Skipping Docks

By Dustin Smith - May 1, 2002
One of those most overlooked places to catch loads of bass are found on almost every lake across the United States. They are docks, piers, slips, and boathouses are some of the names of these fish holding structures. Skipping under docks gives you an immediate advantage since most bass under piers don't get a lot of fishing pressure, making them easier to catch. Skipping to these bass is not as hard as it looks; it just takes practice (and patience).

How To Skip
Most fisherman that skip would agree that spinning equipment is better for skipping than baitcasting, although with a lot of practice you can learn how to skip with baitcasting equipment. The key for skipping docks is not 'fire' your bait as hard as you can under the dock hoping for the best but instead a gentle roll-cast. I prefer a front hand cast rather than a backhand cast since I can get better accuracy but some anglers prefer a backhand cast. Stay away from the dock as far as you are able to. As you become more comfortable with skipping you will be able to cast further away and still keep your accuracy. When you become a proficient skipping, sitting 20-35 ft. away from the dock and still be able to keep your accuracy will be a breeze. Like I mentioned before you don't want to 'fire' your bait under the dock for a few reasons. First of all it is less accurate, you get more hang-ups since it will bounce higher and hang up on more parts of the dock compared to a gentle roll cast. The mean reason not to 'fire' the bait under a dock is that it will make such a loud splash you will scare and bass in the area. So how do you actually make the bait skip and fly under the dock? Well it's just like skipping a rock, try to cast the bait as parallel to the water as you can. Try to hit right in front of the dock so you get your bait as far under the dock as you can. As you cast if you practice long enough you can learn how to feather the line as it comes off the spool giving you more accuracy. If you gently feather the line as it comes off your spool with your index finger you can control where it stops. After you have casted instead of closing your bail with the reel handle, close it manually. Not only will this give you longer life of your bail gears but also reduce line twist. When you close the bail with the reel handle it causes line twist which is a problem with spinning gear, if you do it manually it will diminish that problem.

Equipment Choices
Like I said before, I prefer spinning equipment to baitcasting for skipping. You don't want a long rod since sometimes you are close to the dock and with a long rod you will break off your rod tip if you are not careful. A short rod won't do either since you do need good casting distance and leverage. I like a 6'0 Medium Heavy action Berkley Lightning rod. If you are careful you won't be busting any rod tips but you will be able to cast plenty far also. The reel I use is a Quantum Response TI 2000 series; it is by far one of the best spinning reels I have ever used. Smooth casting, smooth drag and of course the good looks of a modern day Mercedes. For line I use P-line CXX in 6 lb. Test. It has the most abrasion resistant qualities in a line I have ever seen, and that is important when you are facing such light line situations. The reason I don't go up to 8 lb. or 10 lb. test is that just because with lighter line you can cast further and if you play the fish carefully after you get him out of a dock you won't lose him. Re-tie after every 30-45 minutes or check your first 4 feet of your line after every fish.

Bait Choices
I have a few main bait choices that I use, keep in mind if you have confidence in a certain lure that you believe you could skip with, give it a try. Just remember, it's like skipping a stone, the flatter the stone the better you can skip it. That goes the same for baits, baits will a flat side skip better than ones that don't. My favorite and my go-to bait for skipping it a Zoom Superfluke. It is a minnow imitating bait that jumps back and forth unpredictably just like a real minnow. This bait has two flat sides making it deal for skipping under docks. It has a slot that you can put your hook inside which raises your hook-up percentage. When you rig it, remember to rig it Tex-posed versus Texas rigged. Texas rigged is when the hook is buried in the bait and a Tex-posed bait is when the hook is pushed out the bait and either let lay against the bait or what I like to do, insert the hook point back into the bait making it weedless but still having a lot of hook-setting power. It will still be able to slide through the dock without snagging constantly but also let you have hook-setting power. The hook I use for this is a 3/0 Gamakatsu Extra Wide Gap hook, it is by far the best hook I have ever used for technique. Choosing colors for this bait is pretty easy since you are trying to imitate a minnow. Match the color of the bait to the forage base in your lake but if you don't know what it is, here are a few colors to base your color selection on. White/Pearl is my favorite color, Silver Rainbow is also a great color, and those are my two 'normal' colors. Two kind of unusual colors I have lots of luck with are Lemon Shad, and Bubble Gum. If you are not having any luck with the normal colors give a color the fish have probably have not seen. The other bait that I like to use is called a Super-Do. I use it only when I believe that the fish are not suspended under the docks but instead on the bottom or near the bottom. It is 3 1/2" bait that has lots of little tentacles that flutter under the water. The only tackle company that I know of that sells them is www.venomlures.com they also have a supply of Super-do jig heads. This bait imitates a crawfish if you fish it on the bottom with a brown hue. Use as light of a sinker as you can get a way with when using this bait since it is a finesse type bait. Crawl this bait along the bottom and hopping it slowly imitating a crawdad.

Tips
Just like any other technique there are tips and tricks you learn that put more fish in the boat.

Some lakes, especially down south on their clear reservoirs many docks have sunken brush piles around the dock. Usually these are to attract crappies and baitfish so of course bass are going to show up. How do you tell if a dock has brush or not? Well there are a few things you can do to see. First of all, does the dock have fishing poles, tackle box or maybe a stringer in the water indicating the owner of the dock fishes. Sometimes the owner will put lights out at the end of the dock where the brush piles are to attract baitfish and crappies at night. If the dock has lights at the end of it, brush piles might be present. Sometimes the owner of the dock if you ask kindly, will tell you if there dock has any brush piles or any places that he knows that does.

There are certain docks that are going to be better than others. The best docks have deepwater nearby, provides lots of shade, wood docks are better than plastic and metal docks. Typically older docks are more productive than newer ones since the newer ones are usually made of plastic or metal instead of wood. Wood docks are better than plastic and metal docks since they usually offer more shade, algae grows better on wood which attracts baitfish and then bass. Docks that are on points, near river channels are going to be good docks.

When your skipping you will find that from the impact of when the bait hits the water, sometimes the eye of the hook will get pushed out and not work correctly. A little dab of super glue on the eye of the hook will prevent this from happening.

On the Super-Do jig head you can 'fan' out the brush guard for better hook-set ratio. Separate the weed guard into two equal parts and spread them out. It will make the weedguard like a V, it will still be weedless but now you will have less resistance against setting the hook.

Skipping takes time and practice, but if you take the time and learn this technique you will be happily satisfied.

Good Luck and Tight Lines

Author Dustin Smith
Dustin Smith
Dustin Smith lives in southern Wisconsin. He is 16 years old and fishes for Largemouth bass and Smallmouth bass with a little occasional muskie and northern fishing. If you ever have any questions for him,you can contact him at Flatlandbike10@hotmail.com.