For most, flipping gear is the preferred way to go for docks. The tackle is more rugged and will allow you to muscle fish out and away from docks more easily, which will minimize potential line breaks. For this, you’ll want to opt for a heavy action rod in the 7 ½-foot range, along with a baitcast reel with a high gear ratio. With this, go with 20 lb monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braid equivalent. Flipping will allow you to make very precise casts with little to no splash, which is ideal for dock fishing. Flipping jigs are great, but you can also use creature baits, tubes, and soft stick baits.
When you’re flipping docks, allow the bait to sink down on a controlled line. If a strike doesn’t occur on the fall, give it a few twitches and then slowly swim it back to the boat. You may need to make repeated casts if the fish are more skittish than usual. The important thing is to make sure that you work the entire dock thoroughly, as the difference in a foot or two can make a difference when it comes to getting a bite.
Aside from flipping, you can also try skipping a bait. Skipping docks allows you to target areas that are virtually impossible to reach with regular casting tactics. To skip properly, you’ll need a short but stout spinning rod in the six-foot range to propel a small bait under and to the back of docks. Although it takes some practice, and the reliance on the correct equipment, mastering the skipping technique can unearth fish that normal baits just can’t get to. (Skipping also works well along the shoreline, under the low branches of trees.)
Faster baits, such as crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits are also great lures for when bass are holding on the outside edge of docks, especially during mid-morning and evening. They’re an excellent search bait to locate fish before you slow down and work the shaded areas with vertical baits.
As you can see, there are a few different tactics you can use to pick part docks for big fish this season. Whatever tactic you embrace, if the fish are aggressive, stick with heavier baits with a faster drop. When they’re a little pickier, lighten up on your presentation. Effective color patterns will vary, but I’ve found that natural colors work very well, especially in clear waters. You can also add scents or use baits with rattles to add more appeal to your presentation. I hope this series has helped you learn what to look for in a fish-hiding dock, as well as how to work the structure effectively to pull big largemouth from its shady recesses. Good luck to you all!