A great summer pastime for many people is the attendance of open air concerts, from a battle of the bands contest at the county fair, to the raucous campsite echo of WE Fest, to the hard charging 80's covers done by Hairball, this season is a rocking good time, with an edge and a thrill all its own. Bass fishing too becomes a thrilling game of edges as the water heats up, and there's no better frame to focus on when the water warms than those of the docks that line many lakes.
Dock fishing is a game of angles and aggressive casting with the requirement that an angler has no fear of snagging, losing lures or being bound around a post by a bulldogging bass. It requires just the right combination of finesse and intestinal fortitude. At this time of year, especially on sunny days, bass will take up residence under the cover of large dock structures. Add in a couple boats, a jet ski and their respective lifts, and bass have little to fear from anglers due to all of the metal, plastic and wood that protects them from casts. However, for a gutsy angler with the right techniques, these fish are not out of reach.
The primary way of targeting these dock fish is with a skipping technique which, like the game Othello, takes about a day to learn and a lifetime to master. Using a side arm cast, an angler can sling hydrodynamic bait such as a tube across the surface of the water, skipping it to target areas such as openings under the front of the dock and spots beneath boats where fish are relating to metal posts, lift frames and water pump hoses. It takes a little practice to get the technique down and be able to cast deep under cover. For anglers just attempting the process, it is best to fling a few sidearm casts over open water to see how the bait skips, what angles work best, and how different lures skitter across the surface.
Texas rigged tubes are go-to dock baits. Their smooth bodies glide over the water like a flat stone and the hook stays out of the way until a fish bites and the angler hauls back for the hookset. Coupled with abrasion-resistant superlines in 14- to 30-pound test, these lures are the ticket to lure fish out from the most post-studded dock structure.
The key to getting largemouth out of these safe havens is a powerful hookset. The first second of the battle will decide if the fish is caught or lost. When a bass takes the bait, a hard, sweeping hookset is required to redirect the bass out and away from the dock. Keep the drag tight on the reel and the rod tip up and away from the structure to pull the fish into open water. There the battle should tilt in the angler's favor and the fish can be played quickly.
If a fish does wrap itself around a post the battle is not lost. The fish can be yo-yoed out of the structure many times by dropping the rod tip, giving the fish a little slack to loosen the wraps around the post, and then horsing the fish around the post. Be forewarned, bass will use every inch of structure to change the angle, pop the hook loose or break the line, so match the line and rod strength to handle this close-quarter combats.
When targeting dock-dwelling bass, anglers should look for the most complex docks as they will attract more and bigger fish. Smaller docks are still worth a few casts, but they can be quickly worked over in favor of spending more time on larger platforms. Use polarized shades to see bass holding near dock edges, but be certain to work as far under the docks and lifts as possible.
In time, you'll find that bass consistently relate to certain docks on the bodies of water you regularly fish. You may even notice that bass hold on certain parts of particular docks, making regular stops at these structures an important part of your fishing trip. Bass are creatures of habit, looking for a place that provides cover and opportunities to feed, and docks are perfect summer homes.
Use this information to your advantage and find those lunker fish that think they can't be caught. There's no dock, platform, or boat lift that can't be explored with a little bit of finesse, the right presentation and a solid hookset. Show those bass who's boss this summer and rock those docks...in our outdoors.