Recently I was out on Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis, Minn., taking in some fall fishing. It was one of those crispy, sunny days where the light jacket you are wearing stays on all day.
The previous days had seen a major cold front pass through complete with heavy clouds and rain. With this being the first bit of sun the bass have seen for awhile, I knew a good pattern would be “dock fishing.” Bass often seek heavy shade after the passing of a cold front. I guessed right, because I caught the biggest bass I’ve ever caught in Lake Minnetonka — one in the 7-pound range!
When it comes to dock fishing, I’m often asked whether I prefer to skip lures with a spinning outfit or pick-up the flipping stick. My answer to that is “both.” Certain conditions favor skippin’ with spinning gear, while other conditions lend themselves to flippin’ and pitchin’ with baitcasting equipment.
The No. 1 factor dictating my selection is water clarity. If I’m faced with clear water, say 18 inches or greater, then I will opt for spinning gear. That is because the clear water allows a bass to visibly “spot” you when you approach too close. And of course, this then in turn, causes the bass to go on alert and ignore your offering.
Spinning gear allows you to present a bait under a dock from a greater distance than pitchin’ and flippin.’ Once skilled in this technique, a person should be able to skip a bait from a distance of at least 25 feet. From this distance, bass will not see you.
However, there are disadvantages to skipping with spinning gear. Lighter line is necessary for successful skipping and with light line, many situations occur where bass wrap around posts, lifts, ladders, and everything else. It’s very dicey trying to fight a big bass out from under a dock. The other disadvantage of spinning tackle is in the presentation itself. A quiet entry is better when the bass are moody; too much noise may spook a moody bass. And skipping is anything but quiet.
The other thing that can wreak havoc on presentation are waves. Skipping works best on smooth surfaces. Wave action, whether it’s natural or man-made, will often redirect a skipped lure high into the air, causing it to sail over the dock.
For these reasons, I prefer flippin’ and pitchin’ with baitcasting gear when the water clarity is minimal. With dirty water, I don’t have to worry about the bass seeing me, and I can present quieter offerings, use heavy line, and generally have better lure placement. You’re still better off with spinning gear if the chosen lure is small, but usually in murky water, a bulky bait is better anyway.
For some beginning anglers, the choice may come down to, which technique is easier to master. I believe the learning curve for both techniques is about the same. The first time I ever started skipping lures, by the end of the first day I was sufficiently skilled to enjoy success. The same was true of flippin’ and pitchin.’ It took about a day to develop an acceptable level of ability.
Boat docks are found in just about every body of water. In many of these waters, they serve up some excellent fishing to those who have made them their specialty. Choose the right technique and you will hook more fish.