Land of Giants: Be selective for winter slobs

Hank Cherry 

Cherry admits it may sound surprising, but his experience on lakes like Norman, Wylie, Grand and Guntersville tells him that, even in the depth of winter, some of the fishery’s largest bass will venture up to the shallow end of a dock for early morning feeds. It’s not every day, he notes, and conditions are the common drivers.

“You first have to pay attention to the weather and figure out if you’ll have sunshine or not — that’s a serious part of dock fishing,” Cherry said. “On a sunny day, I’ll take the biggest jig I can find and slide it under as many docks as I can.

“Typically, that time of year, the fish are chasing sunlight because springtime is just around the corner. Sometimes, the biggest fish will be up there in a foot of water looking for a bluegill to eat.”

A stable or falling barometer with morning sun often finds the fish on the shallow hunt when he arrives.

“The fish will be moving around and utilizing the whole dock throughout the day,” Cherry said. “Those big fish are the first ones to spawn, so they’re the first ones to actually get up there early.

“I’ll typically start shallow and work my way deep. But if the water’s colder, as those fish get away from their active morning feeding time — say, noonish — they tend to suspend halfway under the dock. They’re in the shade but near the sunlight.”

Cherry uses a 1/2-ounce Picasso Dock Rocket jig with a Berkley MaxScent Chigger Craw trailer. Green pumpkin brown’s his go-to color in sunny conditions, but he’ll keep a black/blue option handy for cloudy conditions.

Cherry throws his jig on a 7-3 medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veracity rod with a 7.3:1 Abu Garcia STX Revo carrying 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. Having helped design the Dock Rocket, Cherry admits the jig’s a little bulky right out of the package, but he won’t make any trimmings, as that full skirt helps create the slow fall that triggers big bites.

“Ninety percent of your bites are going to come on that slow fall; there’s not a lot of working it. I’ll get it under there and hop it a few times really slowly.”

In severe winter conditions, Cherry wants a dock with brush, riprap or a sand bank. Each plays a key role in boosting the habitat’s appeal.

“If it’s bright, high-sky, cold-front conditions, that’s when I’m going to target brushy docks because they have something the fish can snuggle into and feel comfortable,” Cherry said.

“For the aggressive, feeding fish, the docks with riprap hold an extra little bit of heat that will pull the fish up shallower. The bluegill and crawfish are up there, so it’s another part of the feeding habitat.”

Cherry said a sandy bank behind a dock may be the most overlooked habitat element. Warming up quickly, a plain-looking strip of sand may be a gold mine of dock-fishing opportunity.

“You may have a 150-yard stretch of sand that has one or two docks on it, and those docks tend to hold fish when it’s cold,” Cherry said.

BAIT: Jig/craw trailer
WHY: Triggers big bites
WHERE: Docks

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