Boat docks can be hot even if the water temperature is not.
We know that boat docks are a sure bet for holding largemouth bass during the warm summer months. These manmade structures, which offer the perfect mix of food and shelter, act as shoreline magnets.
But how many of you fish docks once the leaves begin to drop? Give these six tips a go this season to see why you should be.
1. The perfect fall dock
Two elements that need to be present when dock fishing in the fall are deep water and a bottom structure of rock. Skinny water docks should be shunned, but those sitting over five-plus-feet of water, with access to deeper depths close by, are all deserving of a cast.
Rock structure often indicates depth, but it also offers heat and a reliable food source. So double down on depth and rock to up your odds for a win.
2. Rock those cribs
Rock cribs, the foundations built under some docks on deep water lakes, are a prime piece of real estate for largemouth in the fall. On their own they can be dynamite, but coupled with a moored boat or two, and the fishing can be phenomenal.
A favourite lake I fish in the fall has three ‘rock crib’ docks. They are almost always good for a fish or two each trip.
3. Make sure the sun is shining
I’m certainly not saying you can’t find dock fish when the sun isn’t shining, but your odds definitely increase when it is. The rocks on bottom, and the dock structure itself, will attract and hold heat. It will also increase bait activity. And where you have bountiful bait, you’ll often find food-seeking fish.
4. Crank ’em up
Dock fish in the fall have a hankering for two specific menu items – baitfish and crayfish. And although I’m a dyed-in-the-wool jig pitcher during the warmer months where docks are concerned, once the cooler temps. arrive I love to toss shallow cranks.
Work them slow, hit every angle, and prepare yourself for that pull. If a fish is present, it doesn’t take much to coax one to bite.
5. Jigs and soft stickbaits
As mentioned, cranks can be hot once the water cools. That said, there is a time and place for jigs and soft stick baits too – usually as a follow-up to my baitfish-imitating lure.
If fish are sulking on the bottom, or if you’re dealing with a deep rock crib, tossing a vertical bait can be most beneficial. Make it a large flipping jig coupled with a craw trailer or a soft stick bait whose tantalizing fall through the water column is hard to resist.
6. Expect the unexpected
While fishing a lake south of Ottawa a few years back, I came across an unusual sight which still haunts me to this day. It was a cold but sunny afternoon in late October. While cruising some rock and sand shorelines looking for suitable docks to fish, I stumbled upon the motherlode of largemouth. The cottage owner, whether right or wrong, had secured large black tarps to the bottom in and around his docks to keep weed growth to a minimum. Hovering over these sun-soaking mats were no less than a dozen bass, all in the three to five-pound range. My jaw literally dropped.
But no matter what I tossed these fish, not a single one would bite. It was beyond frustrating, but it illustrates the fact that docks can produce (or at least hold fish) once the water cools considerably.
There’s still some season left to latch on to dock-dwelling largies. The water may be cold, but the fishing could be red hot.