Shooting Winter Docks With Russ Bailey
Phillip Gentry
Taking a break from shooting video in Florida for the B’n’M’s next crappie fishing video, pro-staffer Russ Bailey traveled to Crescent lake for some winter dock shooting.
Normally thought of as a spring tactic, Bailey and his crew found some Florida winter crappie stacked under boat docks.
Florida cold fronts have twice the ill effects as other fronts, but Bailey didn’t let that stop him from loading the livewell with big specks.
Using an ice float as a slip cork, Bailey was able to present a jig at 6 feet depths while fishing far back under a dock.
Russ is an avid crappie angler and was in the state of Florida fishing for some of the Sunshine state’s clear water black crappie. Russ has a passion for shooting docks – a technique that generally doesn’t produce well until spring. Of course, Russ and his crew were fishing in central Florida where the day time temperatures frequently reach into the 70’s. A follow up call to Russ provided the details.

While visiting the Harris chain of lakes to cover some long line trolling and using planer boards to catch Florida slabs (make sure you buy this video when it comes out), fellow Buckeye state crappie angler and B’n’M pro-staffer Rick Solomon talked Bailey into taking a few days break from shooting video to come shoot docks instead.

“Rick said they had been on some good fish, and like me, loves to shoot docks and stated the dock bite was on fire,” said Bailey. “The day I arrived it was overcast, we caught some fish, but not like I knew we could if the sun was out.”

Bailey explains that the secret to finding congregations of crappie under boat docks any time of year is to have ample sunlight to push the fish deep under the docks. Fortunately, that was just the recipe for the next couple days of fishing and the fun was on – shooting boat docks during the month of January.

”We quickly discovered the key to finding the right docks was that they had to have at least 6 feet of water under them,” he said. “Another twist was that to get bit you had to be fishing almost on the bottom way up under the dock.”

Many anglers think of shooting boat docksas a standard tactic when crappie are shallow or suspended right beneath the dock structure. Fortunately, this wasn’t Bailey’s first rodeo and he came prepared for such a deep water occurrence.

“When crappie are deep under boat docks you have to use a slip cork to present the jig at the correct depth,” he said. “Rick and I were setting our stops at 6 feet then shooting the jig and cork, which stay together when shot. When the cork hits the back end of the dock, the jig slides through the cork to the 6 foot mark then suspends right off the bottom.”

Another big difference between shooting docks during the spring, when spawning crappie are highly territorial and extremely aggressive, and winter dock shooting is that crappie often must be provoked into biting. In this case, the cork, which Bailey describes as a number 2 ice float, suspends the jig right in the fish’s face. A couple of twitches of the rod tip will cause the jig to dance and taunt the crappie.

“Normally if I’m using an ice float, I’ll peg it at about 18 inches,” said Bailey. “Then I use one of B’n’M’s 7 ½ foot Crappie Wizard poles to pitch the jig and cork under the dock. But with a slip cork, we were shooting the jig and cork using the Sharpshooter, a rod designed specifically for shooting docks.”

Bailey said it was more than the crappie could stand. Despite having to fish the day after a cold front, he and his party caught 75 or more fish each day with no small fish in the mix. The topper was the six black crappie that exceeded 15 inches in length.

“A cold front in Florida is double the effect of a cold front anywhere else, because all the lakes are so shallow,” said Bailey. “That 6 feet of water was the deepest we could find under a boat dock. It was also outside most of the weed lines that grew up under the docks and made them nearly impossible to fish.”

Bailey’s jig of choice was a Southern Pro stinger fished on a homemade 1/24 oz jighead made by Darrell Baker, another B’n’M pro-staffer that guides for crappie on Alabama’s Weiss Lake.

“There were a number of boats in the area and you could tell none of them were catching fish,” he said. “One of us would draw back on the rod and pull a big slab out from under the dock. Before we left on the last day, we had an audience around this one dock. Other boats had tried to fish it but couldn’t figure out the pattern. We ended up giving a B’n’M crappie fishing seminar right there on the water. I even handed out a few baits and floats for the other anglers to use.”

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