By Nick Simonson
The heat and sun of summertime is perfect for warming up waters and pinning bass in places that give them the shade, ambush points and access to shallow food they need to bulk up for the coming cold-water season. Nothing fits the bill for such a haunt like the sprawling dock complexes that have become commonplace on many area largemouth lakes. However, not all docks are created equal, and knowing what to look for, how to fish them and what line and lures to use makes all the difference in bringing to hand the big ones, and only finding smaller fish or getting skunked.
A Complex Matter
Thirty years ago, an angler would have been hard-pressed to find the variety of massive docks that make up most shoreline structure seen today. Most water accesses were a single stretch of metal-and-wood that either rolled out or lifted off the water for the cold-weather months. Now, with many lake homes having a pontoon, a fishing boat, a jet ski and perhaps even more watercraft options, docks are designed to serve as storage places for all these big kid toys. With that, the Us and Ts and bends and platforms in modern dock complexes open up more real estate for largemouth bass to hide under and increase the targets available to anglers. Where a single stretch of dock once housed maybe one nice fish, it’s not unusual to find two or three big bucketmouths taking up late-summer residence in these sprawling struictires. Target those bigger dock complexes with a number of casts for the best chance at success and give smaller docks a passing flip or two before moving on.
Get In There
Zipping casts deep into the dock complex is the best way to get after the biggest bass, which typically hide at the center of the structures. This requires a little practice, a little patience and a little bit of luck when firing off that ideal sidearm sling. Work on skipping baits under docks with little obstruction and plenty of clearance before going after tighter areas with less distance between the metal of the dock or boat lift and the surface of the water. Load and release the rod with a sidearm motion to fling baits so they skip along the surface and under the dock. Make sure the boat is positioned just right to provide the best angle for the cast and wait until the moment is right to offer up a bait that skitters into position. Bang the dock, or fall short and big bass at the back may get spooked, so be patient as the boat gets close and in position.
Proper Tackle & Power
Utilize smooth-bodied plastics, like bass tubes and hydrodynamic lures, to get the most skip out of each cast and maximize the distance reached under each dock complex and its components. Make sure weights are pegged to the line so they don’t slide or shift the bait’s center of gravity on the cast and disrupt the skittering landing.
A strong, abrasion-resistant line will help get a hooked bass back from a jungle of metal posts and frames below the surface and will help with bite detection. Use superlines like Berkley Fireline in 20-pound test to weather the stress of dock fishing. Once the solid take of a bass is felt, set the hook hard and power the fish out of the structure and attempt to steer it clear of any posts in one motion with some fast-and-furious cranking on the reel.
With these tips and suggested lures, it’s easy to find success in the numerous and sprawling dock complexes that surround edges of area waters. Hit them with precision and the right gear, and the summer bass fishing will be as hot as the weather!