‘Shoot’ your bait back into the dark recesses under a dock, and you’ll get more looks from hungry bass that dig the shade. Here’s how.
Shade, shelter and feeding opportunities; it’s no wonder bass don’t want to leave their docks. You pluck a few from the perimeters with moving baits and maybe flip a couple off those outside posts, but consistency hinges on your ability to take it to ’em.
In a word, that means “skipping.”
Bass pro Andy Montgomery tempts his dock bass with a Strike King Tour Grade Skipping Jig fitted with a 4-inch Rage Bug. The jig’s 60-count silicone skirt provides lots of flare, and the flat-sided head skips like a wet stone. But ever the picky perfectionist, Montgomery gives each one a cosmetic makeover.
• Check the skirt. Pieces move in the package, so he make sure it’s straight and even.
• No clumping. Gently rubbing the skirt fibers in a downward motion eliminates the sticking that can mar a presentation.
“I want the skirt even, because I don’t want it to fall to one side or the other,” Montgomery said.
• At little trim. Full skirts can impede skipping through excessive water drag, so Montgomery gather the skirt between his fingers and cut off about 1/8-inch. He’ll do so in three to four equal cuts to make sure his jig skirt bears an even edge on a compact package that allows plenty of action from his Rage Bug.
• Plastic tactic. For optimal efficiency, Montgomery bites four segments off his trailer’s tail end. A shorter trailer means a more compact profile with a better skipping motion. Also, this adjustment ensures that his hook comes out just above the trailer’s eyes — ideal for putting the point closer to the fish and thereby increasing hook-up success.
Favoring a V&M Pacemaker Skipping Jig with a chunk-style trailer, bass pro Hank Cherry fishes his jig on 20-pound Berkley 100-Percent Fluorocarbon. He prefers hanging his trailer for maximum profile, but if your skipping angle pushes a hung chunk up the hook shank, make a stopper by threading a piece of worm onto the hook.
Cherry said an individual’s height and the distance they like to be from a dock when skipping should determine rod length. For example, he stands 6-foot-3 and keeps his distance from docks, so a 7-foot-3 to 7-foot-6 rod suits him well. However, a shorter person who casts from close range will want to drop down to a 6-foot-6 or 7-foot rod.
Montgomery, who uses a 7-foot-1 heavy-action Daiwa Tatula rod, agrees and notes that he prefers an underhanded roll cast. That, he said, is why rod length is so important.
“If you use too long of a rod, you’ll hit the water, and that longer rod will force you to use a (different) motion,” Montgomery said. “If you fit the rod length to your height, it will prevent you from hitting the water. You can skip with a sidearm motion, but you’re way more accurate with an underhand cast.”
Reel retrieve speed also plays a key role in Montgomery’s dock game. He likes the Daiwa Tatula CT 8:1 for its T-Wing System, which reduces the friction that baitcasting reels on rods with narrow line guides face. The T-Wing releases line through a wider top section on the cast and then funnels retrieved line into a narrow, lower channel for better control and even spool distribution.
The higher gear ratio might raise a few eyebrows, until Montgomery explains the logic. Dock skipping, he said, inherently creates a lot of slack, but the peppy reel speed allows him to quickly gather the excess and get to work.
Cherry adds this technique tip. “Wherever your eyes are going, that’s where the bait will go. Some people underhand skip better than sidearm skip; you just have to do whatever is within your mechanics.
“Some of the best dock skippers don’t do it like I do; I stay 20 to 25 yards off and skip sidearm. A lot of guys like to get tight and pitch-skip. You have to figure out what you’re most comfortable with.
“I never get close to a dock because when I skip, my jig goes under the dock, to the bottom, one hop, and I swim it out. I never leave my bait on the bottom under a dock, unless it’s on a rocky point where I’ll crawl it. I feel like if the fish doesn’t get the bait on the initial entry, with one hop, when I swim it out, that looks like it’s fleeing, and the fish that’s living there is going to get it.”
Get him out
An important point to keep in mind: heavily structured docks. Particularly when skipping under docks with cables, your plan needs to include an exit strategy. Bass pro Jeff Sprague said it’s all about sizing up the area before making your first skip.
He suggests these questions.
• How will you get the fish out?
• What options does the structure offer?
• Will you reach right or left of a piling? Over or under a dock cable?
• Will you have to reach into the water or boat flip the fish?
“Whatever the case may be, a guy has to already know in his mind what he’s going to do,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re wasting your time, because that fish will own you before you even have the opportunity to make that decision.”
No doubt, dock-skipping can be an intimidating and nerve-racking venture; but this is a truly a no risk-no reward deal. Some may follow the plan of “hook ’em first and then worry about it,” but a well-conceived plan serves you better in the long run.