Fall Dock Shooting with Travis Bunting
By Phillip Gentry
While the rest of the crappie fishing world is off Live Scoping for crappie during the fall, B’n’M pro-staffer Travis Bunting from Jefferson City, MO has his eye on shooting docks when it comes to either fun fishing for crappie or when the money is on the line during a tournament on his home waters at Lake of the Ozarks. Bunting secretly said he had a feeling that his Livescope might even help him pair down which docks to shoot but has not had time to test the theory yet.
“Lake of The Ozarks is a big recreational lake, so we generally don’t start dock shooting until fall is well under way and cooler weather has moved everyone off the lake,” said Bunting.
Bunting said the key to finding fall crappie is to look for shade under boat docks. Since most docks on the lake are floating, he is found that water depths, which may range from 16’ – 65’ does not matter as much as shade. Most fish will be suspended in the first 6 – 8 feet of water.
“The concrete docks are better than the wood, because they don’t let light between the cracks and so the water underneath is darker,” he said.
B’n’M’s Sharpshooter 6 has become the gold standard in dock shooting rods.
B’n’M’s now famous Sharp Shooter 6 rod is his rod of choice. He pairs that will a wide spool reel and 6# Viscous Hi-Vis line. On the end of the line is a 1/16 oz jig head paired with a 2 ½” Muddy Water Bait. Color choices depend on water clarity.
“The water is clearer on the lower end of the lake so I’m using a lot of natural colors like Blue Ice, Bluegrass, and stuff with Pearl tails,” he said. “In the dinghy water on the upper end, I like Outlaw, Orange, and Glow colors.”
Notwithstanding the use of electronics to check docks first, Bunting said he and fishing partner Charlie Bunting do a lot of running and gunning to find the right docks. The pair are looking for a pattern that they generally can duplicate elsewhere on the lake.
Bunting said most of the better dock crappie on Lake of the Ozarks are black crappie.
“It might be main lake points, it might be secondary creeks, it might be docks with wind on them, but once we think we have a pattern, we can go to another creek and try it there, usually with the same success,” he said.
Bunting and his partner apply a three-step approach to finding fall crappie under docks. As mentioned, they head for the shadiest areas to shoot, then each angler gives the dock three shots before they are off to the next target.
After the first shot, the reel is immediately engaged, and the retrieve is started back to the boat. The second shot is followed by a 3 – count after the jig lands, then the reel engaged and retrieved, providing a dip in the retrieval path. On the third shot, the reel is engaged after the jig lands, but the bait is allowed to pendulum all the way out to vertical from the rod tip.
“The other tip I have is that we use different colors until we find one the fish prefer,” said Bunting. “Sometimes, I may get a hit on one color and miss the fish and Dad will shoot in there with another color behind me and catch it. That’s how we hone in on a color preference.”
Fishing two anglers from the front of the boat, Travis and Charlie Bunting employ a run-and-gun approach to dock shooting.
Typical of dock fishing, Bunting said sunny days are much better than cloudy days. The sun pushes the fish back into the shade which is what they want.
He also advised that during the fall, it is pretty common to pick up 3 – 4 fish on a dock and then the bite stops. He’s comparing that to winter dock shooting when the pair can catch an entire limit under one or two boat docks, but it takes them a lot of time and shooting a lot of docks to find those couple of heavy concentration areas.
Finally, Bunting defends his use of 6-pound line when the majority of pros prefer 4-pound line for dock shooting.
“I’ve tried 4 pound and you can shoot further, but most of these docks are metal, and 4-pound line and metal docks is not a good combination,” he said. “What’s the point of getting more bites if you can’t close the deal and get the fish in the boat?”
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