Using Structure to Find Fish - Fishing Docks

piling dock

Three universal truths: bluegill love docks, bass love eating bluegill, and green pumpkin anything is good. In this blog, we’ll start building your dock fishing arsenal with practical knowledge and two easy-to-use presentations.

The first step to finding and catching bass on docks is to realize they are a piece of structure,  which along with cover are key identifiers of where to fish. It can feel counter intuitive, especially as a shore angler, to hold back and examine a dock before running to the furthest point and hurling a lure to the middle of the lake, but in this instance taking your time will make a huge difference. Often times, you’ll catch more fish casting at a dock than casting from it.

One of the sayings you’ll hear anglers repeat a lot is “find the bait, find the fish”. This rings true for finding fish on docks. Pan fish species like crappie and bluegill love hanging around docks which is one of the reasons you’ll always find bass nearby. Crappie and bluegill love to school up in areas that provide overhead cover or vertical structure, docks provide both making them the perfect spots for these bass snacks to load up around. We found the bait, now lets find the fish!

There are two main dock types you will run into on public water and finding fish is a little different for each. Piling docks are docks where the platform is supported by wooden pilings offering an extremely sturdy platform. Piling docks are permanent structures that don’t fluctuate with the water level which is one of the reasons they’re more popular in bodies of water where the water level remain consistent year in and year out. Floating docks often constructed of heavy duty plastic and foam move with the water level making them perfect solutions for bodies of water where the water level fluctuates a lot like western reservoirs.

A simple way to remember where to start looking for bass on each dock is this: Piling docks focus on vertical structure, and floating docks focus on the edges and corners of the dock itself.

Piling Docks


The pilings themselves and vertical supports below the dock are the juice on piling docks! A great way to fish vertical structure like dock pilings is with a wacky rigged soft plastic stick bait. If you aren’t familiar with wacky rig lets go over the rig itself and how to fish it. It’s a straightforward simple presentation, but so effective pros keep it in their arsenal. Start with a Trokar TK137 which is a finesse hook with the Pro-V bend and a soft plastic stick bait. Taketk137underwaterJPG the TK137 and hook it through the middle of the stick bait and let it rest on the Pro-V bend. Cast the wacky rig near the dock pilings and let the design of the rig do all the work. As the wacky rig falls the tips of the soft plastic stick bait will shimmy which drives bass crazy. The key here is to let the wacky rig fall on semi slack line so that bait falls as natural as possible. Cast on all sides of every dock piling and support you can reach and pay close attention to your line as the rig falls. Some bites you won’t be able to miss as your line jumps 4 feet to the left, but others the only indication you’ll get is a light line twitch. Don’t be shy if you feel like your line twitched rear back and put the wood to um! The initial drop is where you’ll get the majority of your bites on the wacky rig.

After you work all sides of the castable pilings and supports from shore it’s time to finally step foot on the dock. When you’re on the dock start casting to the pilings and supports you couldn’t reach from shore again letting the rig do all the work.

Pro Tip

Down size: It’s no secret docks hold tons of fish and during the height of spring and summer docks will receive a ton of pressure. When the bite gets tough, downsizing your soft plastic stick bait on your wacky rig to a 3 inch bait can make all the difference in the world.

Floating Docks

tk170There’s a few juicy areas on floating docks bass utilize to ambush prey. The dock itself is partially submerged in the water creating a perfect piece of cover for bass to hide under. They’ll sit under the dock near the edges and corners waiting for prey they can ambush to swim by. There are a number of presentations you can use when targeting these fish, but it’s hard to beat a paddle tail swimbait rigged on either a Trokar TK170 or a Lazer Sharp L11114. These hooks feature a keel weight that’ll help your swimbaits stay down and add a body wobble that drives bass crazy. Using paddle tails to catch bass on floating docks is pretty straight forward. Cast your swimbait alongside the dock first from shore reeling it in a few inches below where the bottom of the dock sits in the water. After you work the dock areas you can cast to from shore, hop onto the dock and start working those areas you couldn't reach from shore.

Pro Tip

Color Selection: There are a few things that come into play when choosing the right color paddle tail swimbait to use. When the water is clear I like lighter, natural color schemes that’ll match forage like bluegill, and when the water is murky I’ll go to darker colors sometimes even black. When in doubt, go to the general purpose duct tape of bass fishing and use green pumpkin as it works for darn near everything!

These aren’t the only presentations you can use to catch bass off docks, but they’ll certainly do a lot of heavy lifting for bass anglers across the country! If you have any questions please post them in the comment section below we’d love to answer them.


Sign up for our E-Mail Newsletter by clicking "Find Fish" below. In between blogs, we're covering different approaches to finding fish with pros and offering tips that will help advanced and new anglers alike.


Find Fish



← Previous Next →