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Shoot Docks to Catch More Crappie

Learn the Secrets to a highly productive and often-overlooked crappie fishing technique.

The current obsession of sniping crappie by using LiveScope has opened the door for anglers without live sonar technology to the technique of dock shooting. Truth is, you would be hard pressed to find any tournament crappie angler shooting docks on most lakes.

That’s a mistake, according to Weiss Lake crappie fishing guide Lee Pitts. “Seems like tournament anglers have forgotten that lots of crappie, along with big crappie, live under docks,” Pitts said.

Unlike video game fishing, dock shooting requires eye-hand coordination to skip or shoot a lightweight lure in and around boat docks, boat lifts and in stalls. Let’s look at this unique, ultra-productive technique for catching crappie.

Thoughts on Docks

Lee Pitts with crappieLee Pitts with crappie
All photos by Brad Wiegmann.


Knowing the anatomy of the dock or marina you are fishing will help you catch more crappie as the fish will suspend under or around dock structures, giving you a target to aim for when you shoot.

Depending on the reservoir, a dock will have a combination of piers, piles, floats or anchors supporting and connecting it to the shoreline. Piers are constructed from concrete whereas piles are made from wood or steel, but not concrete. Anchors can be located on shore, directly below the dock, out to the front or front side. Docks often have one or multiple walkways.

Study the structure, ideally with your electronics, and consider where crappie are apt to hold before you begin shooting.

A key to productive dock shooting is knowing which docks to try. Pitts looks for docks that are on a creek swing, adjacent to deeper water, on a break, or with brush or a light to attract minnows at night.

Great docks offer a combination of shade and depth, keeping crappie under them year-round.

In addition to individual docks, Pitts likes fishing around the marinas when it’s legal to do so.

Boat dock owners are sneaky when it comes to putting out brush or artificial fish habitat around their docks or hanging from a dock. They will put cover way back into the stalls, between boat lifts, between boats or below the dock.

Clever boat dock owners like to hang artificial fish trees with a cable from their dock in the farthest corner of the boat dock stall. The depth of these hanging artificial fish trees depends on the water depth below the dock itself. However, these trees tend to be positioned vertically so baitfish and crappie will congregate around the cover. Dock shooting is really the only way to reach these secret bonus areas.   


“It takes the right tackle to be successful shooting docks, and that starts with the jigheads you are using,” Pitts said. “A 1/24- or 1/32-ounce Crappie Pro Head Dockt’R shooter jighead has a circular head and ribs that are crucial for holding the soft plastic on when shooting docks.”

Pitts likes to use 3 different lures when dock shooting. “Slab Slay’R, Minnow Mind’R and Baby Shad don’t have any appendages coming out of these lures, so they skip really, really well,” said Pitts, “When they hit the water, they are in position to get a strike.”

“I use 4- or 6-pound test fishing line. The smaller diameter line gets me more bites for sure. At my age, I also use high-vis fishing line so I can see when a crappie bites,” Pitts said.

Shooting Docks

The best shot looks like you are skipping a rock across the surface.

“A lot of times these crappie under docks are lying up around the floats or poles waiting for something to come by to eat. When they hear that lure coming skipping by or stopping right on them, they are going to look up and strike it,” Pitts said.

When shooting docks Pitts tries to get into the areas other anglers can’t cast to with a bobber and minnow or a jig. Shooting the lure gets it to that sweet spot where most crappie don’t normally see a lure or minnow.

“The more proficient you get at skipping a lure to a specific area way back in the docks, the more and better quality of crappie you will catch,” Pitts said.

Keys to Catching More Crappie

Pitts will hold his rod at a 90-degree angle once the lure is in the water so he can watch the bow in his fishing line for the slightest movement.

“When a crappie bites it’s normally not a real explosive bite. Sometimes it’s really subtle. It could be the lure suddenly stopping or moving left or right. Even with the sensitive rod blanks I’m always watching my line for a strike,” said Pitts.

Boat positioning will make a difference in how successful you are when dock shooting. Pitts likes to have a plan before his first shot. He likes to stay off a dock, where the lure can reach just past the strike zone.

“In stained or dark water, I will definitely get closer than in clear water. However, I don’t want to get in to close and blow water from my trolling motor back in the stalls or on the fish. Basically, I’m trying to not spook the crappie,” said Pitts.

Windy days can be the most challenging days to shoot docks. Pitts will fish into the wind to keep control of the boat and allow him to fish slower.

Another thing Pitts does to ensure success when dock shooting is to pay attention to the presentation angle.

“There’s so many times I have pulled up to the front of a dock and put a lure in one spot numerous times without a strike. Then I change my angle of presentation and get a bite right away,” he said. 

Don’t Hook Yourself

Pitts takes many anglers dock shooting for the first time. They have seen it on TV or on a video, and the pros make it look extremely easy.

“Some anglers new to dock shooting pick it up really fast, but there are a few that just have a tough time figuring it out. Those are the ones that usually hook themselves with the lure,” Pitts said.

When dock shooting anglers can grasp the back of the hook or a pull tab. Bobby Garland Dock Shoot’r Pull Tabs are waterproof and tear-proof pull tabs that slip over the hook point onto the hook shaft. It makes for a safer way to hold a lure and release when dock shooting.

“Not only do Bobby Garland Dock Shoot’R Pull Tabs make it easier to shoot,” Pitts said, “but they produce a lot of flash, which will get you more bites when dock shooting.”

Tips for Dock Shooting

  • Always use the same length of line from your rod tip when shooting docks. Using the same length of line allows for consistent and accurate shots.
  • Don’t shoot your lure into swim ladders, boat lifts, floats or any part of the dock as that will spook the crappie.
  • After shooting the lure, carefully watch your line and set the hook when you get a bite.
  • Keep your rod tip up so you can see the bite
  • Use your electronics to see the anatomy of each dock before fishing it.

Additional Shooting Tips from Lee Pitts

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