By Jeff Samsel
One of the best things about fishing is that you don’t need a huge block of time or a ton of specialized equipment or knowledge to participate or even to enjoy success. Standing on the bank, whether at a friend’s pond, in a park, or along some public right-of-way beside a river, can put you in reach of many fish.
Shoreline fishing can be a simple as you want to make it and extremely productive. Your approach does matter, though, and following these simple tips can help you enjoy more action when you fish from the bank.
Scout at Home
A quick look at Google Maps or another satellite imaging source can show you a surprising amount of detail about access, drop-offs, humps, points, rock bars and much more that you simply can’t see from ground level. Look at any available maps of access points and trails and compare that information to the overhead imagery. Identify those spots you don’t want to miss and devise a solid strategy while you’re still at home.
Often the best fish habitat is tight to the shore. (Consider where you typically try to cast from a boat!) To avoid spooking fish that are close, make at least a couple of casts from well back before approaching any new spot. If the bank is clear of obstructions and the water extra clear or shallow, a good strategy is to stay several feet back as you fish.
Closely related, paying attention to overall stealth can make a major difference when you fish from the bank, especially if the water within casting range is pretty shallow. You don’t have to go into full stalking mode. Just avoid abrupt motions and loud walking right at the edge. Also, use bushes and trees for concealment when it is practical, and make parallel pasts to edges before walking along the bank to your next spot.
Watch the Edges
Keep an eye out for clues that might be at your feet. Note the color of the water, the pitch and make-up of the bottom and whether the shoreline make-up or slope changes as you look down the bank. Also look for weeds, rocks or other submerged cover you can see as clues about what might be farther out, and of course watch for minnows, sunfish, crawfish and anything else that might be food for your target species.
The bank-fishing stereotype is plopping down in a flat, shady spot, casting out and waiting on a fish. While that certainly can be relaxing and even productive at times, you’d generally catch more fish if you minimize gear and do a bit of walking. Sometimes that means walking before you ever start casting, just to get away from spots that are extra popular because of convenience to parking places. Other times it’s a matter work working a section of bank and gradually moving until you find fish or figure out a pattern. There’s nothing wrong with starting close or even staying close if you are catching fish. However, if the fish aren’t biting, don’t hesitate to move into search mode
Carry a Backpack
A small backpack aids your mobility in a couple of ways. First, it keeps your hands free for fishing, while keeping you from having to continue picking it up and putting it back down. As importantly, it puts practical limitations on the gear you can carry. A stowable box or two and a handful of packets of soft-plastic lures are all you really need for a lot of shoreline fishing situations, so there’s no reason to tote a bunch of other stuff. A backpack also provides a place for a water bottle a few other niceties and necessities.
Beyond being fun (which is a pretty good advantage on its own), topwater lures provide an important advantage over most other lures for many bank fishing situations. A topwater lure, by definition, stays on top, which means it works at the same level as all the obstructions and casting targets you can see. That means you can fish that zone efficiently and lessen the likelihood of snags. Minimizing snags is extra valuable when you fish from the shore because it’s often difficult to get a snagged lure back. Don’t get so hung up on surface lures that you forsake other baits that might do better any given day. Always give the topwater approach a good try, though!