I am going to try to explain how to shoot docks for crappie and keep it simple and not too long. I tend to get long winded at times when it comes to crappie fishing. I will discuss when to fish docks for crappie, what docks to look for, where the fish tend to hold to under docks, etc.
When do crappie use docks for cover and ambush points? Actually, crappie will use docks almost the entire year, with peak times being when the fish are not moving from deep water to shallow and back to deep water. About 3 weeks after the spawn, deep water docks become crappie magnets. That can be late fall/winter when the fish are schooled up and some docks have huge numbers of crappie under them.
What kind of docks are best for catching fish? Crappie love vertical wooden structure for cover and ambush points. Floating docks with no wooden or metal post can be good at times if the fish have no alternatives. There are some deep clear lakes that virtually have no wooden docks but are all floating docks because of the very deep water next to the shoreline.
I have found that in any particular cove or slough that has numerous floating docks that the crappie will be found under only one or two docks in the entire cove. But if I had my choice, I would look for docks with a lot of vertical posts before I would look at floating docks.
What docks do I look for in my search for crappie? I look for docks that are nearest to creek channels that run through most of the coves and especially if a main river dock is on a bend in the river channel. Those are prime docks to begin your search. But, shallow docks should always be fished during the spawning season as the fish will be very shallow at these times.
How do I fish a dock? Docks can be scanned with your electronics to begin with, but if you don’t have these good graphs, they still should be fished. I always consider wind direction and current in setting up to fish a dock. Generally the fish will point into the current, so I try to present my lures to the fish from the direction that they will be facing. Fish the darkest water that is under a dock first, but there are times when they will be in several spots under a dock.
What lures work best for dock shooting? I prefer roundball 1/32 or 1/24 oz jig heads with 1.5 to 2.0 plastics. Panfish Assassins 1.5” on a round ball 1/32 oz jig will skip best under the docks. Bobby Garland Baby Shad and Slab Slayers(my favorite), Bonehead tackle Stump Bugs (1.75”), Strike King plastics work as well. I use a countdown method when I skip docks in order to find how deep the fish are suspending. 1/16 oz jigs can be used, but they don’t skip as good as the smaller jigs. Watch your line carefully as most of your bites will be visual long before you feel the thump. A slight little jump in the line where it enters the water is a strike indicator. Set the hook!
What is the shooting technique and how to do it with accuracy and by not getting impaled with the jig hook? The jig should hang between the reel and first guide of your rod for best results. Open the bail on your spinning reel and take hold of your line. With your free hand, grasp the lead portion of the jig between your thumb and index finger with the hook pointed upwards. Extend your rod to maximum arm length and pull the jig back under the reel and this will flex your rod and store the energy that it takes to shoot the jig under a dock. Look down your rod like you were looking down the barrel of a rifle, pick out your target and release the jig that is between your fingers and almost at the same time, release the line that you are holding. The jig will shoot forward like a bullet and will land softly under the dock next to that post that the crappie was hiding behind. Grin.
The dock shooting techniques are simple really, but each dock is different and adjustments have to be made. The angle that you hold the rod will determine whether the jig skips under the dock toward your intended target or if you hit the side of the dock with a loud thunk. It happens to the best dock shooters and to me every time that I fish docks.
I could go on and on about all the situations that you will come across, but this is a good start on dock shooting. One thing that I want to impress and I did it on a post in crappie.com and it is this. If you are catching fish under a dock and they stop biting, change colors or lure profiles before leaving to fish another dock. You may be leaving a gold mine. But, if you don’t have any bites after 2-3 casts, move around the dock and shoot from another angle. If still no bites after 2-3 casts, then go find another dock and find active fish.