So I’ve learned over the years that there are tremendous fishing opportunities all around. As someone who travels a lot, I have found myself trying to find fishing near me wherever my travels take me. When I’m home, I certainly enjoy fishing from my Xpress Pro 21 with all the modern conveniences. But I’m equally at home walking the banks of a neighborhood lake, wading a nearby river, and casting a fly in shallow rocky streams. So I thought I’d share a bunch of shore fishing tips to help others faced with similar opportunities.
I reached out to a bunch of anglers that also bank fish a lot and even opened up the question to our Facebook community to see where their favorite places to fish from shore were. There’s a bunch of good suggestions on where to fish from the bank, what to throw shore fishing, what kind of gear you need and a whole lot more.
Where to Fish from Shore
So let’s take a look at some of the top places to consistently look for and catch freshwater fish from the shore. While not every single instance of the suggestions on the list will be a hot spot all the time, there are some that are and there will be a time where each of these near you will hold fish. Most of what your doing with shore fishing location is trying to choose places that maximize your chances to find fish and then catching them is up to you.
- Local ponds
- Streams / Creeks nearby
- Rip Rap
- Boat Ramps
- Docks / Marinas
- Obvious Cover
- Other man-made structures (seawalls, wing dams)
- Local ponds / neighborhood or city lakes
A great shore fishing option for those that have access to a nearby pond, these small bodies of water can hold some good fish and are easy to fish usually in a few hours. I’ve fished trophy bluegill ponds, trophy crappie ponds and caught giant bass in small ponds. Many are open to the public and off the beaten path.
They are generally pretty easy to fish. Target the obvious cover. Use downsized lures. Cast parallel to fish holding areas instead of always out in the middle. We have a nice primer for pond fishing that covers more details on how to get bit on ponds.
Spillways offer a lot of the variables you look for when fishing from the shore. You want pinch points or bottle necks that fish have to funnel through going in and out of other areas. A spillway is usually a necked down river coming out of a larger body of water. It also offers current which oxygenates and cools the water and makes baitfish and game fish more apt to be in this area.
The current can put fish in predictable area because they will either be actively feeding where baitfish are disoriented by the flow or just tucked out of it waiting to jump out at prey. So places where the current is blocked like eddies, large rocks, wing dams, rip rap jut outs, deeper holes can make predicting where the fish will be below a spillway easier. Focus on lures that will swim consistently in the current but not be so heavy that they are snagging in the rocks.
Streams Creeks Rivers
Streams, creeks and rivers always have predictable areas to find fish shore or wade fishing. Focus on creek turns, current breaks, deeper pools above and below shallow runs, obvious cover that breaks up the current and gives fish ambush areas. When learning how to fish creeks, learn to read the water. Deeper pockets that could hold better fish, current ambush points, natural and man made current breaks and then choose the best lures to exploit those areas.
Bridges, Dams and Rip Rap
Fishing around bridges, dams and other man made structures offer a lot of the same opportunities. These can be current breaks, deeper water, and rip rap rock. Rip rap offers heat in the winter, plus lots of places for prey to hide and gamefish to feed.
Even anglers that fish from boats, frequent these areas and a lot of times I have had more success bank fishing in these areas than boat fishing because I focus all of my attention on this one area and slow down and learn every little detail that could hold a bass.
I have had a lot of success bass fishing around bridges, dams and rip rap with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, light jigs, swimbaits and tubes.
Boat Ramps, Marinas, and Docks
Another type of manmade structure that often hold fish are found around docks and marinas and include the docks themselves, the cleared out areas around marinas (that often translate into great spawning locations, and even the ramps themselves.
On a lot of fisheries, the boat ramp pattern is a legit one in the prespawn period and you can run around and fish several of these in a day by vehicle rather than by boat.
This takes a little more research and ground work for sure, and you need to be sure where you are fishing is permitted a lot of docks near boat ramps are off limits to fishing because people are often in the water loading and unloading boats and jet skis. So make sure before hand that fishing is allowed around the docks and ramps you fish.
When to Fish from Shore
You can maximize your shore fishing with a little bit of timing and planning around best windows. There are four factors that I think can make shore fishing just a bit better.
Fishing from the bank in the spring is going to generally be a lot better than fishing from the bank in the dead of summer or the dead of winter. I say this because a large majority of bank fishing opportunities are nearer to shallow water than deeper water. So when the fish are shallow like they are in the spring and fall, your chances go up significantly for catching fish from shore.
I have several friends who slay bass and crappie by going when the light is low. I know some guys that will fill 5 gallon buckets by waiting until the sun starts setting to go fish from the bank for crappie at certain times of the year like the fall. They fish will come to the bank at that last hour and feed on bugs and minnows along the shore and you can get right in a hurry.
Same on overcast days. Fish will be more active and roaming a lot more and your chances of finding more fish closer to the bank will be in these low light times.
Generally speaking, you are going to have a lot more fishing success and opportunity when you shore fish when the water temps are in those milder ranges. When the water is really hot or really cold. The fish are going to be driven deep or to shade or other protections. And your opportunities go down quite a bit. You have to adapt to water temps when shore fishing. If the water is super hot, seek out deeper or shaded waters to fish. Or go later or earlier before the water gets hot or cools off.
A lot of great catches can be had at night. In the summer, I’ve had a bunch of good days fishing from shore at night. You have to adapt your fishing to help the fish lock onto your bait. Vibration, noise (i.e. rattles) and scent can help fish find your lures in the dark. But you will be surprised how aggressive night time fish can be. Bring an underwater light into the mix and you can have a really big time fishing from the shore or dock.
Gear for Shore Fishing
I focus on some easy gear considerations when targeting fish from shore.
Shorter rod for targets
If I want to fish from the shore, I’m usually about being mobile, make precise casts to the obvious cover and working lighter baits. I’m aided by fishing shorter rods. Where I might use a lot of 7-foot to 8-foot rods in my boat, I stick with a lot of 6-foot to 6-foot, 10-inch rods for my shore banging. I like to fish a lot of BFS gear when shore fishing now. So I’m using a lot of 5 and 6 foot rods with lighter lines and lures. But these small rods are easy to carry and trudge through tall grass, wooded areas or even through shallow water.
Snagless or high riding lures
I’m going to focus on lures that allow me to cover the area without being hung up all the time since retrieving a lure that snags is a lot harder from the shore. So I will use weedless snagless lures more. I will also use lures that have a natural ability to come through cover better like swim jigs and spinnerbaits, rather than treble hook lures. Although I will also throw topwaters a lot because they will float and stay above any potential hazards while also drawing fish up and out of areas.
If you just want to go fish for fun and catch something, don’t overlook live bait. A plastic bin of red worms or a tube of crickets is hard to beat. I’ve had some super fun days just fishing a simple drop shot rig or float rig with a worm for bass and panfish from the shore.
Please just clean up your live bait containers before you leave the area.
Outside of that, you might want a small net, a scale in case you catch a PB, a pair of pliers to unhook fish and something to cut with.
Best Lures for Bass Fishing from Shore
There are a handful of lures that catch bass from the shore time and time again no matter where you fish in the country. And so I always have a selection of these baits in my shore fishing pack.
Texas rigged worm
A Texas-rigged worm lets you probe, cover, drag along the bottom and fish all the areas you can reach around you without fear of snagging. While a Texas rig can still get stuck say in between rocks on rip rap, for the most part, it offers you the best chance of fishing the area cleanly.
Probably my all-time favorite shore lure and the one I have had the most success with is a spinnerbait. Now if I’m on a small body of water, I will downsize unless I know there are big baitfish and big bass. But if there are a lot of smaller fish in the body of water you are fishing, a 1/4 ounce spinnerbait can be deadly. But so can a 3/8 ounce spinnerbait. You can fish the fast and slow, top to bottom and cover the water completely with a variety of speeds and depths. And it will come through most cover easily.
I like small topwaters that mimic young forage of the year and topwaters have great drawing power on clear fisheries. So you can get a fish to come off the bottom and blast a topwater with its commotion. And because it floats, it keeps you out of most danger of snagging.
You can rig a swimbait to be light or weedless to fish through a lot of cover and draw bigger fish out. I’ve had some super fun days chucking a big swimbait from the bank.
Best Lures for Other Species from Shore
If you’re like me, I want to catch what is prominent in the location I’m fishing. So if this fishery has white bass running, I want to catch those. If the panfish are up spawning, I want to catch those. If the wolf packs of smaller bass are cruising around, I want to catch those. So I also bring a variety of smaller lures to maximize my shore fishing in case the main thing I’m going after isn’t happening.
I’ve had a lot of success catching all manners of bluegill, shellcrackers, crappie and bass on small 2-3 inch swimming plastics on a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce head. It’s as simple as it gets. Count it down to depth, reel at a slow steady pace and set the hook. As simple as it gets to catch everything from the shore.
Same for small spinners. Something like a Beetle Spin, Road Runner or the newer Okisara Screw heads with small swimbaits. These all will give downsized baits flash and vibration to draw strikes from every sort of sport fish near to the shore.
Finally a small minnow hard bait like a Rapala Countdown can get you a lot of bites from panfish and bass and other fish riding close to the shore. It’s a killer on the spring white bass run. It works on big bedding bluegills. It catches suspending crappie. It slays trout and smallmouth bass in streams and creeks. Get you a few of the smallest ones and be blown away by how many different fish they will catch.
Other Shore Fishing Considerations
You should think about a few other things to give you better odds of finding and catching fish from shore.
I always opt for fishing the lightest lures you can feel and control and cast while fishing. Especially if you are going to be bank fishing. These lighter lures will hang less, look more natural to fish in smaller areas and provide a better experience with less frustration.
Go bigger or smaller
I generally opt to go up or down if you are limited on the area you can fish. Either throwing something a lot bigger that most other anglers won’t throw. Or go smaller to get those fish others miss.
Fish the obvious cover
I cannot count the number of big fish I’ve caught over the years on the most obvious pieces of cover. It might be the only laydown tree in a cove and the biggest bass is in it. It might be the one stump I can see way out there under the surface. It might be the only dock on the pond. It might be the little high rocky spot way out the in the middle. Those obvious looking places are obvious because you’re an angler and you know what to look for. Don’t overlook the obvious.
Hopefully we’ve given you a bunch of ideas for places you can go look to fish near you. And hopefully we’ve given you a bunch of tips that will help you be more efficient in your approach so you can get a lot more bites and have a lot more fun on your next shore fishing trip!