Talk about pier pressure. “High Rock Lake has the most heavily fished piers in the state,” said Pleasant Garden’s Brad Staley. With the deep-water largemouth bass bite almost nonexistent because of high, muddy water, local fishermen have been beating the piers at High Rock Lake, and the ones who are “reading the piers” have been coming away with the best catches.

Reading the piers means determining if the fish are lingering in the shallow sections, suspending near wooden poles or floating platforms, living under the walkways and ends of piers or holding tight to pier posts.

Ralph Hollifield Jr. of Winston-Salem and Chip Stanley of Trinity put their knack for reading piers – based on more than 60 years of combined fishing experience – to good use last Saturday by winning the Fishers of Men Fall Club Trail and the Yadkin Team Trail two-tournaments-in-one contest. They had a 5-fish catch weighing 18.65 pounds that featured a 5.48-pound bass.

While other anglers struggled to catch 14-inch keepers from around piers, Hollifield and Stanley discovered a bigger pier bite. During the week, Hollifield fished a small tournament and caught his fish shallow under piers. Last Saturday, however, the pier bite changed. Hollifield and Staley discovered that better fish were coming from the deeper sections of the docks near specific objects, so they made an adjustment.

“We fished piers in eight to 10 feet of water, especially those with wooden or steel poles,” said Hollifield. “The bigger fish were suspended at the poles, and we flipped black/blue Sweet Beaver plastics tight to the poles to get a strike. The productive poles began at the juncture where the walkways met the docks to the ends of the docks.”

Stanley said finding the pattern within a pattern around piers often makes the difference in catching fish and not catching fish. Fishermen must exercise patience, too.

“Fishing is tough at High Rock with all the rain; you shouldn’t expect to get too many bites,” said Hollifield. “You can go an hour or longer without a bite, then hit a pier that might give up a fish or two. We caught three quality bass from piers in one creek from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.”

Hollifield and Stanley also left the muddy water behind and fished a creek with clearer water.

“I don’t mind telling others how we caught our fish,” Hollifield said. “By next week, the pier bite could be different.”

Don’t just fish the piers this week; try reading them to improve your catches.