Dialing in docks

Lake Norman is known for a couple things: First, it’s the largest manmade lake located wholly within North Carolina. Second, there’s a lot of docks — a lot of docks.

No surprise, Day 1 heard many anglers report leveraging the dock pattern. An exhaustive lesson in dock fishing would take longer than we have here, but a few notable points arose from Thursday’s weigh-ins.

Depth: With many fish still in their offshore pattern and some just starting their fall migration, deeper main lake docks and those near the mouths of major creeks seemed to be most consistent.

Johnny Bigger, who shared the fifth-place spot with Josh Douglas, caught most of his fish by throwing a jig around docks. He noted that his fish repositioned throughout the day, but a deeper option remained a prerequisite for a productive dock.

“I was fishing in 15-18 feet on the ends of the docks and as the day got hot, it seemed like they moved up a little bit,” Bigger said. “At the end of the day, I caught some keepers in the 5- to 6-foot range. The docks just have to have some depth out in front.”

Shade: The sunny skies of Thursday and today starkly contrast the cloudy, rainy stuff that hung over the practice days. Cody Hoyle, who placed second yesterday with 14 pounds, 9 ounces, said docks are the first point of refuge for bass fleeing the brighter conditions.

Asked what features he looks for in docks, Hoyle said it’s pretty straightforward: “The bigger the better.”

Food: While the fish appreciate those shadows, they’re also feeling that seasonal urge to bulk up for winter, so a dock with no forage is usually a barren dock. Hoyle said he checked 150 docks on Day 1 and the best ones were packed with bait, bream and crappie.

Additional Structure: Hoyle and others noted that docks with brush tend to attract more bass. Homeowners typically plant brush piles to congregate crappie, but these structures also offer feeding opportunities for larger predators.

Positioning: While Hoyle kept his bait selection confidential, he noted that he used two different finesse presentations — one for suspended fish and one for those hugging the bottom.

Docks will undoubtedly play a major role for several anglers today. We’ll be interested to hear how specific details impacted the game.