What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of bass fishing? Fast, flashy boats full of top-of-the-line gear? Sure, that’s how lots of anglers chase bass, but it’s not how it has to be. In fact, some of the best bass fishing can be done from shore. It’s no coincidence that you see anglers in boats fishing shorelines.
Fishing from shore is bass fishing in its simplest form, which is a big reason why thousands of bass anglers across the country chase bass from the bank.
Whatever your reason for shore fishing, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide to fishing for bass from shore.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 Understanding Seasonal Bass Habits to Fish From Shore
- 2 Covering Water
- 3 Having The Right Gear
- 4 Some Other Quick Tips For Fishing For Bass From Shore
- 5 Final Thoughts
- Best Bass Lures for Shore Fishing
- Pond Fishing For Bass
- Bass Fishing in The Rain
- How To Catch Suspended Bass
Understanding Seasonal Bass Habits to Fish From Shore
The single most important factor in being successful at catching bass from shore is knowing where they’ll be. Location is going to change from season to season, so it’s important to understand fish habits by season in order to be able to find them.
Spring is spawning season for bass: a time when bass transition from their deep water winter holds to shallow waters. This is true for both smallmouth and largemouth bass, and it’s a time of year when you might get into a mixed bag.
Bass are typically going to look for areas of hard bottom with some sort of cover nearby, whether that's emerging weeds, downed trees, or rock piles they can tuck themselves into. Bass won’t always be holding to that cover in the spring, especially when spawning, but they won't be far from it.
Many would consider this one of the best times of the year to be fishing from shore, and that's hard to dispute. Shallow, aggressive fish make for an easy catch, but that also makes them very vulnerable. That’s why many areas have regulations that close the season during the spawn. If heading out in the spring, be sure to check the local fishing regulations to make sure it’s legal.
Spring bass can be aggressive, and lots of different lures can catch fish, but it's a good idea to use a quicker presentation. Burning aspinnerbait like the Booyah Pond Magic is a good option, as you can work it quickly and cover lots of water.
As the spawn comes to an end and the water starts warming up, bass will begin transitioning into their summer patterns. Many shore anglers start getting discouraged as summer approaches, assuming that it's time for the bass to head to deeper waters. While this can be the case, it isn’t a guarantee.
What bass are doing this time of year is escaping the warm summer sun, and while that might mean moving into deep water, it can also mean finding cover. Thick vegetation, overhangs, deadfalls, and lily pads are all places bass can seek refuge from the warm day. The best part? Those areas are close to shore.
Of course, there will come a time when the water temperature is too much for bass to handle and they’ll seek out the stability of deeper water. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely out of reach. Many lakes have deep water points and drop-offs that are still accessible from shore, so don’t let the thought of deep water deter you.
Bass will also move from that deep water into the shallow water close to shore to feed during low light, making early morning or evening prime time to be bank fishing.
With fish tucked in heavy cover, this is the perfect time to be fishing a topwater frog like the Strike King KVD Sexy Frog. Working a frog over heavy cover can be one of the most exciting ways to catch summer bass.
When it comes to fall bass, finding the bait can be key. This can sometimes be easier said than done without the aid of some good electronics, but it’s not impossible. In fact, shore anglers have an advantage that often goes overlooked: current. Baitfish are drawn to inlets that have water flowing into them from creeks or streams, and bass will follow.
In lakes where bass feed primarily on crawfish, you can find them cruising rocky shorelines, picking them off before the water gets too cold.
Bass, both smallmouth and largemouth, will also hold onto warm water as long as possible and can be found close to shore, soaking up heat from the rocky bottom as much as they can. While an approach like this may not be as effective as fishing creek mouths, it’s usually good for a fish or two.
With fall being a transition period, it’s possible to catch bass on just about anything, but remember that they’re following baitfish. If those baitfish are in shallower water, try casting a minnow bait like Rapala’s Original Floating Minnow. If they’re out a little deeper, then a crankbait like the Shad Rap might be a better option.
Winter can be a tough time to catch bass, and if you’re shore fishing, it can be even more so. But don’t get discouraged. Your catch rate might drop, but bass aren’t impossible to catch from shore in the winter.
Bass will move deep and get very lethargic in the winter, so if you have access to deeper water from shore, that’s where you should start. Finesse is best when fishing deep water from shore, and a drop shot rig with a Zoom Super Fluke is an easy and effective way to entice lethargic bass.
If you don’t have easy access to deeper water, then you should plan your day according to the weather. A couple of sunny, calm days are going to warm the water. In the winter, a change of a degree or two can make a big difference in how the fish behave and can see them moving up closer to shore to hang out in the warmer water.
While they’re still not as active as they would be in the warmer months, they can be more active than the fish holding out deep, which is why we like throwing jerkbaits. The key here is drastically slowing the presentation down. A quick hard jerk followed by a long pause is key. The Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue is perfect for this. It offers the right balance of flash and rattle to entice winter bass.
Covering water from shore is a lot different than from a boat. Fishing bass from a boat, especially when fishing shallow, can be a run-and-gun style. A few casts without a fish and you’re off to the next spot. Sore fishing isn’t like that. You may only be fishing a couple of spots a day, so it’s important to be methodical at each.
Fan casting is something you see professional bass anglers doing all of the time. From the bow of the boat, they fan out their casting pattern, covering as much water as possible in a short amount of time.
Shore anglers can use the same technique, although not so much to cover water quickly, but to cover as much water as possible from a single standing position. Repeat that a couple of times and the results aren’t what you’re after, change your lure, not your location. Fish an area methodically with at least a couple of options before moving on.
Casting Parallel To The Shore
While fan casting is a great way of covering water from shore, you should cast parallel to the shore more than casting out. This is something that just can’t be done from a boat. All day long, fish see lures working from the shore out, or even towards shore, but rarely are they seeing them working along the shoreline. More often than not, it's a good trigger because it’s different.
Casting parallel will also keep you fishing the right water longer. If you’ve already done your fan casting and aren’t having any action out further, then that's a good indication that the fish are hanging out in the shallow water close to shore and following the bank keeps you there.
Fish The Bank Side of Cover
Fishing the side of cover closest to the bank is next to impossible for a boat angler in most situations. Even if it’s possible, many will avoid it out of fear of getting hung up.
A lot of pressure will push fish up into that cover and away from what they perceive as a threat, leaving them vulnerable from the bank side. Again, this is something that should be covered methodically. Just because they don’t hit right away doesn’t mean the bass aren’t there. It might just mean that they’re a little wearier of what's happening around them. Try showing them a couple of different things like a jig or a jerkbait to coax them out of hiding.
Fish Deep Edges and Pockets
If there are deep edges or pockets within reach, they must be fished, especially during transition periods where fish might be moving from shallow to deep water and vice versa. These areas can be relatively easy to spot from shore by the lack of surface vegetation. If the water goes from having lots of vegetation to not having any, chances are it's because of a deeper edge or pocket.
Fish can cruise along deeper edges all day, waiting to ambush pods of baitfish and having the comfort of cover close by. These spots aren’t going to be as easily accessible from shore as shallow water areas, but they shouldn’t be passed up if they're within reach.
Having The Right Gear
Packing light is the only way to go when fishing from shore. Who wants to be lugging tons of gear from spot to spot? Because you’re packing light, you want to make everything count.
A Rod And Reel
It is entirely possible to fish from shore with a single bass rod and reel combo, but not something we recommend. We’re not saying you need something for every presentation or situation like you might have in the boat with you, but it's a good idea to have a spinning combo for lighter finesse fishing, and a casting combo for fishing heavy cover and bigger lures. Of course, if you only plan on fishing one of those two ways, then leave a rod at home, but it’s a good idea to have two set ups just in case.
For a baitcasting combo, something in the 7 to 7 ½ foot range with a medium heavy action like the St. Croix Premier Casting rod is going to be ideal. A rod like this will have the ability to fish multiple techniques and lures from topwater frogs to jigs and swimbaits and still have the power to be able to horse big fish out of heavy cover.
On the rod, there should be a low-profile reel with a gear ratio of 7.1:1 or higher. Casting reels can get a little pricey, but the Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 is a great reel at an entry-level price. A higher gear ratio reel like this makes it easier to fish fast, like when burning a spinnerbait or buzzbait for aggressive spring bass. Pair that reel with 30 to 40 pound braid for the power to horse fish away from or out of cover. Personally, I like going with the lightest braid I can get away with. The lighter the line, the easier it is to cast. Again, for abrasion resistance, add a fluorocarbon leader, but something heavier than with the spinning combo. A leader in the 10 to 15 pound range will cover most situations.
For the spinning rod, I love fishing something long. A rod in the 7 ½-foot to 8-foot range like St. Croix Mojo Bass rod is going to cover most situations. A rod that long is going to do a few things for you. First, it's going to help make longer casts, even with lighter lures. Second, those casts are going to be more accurate with a longer rod. Third, in areas tighter to shore, the extra length is going to let you reach out and place your presentation right in front of fish that you may not be able to cast to.
The reel is more of a personal preference than anything else, and any quality spinning reel for bass is going to work as long as it matches well with the rod. I’ll spool the reel with a 15 pound braid for its casting ability. Added to that should then be a 6 to 10 pound fluorocarbon leader, not only for its invisibility to the fish, but for its abrasion resistance.
Check our reviews of our favorite bass fishing rods as well as our favorite bass fishing reels
Stashing a few tackle trays in a backpack is so much easier than carrying around a bulky tackle bag. My biggest mistake when I first started using a backpack was choosing one that was way too big. The idea of bigger being better meant I could stuff it with all kinds of goodies. Not the best plan, and after a long day on the water, my body was reminding me of just how bad an idea it was.
Keep it as light and as simple as possible. A backpack with enough room for a couple of tackle trays, some spare fishing line and a couple of tools is really all you need, although it would be a bonus to be able to fit a lunch in there too.
Check out reviews of our favorite tackle bags
A Good Pair of Polarized Sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses are a must when shore fishing. Being able to see in the water is going to help you find cover, figure out what kind of bottom structure you have, and even find fish. I’ve also had, on more than one occasion, my sunglasses act as safety glasses, blocking a flying lure from impaling my eye. Rain or shine, dawn or dusk, polarized glasses are essential.
See our recommendations for fishing sunglasses
A Landing Net
I can’t count on one hand how many big fish I’ve lost right at the bank because I was struggling to get a hold of them. It took me way too long, but eventually I learned my lesson and now carry a net everywhere I go. To save the trouble of having to carry one around, I recommend a collapsible, folding net that can either fit inside of or clip to your backpack.
Here are the best fishing nets available today
Some Other Quick Tips For Fishing For Bass From Shore
- Approach the bank with caution. There's a high chance the fish you’re after is going to be sitting close to the shoreline you're about to fish. Approach as silently as you can, and if possible, try not to cast a shadow. Bass are very sensitive and will see and hear you long before you get close to them.
- Be thorough. Shore fishing for bass isn’t a race. Take your time and thoroughly cover an area. Once you’ve covered it, change lures and cover it again.
- Be mindful of the weather. Not only does weather affect fish behavior, but it can quickly turn a fun day on the water into an awful and possibly dangerous one. Always be aware of what the weather is currently doing and what it’s about to do, and prepare accordingly.
- Take advantage of docks and piers. Public access docks and piers and going to get you out to deeper water and they can provide cover for big bass.
Despite what many of us believe, you don’t need a big fancy boat and a bunch of high-tech gear to catch a lot of bass. Whether fishing from the bank, a pier, or a dock, shore fishing for bass is just a great way to catch bass, but it’s a lot of fun.
If you’re just starting out bass fishing or looking for a way to change things up, we hope we were able to help with your shore fishing success. Let us know if we were by leaving us a comment!