Lakes and reservoirs vary dramatically from one end of the country to the other. But most have one common feature a savvy angler can key in on.
No one knows that better than Andy Montgomery. The MLF pro from Blacksburg, South Carolina, has squeezed enough tournament dollars out of dock-loving bass to warrant “favorite” status whenever dock fishing is expected to factor heavily into an event’s outcome.
“Bass always live around docks,” says Montgomery. “You always find baitfish around docks, and baitfish attract bass. I travel all over the country, and a lot of times docks come into play. It’s a visual thing that I can find fast and fish effectively. That’s why docks are such a big player for me.”
Ask an angler for his favorite bait for dock fishing and he’s likely to suggest a bait built around a single hook, such as a bladed jig, a spinnerbait or thick-bodied stick worm, or perhaps a cradle-hook bait like a hollow-bodied frog. For Montgomery, one bait type rises high above all others.
“I have a few lures in my repertoire, but the main bait, the staple for dock fishing no matter where you go, is a (skirted) jig,” he says. “If I need to imitate a shad, I’ll swim a white one. I can fish it on the bottom in a craw color to imitate a crawdad. Or I can swim a bream-type color to imitate a sunfish.”
As any kid who has mastered the art of skipping rocks across a pond surface knows, the ideal skipping stone has a smooth, flat underside. The ideal skipping jig/trailer combination sports similar traits.
“This is basically shaped like a skipping rock,” says Montgomery, holding up a flipping jig trailed with a flat, ribbed twin-tailed trailer. “It’s a Strike King Rage Bug, probably my number one jig trailer, shaped like a rock — to skip.”
The jig is similarly tailored to task. His is the Tour Grade Skipping Jig, a lure he designed for Strike King. The flat-sided head shape keeps the bottom contour of the jig/trailer combo smooth and continuous to minimize surface resistance, thus enabling the bait to reach into the deep recesses of docks and overhanging limbs and cover.
“But what’s important to me is the hook,” says Montgomery. “The hook probably is the most important factor in a skipping jig, yet it’s one of the most overlooked things. The hook we selected is not too big that I have to use braid to stick it in a fish. But — and this is the main factor — I don’t want that wire to be too light, so small in diameter that it bends when I skip it slam out of sight and hit the back of the dock. It’s the perfect diameter hook.”
(Note: Montgomery details all key features of the Strike King Tour Grade Skipping Jig here.)
Before adding the trailer, he trims the jig skirt.
“After I take the jig out of the pack, I like to ‘purdy’ her up, make her real pretty,” says Montgomery.
He adjusts the skirt to evenly spread the strands, then trims the tails dead behind the hook shank.
“Trimming actually assists in the physics of skipping the jig,” he says. “The less drag I create on the water, the better the bait will skip. The trimmed skirt won’t affect the action of the Rage Bug trailer either. Plus it’s aesthetically pleasing. It just plain looks better!”
Trimmed to order, the tight, compact jig/trailer tandem is the perfect size and configuration to skip into the dark places where big bass hide.
The mechanics of bait skipping are simple in concept, but the technique takes practice to master.
Montgomery’s casting stroke is smooth, made with a fluid sidearm delivery. As the bait hits water, he elevates his rod tip in a sweeping motion. It continues its upward rise as the bait skips into those hard-to-reach places.
“You’ve got to get low to the water,” Montgomery explains, again likening the bait’s trajectory to the near parallel path of a perfectly skipped stone. He repeats his cast, accentuating his technique, watching as his bait combination skips cleanly to its target area. A faint “clunk” signals it has reached as far back into the boat stall as it can.
“The backbone of dock fishing is a jig,” he says again, holding up the tool that’s earned him fame. “And it will probably always be a jig!”