Wood working: Picking apart piers for summer bass
by Charles Johnson
Jun 22, 2013 | 1550 views |  0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Working the wood around piers for bass can pay off during the summer. (Photo by Charles Johnson/Anniston Star)
Working the wood around piers for bass can pay off during the summer. (Photo by Charles Johnson/Anniston Star)
Many lakes in our area more than 40 years old. Since the time of impoundment, a major portion of wood cover has rotted away. Trees, brush and stumps have succumbed to the wrath of nature. A few scattered stumps or some blown down trees still may dot the shoreline. Visible cover is almost non-existent.

However, there is one type of cover, made of wood, which generally gets overlooked.

Piers or boat docks are abundant on area lakes and rivers. These man-made structures are perfect hiding spots for bass and other fish year-round. Summer is primetime for wood working around piers.

Piers and boat docks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. With so many piers around the lake, how can anglers decipher which dock is holding fish? Not all piers are created equal, and several factors come into play when working lure for bass around piers and docks.

“Water depth is the first key I look for around docks,” said B.A.S.S. pro David Kilgore of Jasper. “Piers near a channel swing or creek ledge will be my first choice.”

Kilgore said that as the weather and water warms, bass will tend to hold a little deeper on the posts or pilings supporting the piers. With an increase in fishing pressure and boat traffic, bass feel more secure if they have access to deep water.

Granted, water depth can be a relative term, but, on average, piers in water around 6 to 10 feet or deeper are where the larger fish will want to hold. Corner posts with large braces are a top choice for bass. These locations provide cover and shade for bass to hide out.

B.A.S.S. Elite Tour pro Gerald Swindle of Hayden said old docks can be a key in locating wood-working bass.

“Look for old piers with big corner posts,” Swindle said. “These old posts have begun to rot and attract bait fish to the dock.”

Swindle said some dock owners may have added additional posts to help hold up the older piers. New posts adjacent to the old ones offer a larger surface area for bass to hide. The pilings can be just like a huge stump, and the bass will relate to them.

Just like certain piers will hold fish, specific locations on the pier become primary targets. Swindle said many anglers will cast parallel to each side of the dock and down the front. These areas around docks receive the lion’s share of casts and lures.

“Anglers need to get their lures back in places that normally other anglers don’t fish,” Swindle said. “Start on the edges and work in and under the pier.”

Skipping lures underneath a dock is Swindle’s preferred method of introducing his lure to a bass. The skipping technique is a little tricky at first, but, with practice, an angler should be able to reach any location around a dock.

Swindle uses a bait caster rig with a side-arm type cast. He says he uses more wrist than arm and shoulder.

Anglers starting out trying to skip lures under docks may want to use a spinning reel combo. This type of gear can provide good accuracy with less frustration.

One advantage skipping has over flipping or pitching is it can be done further from the pier. Swindle said this makes less noise and is not as likely to spook any fish.

Kilgore and Swindle agree on casting a lure as far back under the dock as possible. They recommend trying different angles and approaches to the dock. Back inside corners and walk-way intersections with the main pier are spots other anglers sometimes overlook.

“Floating piers will hold fish, but you have to fish them a little different,” Kilgore said. “If they have the large pilings to allow the pier to float with the water level, bass will hang out there.”

The older Styrofoam floating piers usually have a buildup of algae that draw in bait fish, but the main key to any pier is the shade it provides. The larger the shaded area under the pier, the more likely it will hold bass. The fish will reposition themselves around the dock as the shade area changes with the movement of the sun.

One trick some anglers use to fish floating piers is to cast past the corner of the dock. Then move your boat to the other side and retrieve the lure under the floating deck. This tactic may be a little more work, but it can pay off.

Almost any type of lure can be used to fish around piers and docks.

Accurate casters may choose a crank bait or spinner bait. However, a majority of anglers will use something a little more snag proof. Soft-plastics rigged Texas style or jigs with a trailer are top choice for working the wood around docks.

“You want a lure with a slow fall,” Swindle said. “I prefer a 3/8-ounce jig with a craw trailer for skipping.”

Bass around a dock may not be aggressive and will take a little coaxing with repeated casts. Try a couple of different lures and/or color combinations. Darker or crawfish colors will normally produce the best, but dark worms and shad-colored baits will also work.

Shorter, more compact lures work best for skipping under docks. Fish your lures at a slower retrieve speed, and fish the lure all the way back to the boat. Sometimes, a bass will follow a lure out away from the dock before striking.

Also, Swindle said there can be more than one bass under a pier, so fish the area thoroughly.

There is an unwritten code of ethics for fishing around docks and piers. If people are present on the dock, move on to the next one. Also, respect the dock owner’s boat, furniture and other belongings they may have on the pier. Torn seats and hooked inflatables do not make dock owners happy.

Charles Johnson is The Anniston Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.
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