Winning Shots for Fall Crappie

By Jeff Samsel


When crappie get up under docks, there’s no more efficient means than shooting to deliver and present baits to those fish.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;}

When crappie congregate under low docks, it’s tough to beat “dock shooting” as means to go in after them. Alabama sharp shooter Lee Pitts breaks down when, where and how to shoot for the greatest success.

Veteran crappie guide Lee Pitts relies heavily on dock shooting for catching crappie during the fall.

Veteran crappie guide Lee Pitts relies heavily on dock shooting for catching crappie during the fall.

Pride swells a little as your jig races through the air past a dock piling and under a dock that’s only a few inches off the water, carrying to the far side before landing in the water. You’re tempted to glance up, just to see if your fishing partner was looking, but you know that watching your line is more important.
Good choice.
The line hops just a little and you set the hook with a quick sideways rod snap, burying your jig into the mouth of what turns out to be a 1 ½-pound crappie. The result is an even better feeling than the one produced by the shot that put the jig in front of the fish.
Few crappie fishing techniques are more fun or rewarding than dock shooting, and when the big crappie stack up under docks, no other techniques does a better job of getting lures to them and making them bite.
Dock shooting, which is usually done with a very light jig, involves pinching the jig between two fingers in the non-rod hand, pulling the jig back to load the rod with a bend, aiming at a gap beneath a dock and then releasing the jig a moment before the line to “shoot” the jig up under the dock. It takes a little practice to learn the timing, the right amount of rod bend and how to aim, but it really isn’t that hard. Once learned, it puts jigs in places that simply cannot be reached by casting.

October is prime time for dock shooting on many Southern reservoirs for various reasons. First, many reservoirs get drown down during the fall and the dropping water opens shooting lanes beneath docks. A the same time, many baitfish and crappie move into creeks and pockets and stray shallow to feed, and a lake’s docks and the brush around them provide the best shallow cover in many reservoirs.

Slider Fishing   KMS-Inc.     

“Everybody puts brush beneath these docks, and the crappie love the brush,” said Lee Pitts, a longtime crappie guide on legendary Weiss Lake and other Coosa River impoundments. “They also like the old wooden poles that support the docks. The poles provide ambush points for the fish to feed in the fall.”


The Bobby Garland Dock Shoot’R pull tab makes shooting docks much safer and easier.

Pitts, who does a lot of dock shooting every fall, enjoys teaching the technique to clients. He especially likes seeing the obvious satisfaction that comes when things begin to click and folks who have never fished this way begin making successful shots and catching fish.

Shooting Gear
Pitts’ standard shooting set up is 6 ½-foot Lew’s Mr. Crappie spinning rod matched with a Lew’s 100 size spinning reel and spooled with 4- or 6-pound Gamma Panfish line. He likes a slightly longer rod than many anglers use for shooting because he feels like it give him a little more shooting power and control. However, if clients are new to shooting, he’ll start them with 5 ½- or 6-foot rods, having found a slightly shorter rod works better for learning.
Pitts likes to shoot a 1/24- or 1/32-ounce Bobby Garland MoGlo jighead equipped with a Slab Slay’R, Baby Shad or Baby Swim’R. Preferred colors include blue ice, black/chartreuse and pink/chartreuse. He’ll experiment daily with head colors and body styles and colors and let the crappie show their preferences.
The newest addition to Pitts’ shooting tackle arsenal promises to make the teaching process much easier and the fishing more efficient. Bobby Garland Shoot’R Pull Tabs are waterproof, tear-resistant tabs with a hole in each end. The jig hook goes through a hole, and you hold the other end of the tab, instead of the hook or jighead, to gain better control and a more consistent release and to remove the risk of hooking yourself.
“These will be a huge help to people learning to shoot. Everyone always struggles with where to hold the jig,” Pitts said.
The Pull Tabs, which come in two finishes, also add a bit of flash, and Pitts has fished with them enough to state confidently that they don’t inhibit lure action.
Presentation & Approach
Pitts will experiment some with presentations to see how the fish want the lure any given day. His default mode, though, is to add very little action and let the lure do the attracting work as it glides. After the bait lands, he’ll just let it pendulum back on a mostly tight line, leaving just enough slack in the line to see it jump with even a very light bite. He’ll lift the rod a few times just to keep the bait off the bottom.
Retrieve variations that can be the key some days include more active swimming or hopping presentations and a straighter drop, with a completely slack line. Significant variances from a pendulum-type fall definitely are the exception, though.
Pitts like to approach a dock from the downwind side initially so it’s easier to control the boat and will stay several feet back to avoid spooking the fish. He’ll generally begin with the shallowest dock supports and work his way all the way around a dock, taking care to shoot past each pole from multiple angles.
“The fish may all be oriented the same way because of wind or current, and if the bait doesn’t go past in a certain direction, they’ll never see it or won’t be in good position to go after it,” he said.
If Pitts is catching fish from a dock but drifts too close and spooks them, he’ll simply leave and fish another dock for a while. “You can come back in 20 minutes and go right back to it!” he said.
Learning Tips
A couple of things Pitts recommended for improving shooting skills are to always use the same rod and to consistently start with the same amount of line out from the reel.
“When you have the same anchor points for every presentation it really helps your accuracy,” Pitts said.
Pitts likes to begin with enough line out that if he holds the rod straight up the bait will hang 6 to 8 inches above his reel. That provides just enough bend for controlled shot and plenty of power with the rod he uses. That varies by rod and angler, though. The key is to pick a distance and to be consistent.
Coosa Crappie NOW
Lee Pitts use two primary strategies on the Coosa River lakes during October. He shoots shallow docks, as detailed here, and goes to main-river drops in up to 25 feet of water and vertically fishes brush and stumps along the drops. For the offshore approach, Pitts uses multiple rods in holders and primarily fishes with live bait. Interestingly, these opposite approaches are both highly productive, but few fall crappie come from any strategy that’s between the extremes for Pitts.
Ready to Go?
To plan a trip with Lee Pitts or to learn more, visit weisslakecrappieguidealabama.com or call 256-390-4145.For lodging and other area information visit northalabama.org.
Garland Shoot’R Pull Tab Video