Shallow Cranking the Docks, Throw the Fish a Curve
Article by: Jim Pope
There have been many articles written which describe how to catch fish from around and under boat docks. It is true, boat docks offer prime habitat for bass. Boat docks or sheds offer shade during any time of the day, and the posts allow the predator to lie in wait for a passing minnow or crawdad.
Virtually every article I have read instructs us to work jigs or worms around the posts and adjoining cover, but there is another way to stimulate a bass into taking a synthetic resemblance to its diet. The method of using a modified crankbait can be a real producer around docks and sheds.
This method of working boat docks came to me completely by accident back in the late seventies. My fishing partner, Brent, was throwing a medium running crankbait along a rocky shoreline on Pickwick Lake. The shoreline of this cove soon gave away to three or four boat docks. I had fished the south side of the dock with the crankbait with no luck.
Brent made a hard cast in an effort to get his bait under the dock. His cast left a little to be desired, landing six feet from his point of aim. As luck would have it, it hung on top of the dock. He gave it a good hard jerk, and, surprisingly, it freed itself. The only problem was that it contacted a piece of metal as the slingshot effect accelerated it back toward the boat.
After inspecting the lure and discovering that no parts were broken, Brent gave it a sling along the front of the dock. Picture this; the bait hits the water a few feet past and to the outside left of the front of the dock. As Brent began his retrieve, the bait began diving hard right. "Great!" he said (actually he said something a little different). "I've fouled up my bait!"
When the bait got to the first post of the dock, it was already about two feet to the right of it. He continued his retrieve, and the bait wobbled around the post and began to dive under the dock. Before it got to the second post, my partner grunted (One of Brent's trademarks was that he always grunted when he got a strike.). A few seconds later he boated a nice keeper.
After landing the fish, Brent dug in his tackle box and pulled out a pair of needle nose pliers. "What are you doing?", I asked. "Gonna fix my bait.", he responded. "Why?" That was the only question I could think of at the time. "Didn't you see how it was running?" "Yes, and I also saw you catch that fish about three feet back under the dock!
I know that he had thought of that, but Brent was always a stickler with true running baits, and I guess that was a reflex thought. I hope it was. I was still throwing my straight running plug and catching no fish.
I backed the boat up so that Brent could get another throw along the front of the dock. It was neat how the bait would come around the posts then head right back in under the dock. Two casts later, he hooked another fish. It was not a keeper, but it was a great sign.
I immediately got my pliers and bent the eye of my bait so that it would run to the right. I tied another crankbait on another rig and bent the eye so that it would run to the left. That way I could fish all sides of the docks.
It would be nice to end this story by telling the reader that we loaded the boat with big fish using that method, but I cannot honestly do that. We did catch several good keepers in the one to two pound range. Brent lost a better fish, because he had not retied his line in a while. Using this technique, it is necessary to retie often, because the abrasion factor is about 9.6 on a 10 point scale. Pulling the crankbait around the posts, whether wooden or metal, really scratches up the line.
This is now nothing new, but it was new back in the seventies. Oftentimes a new bait, or a new presentation of an old bait will trigger strikes. It did so then, and it will still do the same thing. Don't be afraid to try something a little crazy. Different baits, or different presentations can often put a few extra fish in the boat.