Dial in the dock sweet spots

The easy cast is the one everyone makes. Not to say you won’t get bit on a common presentation, but opportunity and access hold an inverse relationship. The former swells as the latter shrinks – particularly with docks.

Seth Feider knows well this premise, but he’s not intimidated. Rather, he looks for his big moments where most wouldn’t bother. Maybe it’s a longer cast or skip, an awkward reach or simply a bolder target. In every case, it comes down to picturing where a bass finds the most security and then shattering that image.

When the 2021 Bassmaster Angler of the Year targets docks, he knows his greatest opportunity typically awaits in those tucked-away, tough-to-reach spots. Feider addressed a handful of common dock scenarios and offered insightful advice on what he looks for and how he approaches each one.

Fixed dock diversity

“It varies throughout the country, but it seems like with southern docks, having brush under them is the real key. And you definitely want brush in the shade,” Feider said. “There might be a few brushpiles on a dock, and the farthest one back in there in the shade is usually the best.

“When you’re fishing up north, like New York, there’s not a lot of brush on docks, and they’re relatively shallow. So, the sweet spot is the meat of the dock – toward the end, but back in there a little ways. You just want to get into the heart of the shade.”

As far as design, Feider described northern docks as typically smaller, modest structures where fish tend to center under the platform section or relate to a boat lift or a pontoon boat. Southern docks, he said, tend to present more targets but also more complicating factors.

“Southern docks are a lot more complex,” Feider said. “They might have a walkway that comes out with poles all the way down it and then branches into two or three boat slips.”

In terms of access, Feider expects most southern docks to have higher clearance — often as much as 5 to 6 feet off the water — to allow for seasonal water fluctuation. Northern structures often tighten that gap considerably, so reaching underneath becomes more difficult.

“On a southern dock, it’s a straight roll cast, but on lower northern docks, a skip cast is your only option,” Feider said. “I use 1/2-ounce Outkast Tackle Stealth Feider Jig with a Z-Man ChunkZ trailer. This bait skips well and targets bigger bites.”

Hope floats

Common to highland reservoirs with significant depths, floating docks offer only narrow skipping lanes between floats, along with the seasonally relevant walkways. Feider will zip his jig anywhere opportunity offers, but this is more of a moving bait deal.

Here, he’ll alternate between a white Outkast Tackle Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Z-Man Hella CrawZ and a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer with a Razor ShadZ trailer, all in shad colors. The latter fares best in dirtier water, while the former excels in clear conditions.

“I’m trying to line the boat up for a tight cast to the back corner,” Feider said. “I want to parallel those floats as tight as I can. I feel like everything on a floating dock is going to relate to the cross breams about 6 feet down, or tight up to the floats, maybe a foot or two under the water.”

During the spawning season, the backsides of docks — particularly an interior lagoon bracketed with walkways — can offer home run potential. Feider knows the rewards often justify the presentation and extraction challenges, but he won’t burn time fully examining each dock.

“It’ll change throughout the day with the sun angle and the season; sometimes they’re on the outside corner, sometimes they’re on the middle and sometimes they’re on the back,” Feider said. “You fish a couple of docks and you remember where you got bit and you can narrow it down quicker as you’re coming to new ones. They will pattern.”

“The first dock I come to, I’m going to fish the entire thing, but after I’ve caught a few fish off a couple of them, I’ll focus more on (where I previously caught them).”

Feider finds his reaction bait duo fits just about any angle he wants to hit on a floating dock, unless the fish push shallow.

“If they get on the walkways in 10 feet or less, then I’ll start thinking about fishing a jig on the bottom,” he said. “Whatever I’m throwing I use 20-pound fluorocarbon. I don’t play around with dock fish.”

Tactical dock fishing tips

Addressing some of the common dock considerations he faces, Feider offered these pointers.

Tight is right: In those longer slips for yachts and houseboats, Feider knows the sweet spot is that back corner where the finger intersects the main dock. It’s no guarantee, but if a big one’s in there, that’s where it will be.

“It’s a hard cast to make because you only have a foot or two right or left (between boat and dock),” Feider said. “I tend to hit where I’m looking, but sometimes, your eyes are attracted to what you don’t want to hit. You’re worried about the boat, the cable, a rope, or whatever; if you stare at it, you end up hitting it.”

Understandably, performance anxiety runs high in such scenarios, and the pressure of threading this needle often compels anglers to simply bypass these potential gold mines. In fairness, Feider’s been doing this for a while, but he said success awaits those willing to put in the time.

“Go to an empty slip and practice before you get around a bunch of boats,” he said. “When you’re first starting out, you’re going to make a bunch of bad casts so you don’t want to (inflict) a bunch of property damage.”

Grass and bass: When Feider placed second at the 2020 Elite on Lake Champlain, he leveraged a shallow marina for key largemouth bites. In this weed-choked facility, he found his kickers by pitching a jig to holes in the grass where resident boats had blocked the growth.

Send it: Feider’s parting advice addresses the skill that plagues most anglers (including the guy who just typed that sentence) — skipping. Yeah, a lot of it’s muscle memory, but he points out, your tooling plays a big role here.

“Don’t fill your baitcaster to the brim, keep that line 3/4 full and that will cut down on backlashing,” Feider said. “Realistically, when you’re skipping, you don’t need 100 feet or more.”

Get to the point: When skipping docks, Feider threads his trailer onto the hook, rather than hanging it. This yields a tighter profile and a flat edge that creates more skipping surface.