I’ve done an awful lot of fishing from the bank, and most anglers I know have, too.
And while it can sometimes feel like you're missing out--that if you only had a boat, you could fish that perfect spot that’s unreachable from shore--the truth is that fishing from the bank doesn’t need to be a disadvantage.
To make the most of bank fishing, you just need to keep a few tricks and tips in mind.
Table of Contents (clickable)
If there’s one tip that does the most to tip the odds in your favor, it’s this one.
Most predatory fish have very good eyesight, and many of them hunt prey from below. That means that they’ve got their eyes looking upward, searching the water above them for unwary fish, unlucky insects, or incautious frogs to happen by.
If you approach too close to the water, you’ll spook them.
I’ve witnessed this countless times with bass and trout. An angler thinks that the best spot for a cast is dead next to the water, and as they step forward, a quick swirl of water marks where a good fish was hunting in the shallows.
It’s gone and won’t be back for hours, if at all.
There’s a good reason this fly angler’s keeping his head down!
As a result, whether I’m on a tiny pond in Louisiana or a trout stream in Montana, I know to wear dark colors (or even camouflage to break up my pattern) and stay well back from the water. I also try to keep my profile low and keep vegetation behind me so that I don’t stand out against the sky.
What’s wrong with this picture?
That may sound like a lot of extra trouble, but trust me, stealth pays off!
I’ll have more to say about casting in a moment, but let me get this out of the way first.
The first thing on my mind when I’ve chosen a likely spot is to test for fish. I’ll typically cast one of my most productive lures, make a few careful runs in the shallows, and then hit any visible structure or cover.
I’m working methodically and with a plan in mind, but if nothing happens in the first few minutes, I’m moving on.
Since you’re landlocked, your legs are your best ally in finding fish. And it’s important that you keep moving to other likely spots, being stealthy as you go.
Don’t stubbornly stick to an unproductive area. Give the water a chance by staying mobile.
You can always come back to a previous spot later, if need be, and it won’t be worse for the wear!
This tip works hand in glove with staying mobile.
A small, light pack is ideal.
On a big bass boat, feel free to pack your tackle bags and boxes, and if you need a hand cart to help you get them from your truck, feel free!
But when you’re on dry land, you need to work from a small backpack, and that means sticking to the essentials.
For me, that typically means:
Now, that list is subject to revision depending on the species I’m after. So, for crappie, I’d drop the crankbaits and topwater, and add slip floats, stops, and beads. I might bring a bait bucket full of minnows, too.
I vary my lure choice by species as well, with an eye to pack it all into a single hard plastic bait box.
You get the idea, I’m sure.
The crux of the matter is to pare-down your tackle to the essentials, keeping it light, easy to manage, and mobile.
So, you’ve arrived at a good spot, you’ve kept back from the water, and you’re ready to go.
Stop, slow down, and take a good look around.
What does the shoreline look like? How quickly does the water get deep?
Where is there cover for prey and likely ambush by predators? Where is there structure that might be holding fish?
Where would you begin?
Assess, assess, and assess.
Now it’s time to come up with a game plan.
You can tell the difference between a novice and a veteran on the first cast.
It’s not how well they manage to chunk that lure, but rather where that matters.
A novice angler just sees water. What do you see ?
Experienced anglers approach their stretch of shoreline having taken a good look at what it has to offer. They’ll typically start with a few long parallel casts down either side, looking for shallow fish.
Then, they’ll start working any cover or structure they can see, methodically breaking the water in front of them into sections to fish in turn.
Finally, they’ll work any points, drop-offs, or holes they spot.
And when they finish, they’ll move, starting the whole process over at the next likely place.
Finally, consider investing in a castable fishfinder like those offered by Deeper.
This tech has come into its own now, and when paired with your mobile, it is simply a sight to behold. Armed with a good fishfinder, you can locate the submerged structure and cover that holds fish, locate schools of prey, and target the big predators who are there to feed on them.
This is an invaluable tool for anglers who fish from the bank a lot.
I don’t mind bank fishing at all, at least not once I learned a few tricks to improve my odds!
I hope you feel the same way, and I’d love to hear that this article gave you a few new tips to try the next time you go fishing.
As always, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below and don't forget to check out the rest of our fishing tips!