Running marinas for postspawn bass

It’s early morning on a warm May day, and a big black Labrador on the marina walkway is barking his head off. Edwin Evers wishes he’d shut up and go away. He’s going to wake up the neighborhood.

The dog is barking at Evers, who is fishing down a line of slips where cabin cruisers and fancy pleasure boats are moored. On many, their owners are asleep inside, or they were. Evers tries to be inconspicuous as he eases along, casting in one slip after another, beside the boats, over ropes, around ladders.

“It’s tricky casting,” Evers remarks. “I remember once I made a bad cast at a marina on Lake Texoma, and I banged my jig against a big yacht. The owner was inside, and he stuck his head out the window. It was the guy who owned the convenience store where I worked! I think he was mad, but when he saw me, he just asked if I was having any luck.”

After the spawn, when he’s fishing marinas, Evers usually does. This Bassmaster Elite Series angler from Talala, Okla., has the fish dialed in. Fish boat slips in marinas where shad are schooling. Work from one slip to the next to the next, casting a spinnerbait, jig or plastic tube. And expect to catch “gazillions” of bass when things are clicking. That’s all there is to it. Well, almost.

“It really is a simple deal,” Evers affirms, “but there are a few tricks and subtleties that make this pattern produce better for some than for others.” Graciously, he shares his secrets so fellow anglers can experience the same success he enjoys.

“First thing is picking a marina in the mouth of a good spawning pocket,” Evers begins. “After the bass drop their eggs and start moving back to deeper water, they will collect around floating marina docks, and there’s a good reason for this.

“About this same time shad are starting to spawn, and they do so on the styrofoam logs that support the marina docks. Shad also feed on algae and moss that grow on the Styrofoam. So, the key to this pattern is to fish boat slips where you can see shad working around the flotation logs. When you see the shad, the bass will usually be there munching.”

Evers starts fishing a marina on the first line of slips he comes to when idling in from the main lake. “It doesn’t matter how much water is underneath the docks,” he notes. “It could be 5 feet, or it could be 50 feet. It doesn’t make any difference in how productive this pattern is. Also, it’s a plus if the slips are running perpendicular to the bank, and if there’s some wind blowing in on them, so much the better.”

Evers begins easing down the line, working the boat slips one after another. If the outside dock fails to produce, he will idle around behind the marina to fish the docks on the shallow side. “Sometimes the bass will be concentrated on the deeper docks, sometimes on the shallower docks. But again, the main thing is to look for shad schooling around the styrofoam logs. Shad are a very reliable indicator that bass are present.”

Evers starts his quest with a 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait with a No. 3 1/2 gold Colorado blade and a No. 4 1/2 silver willowleaf blade. He adorns the hook with a white plastic curled-tail trailer.

“I will hit one side of the boat slip and then the other,” Evers explains. “I’ll run my spinnerbait as close to the styrofoam as I can. I will slow roll it 1 to 1 1/2 feet below the depth where it disappears in the water. Obviously, if the water is clear, this means I’ll run the bait deeper than if the water is dingy.”

Besides working both sides, Evers will also cast down the middle of an empty boat slip, and here he allows his bait to sink deep enough to strike the underwater cross-brace that extends from one side of the slip to the other. Sometimes bass hide under those cross-braces instead of beneath the styrofoam logs.

“You should be alert for where they’re holding on that given day,” Evers instructs. “Sometimes the bites will come in the last 4 to 5 feet from the outside end of the slips. Other times (especially on high barometer days) they’ll come in the back corners, and other times still off those cross-braces. Once you figure out the pattern, you can focus only on those productive spots and ignore the others. This way you can hit a lot more high-percentage spots and be more effective with your time.”

If Evers is seeing shad but the spinnerbait isn’t drawing bites, or he’s getting bumps but the bass are short-striking, he will switch to a white jig with a white Yum Money Craw trailer. Evers swims the jig steadily, and he pops his rod tip frequently to give the bait a pulsating, skirt-flaring action.

If the jig fails to produce, Evers changes again to his “always-catches-a-few” option: a white 4-inch Yum Flipping Tube rigged on a 1/4-ounce round ball jighead. He works this bait with a popping/twitching action that triggers strikes even when bass aren’t feeding.

After casting or pitching the tube, Evers allows it to sink out of sight, then he pops it violently to make it dart like a minnow trying to get away. Then he counts while the bait sinks — “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two” — and pops it again. He repeats this popping sequence until the bait is retrieved beyond the prime strike zone, at which time he reels it in to make his next cast.

And that’s all there is to it. If he gets some bites on the outside boat slips, Evers will fish deeper into the marina. Or, if he works the front and back docks with no action, he will leave and go somewhere else and start over. However, Evers emphasizes that he typically only fishes places where he can see shad, and when shad are present, one of the three presentations described above will usually catch them.

“I’ve had a lot of fabulous days fishing marinas,” he reiterates. “I’ve caught 50, 60, 70 bass a morning doing this. There’s nothing more fun! Now, I don’t catch many giants on this pattern, but I do get a lot of 3s and 4s, and every now and then a really big fish shows up. I’m telling you, this is just an exciting, productive way to fish.”

And Evers rarely lacks entertainment when he’s running boat slips. He says, “People are coming and going, watching TV, grilling hamburgers, hanging out, watching me fish. These marinas truly are little neighborhoods, especially on weekends. Most of the people don’t know they’re floating over one of the best bass fishing spots in the lake. They don’t know, that is, until they watch me catch a 3- or 4-pounder from under their boat. Then after I move on, some of ’em will grab their rods and start casting!”

Gear To Grab

Following are the specifics of the rod, reel and line Edwin Evers uses when fishing marina slips.
7-foot medium-heavy Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier XPS casting rod, model No. PQX70MHT
Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier baitcast reel, 6.4:1 retrieve ratio, model No. PQX10HD
For spinnerbaits and jigs: 20-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon
For flipping tubes in dingy water: 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon
For flipping tubes in clear water: 14-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon

Tackle tricks

When he’s fishing marina slips in May, Edwin Evers keeps a sharp eye for cobwebs in the nooks and crannies of the slips. They can be an indication of how productive the slips might be. He explains, “If you see cobwebs, it means nobody’s fished the slips before you. If they had, they would have knocked the cobwebs down with their baits. So cobwebs in the slips mean the fish haven’t been pressured and may be more aggressive about biting.”

Flipping/pitching jigs on willow tree points

If Edwin Evers’ marina pattern fails to produce, he turns to an old standby: flipping and pitching jigs on willow tree points. He explains, “This can be a great pattern, but the water’s got to be high enough to be in the cover. When it is, and I’m not catching fish in the marinas, I stay on the move, looking for trees and brush on outside points. I’ll flip these with a Yum Wooly Bug. This pattern can produce some big bass this time of year.”

Before you go

Here is a checklist of chores Edwin Evers accomplishes before hitting the water to fish marinas.
He gets his tackle “perfect.” (“I want to have 100 percent confidence in my tackle. I want to eliminate all doubts about line or hooks or other concerns before I launch my boat.”)
Checks to see if the lake is rising or falling.
Studies maps to find marinas in the mouths of good spawning pockets. (“I prefer to fish marinas in the upper end of a lake where the water is more likely to have some color in it.”)
Checks around to find marinas where major tournaments are held. (“When they release their fish after the weigh-in, a lot of them will go right out and hold under the marina docks.”)

Originally published May 2011