If you put the majority of bass anglers on a random lake in the middle of nowhere, we’d probably gravitate towards boat docks. These manmade structures are known bass fishing hotspots, but the details matter. The next time you find yourself surrounded by boat docks, keep an eye out for these targets and you’ll quickly find yourself calling your shots and catching loads of big bass.
Walkways are spring hotspots
The front platforms of docks get hammered by nearly everyone. Around my area, there are some docks that probably get fished by 50 people on a single Saturday. This can mess with your confidence at times, but if you take the extra time to dissect the walkways of boat docks, you can get on an unbelievable pattern you can replicate throughout the entire lake.
Bass love to spawn under these walkways in the spring months. Whenever the water temperature above approximately 58 degrees, you’ll find some big bass using walkways. I like to skip a bladed jig or a wacky rig in these areas. Even if there’s only a foot of water underneath a walkway, they’re always worth a few casts.
Most anglers don’t hit them because to be honest, they’re a pain in the rear end to access at times. But if you can get good with your trolling motor and sneak into those tight areas, you’ll be rewarded.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is a great pattern for high water situations, too. Late winter and early spring precipitation can cause some crazy fluctuations in the water level. When the water comes up, bass will often suck up to these walkways and become easy pickings for the savvy angler.
Jet ski lifts always deserve a cast
There’s something special about jet ski lifts. I consistently catch some of my biggest dock bass off of them and I can come up with two reasons to explain it: They hold heat and they’re different.
If you’re fishing in water below 60 degrees, heat plays a huge role in the behavior and positioning of bass. During this prespawn period they’re actively seeking warmer water and metal jet ski lifts attract and retain heat better than your generic wooden dock posts. Big females will snug up right next to the metal to warm their egg sacks in preparation for the spawn and they have an awfully tough time passing on a strategically placed jig or spinnerbait.
Also, these jet ski lifts are simply different. I’ll always remember Larry Nixon telling me several years ago, “If there’s anything different than the surrounding area, you’ll probably find a bass on it.”
Ladders are great for suspended fish
If you’re having a tough time getting bit on boat docks, take an hour or two to target any swimming ladders with a wacky rig, jerkbait or spinnerbait. Docks hold bass all year long, so your struggles likely aren’t because there are no bass around; they’re probably suspended in the middle of the water column, making them less apt to eat your traditional bottom-contact offerings.
Bass love to suspend on these ladders and they’ll often position their noses right on the rungs of the ladder. I seem them do it in clear water quite often, especially in the post-spawn period.
If you’re fishing moving baits around ladders, don’t be afraid to “tick” your bait off of the ladder. These suspended fish aren’t always active and that small collision with the ladder can elicit a vicious reaction strike, even when they’re not feeding.
Watch for rod holders and lights
This is one of the first things I was taught when I started bass fishing on big lakes. If you see rod holders or lights on the front of a dock, there is a 99.9-percent chance that there’s a big brush pile in front of that particular boat dock. I’ll bet you a dollar.
Heck, we’d all probably do the same thing if we owned lake property. When these homeowners want to catch fish from their dock, they’ll often sink their old Christmas trees and cut limbs in the water to attract fish. Bass love these brush piles and you can find this pattern almost all year long.
It’s important to pay attention because once your boat gets on top of the brush pile, it’s probably too late to catch fish from it. Before you start fishing the dock itself, throw a big worm or jig parallel to the front of the dock and feel around for a brush pile. This is also a great option for low-water conditions.
Grass and dock posts are a strong combination
Isolated dock posts hold bass. Grass definitely holds big bass. So when you add the two together, you’re talking about the potential for your biggest bass of the year. I get excited anytime I see grass littered around dock posts.
Whenever you run across this combination, a well-placed topwater bait can do a lot of damage in short order. I like using some sort of soft-plastic toad or popper in these areas. The bass will let you know quickly whether or not they’re in the area. More times than not, you’ll get a bite within the first two or three casts.
The next time you’re fishing boat docks, try to get a bit more specific and spend some time finding these specific targets. This strategy can really set you apart from a lake full of bank-beaters if you’re patient enough.