Skippin and Pitchin the Summer Away
One of my favorite ways to catch bass in the summer months is to skip and pitch lures in, around, and under docks. This form of casting takes some practice, as accuracy is key; but once you have some confidence in your ability, your fishing success will go up as well. In the following article I will discuss many of the little tricks I have learned over the years ~ from the basics of the cast to some of my favorite lures and fish positioning on the docks themselves. Hopefully, you will be confident enough to try this technique on one of your favorite bass waters this summer.
Bass will move shallow towards the start of the pre-spawning season. Some of the bass will remain in the shallow water area all season long, others will move back and forth from deep weeds, inside/outside weed edges and shallows chasing forage. Docks provide great cover for bass to ambush their prey. As well, some are located close to an inside weed edge or deeper water…an added bonus in my opinion. In Central Minnesota there are hundreds of lakes that possess these characteristics. In my experience the best times for applying either of these methods are the first few hours of daylight and the last few hours of daylight.
Boat positioning is critical in fishing docks. I will almost always work the boat into the wind with the bow mount trolling motor on a slow setting and start at a mid point of the dock on the inside. With skipping and pitching it allows you, the angler, to keep your boat further away from your intended target. Some docks are better than others. I like docks that have multiple targets for me to cast to. A dock that is L-Shaped or T-Shaped will always get my attention for this method of fishing. As will a dock that has a boatlift attached or one that has some form of home irrigation system rigged up that is close by. The latter is usually located away from the dock, but provides another excellent location for bass to ambush their prey. They are almost always anchored with a large boulder or cement block and extend well out from the shore. Pay attention to your line, as often you will see it ‘jump’ before you feel the strike with your rod. One thing I pay particular close attention to when fishing docks is how the fish acts once it is hooked. More often than not, if I get a strike and the fish is swimming away from the dock I know from experience there is more than one fish on that dock. How many? Well I know on more than one occasion I have caught between 5 - 8 fish off of one individual dock.
Pitching is a rather simple technique used to get a lure right on your intended target with a soft, quiet entry into the fishes target zone. Pitching to me is like throwing a softball underhand only with less loft. I start with the lure about three-quarters down the rod, the bail open with my finger on the line and my casting forearm rather stiff and wrist loose. I slowly swing the rod back and let the line release from my finger once it is out in front of my body. Allow the lure to fall naturally on a slack line, watching for any sudden movement of the line. Work the lure for a few feet then recast to your next target. Some targets are worth more that one cast: that is up to you, the angler, to decide. It takes some practice, which you can do, from your home by setting up an ice cream bucket or cardboard target of sorts. Start in close and practice until you are confident you can hit your mark at 25-30 feet. My favorite rod/reel to use when doing this is a 7’ medium to medium-heavy spinning real with 8-12 lb. test line. My lure of choice is a 1/8 oz. - 3/8 oz.-jig/pig combo (my favorite being a pumpkin colored Bitzy-Bug with a Chomppers garlic scented 4” grub pumpkin in color as my trailer). I use the pitch cast to target outside dock locations such as: support posts, tires, boat lift cross-members, a ladder that may be on a dock and if a boat, particularly a pontoon is tied up to the dock…my favorite target of all, that area in and around where the boats engine is in the water. Why there, you might ask? It’s always the deepest part around the dock because of the prop washout when they start up the boat and free from weeds. I have caught several 5 lb. plus bass over the years off of that one particular location, including my largest to date 6lb 4oz.
Skippin’ is a bit harder to master but worth your efforts once you learn how. Skippin’ allows you to get back under your target several feet into the shadiest, less targeted areas. These areas include the main dock and that area between the boat lift (with boat on) and the water way back underneath. The cast is comparable to skipping rocks. Start with your lure of choice about halfway down the rod, keep your forearm stiff, your wrist lose and your rod tip lower to the water. With a quick snap of your wrist release the line from your finger towards your intended target. Some great ‘skippin’ lures are jig-n-pig combo as mentioned above, tubes and perhaps my favorite, the 5” Senko salted plastic rigged Texas style with a 2/0 hook (white being my first color of choice). You can really get those back under structure a long, long way. Skippin’ works equally well around downed trees that are in the water or low overhanging trees coming off the shore.
Hopefully with a few of the above mentioned techniques and a little practice you will gain enough confidence to try this proven method of fishing on your favorite bass waters this season. I know every time I’m out on the water targeting bass I always find an hour or two to do this very thing. When the timing is right, this can be a phenomenal way to catch bass. One of my favorite memories of pitching docks came during a local bass league a few years back. My partner and I caught a 6 fish limit of bass between 19”- 20 1/2” during a 3 hour event. Some absolute hawgs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Travis Sorokie is an avid smallmouth bass fisheman who calls the Mississippi River of Minnesota home. Travis also drag races on his time off. www.oldhabitsracing.com