If you follow pro bass fishing, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Chad Brauer, and I’m double sure you know his dad, Denny Brauer. Whenever the Brauer family talks dock fishing, it’s a good idea to listen, because they’re some of the best in the dock fishing business. This article on Weather.com featuring the Brauers has some great seasonal tips for approaching docks from a boat, but it’s equally important to utilize these, and even some additional strategies, without a boat. Fishing on foot doesn’t offer the advantage hitting hundreds of docks, so you have to make the best of what you can access on two legs, and quietly dissect what boaters can’t.
The first thing I often see people do when approaching a dock from the bank is immediately walking out to the end and casting away. Huge mistake! What you need to do is analyze the dock from the bank before ever setting foot on it. Take a second to cast from the bank to shadows created by the dock, the lee created on one side during a windy day, or subtle underwater structure like debris blown up against the pilings or floats. All of these can be big bass magnets. Ladders or steps that lead into the water are always the first thing I cast to before walking out, and they’ve produced some toads. It’s also a good idea to take numerous skip casts as far under the dock as possible before you venture out. Be stealthy, because the noise of footsteps, or a lure smacking off the wood, is often enough to put cover-seeking bass on alert.
After you dissect the parts of the dock you can fish from the bank, then walk onto the dock as quiet as a Ninja. Instead of casting away from the dock, run your casts length-wise down both sides of the dock. It’s often this presentation that draws a strike from fish hovering below the boards. If you’re fishing a marina with boat slips, make multiple short pitches behind the boats and ropes that anglers on a bass boat cannot reach. Try dropping to the deeper and darker shadows, especially if you see a lot of crappies, bluegills, and other baitfish hanging around a certain nook or cranny. Mr. Bass is probably lurking nearby, so milk those areas. And last but not least, cast off the end of the dock—just not too far away. Many dock owners plant brush piles right off the terminal end of their docks. Dock furniture that gets blown off the end over the years also collects here. You may have to go by feel to detect them, but the sunken brush pile with a bonus lawn chair off the far right corner makes the perfect bass ambush spot.