Bank fishing for bass is incredibly fun and it also gives anglers of all skill levels a legitimate chance to catch the fish of a lifetime. Whether you’re a bank angler by choice or circumstance, you don’t need a boat or a huge selection of tackle to find bass—a little knowledge and the will to experiment is all that’s necessary.
Although I own a bass boat, I spend a considerable amount of time bank fishing. After a lot of tinkering and continuous experimentation, I’ve developed a very simple system that will help you locate and catch bass quickly. It’s not full of technical terms or complicated theories—just basic tactics that have allowed me to have a bunch of fun with friends and family.
Versatility means mobility
If you’re not adequately prepared to bank fish, you’re putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage. It’s important to understand, however, that I’m not suggesting buying the entire fishing aisle of your local tackle shop. That’s not necessary. Instead, just focus on a few essential things.
Most of us are guilty of over-packing for an afternoon fishing trip, but mobility is key when you’re bank fishing. Because you’re walking the shoreline, packing light will allow you to move and adapt quickly to changing conditions. I’ll usually bring about three rods that can be used for a number of different techniques.
Mornings and evenings are very productive
I’ve caught some big bass from the bank in the middle of the day, but both my quantity and quality increases in lowlight periods such as mornings and evenings. We’re all busy folks, so it makes sense to optimize our chances when we can finally get away and fish for a few hours.
In bright, sunny conditions, bass tend to position very tightly to cover such as wood, grass and even rocks. Because we have a limited area to fish from the bank, sometimes this cover is out of casting distance, making it difficult to effectively target these already lethargic midday bass.
Bass “roam” a lot more in lowlight conditions, which can put more bass within casting distance. They’ll often feed in shallow water close to the shoreline, making them very accessible.
Choose high-percentage areas
It can be fun and sometimes productive trudging through the woods to find that secret bank fishing honey hole, but this tactic will severely limit your opportunities. We can’t fire up our boat engines and move to a new spot, so it’s important to choose areas that allow you to move efficiently and cover water quickly.
I think of it like this: If I pick a small spot from which to bank fish, there will likely be a small population of bass in that area. I can only cast so far, so my chances of getting those fish to bite are relatively small. When I choose a large stretch of bank that’s easy to traverse, however, I’m giving myself access to a much larger population of fish. If I don’t get a bite within a few casts, I can simply move down the bank a few feet and fish some new water. The ability to cover water quickly will drastically increase your success.
Subtle break lines produce big bass
It happens more often than we’d like to admit—you’re in an area with sexy blowdowns and good-looking cover everywhere and you cannot buy a bite. You try every tactic you can possibly think of without any luck whatsoever. So what’s up? Why aren’t the bass there?
The more obvious the cover is, the more fishing pressure it gets. The more fishing pressure a specific spot receives, the more wary and educated the bass will be.
To catch big bass that other folks are leaving behind, target subtle break lines, or areas in which the water depth changes. These break lines often create an edge on which bass love to position. Most banks will have a few feet of shallow water with a gradual taper into deeper water and bass use these depth changes for several reasons.
Understand the pecking order
I am by no means a biologist, but I believe that groups of bass follow a “pecking order” when feeding. When I’m fishing in areas with groups of bass, I frequently catch my biggest fish within the first few casts, followed by smaller fish on subsequent casts.
This is why it’s very important to make your first few casts count. Before hitting your best area, go ahead and get your backlashes and bad casts out of your system—one bad cast can derail your chances of catching a giant. Make a few practice casts on the bank first to make sure you’re ready to go. It sounds silly but in my experience it really works.
Don’t overpressure the juice
Whether I’m bank fishing or guiding trips from my boat, I refer to my best areas as “the juice”. And I do everything in my power to avoid fishing the juice too much. Bass become accustomed to seeing the same baits and lures on a regular basis and, in turn, won’t bite nearly as well. This has happened to my “juice pond” this year.
Last year, I could have guaranteed you’d catch a 6 to 8-pounder each trip to this pond—it really was that ridiculous. However, an increase in fishing pressure this year has totally jacked up the bass. They’re still there, but the darn things won’t bite. Now I can only catch small ones and the only solution is to let it rest.
You’re reading this article, so I know you love fishing. But take it from someone who’s dealing with the consequences this year—don’t fish your favorite bank fishing spots or ponds too much. Your results will suffer.
Instead, try to find other bank fishing opportunities. It can be hard because a few irresponsible anglers can ruin it for the good guys, but it’s important to have options. I won’t fish a pond more than one time every two or three weeks and it pays off big time. Here are some things I’ve done to gain permission to more private ponds.
If you’re looking for an excellent way to catch big bass and get away from the crowds, bank fishing is a great choice. If you can keep your gear versatile, stay mobile, fish the overlooked areas and manage your fishing pressure effectively, you’ll have a heck of a time and learn a lot about bass behavior.