Summer Bass Fishing: Boat Docks and Cover

David McClureCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2009

I went to a large private lake not far from my home in South East Michigan. The lake is clear and sandy over most of its bottom.

It has significant weedy flats and strong weed lines in many sections. The size of the lake gives it a lot of variety although the sand and moderate weed cover dominates the underwater landscapes.

I set out in my small 14-foot rowboat and made my way to a small weed line near a drop off to start my mid-morning fishing(read: catching) trip. It was approximately 6-9 feet in that location.

I had a Texas rigged Zoom finesse worm in watermelon red on a 4/0 eagle claw wide gap worm hook with a 1/4 oz. tungsten weight in green pumpkin. I was running 20 lb. Power Pro braid on the rod/reel I had on me.20.25

I also had another reel in my bag spooled with 30 lb. Power Pro braid but I did not need it. The lake has only a handful of spots where the heavier braid would come in handy and I did not plan on visiting them this trip.

I was not having much success to start out and the wind was creating some problems. I decided to make a big move, well big for a row boat, and I oared my way directly into the wind that was blowing steadily out of the South West.

There is a sunken island out towards the middle of the eastern half of the lake so I went there. I switched my presentation to a screw-in style football head jig.

It was a 3/0 standard hook with no other dressings, just the jig head, hook, and a spot to screw your bait on. It was brown with red eyes and 1/2 oz. in weight. The wind made the weight necessary.

I made several casts across the top of the sunken island, trying to hit holes in the weeds. After several casts I decided another move was in order. I headed across a small saddle to a point that extends from the south shore out towards the sunken island.

I could not fish the saddle as it sits underneath a ski course. It is typically a nice sandy spot to find a few small mouth bass. This lake has both large and small mouth bass along with rock bass.

I worked the point and missed on a hookup. Bites were tough to judge with the constant waves from the boat traffic and the persistent winds of about 10-15 mph.  Gusts near 20 mph were the main problem though.

After fighting Mother Nature I decided the best place to fish was the south shore, where I could tuck into the shallows away from the worst of the wind.

Two bays on the south shore provided lots of room to fish away from most of the wind. I slowly oared my boat into position in between two docks.

The shore line on the south shore often has dark patches of bottom with moderate weed cover, including the occasional lily pad patch. Old tree stumps are located through the shallows as well.

They do not hold fish but are used as cover for fish that are on the move. The occasional meal found by these structures cause bass to check them out regularly.

The cloud cover became a little thicker around this time, approximately 11 a.m. I switched back to a Texas rig with the same 4/0 wide gap worm hook and 1/4 oz. tungsten weight. This time I employed a Zoom Brush Hog in green pumpkin.

With the sun still showing strong the dull color looks realistic still. A little color or flash can turn fish off in high visibility situations.

I made my first cast over a lily pad patch. Instead of letting the bait fall I quickly popped it up to the surface of the lily pads. I twitched it along the surface of the pads and up onto one. You want to do this as quick as needed when you have weight on there.

The pad patch was only 6 or 7 feet across and 9 feet wide. I stopped near the edge closer to me and twitched the Hog on top of the pad trying to draw attention. I then pulled it back through the remaining lily pads. Just as it reached the edge a big explosion occurred.

No hookup.

So I repeated the same sequence a few feet left. Same explosion, same result. Time to switch it up. I casted further left, just off to the side of the lily pads and brought the Hog up next to the far corner of the patch.

I let it sit, motionless for about 15 seconds. I gave it a slight pop, just enough to get it up and out of the weeds, and let it settle back down.

I watched as a bass came out from the lily pads and stopped right next to my bait. I gave it a subtle twitch. The bass began to swim slowly back into the lily pads as I drove the hook in.

Like a race horse out of the blocks, he exploded out of the lily pads and gave a picture perfect head shake. I dropped the rod and worked him to my right.

The braid was more than enough to bring the 19 inch bucket mouth to the boat. I lipped him, admired him, then let him go back to his patch.

I continued down the bank in much the same fashion. Checking spots on the spot. I would fish small spots like the lily patch, focusing on corners or structure within weed patches or shady overhangs. I pulled another bass from under a raft, only about a 14-inch large mouth.

Moving on I found another small weed patch next to some lily pads. I dropped my Hog on the back corner and let it sit. One twitch and Boom! Another nice fish, this one about 18 inch put on a good show before I let him go.

Further down the bank I came across a large oak tree that lost a limb into the water. It was still attached and was covered in green leaves. I swung my rod tip low as I casted. I was off to the right side, moving right to left down the shore.

I skipped my lure under the back side of the tree and gave it a few mild twitches. This time nothing happened. I thought for sure I would catch one there.

I began to retrieve my lure through the open water about 5 feet from the tree when something caught my eye off to the right. I stopped reeling and let my lure fall to the bottom.

Right across the open water, I saw a nice bass swimming towards my lure. I waited, he must have seen it fall and went to inspect it. I waited until he acted like he may turn around and I gave the Hog a quick solid twitch.

It was like the fish was made of lightning. He covered about 4 feet of water in a flash and began to swim back the way he came. I drove the hook in hard and the fish used that same lightning speed to drive towards the weeds.

He was pulling considerable drag, despite my aggressive setting, until he turned towards the boat and made a bee line for it. He took a lap and a half around the boat and then performed some water acrobatics about 4 feet from the side of the boat. He was getting some serious air too.

I had enough of that and went to landing him. I quickly pulled him up into the boat with my rod and lipped him to take the hook out.

A small mouth, which would explain the fight and show. He had a minor injury to his eye but was still as beautiful as ever. He was a healthy fish other than that and measured about 17 inch, maybe slightly more.

What a treat. Small mouth bass have become a big favorite of mine of the years.

Next I continued down the shore and began to get back into the wind. I had to use my anchor to keep my boat in place long enough to cast and make a decent presentation.

I was almost out of Zoom Brush Hogs and switched to a comparable 4 inch Berkley Tube in green pumpkin color. It is a little darker and has less character than the creature bait.

I flipped the shallows and caught a few large mouth bass in the 11-14 inch range. I even caught two rock bass. You have to admire a 7 inch fish that eats a 4 inch bait.

I decided to go back to the Brush Hog when I came across a nice area with multiple types of cover. I threw a few casts and wasn’t catching anything. I casted to small section of dock under an oak overhang and had a bite, but missed a hookup.

I ripped a low cast under the tree, there was approximately five feet of clearance under the tree that extended over 20 feet out from shore.

I landed my Hog about three feet past a large section of dock that was laying flat on the bottom in about three feet of water. I popped the lure up onto the dock and paused.

It was far away but my instincts told me something had moved up there. I twitched my lure and felt a very slight pressure. Acting on instinct I slammed the hook home.


My reel began screaming, as if to tell me to chill out or something. A big bass began diving into the weeds. Despite the tight drag, the bass took the line he wanted and tried to dive into pieces of cover as I pulled him towards the boat.

After several attempts to bury himself, the big boy ran under and circled the boat. I followed him around and guided him back to the side of the boat. Perhaps finally wearing down he relaxed for a brief second. I quickly dropped down and lipped him.

The biggest bass of the day was a 21-inch beauty. The large mouth had a solid body and held good weight. I estimated him to be a shade over 4 pounds.

I continued on with my Brush Hog and Berkley Tube and caught several more fish as I made my way back. In one spot I skipped the Hog up under a double wide dock. About 6 feet under the end of the dock a nice 19 inch fish hooked up and came to see me.

Twenty feet down the side of the dock and 4 feet under, another nice bass, about 17 inches, took the offering. A nearby weed patch produced a 16 inch and 15 inch bass.

In the heavy waves also took advantage of a small break along a sea wall to catch another nice 18 inch fish.

I finally gave into the wind and let it push me back towards my dock. Along the way I tested some weed patches across some large flats, catching one decent 16 inch bass and two smaller fish, 11 inches and 12 inches respectively, before I left.

All in all it was a very successful trip. The standard summer pattern of boat dock and cover fishing near shore proved to be the right pattern for the day.

I hope I can return one more time before the summer ends to try another section of shore.

If you want more detailed information about cover and dock fishing in shallow water, leave me a comment here and I WILL GET BACK TO YOU.

Remember to share your passion for fishing with others and take someone fishing if you get the privilege to do so.



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