Reading Docks Key To Successful Fall Fishing

Upstate Outdoors
October 20, 2017 - 9:21 am

Early Friday morning, B.A.S.S released its daily press release containing the current standings of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship being held on Lake Hartwell this week-end. It’s a bit striking because of the results listed until you drill down and look at who the competitors are. 

The B.A.S.S. Nation is a network of locally organized clubs whose members participate in and support a range of activities including tournaments, conservation initiatives and youth programs. They are organized in 47 U.S. states and 10 countries (Australia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe). The B.A.S.S. Nation has played a major role in B.A.S.S. history since B.A.S.S. chapters were formed in 1968 to combat water pollution at the local level. In 1972, these individual chapters were organized into state federations, now known as Nations.

These are everyday guys, from around the globe, who love bass and bass fishing and typically don’t have the time, money, and resources associated with professional anglers. For some, B.A.SS Nation may be a stepping stone to bigger things, for others, it may just be a way to win a chance at playing in bass fishing’s equivalent of the Super Bowl as the top 3 finishers are invited to compete in the Bassmaster Classic which will also be held on Lake Hartwell next spring.

Having set the stage for the event, it’s not unusual to find that many of the competitors are struggling to catch quality fish. Fall in Upstate,South Carolina goes from mid-summer to early winter and back again, often overnight, which means bass are constantly on the move. Add in that baitfish also begin migrating from deeper to shallow water and fishing a high profile tournament can turn into a hot mess.

One of the most consistent patterns and features on many lakes and Lake Hartwell in particular is fishing boat docks. All of the docks on Hartwell are floating docks that allow the structure to rise and fall with lake levels and in most cases allow for some adjustments to extend or retract the docks to reach the water.

These days dock adjustments are mostly extension as the lake is down 8.35 feet owing to an intentional level reduction in anticipation of recent tropical systems that never amounted to much rain.

In order to select the right dock that holds fish, anglers typically look for three things – current, baitfish, and depth. 

Finding current in a seemingly static lake may seem odd, but daily water generations from the dam as well as wind currents do affect water currents in the lake and any boat dock positioned where current is moving under the dock is more likely to hold fish, especially compared to another dock where the surrounding water is more stagnant.

With prevailing water currents will come baitfish. Lake currents are rarely strong enough to wash baitfish into an area. Current attracts baitfish because it stirs up sediment and activates tiny plankton and other invertebrates that baitfish like threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and blueback herring – Hartwell’s three most predominant forage species – feed on.

Docks with structure nearby also provide rest areas for both predators and baitfish to hold on and should be considered a plus.

Last but not least, there’s water depth. Obviously bottom contour under the dock contributes significantly to how deep the water will be. Docks that are located on the edge of some type of channel, whether that’s a creek, river, or simple drainage ditch, are attractive to fish on the move. Not only does the contour serve to channel current, it also serves as a pathway for migrating baitfish, and the fish feeding on the migrating baitfish, to follow.

Good luck to the competitors in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship this weekend. 

Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson is the venue for the morning launch and afternoon weigh-in events. The tournament begins at 7:30 a.m. ET with weigh-ins beginning at 3:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM or online at This week’s guest will be Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S Nation Tournament Director.


Fluctuating weather patterns during the fall often make boat docks an ideal fish holding location, if you know what to look for. 

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