Bank Fishing Guide

I remember bank fishing as a kid. I remember how much fun it was to patrol the banks for bass. Sometimes with real worms, other times with plastics.

Now, with kids of my own, bank fishing is even more fun. After years of analyzing banks around ponds and roadside canals, it has become an art.

This guide will show you basic and advanced tips and tricks on how to be a successful bank angler. We’ll cover mainly freshwater bank fishing for bass and panfish, but many of the tactics here can be applied to other types of fishing. 

Life can be tough for bank anglers as you may be confronted by angry homeowners, security guards, or even aggressive geese. Some may not understand that anglers are usually great stewards of the environment.  I’ll cover how to make sure that we maintain our image and conservationists. 

Finding Bank Fishing Opportunities

A key problem that faces bank anglers is finding good bank fishing spots. While there may be many locations that fit the bill, if you fish in areas that are heavily populated, you may have to deal with highly pressured fish which makes even the best-looking spots unproductive to basic fishing tactics.

Sometimes, you see local ponds practically surrounded by anglers. This can make it hard to catch anything without live bait. Or, if you catch anything, all that may be left are small dinky bass or tiny bluegills.

Don’t worry. 

There are tactics you can employ to help increase your odds. Of course, it will take a bit of extra dedication. But if you want out of the ordinary results, you need to put in the effort.

One simple way to improve your odds is to get away from the crowd.

You may think this means traveling long distances but it’s not necessary. You could choose a different time of day, day of week, etc., then what is popular. Getting away from the crowd can mean that you’re out there when others are not. 

Early Morning Bank Fishing

A great tactic is to show up an hour before sunrise. Taking advantage of the early morning bite can help you catch fish before anyone else is out of bed. 

If you can fish early on a weekday, that’s even better. Wednesday morning, an hour before sunrise can be a prime time for fishing just about anywhere. 

Nighttime Bank Fishing

Another tactic is night fishing. On hot summer nights, you can walk the banks of public waters and have a better chance at hooking up.

The night can disguise your presence and make it more likely you’ll get a bite. Also, some bass are more likely to be active during the nighttime hours. 

Bad Weather Bank Fishing

When everyone else in hiding out in their homes, you might just catch a big one. When there is light rain in the forecast, it can be great for bank fishing. The rain can dramatically reduce the fishing pressure. It can also help disguise presentations. These two factors can result in less cautious fish and more bites.

When there is rain, be sure to bring appropriate rain gear. And don’t go if there is lightning in the area or in the forecast. Make sure to follow safety precautions. Banks may be slippery and there is a risk of falling.

Remote Bank Fishing 

Finally, we’ll talk about how rewarding bank fishing can be. Getting away from pressured areas can help in more ways than one. Not only can you find better fishing grounds, but you’ll get the benefits of being out in nature. 

You may have to drive a long distance to find remote quiet waters and if you don’t have a boat, it may seem like it’s not worth it. But, remember that you can combine other activities with your fishing trip. 

If you like camping, hiking or just being out in nature, your fishing trip can become an adventure.

I remember when I was a teenager, I drove about an hour away from Miami and found a nice quiet canal in the Everglades. I realized that I could walk the bank for hours because it was fairly clear of obstructions. It was January, but it was warm in South Florida. I caught my personal best Largemouth Bass up to that point. Needless to say, it was a great experience.

Bank Fishing Trip Planning and Bank Fishing Accessibility

One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re going to take a long trip for some bank fishing action, you’ll want to make sure you can fish from the bank. 

Some remote lakes and rivers can have little to no bank access. Trees and brush can make it difficult to access the bank. Hills and bluffs can also complicate things. Additionally, weeds and other aquatic vegetation can also frustrate your bank fishing effort.

So, before you go, you might want to do some research. The satellite view on Google maps can be your friend here. Scoping out a location for bank fishing opportunities can help you determine if you’ll be able to fish.

Look for ground that isn’t too steep and is not covered with trees. It may be hard to see this from an overhead view. But if there are paths on the shoreline that extend away as park or wilderness trails, this may be a good clue. 

Regardless, actually going there may be the only way to be 100% sure. 

If you have waders, this can also be a way to access water that you would otherwise not get to. For this to work though, you’d need shallow water. If you do this, don’t forget to wear a personal flotation device and follow all rules and safety precautions.

Analyzing Banks For Fishing Opportunities

One of the most popular structures for bass anglers are points. These are pointy strips of land that jut out into a lake or river. These can be ideal spots for bank anglers.

As long as you can walk the bank, points are a great place for casting out and letting your lure probe the sloping bottoms.

On the banks, you’ll of course need to watch out for weed lines that hug close to the shoreline. These could make it difficult to retrieve your lure or a fish. Some weeds, however, can be a huge plus.

Bank Fishing In Weeds

If you come upon a nice looking bank but there are matted weeds extending out, don’t despair. These tucked in spots can often hold some big bass. Flipping heavy weights with soft plastics can be a great way to catch them. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need some heavy gear and braided line. I would recommend a heavy power fast action rod with at least 50 lb. braid.

You don’t need to worry about a leader so long as you use a dark-colored braid. The weedy filaments should do a good job of disguising your line.

Combine that with a heavy bullet sinker weighing at least 1/2 ounce.

Use a strong hook. Whether it’s an EWG (Extra Wide Gap) or a regular worm hook, that is really a matter of preference. 

You’ll want to rig your soft plastic lure Texas Style. 

This will ensure that you don’t get hung up on the weeds. If you need more info on how to set up a Texas Rig, check out my Texas Rig Guide.

When it’s time to select a soft plastic lure there are a few popular choices. The main ones are plastic worms, crawdads, creature baits and lizards. Get yourself some of each or start off with worms. 

Once you’ve learned how to make a Texas Rig you’ll be ready to start punching into weed beds.

Try to determine the depth under the weeds, if possible. You don’t want to be dropping your lure in just a couple of inches of water.

If there is matted vegetation, you should still be able to feel your lure sinking to the bottom. A good tactic for this is to bring your lure back up about halfway and shake it.

Of course, sometimes, your lure never makes it to the bottom because it gets intercepted by a hungry bass. It can be hard to detect strikes like these.

Try to keep some contact with your line as the lure falls. You want to make it look like it’s falling naturally. It takes some practice, but you’ll get the hang of it.

When you’re bank fishing, and the shoreline you’re working is very weedy, it pays to look for changes. Look for areas where the weeds stop and a rocky shoreline starts. Other examples:

-A tree that has fallen down into the water.

-A boulder that is half in the water and half out. These can be great in cold weather. They transmit heat from sunlight into the water.

-Changes in the types of weeds can also be a clue.

You can also look for small baitfish or bream that may be jumping around in the weed beds as they’re chased by predators.

Bank Fishing Rock Areas

If weeds aren’t a problem, then you should be able to make deep presentations with no problem. You can try jigs, worms, or even deep-diving crankbaits.

Don’t be afraid to get out there on the end of the point and cast out as far as you can.

You may be afraid of losing your lure on submerged timber. If so, start out with a lure that’s relatively inexpensive. For example, a jig head with a soft plastic craw can be a lure that you’re willing to risk losing. You can use this to scope out the bottom. You’ll learn whether there are big boulders or small chunk rock. If there’s standing timber with thin limbs, you should be able to feel that as well. 

Once you get a good feel for a location, you can come back and check it out with other lures like deep-diving cranks or jerkbaits. 

Some of these lures can get quite expensive. So, it helps to know what kind of structure and cover you’re dealing with. Another way to get this info is to use a castable fish finder. I’ll cover those in the gear section below.

Overall, any lure that you can use to bump off of rocks is a good idea. When a lure deflects off of a rock, it can really trigger bass to strike.

Of course in the winter, you’ll want to slow that bumping action down to a crawl. A good crawdad imitation crawling the bottom slowly can illicit strikes at any time of year.

Bank Fishing Gear

Bank fishing gear isn’t very specialized, but there are a few items that can make your trip easier. One key piece of equipment is a good backpack. It’s not required, of course, but there are fishing specific backpacks available. These can be bought pre-loaded with tackle boxes. 

Having a dedicated fishing backpack can really make your bank trips better. Check out my best fishing backpack review here.

If you’re going to be fishing lakes or rivers with shallow areas, think about waders. Waders can be an inexpensive way to seriously extend your fishing areas. They’ll help you get away from trees so you can comfortably cast.

You’ll also be able to cover water. You can walk for miles along river banks or cover large amounts of lake shoreline.

Of course, you want to make sure you’re being safe, so wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) if you’re near a dropoff and follow all safety precautions and regulations.

When it comes to other bank fishing gear, one thing you might want to consider is the length of your rods.

Remember that shorter rods will help you make more accurate casts that are easier to make under tree branches. Some bank fishing opportunities can have close overhanging limbs. So, keep this in mind when selecting gear.

Other options you might want to look into are bait buckets with built-in aerators. These are great if you want to keep minnows or other baitfish alive when you’re venturing out.

Finally, there are some additional important pieces of gear that will be useful no matter where you are fishing.

If you’re fishing from the bank, you’ll likely be doing some sight fishing and a good pair of polarized glasses can be invaluable. These will help you see all sorts of things under the surface. Spotting baitfish, predators waiting in ambush can help you target your casts.  Polarized glasses can also help you spot structures such as logs and boulders. 

Sunglasses also protect your eyes from UV rays. Speaking of sun protection, don’t forget a hat and consider wearing clothing that will also protect you from UV rays.

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