February 27, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
For years, Missouri's legendary bass pro Denny Brauer has been known as perhaps the best jig fisherman there ever was on the planet.
He's the undisputed "Jig Master" of bass fishing.
After his virtuoso performance in winning the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 General Tire Summit Cup competition at Chautauqua Lake, you might as well call him the "Dock Master" too.
Because so commanding was Brauer's dock fishing performance in New York - think Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods negotiating "Amen Corner" at Augusta National Golf Course - that it belongs right up there with the best performances in the history of the sport.
Brauer, who semi-retired from tournament angling not long after the win, owned the docks at Chautauqua, especially on the final day as he ran away with his first Major League Fishing title.
Why is he so good on docks?
"Having lived on Lake of the Ozarks for 20-plus years, or close to it, there's probably as many boat docks there as any lake in the country, so that's what you do there," said Brauer. "I've got a great comfort level fishing docks. About every lake we've ever fished that have boat docks has had fish around them. So this lake just set up perfect for what I like to do."
Brauer said that when he discovered the surplus of seasonal boat docks on Chautauqua, he made his mind up to pick up the long rod and go dock fishing for the duration of the event.
"There were not a lot of options (on Chautauqua) and once in a while, that's a good thing," said Brauer, who won both the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW Angler of the Year titles in 1998. "Sometimes you can get so strung out trying so many different things that you don't really lock down and do what you should be doing."
What does Brauer - who has 17 wins and $2.57 million in career earnings on his B.A.S.S. resume alone - suggest for anglers who want to do better at fishing the docks?
First, realize that there are seasons of the year - summer and fall come to mind - and conditions that cause the pattern to really shine.
"When they are relating to docks, you're going to catch them in all types of weather," said Brauer. "One of the days at Chautauqua, it was raining and we were still slamming them right around the boat docks. So you can still catch them on days like that.
"But the ideal scenario is the calm, sunny days," he added. "That makes it a lot tougher for a lot of the other techniques but it pushes more fish underneath boat docks. It's not necessarily that it's better dock fishing but that the sunny weather hurts a lot of other techniques and it (dock fishing) may be the only way you can catch them."
Brauer also says to keep in mind that the bite typically gets better as the day goes along.
"Once you get that sun up at a higher angle and it gets up around 10 o'clock, then things will normally start happening," he said.
One key for Brauer is to use the right equipment. At Chautauqua, he used a prototype 7-foot, 7-inch, heavy, Denny Brauer signature flipping stick from Ardent, along with an Ardent baitcasting reel.
And while he admits that the 25-pound test fluorocarbon he used might have been a little bit of overkill, Brauer wryly noted that since he can't really tell the difference between 20- and 25-pound test fluro, he was certain the fish couldn't either.
"I figure why not go a little bit more towards my favor," said Brauer. "A lot of those fish I was pulling out from around metal (docks), the line was frayed when I landed them but yet it didn't break."
What baits did bass fishing's dock king throw in New York?
"I was throwing a Strike King flipping tube that I designed for them after the '98 Classic win," said Brauer. "It's just a great bait even now, it's a streamlined bait, it's a small profile bait, but yet you can use a big flipping hook in it and that's one of the biggest keys.
"I was backing that up with a new bait we have at Strike King called the Shellcracker. I was fishing both of them in either green pumpkin or blue-craw, something that looks natural like a bluegill in the water."
While some anglers might think that color doesn't matter all that much in dock presentations, Brauer disagrees.
"The water looked a lot dirtier (at Chautauqua) than what it really was and a lot of that algae bloom was right on the surface," he said. "I started out throwing a Black Neon, which is my favorite color in the really off-color stuff. But once that sun got up, I just wasn't getting the bites that I wanted. I switched to green pumpkin and BOOM, it opened the door and I started getting a lot more bites."
Ok, now for the $64,000 question that all anglers want to know. Is one dock better than another?
"That's the problem with dock fishing," said Brauer. "At times, you cannot visually tell that one dock is better than another. You've just got to go fishing and when you run across a dock, you've got to make sure that you fish it thoroughly. There could be a bunch of fish under it (or not).
"Then there are other times that you can tell that a dock is going to be good. Maybe it's a dock on a point, maybe it's the last dock in the back of a pocket, or maybe it's a dock that has a little more depth on it or a little more vegetation around it.
"That's the whole key when you start getting bit on docks - you need to pay attention to what was the deal on that one and then try to duplicate it (on others)."
Are there mistakes that weekend anglers make when fishing a dock pattern?
Brauer says yes, especially those "little things" that go a long way towards fishing success.
"If the water is super clear, you just need to stay back a little further," said the 1987 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. "Rather than flip the docks, make long pitches to them. Try to maintain as much quietness as you can. You don't need a trolling motor that is making a lot of noise (and) you don't need to backwash the cover."
But the biggest mistake Brauer sees other anglers make is to simply miss the best sweet spots that exist on a dock.
"The biggest thing is to really try to pick out the darkest areas," he said. "Once the sun gets up, that's where those fish are going to get. A lot of guys just don't practice their pitching enough to be able to get it into that target zone. If they'll practice their pitching and then really concentrate on where should that fish be, the darkest, baddest, hardest to get to area, then they'll start catching a lot more fish."
Just like the undisputed bass fishing king of docks.