May 11, 2022
By David A. Brown
Super productive, but super intimidating, skipping docks is one of the best ways to tempt bass pretty much anytime other than the spawn. The downside: Dock skipping’s also one of the quickest ways to birds’ nest a baitcaster!
No doubt, when a rapidly propelled bait hits a dock piling or grabs the top of a wave, “professional overrun” puts the kibosh on your moment. Don’t stress, with a few tactical refinements and the right tackle, you'll be surprising those shadow-huggers like a pro.
The “closer the better” isn’t necessarily wrong, but the stress of pinpointing a shot diminishes when you allow yourself a comfortable buffer. Personal skill/comfort level defines your ideal range, but start farther and ease closer as you dial in that sweet spot where the right amount of force plus the right point of initial impact equals a smooth skip into the danger zone.
With practice, you’ll stop looking at the water and learn to trust the repetitive motion. From there, it becomes muscle memory.
You don’t have to skip every inch of under-dock space, but visually break each structure into a few zones and make sure your bait hits close enough to entice a fish anywhere it may be holding.
For extensive docks (with boat houses), try tucking behind the main structure and skipping from shallow to deep. Bass often face outward and baits that sneak over their shoulder often meet with harsh reprimands.
Also, have an exit plan in place. It’s cool when you can thread that bait into narrow gaps, but remember: Your bait and the fish it tempts must pass the same structure on the way out, so make sure you’re aligned well for a proper extraction.
It’s best to hit the tight spots while stationary, so foot off the trolling motor and if your boat’s equipped with Power Poles or Minn Kota Talons or Raptors, this is the time. Rod angles are critical, so allow yourself maximum range of motion because the fish is not gonna make this easy.
Keep those longer rods in the locker; something in the 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-9 range with plenty of “tip” and sufficient backbone fits this deal. Sure, you can skip with longer rods, but the overkill becomes a liability when you’re skipping tight quarters, or if you’re consistently slapping the surface on the downward stroke of the standard roll cast.
Reel speed’s not the most critical element here, although most agree a higher ratio (at least 7:1) helps you quickly recover an errant skip or a missed bite in time to capitalize on a moment of opportunity.
And, hey, if the baitcast thing just isn’t your deal, fish bite baits skipped on sturdy spinning gear, too. You might give up a little accuracy, but a bite is a bite. You do you.
Probing dock posts, blown-in debris and perimeter brush with shaky heads and dropshots merits a reasonable amount of attention, but skipping jigs (often the “Arkie” style) or compact Texas rigs typically proves to be the most effective of summer dock tactics. Simply put, when summer’s swelter has the fish tucked in tightly, this technique puts a bait right in their face.
Tip: If your side imaging shows brush or debris under the dock—or if hydrilla growth clearly extends to your target zone—lighten your jig or Texas rig to reduce fall rate so your bait stays out of trouble. Going with a bulkier plastic like a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog or Strike King Rodent will also slow the fall.
It’s not that napping bass are necessarily expecting a jig or Texas-rigged plastic, but these profiles resemble the general profiles of forage they commonly see. So, when you skip a buzzbait or a bladed jig up in there, hang on.
If for no other reason than pure outrage at the bombastic intrusions, bass often unload on the noise-making, water-shaking reaction baits. Another one: topwater frogs. Bass love frogs and bass love shade. Do the math. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2022