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Fishing Covered Docks For Bass

By By Mike Dial-Tennessee Bass Stream Guide

This article is intended to help the beginning fisherman better understand the makeup of deep water (15 ft or more) covered floating docks and what techniques work best for me during the hot weather months when water temperatures reach the 80's and above. Let me say that this is not the only way to catch bass out from under and around docks. But the techniques that I will be sharing fits my fishing style perfectly and has proven over the years to be very effective. There are several other articles aimed at the beginner that you can view by going to www.tennesseebassguides.com and clicking on the Tips Archive Tab on the left hand side of the home page.

Before We Catch A Bass

Before we catch a bass we need to cover this first. It is always important to remember that the dock and everything either sitting on it or attached to it is someone's private property and should be treated as such. I have never had a dock owner run me off in all the years I have been fishing them. Why? Because I respect the other persons property and their privacy if they are on the dock. But I have witnessed others being asked to leave the dock area because of not using their heads and doing something stupid! The water is public but the docks are private!

Why Deep Water Covered Docks?

Truthfully this question could be why covered docks period! The answer is very simple, boat docks offer Smallmouth, Largemouth and Spots several important things that attract them such as.

(1) Natural Forage: Many docks will support a variety of small bait fish, blue gill and other smaller species of fish and sometimes crawfish that bass just love to munch on. To a bass some docks are like going to an all you can eat restaurant. The key is to find those particular docks, which we will talk about later. It's also important to remember that Older Docks will have a tendency to have more algae on the areas below water level, simply because they have been in the water longer. Why is this important? Because the algae is one component that helps create oxygen and attracts the smaller species that I just mentioned. Bait fish, Blue gill and others will feed on the algae and small aquatic bugs and set up a homestead under the dock, which in turn attracts lager predator fish.

Many States here in the U.S. have changed their construction codes to where any type of real wood cannot be used in the building of docks for environmental and safety reasons. Wood has been replaced by man made synthetics which take a little longer to build up a algae covering depending on lake water clarity and purity. To help you find docks that potentially will have more of this algae buildup look for older docks that still have the wood construction, boats moored at them and jet sky platforms which have visible algae buildup on the areas below water level. Let me stress that Algae Alone is not the only factor that makes a good producing dock. But it certainly gets one started out in the right direction.

(2) Shade: I don't know where you live, but here in middle Tennessee it's HOT! Daytime temperatures have consistently hovered in the mid to upper 90's and this week we will break the 100 degree mark several days. The suns beating down, we have mile high sky's and once again it's just plain old HOT! When I take my dogs outside to do their business where do you think I stand? If you guessed under a shade tree you would be absolutely correct! It may still be hot "But" it is several degrees "Cooler" than just standing out in the direct sunlight. The same principle applies to docks. To a bass it's like walking his favorite shad out in the yard letting him swim around while he gets under a shade tree. It may still be hot but the water temperature under the dock can range as much as 8-10 degrees cooler (sometimes more) depending on the density and square footage of the dock. Some of the docks I fish on my favorite lake are 600 square feet and larger. Some are one story tall and other two stories tall. The larger square footage of the dock the greater the shade.

Without getting to technical you have to remember that all fish including bass "breathe" by absorbing dissolved oxygen through their gills. Oxygen enters the water in several different ways such as, directly from the atmosphere, absorption directly from aquatic plants and algae photosynthesis. The cooler the water under the dock the more oxygen can be dissolved in the water. That's why under normal conditions oxygen levels are usually higher in the winter than the summer. Shade provided by docks tend to lower the average summer water temperature and increase the oxygen levels.

(3) Accessibility to deep water: Even though bass are predators they still want a sense of safety. The docks I concentrate on during hot weather sit in water anywhere from 15 feet to 35 feet deep. One big advantage to the deeper water (verses shallow water) is bass on these docks tend to move up and down in the water column instead of out and away from the dock when frightened or reacting to weather changes. Another factor that help hold bass is submerged timber and other structure under the dock. Many dock owner have sunk brush and PVC trees as fish attractors which just adds another plus to that particular dock. Any time you see lights and rod holders on a dock always probe around and chances are you will find some type of structure that has been planted. When bass are moving up and down in the water column and they aren't as aggressive you have to experiment with your presentation. Size/weights of lures, rate of fall of your lures and even the type of lures that they want can change from trip to trip. We will discuss this in a minute.

To me these three things are very important when fishing this time of the year. Dog days of summer drive many bass fisherman in one of two directions. The first would be to their recliners and air conditioning awaiting cooler temperatures or to the lake at night. "BOTH" of these have their own distinct advantages for sure. But I can tell you that you can catch good quality fish during the day from the right docks on your lake. It just takes a little trail and error, effort and practice mixed with a whole lot of patience. But when you find those key docks the fish will consistently be there.

What Areas Of The Dock Do I Fish?

It would be very simple for me to say "All Of The Areas" and I would be telling you the truth. However that won't help you and that is what this article is all about. Helping the beginner learn new techniques and short that learning curve a bit. I'm going to show you several pictures in this section and try to help you see the great potential that docks have. So lets get started.

The key areas to concentrate on are the right and left hand corners of the dock and the shaded open areas between the floatation blocks. If you will notice that the height of the dock roof and the height of the boat is casting a shaded area toward you. This will be the angle that provides the most shade. If the bass are active it is not unusual for them to chase the bait out several feet into this shaded area. You will want to "skip" your bait into these open areas between the floatation as far back under the dock as possible. You corner cast should be several feet past the corners to allow you to work the bait correctly. The key areas would be the entire length of the right side of the dock, the right hand corner and all of the water under the boat lift including the left and right corners of the slip opening. Once again it is very important to skip the bait as far as possible under the boat and the make your right side cast as close as possible to the dock.

Other key areas are the open portion between the floatation the back corner, the length of the back side and the entire area between the bank and the dock.This is a "MUST FISH" area when the water is up. The best way that I have found is to position by boat against the cable that is running from the corner of the dock to the bank and actually fish over the cable pitching and skipping my lures into and around as much of the wood as possible. I will work one side of the structure at a time. When I reach the other side I will fish the other side. Another thing to notice in these pictures is the walkway from the dock to the shore. This will also provide shade to one degree or the other and that shade will increase the closer you get to the dock. I have caught and lost some "big" fish in this type of areas.

Don't ever discount the crack between the platform. I have caught a lot of good fish that was suspended directly under them. We also have the back side of the dock.

These are the key areas that I concentrate on when fishing deep water covered docks during the hot weather months. With a little bit of a learning curve these will work for you as well.

What Do I Fish With?

Now that you have a better idea on what areas of docks to key in on, lets explore each individual part of the what do I fish with piece. I want to preface again that there are several baits and techniques that you can use. BUT for day in and day out consistency fishing docks this time of year what I'm going to share with you works for me over and over again year after year.

Go To Baits

There are several reason that my #1 go to bait for fishing docks is a 5 inch Prowler Soft Shad www.prowlerlures.com. My #1 color choice is pearl as shown on the right, then I dip the tail of the Soft Shad (and all pearl or white baits) in a chartreuse dye made by JJ's Magic. (I'll cover dyes in a minute) This bait is about as versatile as a bait can get. It can be fished in all level of the water column, it can be fished weightless-weighed-exposed hook-Texas rigged-Wacky rigged-fished on top or on the bottom with a Carolina rig and as a spinner bait trailer. The action of the bait once you get use to using it mimics that of a dying shad as it darts, vibrates and slowly falls when rigged weightless. There's just something about the Soft Shad year around that Smallmouth, Largemouth and Spots just can't resist when you pitch it under the docks like we talked about above. I also catch a lot of fish on the Prowler Slim Jim in either a pearl or watermelon red flake. These baits are heavier and fall at a much quicker rate. I skip these baits under the dock just like the Soft Shad but I tend to let them sink on their own for several seconds and use my rod to twitch them more than make them dart like the Soft Shad. Folks I can't emphasize enough how good these Soft Shads and Slim Jims are in producing quality fish. If you haven't tried these Prowler baits you are sure cutting yourself short.

What About Using Dyes?

About 3 years ago I was introduced to JJ's Magic and man am I ever glad that I was. I use JJ's on everything except under my arms and on my toothbrush. This dye comes in Chartreuse, Blue, and Myth lade. And there is also a Clear that will not change the color of your baits but still leaves that heavy garlic scent that just won't come off cast after cast. Soft Plastics, Spinner Bait Skirt, Swim Baits and Jigs. This product is phenomenal for giving you that extra several seconds to set the hook because the fish just don't want to let go of the bait. I like to dip the Soft Shads tail in the Chartreuse (let it dry) then dip the whole body in the clear. You will NOT find me on the lake without JJ's on my baits....end of subject. www.jjsmagic.com

What About Hooks And Line?

I have to admit that the older I get I get a little more cranky and much more particular about everything I fish with from rods-reels-line-hooks-snaps-baits-dyes you name it. It absolutely drives me nut's to have "Product Failure" due to manufacturing error. Where am I going with this? I have been a avid user of P-Line for the past several years. On a early spring trip with my youngest son Daniel to Louisiana a rep gave me some line made by another big name manufacturer ands asked me just to try it. To make a long story short after breaking off 3 "GOOOD" fish in the cypress trees I re spooled immediately back to what I should have had on in the first place P-Line CX. Problem solved! Is P-line infallible? NO, but I will tell you this, as long as I watch what I'm doing and check my line as I should I have almost "ZERO" problems with P-line I use it in different pound test for every technique that I use. I like the 12lb test CX Florescent for fishing docks because it is invisible under the water but highly visible above so you can watch your line for those very subtle hits that happens many times fishing docks. It comes off the reel very smoothly and has a very low memory rating but yet is very strong. Just good stuff. www.pline.com

Lets talk about hooks for a minute. There is an old saying that go's the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Same is true with the fishing equipment we use. I guess I have bought about every brand hook manufactured. Some have been good some haven't. The biggest problem that I have isn't the strength of a hook as much as having a razor sharp point that will stay that way. I started using Mustad Ultra Point hooks about 8 months ago and I can tell you that I'm impressed/ These hooks are needle sharp. Mustad uses a new technology that is called "Opti-Angle" that creates a true needle point that is stronger and "Much More" durable than any other hooks that I have used. Under normal conditions I use a #5 Mustad Wide Gap Ultra Lock Hook fishing the Soft Shad. I also use a #4 and a #2 for smaller baits. Now there are times while fishing docks I want my baits to fall a little faster "But" I don't want to make them nose dive by adding a sinker to the front. When this happens I use the Mustad Ultra Point Power Lock Plus Hooks. The round piece that you see on the shank of the hook is a weight that slides up and down the hook but will stay put where you want it. I use these in 2 different weights 1/8oz and 1/16oz depending on how fast I want the bait to fall. If I move the weight forward the bait fall head first. If I move the weight to the back the bait falls tail first and if I place it in the middle the bait will fall at more of a level angle. This allows me to effectively fish the docks using the right size bait at the right of fall. www.mustad.no

What About Rods And Reels?

Let's start with reels first. I have been a Shimano fan for years. I use 2 different size Stradics on my spinning rods. St4000FH for 10 & 12 lb test line and the ST2500FH for 6 & 8lb test. Why? They hold up like no other reels I have ever used, and when you fish as many days a year with as many people that I do you come to appreciate the quality that is built into these reels.

For those of you that know me I'm sure that I sound like a broken record. But I will tell you this, that the rod physical weight, quality, power and sensitivity that is packed into the All Pro APX Series Rods is unbelievable. I have owned at one time or the other just about every high end bass rod that has been made and I can tell you that the APX has them all beat hands down in my opinion. I have used these rods to Bass, Salmon, Musky, Northern Pike, Rock Fish, Hybrid, Walleye, Catfish (you name it) fish. I have used the 5 foot Ultra Light APX on all varieties of pan fish. I use the 7 foot Medium Heavy Tennessee Graphite Handle Spinning Rod to throw my Soft Shads around cover and docks. I have one APX that has never been used for anything else except to fish soft plastic jerk baits. The sensitivity is astonishing. You can feel the "slightest tick" all the way through your hand and wrist with the APX Series Rods. This is so important when the fish are lethargic and they just "Grab" the bait and that extra sensitivity make the difference between a hook up and a miss. All Pro make a full line of APX Rods for every need. www.allprorods.com

Conclusion

I hope that the information above will be beneficial to you, and help you put several more fish in the boat fishing deep water covered docks. If you have any questions concerning this article, our guide service or web site don't hesitate to contact me at 615-765-7303 or rickm@dtccom.net Thank you for taking time to read this article.

Rick McFerrin - Full Time Guide/Owner,
Tennessee Bass Guides LLC.

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