I hope you all are having a fun and safe summer so far (hopefully loaded with a few new fishing stories to add to the memory bank!).
Literally each day I'm in the shop I get the same questions, "which bait will catch me bass?", "will this bait catch me big bass?", etc... There's absolutely nothing wrong with these questions – I absolutely love answering them and helping customers/friends get into some fish. Fishing and the outdoors is my passion and first love, so it brings me joy when I can help people enjoy the outdoors too... but yesterday I realized that I'm not properly answering the questions customers are throwing at me.
I had a moment yesterday (which I will get into in just a second), that made me realize that I could be helping my friends/customers more; by not only answering the question "will this catch me bass/is this good for bass?", but by Educating friends/customers on HOW these lures/products will catch you fish, and HOW to use them most effectively.
So, to the moment I had yesterday... I was out doing a bit of pond fishing in the kayak, and I was casting towards what I call 'high-percentage' areas. There was a dude on the bank watching me paddle along the shoreline, flipping senkos/launching spinnerbaits along the bank. He shouted, "Dude! You've got a kayak – go fish where there's actually fish!". I smiled and asked, "where is that dude??", and he pointed out in the middle of the pond; as he continued to repeatedly cast a crankbait as far as he could, straight ahead of him. Within a few moments I spotted a small shadowed area along the bank and flipped a senko into it – BANG! Fish on. Had a nice little scrap with a largemouth bass, tossed it back, and kept going. Two seconds later, spotted another small dark shadowed area not much bigger than the laptop I'm typing this article on... Flipped another senko in – BANG. Fish on. At this point the dude on the bank was looking at me like I was from another planet. He said, "How are you doing that?! What's your trick??" At that moment I instantly realized how I could help people get on more fish. I realized that most people fishing the bank haven't really been taught how to fish the bank effectively.
Senko de Mayo...
With a large percentage of our friends/customers that come to the shop being bank anglers, I really wanted to hammer this article out as quick as possible... So here goes, this one is for all the bank/shoreline anglers! Let's get you folks onto more fish!
I'm going to break this down into a few different tips to help increase your chances out there while you're on the bank/shoreline grinding out in the hot sun for that swift pull on the end of your line!
Here's 5 tips to better work the bank to catch more fish:
#1: Pack light and be willing to move
I watch a lot of people (and I've done it a million times before), stand in one spot and cast a billion times straight out in front of themselves for a couple hours straight without a single hookup. You've got to be willing to move – if one spot isn't producing, pick up your gear and move to a different spot... And I don't necessarily mean pack your stuff and drive half an hour down the road – I literally mean walk about 10-15 yards down the bank and try casting there.
Pick a lure/setup that you're confident, and just use that... Don't bring a tackle box with a million different lures – this will overwhelm you and you'll end up spending more time tying and questioning yourself. Have confidence in your bait, setup a game plan to use ONE specific bait or setup and stick to it. My "GO-TOs" for bank fishing include one of three setups: Spinnerbait setup, Squarebill Crankbait Setup, or Senko flippin' setup.
Bring a bottle of water and some snacks to keep energy levels up in the heat and pick ONE setup to work the bank – that's all you need for success.
#2: Be a ninja on the bank
I can’t stress the importance of stealth when you are out fishing the bank/shoreline. You'd be shocked at how close fish will sit along the edge of the bank/shoreline. You need to keep in mind that these fish will hear and feel each bit of vibration/motion that you emit close to them... This includes small rocks you might accidently kick into the water, any vibrations you might kick-off while you stumble to work your way down the bank, any loud chatter you might be having with your buds, etc. Try to keep quiet, walk light on your feet, and try to keep a low profile – those critters are looking upward 90% of the time and will spot you out before you even know they were there. Sometimes it's actually better to stand and cast 5+ yards up the bank, depending on the situation.
#3: Cast Parallel to the bank
I can't stress this enough. Like I mentioned above – you'd be shocked how close some fish will hug to the edge of the bank/shoreline. Casting parallel to the bank heavily increases your chances of getting your lure/bait struck – the fish will often sit along whatever structure they can find (rocks/overhanging branches, undercut banks, etc.), facing towards the middle of the lake. Cast at about a 45-degree angle along the bank and retrieve it back at a steady/swift pace; this is usually the best way to get a reaction/aggression strike from active bass along the bank/shoreline.
#4: Look for "High Percentage" areas
There are certain areas that I like to call "high percentage areas", that will almost always hold fish... I am constantly scanning for irregularities along the bank/shoreline, or close to it (say, maximum 15 yards out from the shoreline/bank). Fish in some ways are quite like us – on an extremely hot day with the sun beating down on us we will most likely go seek shade wherever we can find it, so we don't shrivel up and wither away. Fish are no different – they don’t like spending an entire day baking away in the sun either.
Things to look for to find high percentage areas:
Undercut banks (these provide shade/structure from the sun/predators, and provides fish with a sweet stakeout spot to ambush their next meal)
Overhanging trees/branches (Again... Provides the same benefits as an overcut bank. These are much more challenging to send a lure/bait into, but often hold more fish and can be very rewarding when you do learn to skip a bait under them)
Any form of shadow over the water (Don't ever hesitate to cast into any dark shadow you see on the water, no matter how small. I've pulled absolute pigs from shadows in the water that are no bigger than the laptop I'm using to type this article. Sometimes it's the only isolated cover close by, and fish will hold to it)
Any irregularities in water movement off the bank (This can include a consistent 'swirl' or shift in direction of the water current; when I see this, it tells me that there's some sort of structure under the water that I can't see... And where there's structure; there will be fish).
Undercut bank bass!
Now I know a large portion of people probably won't do this, whether it be because you don't have time due to work, kids, inadequate space to practice, etc... It will certainly increase your odds if you tie a hookless bait, key, or casting plug to the end of your line and practice pitching into a coffee can/garbage can, practice casting distance, etc. If you don’t have the time to practice on your own off of the water, then you can still always practice while you're out on the water. Set goals! Make it your goal to make that challenging cast under the overhanging tree! Sure, you might get caught in the tree, and it might result in some cursing and swearing; but it will make you a better angler, which will in-turn yield more fish! Challenge yourself, and don't be intimidated by the overhanging tree that is just begging for you to snag your lure into it – make the cast.
Sometimes you've gotta risk it to get the biscuit!
High percentage areas can be risky.. and are often along the shoreline!
So there you have it folks! There's 5 tips that can hopefully bring you all a little more success while fishing on the banks/shoreline. Get out there, put in your time, and make it happen!
Have fun, Stay Safe, and Happy Fishing!