Dock shooting can be a very productive and exciting technique to put big crappie in your boat! This is one of my favorite methods of fishing for our finned friends, especially during the hotter months of summer, although it can be productive during all seasons. In this article, I am going to share how I employ this technique in my arsenal.
The Best Times to be Productive Shooting Docks
I look for a sunny day. My experience is that a sunny day will make a dock a very welcome shelter from the sun for crappie. As a bonus, during summer when the water is very warm, the crappie will often find water a couple degrees cooler in the shaded area of a dock. Earlier, I mentioned that I like this method during summer. The reasons, other than shade, is that the TVA lakes that I fish are at summer pool. Naturally, this makes a deep water dock much easier to locate, as the lake is 4 – 5 feet higher than it is during the winter / early spring draw down.
What Makes a Good Dock to “Shoot”?
I’m looking for a dock that is in at least 10 feet of water at the front edge. My ideal dock wii be on wooden posts and low to the water. However, don’t automatically rule out floating docks! When I am scouting, and I see the boat in the dock slip parked on a lift, I usually don’t get too excited, as this is usually an indicator of water that is more shallow than I prefer. Look for brush under and around the dock! Finding brush usually moves that dock to the top of my list. I can use side scan and down scan or sonar to locate the brush. Indicators that the dock owner enjoys fishing is another good hint that brush has been placed nearby. Look for rod holder, minnow buckets, rods leaning against a wall, or other clues of a fishing fanatic dock owner. An adjacent “drop off” to deeper water is also an attractive feature of a dock to spend some time around. Finally, if you have side scan, drive past the dock, zoom in, and look for fish!
Dock Shooting Equipment List
You probably already own it! I prefer a Light or Medium Light rod, although many people will use a Medium action. I prefer a stiffer rod with a fast tip. The limber, whippy rods will work, but my accuracy suffers. As far as my reel preference, I use a 1000-2000 size spinning reel. The larger spools allow for more distance with less line twist. I use hi visibility line, 2-6 pound test. There is plenty of debate on line strength, but this is my preference, and I use Monofilament. My jighead is a 1/32 or 1/16 ounce with a #2 hook. Color is a personal preference. My jighead may be weedless at times. I choose a plastic that will skip across the water efficiently. Bobby Garland Crappie Shooters, Slab Doktors, and the Baby Shad are good examples of what I use. Mr. Crappie Shadpole is another good choice. Minnows are not going to work, as you will just sling them off! Some use floats, either fixed or slip, but I choose not to add that “tangle factor”!
Shooting the Dock!
We’ve found our dock, our equipment is at attention, and the fish are ready to be extracted from their dark hideaway! We are facing a dock that has six inches of clearance between the dock and the water, all the way around. The water is 22 feet deep at the front, and a Pontoon Boat fills the boat slip. I have spotted a school of fish 14 feet from the edge, under the dock, suspending at 10’ in 18 feet of water. Now what? Well, hopefully you have practiced this scenario in your back yard, “shooting” at a bucket, under a cracked garage door, or something similar. I have, so I pick up my 6’ BnM Sharpshooter 6, rigged with a Bobby Garland Crappie Shooter on a 1/32 ounce pink head, that has a liberal dose of Slab Sauce applied. Kneeling on the deck of my boat, I have enough line beyond my rod tip to reach to, or just beyond, the FIRST guide on my rod. Flip the bail and hold the line with your rod hand as if you are preparing to cast. Grasping the jig at the hook shank (Be very careful here! You may grasp the head of the jig. Just hold it in a way that you don’t impale a finger!), I pull the line back, putting a substantial bow in the rod. Like a bow and arrow, I aim at the area where I want the jig to enter under the dock. Aim with the line PARALLEL to the water! If the line nearer the rod tip is pointing higher than the jig, you will shoot the jig over, or into the dock. Likewise, if the jig end of the line is higher, you will shoot into the water a few feet in front of the rod. I release the jig, and a split second later, I release my trigger finger. The momentum of my rod propels my jig through the opening, where it skips once or twice, and begins to sink about 16’back under the dock. Now I’m counting, 1001, 1002, and so on, until I determine that my jig has sunk to just above the depth of the fish that I scanned, all the time watching my line for a “jump” or a “tic” or for the line to go slack. If this happens, I set the hook! If not, and my countdown tells me I am in the strike zone, I begin a very slow retrieve, still watching and feeling for a bite. Depending on the results, I will repeat, or adjust depth, jig body, color, or location. I will not leave this dock without firing a few shots under and around that Pontoon Boat! On a good day I can expect larger than average crappie, while fishing an exciting technique! On a bad day, I had fun, and above all, learned some things that will improve my fishing!
Tips, Tricks, and a dose of Etiquette!
1) I prefer to position my boat approximately 15’ from the dock. Experiment to find your preferred range.
2) Don’t bump the dock with your boat! It scares the fish and annoys the dock owner!
3) Practice! Know your abilities before you “go live”! Dock owners get fussy when their boat is pinged with jigs, jigs are broken off on their docks, or they find jigs hooked in their expensive boat covers. After at home practice, make your first few docks the ones with a large opening between the dock and water.
4) Don’t be afraid to try your favorite jig body. I mentioned my favorites, but yours may differ.
5) Can’t find any, or many deeper water docks? Don’t forget Marinas! I love fishing Marinas!
6) Cold water? The aluminum pontoons on a boat or dock may heat the adjacent water a couple of degrees, and be a Crappie attractor.
7) Pay attention to cross pieces when you find them. They are jig eaters!
8) A solitary dock is often more productive than a row of docks.
9) Likewise, not all docks will be productive. Often, it is trial and error. Mark that waypoint!
In closing, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just a guy who enjoys this type of fishing, and this is my approach to shooting docks. Have fun, and add this to your bag of tricks!