(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
James Watson earned fishing fame when he unleashed his strategies for fishing flutter spoons on docks in a televised tour de force. Given his Ozarks fishing history, it’s no wonder that he’s a dock virtuoso, but as in every aspect of life he does things his own way.
He likes docks because regardless of what type he encounters, they’re typically year-round fixtures. “Nobody in their right mind is going to go through the effort of rebuilding it,” he quipped.
In the springtime and early summer, he likes shallow pole docks, and said that he finds most fish on the shallowest part of the docks. His go-to tactics include skipping a Horny Toad and an “LBJ” (aka, Little Brown Jig) as well as flipping a Luck E Strike tube.
No matter how clear the water is, he approaches these docks frontally with a 7 1/2-foot flipping stick, a 7:1 gear ratio reel and 20-pound Maxima fluorocarbon and goes straight for the meat, right where the crossbars, cables and brush are most likely to be. Bass have to react in shallow water, so power fishing is the name of the game.
Floating docks tend to be in deeper water, and he’ll often flip a dropshot rig on 15-pound fluorocarbon around the edge of them, keying on shade lines as taught to him by legendary Ozarks anglers Jim and Troy Eakins. When he turns to a jig, he puts either a Paca Chunk or a Baby Guido Bug on the back and likes three colors: “green-pumpkin, green-pumpkin and green-pumpkin candy.”
Spoon fishing is what most anglers want to pick Watson’s brain about, and he likes to use it on deep docks – “the deeper the better.” While on lakes like Table Rock or Lake of the Ozarks he knows many of the best docks, on new venues he’ll often try to find the isolated ones. “If it looks like doo-doo all around it, chances are it is doo-doo,” he said, which means that the lone dock is often “the only gravy” around. While a fast-falling football jig or a dropshot might get the call, the spoon is what he uses when he’s confident that there are big groups of fish around.
The one he uses, soon to be made by River2Sea, is the same size as many others on the market, but much lighter. That means it flutters erratically on the fall, often going from one boat slip to the next. He prefers silver colors except when it’s cloudy, in which case gold may get the nod. The flutter spoon is the ticket when the water temps are over 70 degrees. Less than that and he’ll use a traditional lead jigging spoon. He prefers the one made by War Eagle. In either case, he wants at least 3 to 4 feet of visibility.
The erratic action of the flutter spoon means that “fish really have to get after this bait,” which excites them and puts the school in a frenzy. He makes one flip per stall. If it stops on the way down, it’s either a fish, a cable or you’re hung up. Even if he’s sitting over 100 feet of water, he rarely lets it go deeper than 40 feet, and never deeper than 75 feet.
“If there’s a bass in the stall and he’s hungry, he will eat it on the first drop,” he said.
Watson isn’t afraid to toss spoons where others won’t. He’ll occasionally lose as many as 20 to 25 in a day, and that’s a huge part of his success. Of course, even if you get it down and get a bite, you still have to get the fish back in over all of those cables and boat slip rails.
“Don’t get in a hurry,” he advised. “Wear him down.” Then, when the fish is up to the surface, reach out with your dip net and grab him, then push the button on the reel to get him to the boat. If nets aren’t allowed when or where you’re fishing, you’ll have no choice but to try to power those fish over the obstacles. “You’ll get your heart broken a lot,” he admitted, but when things go right it’s a recipe for success.
If you want to learn some of Watson’s dock-fishing techniques, including a simple trick for securing your craw trailer to your jig, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.