May 06, 2020
By Ken Duke
Boat docks are bass magnets when the sun is high and other cover is scarce. Everyone knows that.
The deepest, darkest recesses of docks are the best places for big bass to lie in ambush. Most anglers know that.
The toughest spots to put a bait under a dock get the least fishing pressure. Only skilled anglers can put their baits there.
And while anglers using spinning gear can effectively skip weightless worms and a few other offerings, those talented enough to skip with baitcasting gear have more options and more muscle to extricate a lunker.
Ergo, if you’re not skipping docks with baitcasting gear, you’re missing big bass. Just ask Bass Pro Tour standout Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, South Carolina. When bass are holding under boat docks — as they often are after the spawn — Montgomery is not just a threat, he’s the man to beat, and his go-to method is dock skipping.
“A lot of anglers have tried skipping docks with a baitcaster,” Montgomery said, “but they usually give up after a backlash or two. It’s not a tactic you’re going to master in half an hour or even half a day, but if you use the right gear and practice, you’ll be able to put a lure in places that rarely get fished.”
Montgomery says there are four components to an effective skipping outfit.
- Rod: “The right casting rod is going to be rated as medium-heavy and have what I call an 80/20 action,” Montgomery said. “By that I mean there’s a lot of flex in the 20 percent of the rod nearest the tip and a strong backbone below that.”
- Reel: “Most quality baitcasters can be used for skipping, but you’ll want a fast retrieve (7:1 or higher gear ratio) so you can pick up line quickly to yank fish out of cover before they can wrap you up.”
- Line: “I generally skip with 15- to 20-pound-test fluorocarbon,” said Montgomery, “but if you’re just learning to skip, start with 17-pound monofilament. It’s limper and more forgiving than fluorocarbon. Backlashes come out easier, too.”
- Baits: Not every lure is “skippable.” Montgomery’s favorites are bladed jigs like the 1/2-ounce Strike King Thunder Cricket, the 1/2-ounce Strike King Skipping Jig, and buzzbaits with soft plastics bodies instead of the conventional skirts. For that, he likes the Strike King Magnum Rage Bug or Gurgle Toad.
“With jigs and bladed jigs, you need a good trailer to facilitate the skip,” he says. “I like the Strike King Rage Bug. And with buzzbaits, you need a soft plastic body like the Strike King Gurgle Toad instead of a skirt.”
Step one in effective skipping with a baitcaster involves your reel. Montgomery recommends that you loosen the tension knob next to the handle side until you feel side-to-side play in the spool. Put your thumb on the spool and wiggle it back and forth. Can you feel the spool knocking against the interior of the side plates? If not, keep loosening. Then gradually tighten it until that play is gone. Now adjust the brake on the palming side until your lure falls smoothly from the rod tip when the reel is in free spool, but not so freely that the spool keeps turning after the lure hits the floor. That’s the proper setting to start.
Practice in open water. Try docks and other obstructions later, when you’ve got command of the basics. And don’t try to skip in rough water. The waves will grab your bait and prevent accurate skipping. This is a flat-water technique.
Step two is the basic casting motion. The skip-cast is more underhanded than sidearm, so it helps to be standing above the water, like on the deck of a bass boat. Proper rod length is important, too. If your rod is too long for your height, you’ll be forced to cast sidearm, hampering your technique.
Start with the rod low and use an abbreviated back cast. Imagine you’re skipping a flat rock by throwing it across the water’s surface. Come forward sharply, keeping the rod tip low and following through in the direction you want the bait to go.
Your target is a spot just inches in front of the object you want the bait to skip under. And a good skip skitters across the surface, making contact multiple times before stopping. That’s how you reach the deepest recesses of a dock.
At no time should you take your thumb completely off the spool. Instead, maintain very light tension, feathering the spool gently to avoid overruns if the lure doesn't skip very far or — heaven forbid — at all.
“The most common mistake anglers make is to release the bait too high off the water’s surface,” Montgomery notes. “Then it comes in at too steep an angle to skip.”
Tools of the Trade
Andy Montgomery mastered dock skipping decades ago using equipment that seems outdated today. Now, he and his sponsors are working to make better tools for aspiring skippers.
It starts with the rod and reel. Montgomery collaborated with Lew’s on a signature series Skipping Rod. It’s medium-heavy, has his preferred 80/20 flex and comes in two lengths — 6-foot-9 and 7-foot-1. If you’re tall, opt for the longer model. Otherwise, go with the shorter one. He matches the rod with a Lew’s Hyper Mag reel.
The Skipping Rod will be introduced in the summer of 2020 and available online or at a retailer near you very soon. You can skip with what you have, but Montgomery’s tailored tools will help you become proficient faster and with fewer headaches.