Bass’n the Boat Docks
article by Kenny Covington
In bass fishing, the month of February is a lot rolled up into one. The water is not warm enough for a spring time bite, but it isn’t cold enough for a winter pattern either. In this month’s article we will take a look at one of the most productive constants in bass fishing – boat docks. Almost all of our fisheries have them and fish are drawn to them, just as they would be to your favorite Cypress trees.
Docks come in various shapes and sizes. Some are floating, some are even made of metal. Is the dock the longest one in a series going down a bank or is it an isolated one in the back of a cove? Is the bottom made up of rock or does it have a sandy bottom? Not all docks are created equal so each one requires a different approach in the way to fish them. Seasonally, shallow docks are good in the spring time, early summer and throughout the fall. The mid range docks are year round producers but can be extremely good while night fishing. Deeper docks are most effective in summer and winter but even with these “rules,” nothing is set in stone.
When dock fishing, pay attention to the different depths the dock will cover. A dock that sits in six feet of water or less is considered a shallow dock. If the dock reaches a depth of 10 feet, then I would consider this to be a medium range dock. If the dock sits in water over 15 feet, this is a deep dock. Usually the better structures offer shade and cover, but it also offers a noticeable depth change. This means a bass has easy access from deep to shallow water with minimum effort.
On lakes that have an abundance of hydrilla, milfoil or coontail moss, shallow docks can be dynamite all year. Mid-range docks on lakes can be the most difficult to figure out because they offer both shallow and deep water access. Deeper docks can be a year round producer but are usually technique specific.
As we move closer to springtime, bass will instinctively begin making their shallow water movements to spawn. These fish are moving from deeper water towards staging areas outside of spawning coves and flats before they totally commit to shallow water. Your mid-range docks can be good choices when faced with this particular scenario. The fish will stage in the deeper sections and use the rest of the dock as a migration route into shallow water.
It is usually best to fish the deeper areas of a dock first and then continue working to the shallow portions. Once the first fish is caught, particular attention should be placed working similar areas on other docks in the area. If smaller male bass are caught on the shallow portion of the dock, the bigger females are probably deeper and may require a different presentation to catch them. Like a lot of aspects in bass fishing, it is simply a process of elimination.
When fishing docks, keep your lure choices simple. My favorite February lures for dock fishing are a Rat-L-Trap or a crankbait, a Carolina rig and a jig. At some point one of these lures will produce fish no matter the type body of water I am fishing.
The Trap allows the fisherman to cover water quickly, paralleling the front and sides of each dock trying to find which portion of the dock the active fish are using. This choice of lure is excellent if there is submerged vegetation. Use a crankbait in the same scenario as the Trap, but it works better when the docks are deeper or don’t have a lot of vegetation around them. The key to both lures is the retrieve speed, as that is what will trigger the fish to strike. I like a crawfish pattern or the color red in either lure.
Once fish are located in specific areas a good way to catch the bigger fish is with a Carolina Rig. A Zoom lizard is probably the best choice for this technique and color is more about the fisherman’s confidence than the bass choice. Natural colors such as watermelon and pumpkinseed are productive but black/blue is still a good option. Your leader length should be conducive to the cover being fished and the sinker size should be based on the bottom contour and any present vegetation.
Arguably the best choice for dock fishing would be a jig, especially in the pre-spawn. The size of your jig should be determined by depth of water and the amount of cover. My first choice would be a 3/8 ounce black/blue jig with a matching craw worm trailer. If I fish the deeper portion of the dock, then I may switch to a 1/2 ounce version. The most important aspect of dock fishing with a jig is accurate presentations. The better the flip, pitch or cast the better the result. Remember big bass are lazy and the less work required to get an easy meal the better the chances are of catching them.
As I have said quite often, there are no sure things in bass fishing so don’t be afraid to experiment with lures and techniques on your favorite body of water! Please be careful in the woods and on the water and be sure to catch one for me! See you next month!