There’s something special about bass fishing from the bank. Whether it’s the primitive feeling of pine straw and grass crunching beneath one’s boots or the freedom to explore virgin waters full of potential trophy bass, one thing is absolutely certain—it’s some of the most fun an outdoorsman can possibly have.
But bass anglers have an inherent urge to stockpile tackle. If we think the bass may be eating a specific bait, guess what? We’re not bringing one pack. We might as well bring 5 packs just in case. This sounds innocent enough, but this thought process can snowball and get out of hand in a hurry. Before we know it, we look like a pack mule trudging the banks.
As I always say, mobility is a major key to successful bank fishing. An inability to efficiently maneuver the shoreline can hurt both the quantity and quality of your catch.
To avoid this common problem, consider a simple three-worm system for bank fishing. Instead of backpacks, fanny packs and bulky tackle boxes full of excess gear, this particular system can fit in the back pockets of your blue jeans. These worms, along with a pack of hooks, a few weights and your favorite rod will free yourself to wander the banks to your heart’s content.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 pack of ribbon tail worms
- 1 pack of floating worms
- 1 pack of stick worms
- 1 pack of 3/0 of offset round bend worm hooks or offset EWG worm hooks
- A few 1/8-ounce tungsten worm weights
Texas-rigged ribbon tail worm
This might just be the most popular bass fishing rig known to man and there’s a darn good reason—it consistently produces huge bass, regardless of the conditions or time of year. Whenever you’re fishing from the bank, however, it can act as much more than an effective fish catcher. It also doubles as a rudimentary depth finder.
Bass relate heavily to depth changes and cover throughout the entire year, so it’s important that anglers are aware of even the slightest depressions, rises or pieces of cover in a particular fishery. When you find these key areas, you’ll often find a concentration of bass.
A Texas-rigged ribbon tail worm, such as a YUM Ribbontail Worm can be your best friend in this regard. With just a 1/8-ounce worm weight, you’re able to maintain constant bottom contact and feel for those ever important depth changes. Not only will it help you detect key structure, but it will also draw plenty of strikes from the bank.
- Suitable bottom contact and efficiency— An 1/8-ounce weight may seem a little light to some anglers, but there’s a reason why I choose this particular size. If you’re bank fishing in smaller ponds, you’ll run into a lot of rotten debris along the bottom such as pine straw, leaves or, quite simply, trash. While a heavier weight would, in fact, increase your feel of the bottom, it can also make it nearly impossible to present your worm in a natural fashion due to trash build-up. This lighter weight serves as a happy medium because it provides appropriate bottom contact and keeps your worm on top of any nasty trash you might find on the bottom.
- Reconnaissance strategy— This will quickly turn into your “search and destroy” rig, if you will. Start by making 45-degree casts from the bank, as this angle will give you a broad survey of any nearby depth changes. You’re basically gridding the area with each cast landing within a few feet of your previous one. Each time you feel something different—whether it’s a depth change, stump or submerged log, make a mental note or even lay a stick on the ground for a visual reference. If you don’t get bit, don’t worry. You can return to the area with one of your other worm presentations to fish it more thoroughly.
- How to retrieve it— Simplicity is beauty when it comes to retrieving a traditional Texas rig. Once your worm reaches the bottom, slowly lift your rod tip to drag the bait towards you. Use your reel to retrieve slack line as you lower your rod tip and repeat the process. Remember, you should only be moving the worm with your rod, not your reel.
- What a bite feels like— The aggressiveness of the bite will change depending upon the mood of the bass. Sometimes you’ll feel a “tick, tick”, other times you’ll feel a “thump” and there are instances in which you’ll simply see your line swimming to the side. So here’s a good rule of thumb: If it feels “different”, set the hook. Hooksets are free!
Wacky-rigged stick worm
This is certainly one of the most effective bank fishing rigs you can use. You’re basically hooking a stick worm, such as a Yamamoto Senko, in the middle to achieve an enticing parabolic bend. It looks crazy, hence the name, but it works wonders when you’re walking the shoreline.
Because this is a weightless rig, it enters the water with very little splash which makes it ideal for dissecting shallow areas. That’s not to say you can’t catch ‘em in deeper water with a slower retrieve, but it tends to shine brightest when targeting spooky, shallow bass.
- Target presentation— The wacky rig is predominately a vertical presentation. In other words, it’s tough to cover water quickly with it. So this is what you can use for pinpoint casts towards key structure and cover you previously found with your Texas-rigged ribbon tail worm.
- Beware of heavy cover— The hook point of a wacky rig is exposed, which unfortunately means you’ll encounter some snags from time to time. You can, however, use weedless wacky hooks but again, we’re shooting for simplicity in this article.
- How to retrieve it— After a long cast—you don’t want to spook the bass by walking to closely to it—you’ll simply allow your wacky rig to sink on a totally slack line. Once it reaches the bottom, slowly lift your rod tip and incorporate very small twitches. There’s no need for dramatic rod movement. 99 percent of your bites will occur as the worm is falling on slack line, so try to let the worm do most of the work.
- What a bite feels like— You’ll occasionally feel the trademark “tick, tick” or “thump” of a big largemouth on the other end, but more times than not you’ll see your bite before you ever feel it. Pay close attention to your line throughout your retrieve and when you see your slack line jump or begin moving to the side, it’s time to set the hook.
Weightless floating worm
This is the third and final part of your simple three-worm bank fishing system. Again, this is a very popular rigging method with which many of you are likely familiar. The name can actually be a bit deceiving because in all honesty, most floating worms don’t actually float—they simply sink very slowly.
A weightless Texas-rigged floating worm such as a Zoom Trick Worm or 6.5-inch Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Finesse Worm can be tremendously effective when you’re targeting the most active bass in a particular body of water. You can fish them quickly on the surface and draw some exciting reaction strikes or, if the action is a bit slow, fish them similarly to a wacky rig.
- Parallel the bank— When bass are positioned close to the bank, they’re generally there to feed, making them an easy target for bank anglers. Before you get too close and spook them while you’re fishing with your ribbon tail worm and stick worm, it’s always a good idea to make long casts parallel each shoreline you’re able to access. This is a fairly fast and furious approach, but it can pay big dividends when you first arrive to the lake. In boating terms, you’re essentially putting your trolling motor—otherwise known as your feet—on its maximum speed and covering water. This allows you to pick the “low-hanging fruit” before the bass even know you’re there.
- Loud colors— Bright colors such as pink, orange and white are very popular for this technique. While they certainly draw reaction strikes from the bass, they also help the angler detect bites quickly. Don’t completely rule out more natural colors, but if you’re new to it, the “louder” colors will help you learn how the worm reacts to different rod movements. Once you’re comfortable with it, that’s when you might want to be a little more creative with your color selection.
- Lowlight conditions—This rig tends to shine in lowlight, overcast conditions. The bass won’t be positioned as tightly to cover, which makes them more prone to chase a fast-moving floating worm worked near the surface.
- How to retrieve it— To “dance” your floating worm near the surface, make a long cast and engage your reel right when the worm hits the water. Then you’ll make sharp, downward twitches of your rod tip to make the worm dart and dash from side-to-side. Remember, you’re not pulling the bait, you’re aggresively twitching it. If the bass don’t respond, you can utilize the same retrieve, except on a more subtle level by incorporating periodic pauses throughout the retrieve.
- What a bite feels like— There will be times when you start to twitch your floating worm, you’ll already feel tension on the end of the line, which means the bass bit as it was paused. But it’s not at all uncommon to see a boil right beneath the surface. When this happens, resist the urge to get into a “feeling contest” with the bass. Even if you don’t feel the bite, go ahead and set the hook.
The next time you hit the banks of your favorite pond or lake, make an effort to try this simple worm fishing system. You can certainly enjoy bank fishing success with other soft plastic shapes and hard lures, but if you prefer to embrace the simplicity of bass fishing, this is an excellent way to stay efficient, mobile and light on your feet.