A lot of the guys in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray caught fish by skipping buzzbaits under docks. A buzzbait i sn’t a lure that you would normally associate with skipping docks, but you can’t argue with success. The only rule is that the flatter the bait, the better you can skip it – like a flat rock skips better than a round one.
Most of the guys skipping buzzbaits at Murray were removing the skirts and adding a toad or swimbait for action. I’ve had good success just skipping a toad or frog under docks. Because they’re flat and light, you can really get them back in the dark places that others might miss.
My two favorites are a SPRO frog or a Zoom Horny Toad rigged on a weedless hook. I fish them on braided line with a rod in the 7-foot range and an Abu Garcia Revo Premier. I like that reel because it has a magnetic brake and a centrifugal brake and I can really get the spool speed adjusted right. Even if there is a line overrun once in a while, which is going to happen if you’re skipping, it’s easy to pick out.
If a fish blows up on a frog, but doesn’t take it, I’ll skip a shakyhead with a 5-inch finesse worm back there. Here again, you want to use the lightest weight possible – say, an 1/8-ounce head – because the heavier the bait, the more it will dig in to the water as soon as it hits. You want it to hit and keep going.
I fish a lot of boat docks in August through the end of September and skipping a bait under them is the best way to reach the bass that are hard to get to. You can fish a row of docks fairly fast, but slow down if you get to one that has a channel swing close by, or a lot of bait coming and going, or anything else that gives you confidence a good fish is under there. Fish it from every angle, shallow to deep and deep to shallow. Take your time and really cover it before moving on. The best fish are usually the hardest to reach.
One thing I definitely believe is that a lot of out-of-production lures will catch fish just as well as they ever did. Nowadays too many fishermen are caught up with what’s new rather than what works – and a lot of those old baits still work. When you stop and think about it, old lures that have been out of production might as well be new; most bass haven’t seen anything like them in their lifetimes. Besides, take away the fancy paint jobs on the newer lures, and they’re pretty much the same as the old standards. For instance, I’ve won a couple of local tournaments on Lake Hamilton this spring fishing an old Rebel Wee R made years ago. The original Storm Wiggle Wart, Bayou Boogie, original Cordell Big O and Hot Spot, Hellcat – there are a lot of great lures that you can still find on eBay or in granddad’s old tackle box. The best thing is that when you go fishing down a bank, you don’t have to worry about the guys ahead of you fishing the same baits.
I live around deep, clear lakes and I love to slow-roll a spinnerbait in deep cover. That’s how I won the Forrest Wood Cup in 2007. A spinnerbait can be used to catch bass at any depth, in any season, though. Most of the time I use a ¾- or 1-ounce spinnerbait for slow-rolling and it’ll have a No. 5 willow leaf and a small Colorado blade with it as a kicker.
The reason I like that combination is because it will stay down in the water column better. If I’m burning a spinnerbait and want it to stay shallow, I’ll lighten up on the weight and go with two willow leaf blades. As for color, to me the best mix is gold willow leaf with a silver Colorado for dingy water, or the opposite for when the water is clear.
In the early spring, I’ll fish a lot of water that varies between dingy and muddy. When it’s really dirty, I’ll use slick copper willow leaf and Colorado blades because, believe it or not, copper puts off more flash in muddy water.
If I’m fishing the inside of a grass line in 6 to 8 feet of muddy water, say, I might also replace the willow leaf with a copper Indiana blade because it has a little longer profile that puts off more flash than a Colorado and has little “thump” to it that helps fish find it.
Finally, if the water is clear, I’ll stick with the semi-transparent silicone skirts. If it’s muddy, I’ll switch to the old-fashioned rubber skirts in white, chartreuse or black because I want that solid profile.
---- Folgers pro Scott Suggs, Bryant, Ark.