Docks are some of the best spots to find crappie suspended in the shady, deeper water of your local fishery, but they’re also spots that most don’t fully utilize. Sure, a lot of anglers will fish the edges, and a lucky few may be able to entice a lurking crappie here and there, but the majority of those slabs are found deep under those docks, where they can escape the sun and feed at their leisure, virtually unpressured. You’re probably asking, “Sean, how do I get to the crappie deep under the docks?” Good question, but to answer it, I’ll have to pose a question of my own: How’s your shooting?
Rising swiftly in popularity, especially in the South, the technique known as “shooting” docks is a surefire way to pull in reclusive crappie. This is due to its effectiveness to land a lure where crappie rarely see a man-made bait. During peak sunlight, especially during the summer, crappie, just like most fish, will seek shady areas or deeper water to escape the heat. When fishing docks most will cast to the edge, where, at times, fish will venture, but they’re more likely to be far back beneath those structures.
In order to effectively skip your lure far under a dock takes a little bit of practice, but if you’re dedicated, you’ll be shooting like a pro in no time. You can use both a push-button or open-faced reel, as well. With a push-button reel, you need to grab your bait with your open hand and pull it back so that your rod actually bends, like a bow. Keep your casting thumb on the button and release the bait while releasing the button a split second later. With a spinning reel, just flip the bail and grab the line coming off the spool with your fingertips. Then, pull your lure back in a straight line with your other hand, aim, and release. For the best results, you’ll need to get the lowest angle possible, almost parallel to the water’s surface. This lower trajectory will have your lure skipping several times, just like a stone on a pond, because the momentum is moving forward, rather than straight down into the water.
The technique itself requires some tackle that may have you scoffing, but trust me, it does work. First, a smaller rod is necessary for the compact locations of the fish, and BnM, a company known for its crappie rods, makes a few different types to suit this purpose. The company’s Sharpshooter rod, available in 4 ½, 5, and 5 ½ feet lengths, is perfect, as are their longer Crappie Wizard rods. The longer Wizard will give you a little more distance and accuracy, not to mention more strength should you wind up fighting a big slab, but beginners will prefer the shorter Sharpshooter, at least until their skills improve.
The best retrieve for this technique is to close your bail and hold your rod still, allowing your bait to swing slowly through the deeper strike zone, where crappie lurk. When the weather gets colder, try letting the lure sink to the bottom, then jig it a few times. Spring allows you to be a little more active, as the fish are sitting shallow, so you can retrieve your lure as soon as it hits the water.
As with any new challenge, it will take some practice and patience to perfect shooting docks. Once you have it down, though, you’ll be surprised to discover just how many fish you’ve been missing out on all this time. Just be prepared to hone your skills further once the fish catch on and try to get as far back under the docks as they can.