It's summertime and the bass are typically in one of two places. They're either deep, hanging around the thermocline, or they're in shallow cover, like heavy vegetation or under boat docks. Docks are one of my favorite cover types because they offer bass lots of shade and usually hold panfish or other bait for the bass. If the dock has brush under it and is near deep water, it's even better.
One key to fishing boat docks is presenting your lure to the darkest, most protected and least accessible part of the cover. That's where skipping comes into play. Once you learn to skip effectively, you can put a bait in places most other anglers can't, and you'll be fishing for bass that rarely see a lure.
My favorite bait for skipping is a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin with large black flake (#297) or black with blue flake (#021). I use green pumpkin in just about any water clarity and black with blue flake in really dirty water or when I'm fishing up north.
When I'm dock fishing, I rig the Senko weightless and wacky style with a 1/0 Owner Weedless Wacky Hook. I like to fish it on spinning gear — a Revo Premier reel and 7-foot, 1-inch medium-heavy iRod Genesis II rod. I spool up with 15-pound-test Seaguar Kanzen braid and use about a 5 1/2-foot leader made of 15-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon. I attach the lines with a modified Albrecht knot.
When rigging the Senko, one thing I like to do that saves baits and allows me to catch more fish on each one is to use a plastic O-ring that slides onto the bait and rests in the middle of the thickest part of the stickworm so that it doesn't slip off. Once the O-ring is in place, I run the hook just under it and avoid putting it through any of the plastic of the bait. When I'm done, the Senko hangs evenly off either side of the O-ring, and I can usually catch three or four bass before I have to replace the bait.
If you're new to skipping, the best way to learn is to be very focused. Don't carry any other rods with you, and don't try any other methods until you've mastered skipping. Just get out there and give it a try. You don't even need a dock for practice — just a target of some kind.
A rod with a fast tip — like the iRod Genesis II — will respond very quickly to the short, snapping action that you need to effectively skip a bait. You also want a rod with plenty of backbone so you can make a good hook-set and get a bass out from under the dock and away from cover quickly.
The ideal skip cast first touches the water at the front edge of your target — in our case, a boat dock. That means it will still have plenty of momentum to carry it far under the cover, where the bass are holding. That spot just at the edge of the dock is your target.
Forget a slow, lazy casting motion like you might be able to get away with using other methods. Skipping a bait is a little like skipping a flat rock. You need to make a sharp, hard cast to do it effectively.
Face your target and keep your backcast low and quick. Come forward with a snap and end with your rod tip pointed directly at the target. Don't worry if your first few efforts are off the mark — they almost certainly will be. Just remember to keep the trajectory of the entire cast low and hard. Those are two keys to a good, accurate skip.
And remember to practice ... a lot! Once you get good, you'll find there are very few places where you can't put a lure.
You'll also learn very quickly that weightless plastics are a lot easier to skip than weighted baits. That's why I recommend practicing with a wacky-rigged weightless Senko. With a weighted bait, you'll need to make a harder cast.
A Senko is an ideal bait for skipping docks for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that it's such a great fall bait. It has a terrific and subtle action as it falls — one that bass can't seem to resist.
After I've skipped my Senko up underneath a good-looking boat dock, the next thing I do is ... nothing. I just let it fall, and I want it to fall without any tension on my part, so I don't even engage the reel unless the water's extremely shallow.
Only after the bait has hit bottom do I lift the rod tip, and then I'm doing one of two things. The first is I'm checking for a bite. Sometimes you'll see the line twitch as the Senko falls. When you do, set the hook. Sometimes you won't see anything, but when you lift up it feels mushy or you can see the line is moving to one side. Again, set the hook!
If there's not a bass on the other end, lift the bait up and let it fall again. When the Senko's falling, it's working for you and attracting bass. Lift and drop it a few times under the dock, then reel it in and make another skip.
I like to fish the Senko weightless down to 8 or 10 feet. Deeper than that, I'll add a small nail weight (1/32- to 1/16-ounce) to the head of the lure. It takes away some of the action, but it gets the bait down to the fish a little faster. Always remember to let your bait get to the bottom before you lift it.
And give dock skipping a try!