Why Fishing Boat Docks Rule Supreme
“Docks provide everything that a bass needs- it’s a great piece of habitat,” VanDam started. “In the fall, a lot of the baitfish are moving back shallow again to the backs of creeks and bluegill still spend a lot of time around them too.”
Kevin VanDam shares his 6 ultimate dock fishing tips including his favorite fishing bait and gear to help you unlock a key fall fishing pattern while providing memories to carry you through the winter!
1. Shade is Important to Bass
Shade provides the essential ambush edges for largemouth to attack. VanDam believes the greater the surface area of the platform, the more shade it is going to provide for living space for both bait and bass. “A dock provides so much more shade than any other type of structure. Some of the best docks are the ones you can’t get a lure too, they are completely sealed and have zero clearance,” he said. "These docks are so perfectly situated that there may be some areas that bass can get to that an angler can’t cast to. They’re only hope is to catch them when they are near an edge."
2. Prime Areas Around the Dock to Fish
“We’ve all heard about the magic dock where one just sits on the corner of a point or the mouth of a spawning bay, it’s just one of those boat docks that bass use as a transitional piece as they are coming and going from someplace and can harbor a whole school of fish,” VanDam pointed out.
Tip: On fixed docks, the back corners closest the shore are key as cool nights and dropping water temps push bass to feed on bait. Beneath that prime area could be a rocky bank or brush which sweetens the pot.
Tip: VanDam looks for bass to be super-shallow and closer to shore on floating docks connected by a walkway on reservoirs that fluctuate a lot.
3. How KVD Plans the Approach to the Dock
He’ll start working the perimeter from back to front, outside to the inside and way back underneath, when the dock has key areas both shallow and deep. It’s typical for many bass to get up under the shallowest part of the dock during the fall but they could also relate to posts, cross-members, and walk ways. “Once I find out how the fish are relating to docks, then I’ll focus on that key part of the dock and skip the rest,” he said
Tip: Every skip a lure up under a dock and the fish comes charging out? Easy, there’s definitely more bass under that dock as there is a competition factor involved. “Even if I don’t see another one, that’s a dock I want to let settle down, let that school regroup, and then try again,” he said.
4. The BEST Boat Dock Construction
“Some of the best docks that I’ve seen are wood docks that have the biggest diameter pilings and have a lot of cross braces for strength. If you can get a dock that has both vertical and horizontal posts, it just provides that much more quality habitat for the fish to be around,” VanDam said.
He also pointed to lakes like Table Rock and Lake of the Ozarks that have all floating docks on them which “hold a ton of fish”.
Tip: “It’s important to see what you have available and let the bass tell you what their preferred spots are,” he said. Sometimes a lake will have both types of docks.
5. Use the Right Fishing Tackle for the Job
Come fall-time, VanDam loves a Strike King Skipping Jig. “You can fish it slow on the bottom crawling it like a crawfish or swimming it up high like a shad or a brim and everywhere in between. It's a very versatile bait, compact enough that you can skip it way beneath docks and other areas,” he said.
Jig Size: His first choice, a ½-ounce jig, is easier to skip and pitch, creates a reaction bite due to the quick fall rate, and efficiently dissects the deeper parts of a dock. When targeting the shallower sections of a dock or ultra-shallow rocks, a 3/8-ounce works best.
Jig Color: In clear water, green pumpkin best replicates baitfish and bluegill. Water clarity dictate what trailer he’ll use to best imitate whatever forage is there.
A Soft Bait: The Strike King Rage Tail Chunk works well in clear water lakes like Table Rock or a highland reservoir or when targeting smallmouth or spotted bass. The Strike King Rage Twin Tail Menace Grub or Rage Craw trailer work well when the water gets some color to it and eventually dirties or when largemouth want a livelier trailer. The dirtier the water, the more aggressive the action of the trailer. Post frontal conditions and a tough bite call for a Strike King KVD Perfect Plastics Chunk.
VanDam enthused about the screw lock feature incorporated into the jig as it perfectly holds the plastics in place when forcing a bait into difficult areas way beneath docks.
The Rod and Reel of Choice: Using a baitcast reel with 7:3:1 gearing helps him cover water quickly and catch up to charging fish. A shorter 6' 9" - 6’10” Casting Rod like the Lew's Custom Speed Stick has an extra-fast tip that’s key when skip a jig into a little crack in the dock or beneath tight quarters. The 7’2” model is better suited in clear water when making longer pitches. Their extra-fast tip helps sling baits where bass hide.
6. The Confidence Bait
The customer top rated Strike King Swim'n Caffeine Shad is KVD’s confidence bait. “It has the attributes of a finesse bait with a slow horizontal sink and skips really well. You can also twitch it and fish it like a jerkbait so it looks like an injured baitfish,” he said. He’ll fish it on a medium-heavy action 7’0 Quantum Tour KVD spinning rod strung with 10-pound braid and a 12-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon leader. Braided line trumps fluorocarbon- it casts easy with no line twist. He’ll rig the 4-inch bait on a 3/0 Mustad Grip Pin Hook and 5-inch on the 5/0 size. The lighter gauge wire allows the bait to sink slower
He’ll size the Caffeine shad according to the fish he’s targeting and which offers the best profile. The versatility of the bait is endless- he’ll dead stick it like an Ocho or twitch it like a jerkbait. “Compared to other soft-plastic jerkbaits, it has its own unique action that’s so different from anything else out here. It’s a lure I have a tonne of confidence in,” he said. When it’s time to set the hook, he’ll tighten the rod and “reel-set” them.
What Bass Pro Shops Customers Say
Tip: Bass Pro Shops customers give the Strike King Swim'n Caffeine Shad bait top ratings. Here's what five have to say:
1. "The caffeine shad is my go to bait, always produces bass.", By RobbysHobbys, New Jersey
2. "The action on the tails are different and bass recognize it", By BradDavis, AR
3. "I use the 5" KVD swimming caffeine shad almost every where I go.", By vwshelby, Ocala
4. "Great action whether using a steady retrieve, a stop and go or fishing like a jerk bait. Works well on the surface or with a bullet weight for depth.", By HawgHunterBen
5. "Swims nice and bass are really attracted to them. Looks like a real shiner swimming and the scent seems to really work, some reason bass are really attracted to coffee scent", By jimbeam, New Jersey