holding, and if they were holding on a piece of cover, on the bottom, up high under the floats or walkway, ect. Then it's a matter of finding and fishing similar docks to find out if I've discovered a pattern, or if I just crossed paths with a random fish and still have work to do. Docks with rod holders mounted on them and fish baskets or minnow buckets in the water are often worth fishing because those items are a sign of crappie fishermen, who often place brushpiles in the lake, and those brushpiles will also hold bass along with the crappie.

One of my favorite local lakes to dock fish is very patternable. Often times, I'll have to drag a jig slowly and the fish will be on the outside corners of the docks. I've also had times on that lake that I had to cast to the front and center of the docks and the bass were there on the first couple movements of the bait. Sometimes they want a stick bait skipped under the docks (usually a technique for bigger smallmouth). I've had a couple trips there that the bigger fish were on the ladders. One that stands out was when they were on the ladders but wouldn't bite my normal presentations. It was during the spawn when the fry had hatched recently and we could see large fish guarding fry near the dock ladders, but they wouldn't bite anything we offered. We had all but given up when my buddy tried a Ned rig pitched directly into the ball of fry by a ladder. His line sank a foot and stopped. We ended up with over 80 fish and badly outfished the other boat on the lake that tried to force the normal baits on the fish but never got them to eat. 

So if you make sure to really pay attention to details and focus on what they are trying to tell you, it will make you a much better dock fisherman. Once you figure it out, it's really a great feeling.
First place at Grand Lake, fish were positioned behind the docks along the cables and the bait had to be drug along the bottom very slowly. This was a time they were also very color specific (had to be purple somewhere in the bait). 
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Fish were positioned on the north (sunny side, early spring), deepest corner of shallow docks with metal poles.
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Holding on the dock ladders on shallow docks, 3 docks in a row.
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The Ned rig/dock ladder/fry trip.
DSCF0187_zpscb208e3f.jpgDSCF0188_zpsbcb48b76.jpgDSCF0185_zps8741220b.jpg

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Crusty, great article you penned.

Remember there are floating docks that are used on some lakes and rivers. Know how to fish them, too.

May I add that the closer to the water the dock the better it can be.

High docks can hold bass but those close to the water are usually productive.

Keep up the good work.

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Great info guys. An often over looked part of the dock is behind it, under and around the walkway. Skipping baits over or under the cables is something some guys can't or won't do. You will have some fish run you under the dock or through the cables and you WILL break some fish off. Know that when you go back there. The best stretches of docks can often be ones where there are 5 or 6 docks in a row that are so close together that you can barely squeeze the boat between them. Most guys just won't mess with getting behind them. You'll see them fish the fronts and sides then move on. A ton of LOZ fish spawn behind the docks and the shade of the walkway and where it meets the dock can be a great prespawn and post spawn pattern in itself. If there's some brush back there it can be even better. This pattern is not limited to the Spring though. It can be excellent for much of the year. One thing I like to see when fishing docks is intact spider webs near/around the water line. They tell me it is likely no one has has fished that dock today. If they did fish it, and the web is in a location likely to be pitched to, they didn't fish the dock very thoroughly.

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I agree getting up between the dock and the bank can be great, but be ready also to get broke off on a cable. It's just part of it. 

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  I'm sure we all have fished docks before, and found fish on them. But how could you miss hitting on the most dominant reason bass are under and around them?

 The sun

 Without sunshine where would we find bass? Scattered about? Ever fish a reservoir that has no docks?  Or even better, a seemingly dock laden mecca of a lake, but on a cloudy day?,... and when you do, where are they then found?

 They tend to adhere to the "other" shoreline cover present,.. weeds, laydowns, boulders, the first drop, even the tree's shade, and etc,...

 Why such a change? again,... The sun.

 The suns effect on bass is possibly number 2 of the only 2 "written in stone" parts of the bass fishing equation, just after the (what I think) number 1, current. Where as current will physically force a bass's location. The sun does as well to some degree, just not as much. Reason?

 Bass dont like the sun, looking into it, having it shine down upon them (other than spawn),and just plain being out in it. Their eyes for one, are different than ours and the sun has a demanding effect on a bass's eye, even more than when you look into the sun. 
I remember reading something about a bass's eye, (probably 30 years ago,...lol) and I think the article was concerning the bass's eye being binocular???or omni??? therefore very sensitive to the sun's effects. re-read that,..I "think"

 Im no scientist, but I do remember that bass dont like the sun, it's suspected that the sun's effect hurts them, and they avoid it at all costs when possible, Shade isnt just a predatory position, its also a physical relief for them.  Of course the shade does add a "hiding" position for predation, but it also provides comfort for bass, not just for a "home" comfort, but a actual physical requirement.

 For two, they also are hiding for protection, bass may be a predator in the water, but danger lurks from above the waters surface for bass themselves,.. birds, racoons, ourselves, and other "dangers" force the bass's position as well.

This all plays into the "dock game" as to where on the dock,.. why some are better than others and so on. Best docks for me? Seem to be ones that not only have weeds around them but depth nearby as well, on the main lakes best point,.. to boot. 

 Other than Blue's buzzbait, how can you guys not throw a topwater around a dock? It's my first go to shot, at the lakes best docks. Then maybe a spinnerbait, followed by a jig and pig. And I must say the jig and pig is actually the best bet, but the other 2 do impress me as well. These 3 have outshined any other for me even a worm. More big fish have been pulled over my gunnels by them than any other lure while fishing docks.

 Im not trying to "shoot" at yall, just adding onto the tread, some wisdom from an old fart. So, when your out there on a sunny day, and the deep water bite just isn't working for ya, consider that bass, can be found everywhere. It's just a matter of putting together the why's when's and where's. And when you do come to the conclusion that docks are a good bet. Consider the suns, direction and positon, how it's shining down on each and every dock a bit differently. This will more likely than not key you into where on the dock they will be, how they are going to be positioned, and if they will be receptive to a certain lure or another.

 It does all play into that "dock" game. try it,..

As I started this thread, consider if there was no docks on the lake,..where would they be. Then add the docks that are present in that area to the equation. Dont forget that when there is no sunshine, they would position themselves how? again,.. add the docks in after the answer.

 We all have fished them, and found some better than others, did you ever ask yourself ,.Why? im sure you have. there is a answer, its all in how "you" consider the variables. The sun should be your first "clue", but not the only. The numerous questions I quoted above, are just as important, but they all have to follow, what I call, the number 2 "written in stone" of bass requirements when considering dock fishing,... reaction to,.....the sun.

 good thread crusty!

 I hope I got this across correctly, and this helps someone, anyone, catch more and better fish

 Keep ya line wet!

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1 hour ago, "hamma" said:

  I'm sure we all have fished docks before, and found fish on them. But how could you miss hitting on the most dominant reason bass are under and around them?

 The sun

 Without sunshine where would we find bass? Scattered about? Ever fish a reservoir that has no docks?  Or even better, a seemingly dock laden mecca of a lake, but on a cloudy day?,... and when you do, where are they then found?

 They tend to adhere to the "other" shoreline cover present,.. weeds, laydowns, boulders, the first drop, even the tree's shade, and etc,...

 Why such a change? again,... The sun.

 The suns effect on bass is possibly number 2 of the only 2 "written in stone" parts of the bass fishing equation, just after the (what I think) number 1, current. Where as current will physically force a bass's location. The sun does as well to some degree, just not as much. Reason?

 Bass dont like the sun, looking into it, having it shine down upon them (other than spawn),and just plain being out in it. Their eyes for one, are different than ours and the sun has a demanding effect on a bass's eye, even more than when you look into the sun. 
I remember reading something about a bass's eye, (probably 30 years ago,...lol) and I think the article was concerning the bass's eye being binocular???or omni??? therefore very sensitive to the sun's effects. re-read that,..I "think"

 Im no scientist, but I do remember that bass dont like the sun, it's suspected that the sun's effect hurts them, and they avoid it at all costs when possible, Shade isnt just a predatory position, its also a physical relief for them.  Of course the shade does add a "hiding" position for predation, but it also provides comfort for bass, not just for a "home" comfort, but a actual physical requirement.

 For two, they also are hiding for protection, bass may be a predator in the water, but danger lurks from above the waters surface for bass themselves,.. birds, racoons, ourselves, and other "dangers" force the bass's position as well.

This all plays into the "dock game" as to where on the dock,.. why some are better than others and so on. Best docks for me? Seem to be ones that not only have weeds around them but depth nearby as well, on the main lakes best point,.. to boot. 

 Other than Blue's buzzbait, how can you guys not throw a topwater around a dock? It's my first go to shot, at the lakes best docks. Then maybe a spinnerbait, followed by a jig and pig. And I must say the jig and pig is actually the best bet, but the other 2 do impress me as well. These 3 have outshined any other for me even a worm. More big fish have been pulled over my gunnels by them than any other lure while fishing docks.

 Im not trying to "shoot" at yall, just adding onto the tread, some wisdom from an old fart. So, when your out there on a sunny day, and the deep water bite just isn't working for ya, consider that bass, can be found everywhere. It's just a matter of putting together the why's when's and where's. And when you do come to the conclusion that docks are a good bet. Consider the suns, direction and positon, how it's shining down on each and every dock a bit differently. This will more likely than not key you into where on the dock they will be, how they are going to be positioned, and if they will be receptive to a certain lure or another.

 It does all play into that "dock" game. try it,..

As I started this thread, consider if there was no docks on the lake,..where would they be. Then add the docks that are present in that area to the equation. Dont forget that when there is no sunshine, they would position themselves how? again,.. add the docks in after the answer.

 We all have fished them, and found some better than others, did you ever ask yourself ,.Why? im sure you have. there is a answer, its all in how "you" consider the variables. The sun should be your first "clue", but not the only. The numerous questions I quoted above, are just as important, but they all have to follow, what I call, the number 2 "written in stone" of bass requirements when considering dock fishing,... reaction to,.....the sun.

 good thread crusty!

 I hope I got this across correctly, and this helps someone, anyone, catch more and better fish

 Keep ya line wet!

Good point Hamma.

It's possible that many of us who have fished docks for many years assume the sun/shade thing is a given and everyone gets it. In hind sight, I'm sure that is not the case. Those newer to fishing, whether it's docks or any cover for that matter, may not get that. There are probably some seasoned anglers who never really thought about the attraction/protection as well. Sun, as does wind and current, do play a huge roll in how fish set up on docks most of the time. For example I find that in Winter, like on a jerk bait bite, the fish will often times be on the sunny side of docks.  They are taking advantage of the solar heating while still taking advantage of all the things the the dock offers. Other times, probably most of the time, the shadiest part of the docks are the key. Many times they are so far under the dock, in the darkest part you can find, that it is very hard to get a bait to them. Even harder to get them out. During the Summer, brush piles under the shady side with some wind blowing in to that side of the dock can be the best pattern on the lake. On the other hand, if you have some fish on a dock and you get a day of overcast or rain, the fish that were buried up under the dock or in brush under and around the dock tend to move to the outside edges and corners and the bank behind the dock. These can be the days when it's lights out around the docks on a ton of different baits. I think the main point of this thread is, if you have docks on your lake and don't fish them much you're probably not catching as many fish as you could be catching. They are bass magnets.

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I love this thread.  Back in July, I found a spot with a few docks that always held huge bass.  Took me a while to find a pattern and begin to catch them. I learned how to skip with a casting and spinning rod.  Found that they tend to mostly hold on the last dock in a line of docks and caught them better on the side with the most shade.

This certain spot literally always held big bass.  I think because it was mostly a big rocky-gravely flat with big deep holes and the holes where filled with weeds.  Seemed to be the most consistent and perfect spot on this whole lake.  Fishing this spot is always a lot of fun, it's just hard to find a pattern with the much bigger bass.  

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All of these posts have been great, very informative for those of us who don't typically fish docks.

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Another great thread.

Hamma, is there ever a condition you would NOT try a topwater on a dock? Besides maybe too cold water temps?  what if it's windy?

Do you try all three (top water, mid-water, bottom) sequentially in each area:  back, side, front, other side..  Or do you make multiple passes?

Where I fish on my lake, there are 3 docks.. Most of the area is wildlife refuge so just a handfull of private property.   The last dock is on a main-lake point.. It's the only man-made structure for several hundred yards.. It is supported on some rip-rap beneath. And the guy has submerged some brush.  It is also close to deeper water.

This is my high percentage area.  And I am definitely going to use some of these tips!  Thanks all!

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1 hour ago, bchase44 said:

Another great thread.

Hamma, is there ever a condition you would NOT try a topwater on a dock? Besides maybe too cold water temps?  what if it's windy?

Do you try all three (top water, mid-water, bottom) sequentially in each area:  back, side, front, other side..  Or do you make multiple passes?

Where I fish on my lake, there are 3 docks.. Most of the area is wildlife refuge so just a handfull of private property.   The last dock is on a main-lake point.. It's the only man-made structure for several hundred yards.. It is supported on some rip-rap beneath. And the guy has submerged some brush.  It is also close to deeper water.

This is my high percentage area.  And I am definitely going to use some of these tips!  Thanks all!

HMmmmm?, only strong winds would negate me fishing a topwater by a dock, as topwaters dont really work well in haevy waves.. temps dont deter me either. Bass eat in winter too, I've caught bass on topwaters just before ice in up here, maybe not a "consistent" pattern, but a bass just the same (tiny torpedo)... I fish a dock as follows.

 Depending on the docks size,..say its just a normal short walkway and a single sized boats dock.

 I will make 3 casts with the pop-r, one on each side and one out front, then the spinnerbait will get tossed down each side and around each lake facing corner, Then I will pick apart the complete dock with several casts with the jig and pig, each corner usually with lakefront corners first, then the insides, behind the dock, and under the gangplank, and a few out front, if its off the waters surface? several skips as far back as possible, and just as Im leaving for the next? I will run the spinnerbait by the front of it. Thats a "typical" dock attack for me. And like stated above, the suns position dictates the higher percentage casts,.. I will most likely jig the lower percentage areas first,... then the higher ones, as to not "scare" any potential fish, by hooking one immediately and it trashing about the other areas in an attempt to get away. And this choice changes from dock to dock, as their position changes so does my casts

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Thanks Hamma,

Next time I go (hopefully this week) I am going to purposefully try this "top, mid, bottom" attack on that dock and a couple other of my high percentage spots.

I think I am very random and not thorough.. I typically paddle (kayak) to the dock and go straight to the corner I get bit on most with a drop shot.

Next time I'm bringing 3 rods and trying this method!

Edit: I just realized that corner I get bit on is in the shade!  Gotta store that in memory banks lol

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I do often fish topwaters on docks, I just listed the baits that I ALWAYS have tied on to simplify it a bit. 

A topwater that I think is very underutilized for fishing docks is a frog. They skip well to get under the docks, come through virtually anything, and they can be popped or walked like other topwaters. Plus frogs seem to attract larger than average bass, which is always a bonus. I use poppers and WTD baits often as well. Poppers are good when bass are a little less aggressive and need the extended pause to commit, when they're holding on a specific part of the dock (corners, ladders), or if they're guarding fry near the dock (pause the bait directly in or over the fry and wait). WTD baits are good also, especially in lakes with spotted bass it seems. 

The biggest downside with those types of topwaters around docks is snags. Treble hooks love to find anything to snag into, and recovering a snagged bait from back in a dock stall or behind a cable can be very difficult. Those types of baits also typically require lighter line to work properly, which becomes an issue when a big fish eats a bait behind a dock cable or in a dock stall with a lift or crossbars. 

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