Summer Dock Fishing Tips for Co’s

Mike Mueller with a nice dock bass

Mike Mueller with a nice dock bass

By Mike Mueller

Dock fishing for a Co-Angler in the summer provides a special set of challenges, but if you know how to approach this situation with a clear head and a good mental attitude, you can be successful even behind the best dock fishermen.

The first thing to understand are the types of docks that you will encounter. There are really three different types of docks that you will see the majority of the time-floating Styrofoam docks, wooden docks, and floating plastic docks.

First, and in my opinion, the most productive are floating docks with Styrofoam floats. These are a much older style of dock and are quickly being replaced for environmental reasons. These docks are key not only for the overhead cover they provide, but the foam allows for algae to collect and form on the foam. This in turn attracts insects and smaller baitfish, which, of course, attracts the bass.

Second, and at times, equally productive, are wooden docks with pilings that hold the dock suspended over the water. These provide not only the overhead cover that is greatly desired, but also the vertical cover in the forms of the pilings. One thing to remember about these is that oftentimes there will be cross-members between the pilings that may not be visible, as they are generally under the water line.

Third, and least productive in my opinion, are the floating plastic docks. These are the types of docks that are replacing the older foam docks. Although they provide overhead cover, they generally lack the vertical pilings and the slick plastic does not easily allow for the algae to form on the sides of the docks as well as the Styrofoam.

Now you have to understand the mindset of the summer bass that use docks for their primary cover. For the purpose of this article, I will focus mainly on the shallow water docks. Fishing floating docks that extend far off the bank (sometimes over water that is 100′ deep) takes an entirely different strategy. I’ll save this for a later article.

During the summer, bass that make their homes out of these shallow docks tend to be resident shallow fish. They are not the ones that migrate to the deeper water and suspend, or follow the baitfish. They will tend to stay shallow year-round. They will also use the areas around the docks as their feeding grounds when they are roaming the shallows and actively feeding. They hold tight to the cover as they await the opportune moment to lunge out to attack unsuspecting prey. This is an important thing to consider as you and your boater make your way out to your summer dock pattern.

Now let’s talk about dock presentations from the back of the boat.

Jewel Football Jigs that Mueller likes to pitch around the docks

Jewel Football Jigs that Mueller likes to pitch around the docks

Generally when your boater is on a dock pattern, he is going to focus first and foremost on the dock itself. If it’s early in the day, they will likely be fishing quickly, searching for a reaction bite. They may use a buzzbait, spinnerbait, or some other fast moving bait to quickly run down the sides and fronts of the docks and inside the slips. For me, it is important to pay attention to my Pro’s angles. Since they will be on the trolling motor, moving forward, they will likely be unable to cover the entire length of the dock or slip before they reel in their lure to make their next cast. In this scenario, if my Pro is moving fast, I will take a heavy Jewel Football head jig with a fast fall to pitch or flip to the areas that my Pro is missing. It’s a technique that will allow you multiple casts in a short amount of time. Also, do not disregard a fluke-type bait, like the Snack Daddy Bass Jerky. This can be fished in the same areas, and more subtly for fish that might be more pressured.

Bionic Spinnerbait - a reaction bait that Mueller relies on in between docks

Bionic Spinnerbait – a reaction bait that Mueller relies on in between docks

Don’t forget what I mentioned earlier about the bass using the surrounding area as their feeding grounds. Don’t be shy about making casts to the open shallow water in between the docks. You will be able to pick up a key fish or two that your boater isn’t casting to, as his focus is already on the upcoming dock. In these scenarios, I use a Bionic Spinnerbait or a Bass Craft Squarebill… anything that will let you quickly cover the water. This is a great technique for earlier in the morning as the bass may be roaming the surrounding banks to feed, before moving back to the overhead cover.

If the boater is fishing slower, this will offer you greater opportunities around the docks. Here are a few things that I like to focus on.

Again, I cannot stress the importance of paying attention to your boater. With the way fish are positioned on the docks, if my Pro is pitching a jig to the corners of the docks, it is generally not a good idea to identically match his presentation. If they are pitching a heavy jig, go to a lighter jig with a different fall rate, or a similarly-colored tube that will spiral on the fall instead of falling straight down like the jig does. If they are throwing a worm, go to a shakey head. If they are throwing a tube, go with a senko-type bait. Again, try to avoid pitching the exact lure into the exact same place.

A popular technique is to fish the back corners of the dock and under the walkways that lead from the shore to the dock. This is a very specific pattern that generally puts the Co-Angler in a poor position as it relates to the dock. In these scenarios, you still have many options. When I face this situation, and you have a dock that is on pilings above the water, I will skip a Bass Jerky or a Jewel jig up under the docks as far as I can. This is also a time to look for the cross-members that may be under the water that the boater may not have paid any attention to. Other key techniques for me are to use my jig to fan cast the deeper water outside of the docks. Oftentimes, the most productive areas are the brushpiles that lie several yards off the dock. Once I find them, I will generally try to pick them apart with either a jig or a shakey head.

If I’m faced with a floating dock with no vertical cover, I still pitch my baits into the small openings that are created where the floats connect. I will both swim a jig for fish that may be suspended, and I will let the jig fall to the bottom. In these areas, the overhead cover is the key, and the fish could very well be sitting on the bottom in 10′ of water, as long as the canopy of the floating dock is still over them. I’ll reiterate again…it pays to do something different than what your boater is doing in these situations. Again, take these opportunities to search the open water off the back or the side of the dock to search for the brushpiles that are normally close by. When doing that, pay close attention to the boater’s electronics. In these situations, I’ll ask if I can keep his console electronics running. Most guys are fine with it, although I’ve had a handful that won’t allow it as they say it interferes with their electronics up front.

Bionic Thunderbait bladed swim jigs

Bionic Thunderbait bladed swim jigs

My final tip is a greatly overlooked technique for floating docks. One of my go-to patterns for floating docks is to fish the cables that hold the dock to the bank. For me, the best situations is where the bow of the steel cable is just touching the water. Fish will actually pull off the docks and suspend right under these cables. I prefer to avoid coming across the tops of the cables for obvious reasons, but with a well-placed cast past and parallel to the cable, you can effectively work your lure to avoid the cable. If the cable has a few inches of water above it, you can throw a Bass Jerky, burn a spinnerbait or bladed jig like the ones I use from Bionic Custom Baits, or swim a jig over it.

In summary, fishing docks behind a “Flipping Machine” that picks apart every inch of the dock can be mentally challenging. No matter how good they are, they cannot hit every inch of each dock. That is where it becomes your job to note the spots he misses. Also, do not forget the power of a subtle presentation like a shaky head or a drop shot, either around the docks or in the brushpiles off the docks.

There are plenty of fish that hang out around summer docks, and as long as you be smart, do your job, and have the right mental approach, you can be as successful as your boater!

Bio:

Circuits fished: Central Pro Am, LBL BFL, Michigan BFL, Everstart Series

Years co: 25

Favorite technique: Flipping a jig

Hobbies aside from fishing: Watching my kids play sports

Sponsors: 5X3 FishingLew’s ReelsBass Craft CrankbaitsJewel Bait CoRazr RodsRudy Project EyewearSnack Daddy LuresElite Rod SleevesBionic Custom BaitsBlue Water LED, The Pond Pro, G2 Gemini