Tackle & Techniques – Dock Shooting

Tackle & Techniques – Dock Shooting

Sep 21, 2012

Dock Shooting: A Technique for All Seasons – and Species!

By Mike Pehanich

When I was 12, I practiced a casting technique designed for tight quarters in my basement. They called it the “bow-and-arrow cast,” and the first time I launched it successfully while wet-wading a small stream, I was elated.

But the truth is I can’t remember catching a fish on the few bow-and-arrow casts I launched over the next few years. No wonder I hardly gave the cast another thought for decades!

Russ Bailey demonstrates his signature technique, "dock shooting," targeting fish under a pontoon on Kinkaid Lake near Murphysboro in southern Illinois.

But last December I met Russ Bailey, crappie pro from St. Mary’s, Ohio, at Kinkaid Lake near Murphysboro in southern Illinois, and, before I knew it, I was a boy again, eager to draw my bow – or fishing rod, if you will – once more.

 Exlusive SWF dock-shooting video with Russ Bailey on this post!

Dock Shooting

Russ is the acknowledged expert of the crappie fishing world on a technique called “dock shooting.” The technique resurrects the bow-and-arrow-style cast of yore, but it is more than that. It’s a full-blown system that employs a feather-light slip bobber and jig combination and a rod from B ‘n’ M called “the SharpShooter,” designed to put crappie lures impossibly deep beneath docks, pontoons and other forms of overhanging cover.

The bow-and-arrow cast, which Bailey has refined with customized tackle and endless practice, enables him to put a tiny jig and float with deadly accurate, low-trajectory casts up to 20 feet beneath a pontoon.

Bailey will employ the technique whenever he thinks crappie are staging beneath such cover, but he finds it particularly effective in the cold months of spring and fall, especially around and beneath aluminum pontoon boats.

“Those aluminum pontoons absorb heat,” he says. “They can warm the water a couple of degrees and draw crappie like a magnet.”

Watch Russ Bailey demonstrate his dock shooting technique in this exclusive SWF video!


Multi-species dock shooting

But set aside seasonality and even crappie for a moment. Bluegill and the rest of the sunfish family including largemouth and smallmouth bass often hover under docks and piers even when their dappled cousins have vacated the area for the “air-conditioned” haunts just above the thermocline. Dock shooting will enable you to reach fish not even Denny Brauer hopes to reach with his flipping and pitching rod.

Match the right gear and terminal tackle...master your "shooting'" technique...voila! Here's the result!

True, the ultralight rod, reel and line combo reaches its limitations quickly when a big fish takes the offering in tight and hazard-littered quarters, but, face it, you can’t land any fish that you never had the chance to hook!

Gearing up

Bailey uses 1/48- to 1/32-ounce jigs with plastic trailers, most often crappie tubes from Southern Pro. “The phalanges on these tubes are going to be moving in the water even when the jig is seemingly at rest,” he says.

He uses high-visibility six-pound test monofilament from Vicious, the spool filled to only three-quarter capacity to minimize loops and bird’s nests.

He sprays his line liberally with Real Magic line lubricant from TTI Blakemore to keep the line limp. “When you shoot, it allows the line to fly off!” he says.

His float (a.k.a. “bobber,” “cork”) is a “small ice-fishing slip cork just big enough to hold up the jighead.” He sets a slip-knot bobber stop up the line at the depth he wants his jig to work, adjusting its position as depth and cover dictate.

So while warm weather has you waiting for autumn crappie to return shallow, brush up on your bow-and-, I mean, “dock shooting” technique and catch a bunch of bass, bluegill, rock bass, and pumpkinseed.

The "Shooter" himself, Russ Bailey, and proof of the pudding!

By the time autumn arrives, you will think those crappie under the dock are wearing bullseyes!

“Learn to shoot, and you will absolutely have a ball,” grins Bailey.

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