Lake of the Ozarks dock fishing with Casey Scanlon
Boat docks are high priority targets for Casey Scanlon whenever he practices for a tournament at Lake of the Ozarks.
Scanlon admits targeting docks gives him confidence, especially since he guides on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, the 54,000-acre reservoir loaded with countless docks. So it is a given that the first piece of cover Scanlon checks out in practice will be a dock.
Throughout his pro career, Scanlon has fished all sorts of docks ranging from the stationary wooden piers to floating structures secured with steel cables. Scanlon mainly fishes the floating-style boat houses attached to steel cables on his home lake.
The FLW Tour pro considers docks ideal cover because the structures extend over a wide range of depths. “You can fish them from zero to 30 feet deep,” says Scanlon. “A lot of times home owners put brush under them (a bonus piece of cover).” The boat houses also allow bass to move up and down in the water column where they can suspend right under the foam of the floating structures or at a mid-depth range or hug the bottom.
Boat docks attract plenty of forage fish for bass too. “Every dock is going to have bluegill underneath it and it is nice to find docks where the shad are congregating around as well,” Scanlon says. “There is always going to be bait present and mostly in the form of bluegill which I think bigger fish prefer.”
Docks also create a lot of shade where bass can lurk and set up to ambush baitfish. “I always keep an eye on shade and am aware of it in case I start getting bites,” Scanlon says. “I always fish the shady side (of docks) a little bit harder.” Scanlon notes the only time he avoids the shady side of docks is during winter and early spring when bass seek warmer water. Then he keys on the sunny side of a dock, especially where the sunshine is hitting the black floatation, which generates warmer water.
“An ideal dock to me is the biggest I can find without being a marina dock,” says Scanlon, who prefers large private docks that can cast expansive shade.
The local pro also favors fishing isolated docks or if an area is loaded with boat houses, he keys on the first few docks heading into a creek, the last few docks in the back of a creek, or docks situated on a point or break line. “I rarely go down a row of 20 docks that are all in 15 feet of water,” he says.
When he has to fish an area with rows of docks, Scanlon tries to pick out individual targets rather than fish a whole row. “I will side scan (the docks) with my Garmin electronics and look at my down view and see where the fish are positioned,” Scanlon says. “I am mostly looking for cover so if one of the docks has a brush pile underneath that is the one I am going to target. I also look for the biggest one and the ugliest one with stuff falling off of it. I also look for rod holders and fish baskets–just signs that a fisherman lives there.”
Docks are productive year-round for Scanlon, so here are his tips on how to fish this type of cover throughout the four seasons at Lake of the Ozarks.
“A lot of the fish will either be around docks in the deep guts in the very back of the creeks or isolated docks on a secondary point or the main lake,” Scanlon says. “Basically I am looking for a dock that has a lot of depth under it and I am looking for a lot of shad. I look for docks where the fish don’t have to move a whole lot. If it is sunny they can slide up in 10 feet of water and then they can slide back the other direction by 10 or 12 feet into depths of 30 to 40 feet. “
On extremely sunny days, Scanlon will fish the back side of docks along steep banks, but most of the time he keys on the sides of docks or wherever he finds brush piles near the floating structure. “Bass like to suspend that time of year so if there is some brush on the side or if there is a brush pile behind the dock I will flip a jig there,” Scanlon says. He also concentrates on the front of large boat houses where bass hang around the steel cables that anchor the docks.
“I am looking for the transitions in the bank where the channel bank turns down into gravel, which is where the fish are looking to spawn,” Scanlon says. “So I like docks that are situated really close to the bank, especially if the back of the dock is up on the bank.” He believes bass flock to these shallow docks because the cover is similar to a laydown log that provides bass with shelter extending from the bank out to deeper water. When bass move to the bank to spawn, Scanlon fishes the back side of the docks then.
Similar to winter, Scanlon keys on deep-water docks that attract plenty of shad. “So I am looking for those isolated docks and trying to catch fish suspended on the front corners that are looking for bait,” says Scanlon, who keys on large docks on main lake points and channel swings. He also fishes brush piles near those docks and works his lures along the bottom for bass holding tight to the wood cover.
The touring pro concentrates on isolated docks along main lake flats or the last few docks on flats in the creeks. Tracking shad is the key to finding the most productive lures during this season.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.
For copies of John Neporadny’s THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide call 573/365-4296 or visit www.jnoutdoors.com.