Targeting Boat Docks For Bass in Natural Lakes

Living near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, I’ve learned how to fish boat docks on the many developed natural lakes in and around this metropolitan area.

The heavy shade provided by this cover is what draws the bass to them, especially during bright, sunny conditions. Many days, boat docks have provided the only means by which I could catch any decent number of bass!

The most critical aspect of dock fishing is casting accuracy. Usually the lure needs to be placed into tight quarters under and/or between boats, hoists, and the dock itself. Simply casting near the dock isn’t good enough; you’ll hardly catch a thing. Catch rates go up dramatically by putting the lure into the darkest reaches of the dock, which are typically the most difficult places to cast your lure. I’ve done a lot of snorkeling around and under docks over the years. This provided great insight into how bass position themselves. The darkest shade of the dock is often where they prefer to sit. And typically the darkest shade is way up beneath it where most fishermen avoid casting.

Boat Control Also Critical
Not only is casting accuracy critical, but so is boat control. An experienced dock fisherman knows exactly where to position himself to make the best cast. It is also done with efficiency, while maintaining a stealthy approach.

Jim Moynagh
Jim Moynagh holds up a bass at a tournament.

Casting accuracy begins with having the proper rod/reel/line/lure combinations. Not just any setup will work; and not just one setup works for all applications. Next, I will discuss my favorite lures to use fishing docks and the setups that work for me.

In the natural lakes of the north, dock owners remove their docks over winter otherwise shifting ice will destroy them. Consequently, most docks are in five feet and less of water, and my choice of lures reflects this.

My lure selections depend upon water clarity. Just to add, water clarity also determines the distance I maintain between my boat and the dock. In clear water, I stay a bit farther away so that the fish don’t see me.

In clear water (visibility of 3 feet or more) I often fish with an All-Terrain lures (

A skip-cast on spinning gear is the best way to hit the targets with a soft-plastic lure. Because I can skip this bait a long distance, it also allows me to remain farther away from the dock. The rod I select is 6 feet long, has a medium-action and limber tip. I use the flex of the tip to cast the rod more so then the motion of the rod is moving forward. A rod of this length is easier to cast from different angles compared to longer rods. I would certainly not go any longer than 6-1/2 feet.

Likes Fluorocarbon Line
I like to use fluorocarbon line because it has better “feel,” less stretch, and sinks as compared to monofilament. The drawback to fluorocarbon is that it’s more stiff compared to mono. This results in more troubles with loose wraps and coils of line “popping” off the spool on their own. But the trade-off is worth it to me. To help minimize this problem, I like a spinning reel with a larger spool; the line will wrap and hold on larger spools better than small diameter ones. If you’re just learning how to skipcast, go with mono until you’re proficient at it. It’ll save you a lot of frustration. By the way, I typically go with 8- or 10-pound-test line. Heavier line is stiffer causing the problems I just mentioned, plus it doesn’t skip the lure as far.

In limited water clarity situations, I like to use a 3/8-ounce Jim Moynagh’s Football Jig or a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce Grassmaster Weed Jig (both made by All-Terrain Tackle). I use the football jig whenever possible, but will switch to the weed jig when fishing weedy docks simply because it is designed to minimize catching weeds. Both jigs are fished the same way along the bottom. Because I’m fishing dingy water, I can position my boat closer to the dock without spooking the bass.

My preference, however, is to flip and pitch these jigs on baitcasting equipment because I can do it with less commotion and more accuracy compared to skip-casting. Medium-heavy to heavy-action rods measuring 7- to 7-1/2 feet work best. A really mega-stiff rod is not good here because the tip will not aid your pitching/flipping. If I don’t get any help from the rod tip, I find that I’m less accurate. Again, I like fluorocarbon line here. Because a baitcasting reel can handle heavier lines better than a spinning one, I’ll use 16-pound-test. When choosing a reel, there are many excellent choices, but I advise picking one that has a 6:1 gear ratio.

Try Salmo Skinner 10 Lure
Occasionally, I like to use top water lures around docks. Most often it will be in dingy water situations, but not always. A lure that’s worked really well for me the last couple of years is the Skinner 10 made by Salmo (

It’s a floating, flat-sided minnow bait that creates a lot of splash when twitched on the surface. When bass are active, this bait will draw them out of the shadows for an explosive attack! But again, casting accuracy is a must, get it as close as possible to the dock. I prefer to use a 5-1/2-foot baitcasting rod for this. Choose a medium-light action rod so the rod tip does most of the casting. With the Skinner, avoid fluorocarbon line because its sinking property makes it more difficult to create good splashes. Monofilament floats up better, and 12-pound-test is a good choice.

Where I live in Minnesota, though sunny skies are preferred, I can go to any lake and catch bass under boat docks on any given day — even the cloudy ones! It’s probably the most failure-resistant method I know of using for bass.

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