Most popular bank fishing areas have key spots that always fill first. It would be easy to assume that these are the best fishing areas. However, a closer look would reveal that the popularity of these spots is often dictated by factors other than the quality of the fishing. Proximity to parking, openness for casting, available shade and flat terrain for gaining access or setting up chairs are the primary appeals of many popular spots.
That’s not bad, and if all else is equal, having those creature comforts can make those the premier locations. That said, all else usually is not equal, and if you’re willing to travel light, walk a bit farther and get creative with casts, you can often find better fish-catching spots.
So how do you determine the best spots when you are working from the bank, usually without the aid of electronics and with less capacity to move than you have in a boat? The process starts at home, with a map and/or your phone or computer, and continues with visual clues you only see on-site.
If the area you plan to fish is along a major river or lake, chances are good that a topo map is available. Even for smaller waters, you can often find a basic outline map or one with primary topo lines that can help you identify things like where channels run, the shape of points and cuts, and where the areas sits, relative to the rest of the lake. Glean what you can from any available maps and then find the area on Google Earth. This zoomable overhead view can reveal more than you might expect about bottom contours, the shape of shoreline features, underwater cover, inflows that impact water color and temperature and much more.
Look for features that are within casting distance, places where the creek or river channel swings close to the shore and spots where bottom contours appear to change substantially. Also look for visual markers to help you identify those areas.
Keep those home scouting findings in mind when you get to your fishing area, but also look for cover that doesn’t show up on the map, changes in the shoreline make up that likely extend into the water, similar changes in the shoreline slope, and places where an outcrop or cut in the bank creates an eddy or windbreak. Consider also distance from easy access points, as less pressure often translates into better fishing, plus conditional factors such as a wind-beaten bank might hold more active fish or a sunbaked flat that might offer slightly warmer water.
There’s no single, simple factor that always translates into a fishing hotspot, but if you’re willing to actively seek clues and put forth the effort to try those farther-away or harder-to-fish spots, often you’ll find much better fishing action than if you had simply set up at the first available spot on the bank.
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