Mike Baker on Shooting Winter Floating Docks
By Phillip Gentry
If you are a fan of fishing videos on YouTube, then chances are good you’ve come across the name Mike Baker. Baker is a crappie aficionado and avid videographer who loves to instruct others on how to catch crappie year-round.
Hailing from Columbia, Missouri, Baker is within striking distance of a number of excellent crappie impoundments including Mark Twain and Truman Lake, but for February crappie fishing, his go-to venue is Lake of the Ozarks and he’s going with dock shooting in mind.
“During the winter months it’s common to find huge schools of crappie gathered under a deep water boat dock,” said Baker. “All of the docks are floating docks and I’m looking for ones that have 30 – 40 feet of water under them.”
Baker said without his B’n’M Sharpshooter rod, he’s never be able to skip his jigs into the places under the dock where crappie hide.
Baker admits that in the old days when he fished Lake of the Ozarks, he spent a lot of time searching for crappie with rod & reel. These days, with side-imaging sonar and forward facing real-time sonar, pretty much all the guesswork is gone.
He can ride till he finds a good school, or he can narrow the search even further by looking for docks that are close to the main channel on a big tributary or at least near the mouth of a major tributary that feeds into the lake.
Much of the drawback to crappie fishing in February is both the cold air and the cold water. For Baker, those are both pluses, except that he’d rather fish on a sunny day than a cloudy day.
“The water temps are usually less than 40 degrees this time of year and that’s good,” he said. “The colder the better. It seems like the colder the water is, the tighter the fish school under the dock.”
Modern electronics has made it easier to find the docks that hold the most crappie, but Baker still keeps his eye on the line while the bait is moving through the water.
Baker said structure under a dock isn’t as important in February as it is in April, but admits that the docks of fisherman, which you can spot by lights hanging out over the water and rod holders attached to the railings on the dock, do seem to hold the most and best crappie.
“One big factor is that the authorities now require all the floating docks to use encapsulated foam,” he said. “The floats are these big squares of black plastic filled with foam and that dark colored plastic heats up in the sun and makes the water under the dock a little warmer.”
Areas of shade are also important because although the water temperatures are downright frigid, crappie still prefer the shade over open sunlight, particularly when the water is clear as is often the case during the winter.
“Pontoon boats, hydraulic lifts and big platforms all provide structure and shade for these fish to hang out on under the dock,” he said.
Once he’s found the right dock, one that’s loaded with fish, the hard part is over, usually.
Baker catches tons of crappie year round, but looks forward to putting a few winter fish on the stringer, stating the cold water makes the meat that much sweeter.
“Look on the screen and you’ll see crappie suspended anywhere from about 5 feet below the surface all the way to the bottom. You can see that on Livescope and Livescope doesn’t make the fish bite. I did a whole video on that not too long ago,” he said. “What you can’t see is which fish are active and willing to bite because some are active, some are neutral, and others just don’t bite at all.”
It’s for this reason that Baker still keeps a sharp eye on his line after he shoots his 1/16 oz jig underneath the dock and watches the bait fall through the water column. He’s constantly watching for his 6-pound high vis K-9 line to start piling up on the surface.
He’s also counting down in his head even though he can see the action on his screen. He said once he’s figured out what level the active fish are at, it’s much easier to count the jig down to that level and reel fast enough to keep the bait at that depth.
“Love the B’n’M Sharpshooter 6 rod,” he said. “None of this would be possible if you can’t skip that jig up under the dock and I believe these are the best dock shooting rods made,” he said.
Baker said colors can often make a difference and he switches up the Bobby Garland and Muddy Water baits he uses until the fish exhibit a preference, but he has another trick if that’s not working.
Downsize to a 1/32 oz head and go through the whole selection process again,” he said. “You know the fish are there. You just have to figure out what they want and sometimes a little smaller bait is the ticket.”
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