Story by Russ Bassdozer
PAA champ and FLW pro James Watson of Waynesville, Missouri categorizes himself as a shallow water power fisherman – but no one reaches Watson’s level in our beloved sport by being one-dimensional. Spoon jackin’ is a specialized technique that Watson plies around the very deepest of docks in water up to 90 feet deep.
On the Ozark lakes in Watson’s part of the country (Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock, Beaver Lake for example), some of the places that attracts bass to “summer-over” (estivate) and spend the summer in relative comfort during and after their post-spawn recuperative period (besides flooded trees) are deep boat docks.
Watson likes to focus on boat docks that come out off deep banks with their outer ends sitting on or close to deep creek channels or on the main river channel.
Spoon jackin’ starts to gather steam during the early summer. The hotter the weather becomes after the post-spawn, the further the summer progresses, the deeper Watson likes to look for these dock denizens.
Water Clarity important
“When using a spoon, you don’t want murky water,” claims James. You want to focus on clearer water and the best places to start on a boat dock at any time of day but especially in the early morning hours are the outside corners and the cables that run out off the outside ends. If that doesn’t work, then start focusing your efforts on boat stalls – and the empty ones are not necessarily the best ones. Sometimes you’ve got to flip your spoon into a stall that has a boat lift with a boat in it. Sometimes the fish may be out off the first (outer) rung of the boat lift, but they’re often all the way in toward the central walkway that runs down the middle of the boat dock.
“You better have big, strong fluorocarbon line like Maxima 20 lb test,” emphasizes Watson. Along with that, Watson uses a Bass Pro Shops Qualifier 7:1 high-speed reel with a Waft 7’6” Outlaw heavy action rod.
Long-handled Net a Necessity
Once you hook a good fish way in there under the center walkway on the far side of a boat lift, you better have an extremely long handle on your net to reach out and get them.
The aluminum handle net shown in the photos here is 16 feet long. Watson now has a 20 foot length of PVC pipe that he has drilled to accept a cotter pin to hold a 5 foot long-handled net on the business end, equaling 25 feet long overall.
“It’s limber and awkward – but it works. If you see me with a giant PVC pipe strapped down to one side and hanging out over the back end of my boat, that’s a sure give-away that I’ll be spoon jackin’ docks that day.”
Shady vs. Sunny Side
“When you are flipping spoons inside boat slips, I cannot recall shade ever playing a factor – such as fish holding on the shady side versus the sunny side of a dock,” states Watson. The presence of a boat lift and/or a boat in a slip will provide overhead shade regardless of what side of the dock – and the center walkway of a dock also creates overhead shade.
What pays off best for Watson is simply flipping way back into spots that other anglers are not willing to tackle. “The most impossible spots to get a spoon into (or a fish out of) often pay huge dividends – but the consequences are lots of broken lines and lost spoons. Most anglers will opt on the safe side and not cast into those spots,” reveals Watson.