Bank Fishing Basics: Baits And Gear For Land-Based Fishing

Let’s be honest, the decision to go fishing is not that hard. Where to fish — it’s a little more involved but usually no biggie. But what to bring … now that’s the challenge — especially when you’re fishing on foot.

Lugging a shoulder-strapped tackle bag and a handful of rods isn’t necessarily wrong, but such burdens, along with the diminished mobility, can defeat the relaxed and carefree pace central to the shore fishing premise.

Starting with rod selection, we’ll keep this simple and advise lengths and actions relevant to your planned techniques and the realistic size you may encounter. For an all-around multipurpose outfit, something in the 6-foot, 10-inch to 7-foot medium to medium-heavy realm will handle a wide range of options.

Adventurous types given to traipsing through wooded and weedy areas to reach hidden gems will find shorter rods minimize entanglements and potential tip damage. Also, consider a telescoping or multipiece travel rod, at least for your backup.

Bait selection

No list will please everyone, so focus on your chosen fishery’s likely opportunities and stock your box accordingly. Consider how seasonality will influence fish positioning, look at water level and how it affects what you can reach, and check the weather to see how sky conditions and wind will factor into fish positioning/activity level and your casting ability. (Wind in your face will limit certain techniques.)

Everyone has their favorites, but a handful of dependable options are worth considering.

Texas rig: A creature bait, craw or worm with a 1/8- to 3/16-ounce weight is a good bet for flipping into vegetation, hopping over logs and laydown trunks or pitching to partially submerged stumps and rocks.

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If you can reach dense vegetation with decent depth below, you might upsize your weight and punch the thick stuff.

Topwaters: Frogs for vegetation, walking or popping baits for open water; these are the memory makers. Find a mayfly hatch and it’s game on.

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Swimmers and darters: Twitching a fluke style bait is a deadly shoreline tactic, particularly if you spot schooling activity or a shad spawn. For pure simplicity, rig a hollow-belly swimbait or a swimming worm on a wide-gap hook and let that built-in motion do all the work.

For the finesse look, rig a 3-inch swimbait on a ball head. When smallmouth swim within reach, this is your deal.

Wacky rig: Cast or skipped, the tantalizing motion works nearly year-round as a primary bait or a follow-up for missed topwater bites.

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