Docks have long been known as one of the best places to target bass. They come in all shapes and sizes and generally hold bass during all seasons. Looking at a shoreline filled with docks can seem intimidating, but by following some general rules for dock types and bait selections, the choice of which dock to target and how to approach it becomes much easier. Tennessee’s Brandon Card is a rookie on the Elite Series trail and has spent years fishing docks. He counts dock fishing as one of his favorite ways to catch bass and shared some of his secrets with you below.
No Perfect Dock
There is not a perfect dock according to Brandon Card but there are several factors that determine whether or not a dock is going to hold fish. The first factor is depth, and Brandon breaks docks into three major categories and then chooses his approach based on which type and depth of docks that the fish are relating to that day.
- The first would be the shallow docks in less than five feet of water, which are typically best in the in spring and summer
- Mid depth docks, between five to ten feet are frequented by bass throughout the year
- The last would be docks deeper than ten feet, which tend to hold bass more in summer and winter
“One of the things that’s great about dock fishing is that once you find what type of docks are holding fish you can run the lake and look for those types of docks,” added Card. While he agreed that finding the right docks can seem overwhelming at times, he said that generally the older the dock, the better. “The older docks are like a little ecosystem and generally have more algae and plant life around them. This is going to attract more baitfish and bass and many of these older docks have brush piles and trees sunk around them,” acknowledged Card.
High Percentage Areas
Dock fishing is all about hitting the right spots. There are numerous key areas among docks that should always be targeted according to Card. “I always hit the outside and inside poles because time after time they produce, they are obvious targets but always seem to attract bass,” added Card. He also believes that other areas can be just as good as the poles. “I think many people overlook casting to the walkways to the docks. I always hit them because they are not as pressured and always seem to hold fish, especially when there is a lot of wind or boat traffic pushing them back under the docks,” stated Card. For floating docks, he prefers a similar approach and will always hit the swimming platforms as they produce more shade. If the bass are in deeper water, Card will sometimes move his boat inside the boat slips and drop the bait straight down. “This is best with a drop shot and when the fish are deeper than ten feet it can be the best way to reach them,” added Card.
Time of Day
Since shade is a major part of the appeal of docks, Brandon will adjust his approach based on the time of day. “Early in the morning, I will start out casting topwater baits like a DUO Realis Pencil 110 along the outside edge of the docks. In the morning, they tend to be more loosely relating to the docks and this is your best chance to catch fish on reaction baits,” states the Tennessee pro. As the sun climbs higher into the sky, the bass naturally seek the shade. Once the sun is high, the fish will be in the darkest areas they can find and this is where Brandon will employ his dock skipping skills.
No dock skipping discussion could be complete without discussing the technique and gear used to skip baits under docks. This is an essential way to get to those hard to reach areas that often hold the most bass. “I have been skipping docks for years and feel like this is the best way to get under the docks. I use spinning gear for all of my soft plastics and baitcasting gear for my jigs,” added Card. He believes that this approach, along with lighter line is his best way to longer casts and more bites when fishing beneath the docks. “I use a 6’8” Pinnacle Perfecta Spinning Rod with 10lb Ultracast braid with a 10lb Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon leader on my spinning gear. For my baitcast setup, I use 15lb fluorocarbon and use a 7’ MH Pinnacle Perfecta rod that is actually made for jerkbaits but I find it works great for skipping,” stated Card.
With the exception of topwater in the morning, dock fishing is almost exclusively soft plastics and jigs for Brandon Card. He prefers different baits for different situations and even the type of dock he is targeting. “When I am wacky-rigging, it is usually around standing pole docks. The floating docks have too many cables and no matter how good your cast is, you will get hung up,” added Card. For this approach he relies on a Jethro Baits Krazie Karlie and feels like it has a better action and design compared to similar worms. “This bait is a trick worm style and because it has no tapers like other worms like it, it has a better fall and won’t fall unevenly,” mentioned Card.
The shaky head is another popular choice among dock fishermen and Card is no different. “One thing that I always do is use a light jighead, I’ve learned over time that they skip much easier. I use a Shaky Man’s from Taylor Man’s Lures in 1/8 or even 1/16 oz and think the football head design makes it skip better,” added Card. His approach to jigs is the same and he will often choose to skip a jig. One trick he uses to make dock skipping more successful and less frustrating is to use superglue to connect his trailer to his jig. “Doing that will save you some headache and keep your bait in the water. I’ve also found that a twin tail grub is one of the best for skipping and looks good when you are swimming it back to the boat,” added Card.
If he had to choose one bait for every season of dock fishing it would a soft plastic stickworm. He prefers to use a Jethro Baits Waldo. “The Waldo is great because no matter how shallow or how deep the fish are, you can get them to bite it. I use it year round and it works great for each type of dock,” added Card.
Looking at a shoreline of docks can seem confusing when forced to choose which docks to target. By using Brandon Card’s approach and bait selection you will have a bigger piece of the dock fishing puzzle.