Bank Fishing 101
Bank Fishing 101
By Babe Winkelman
A stream meandered its way through the farmland of my childhood home. As a boy, I saw my first fish in that clear water. They were just suckers, but to me they were life-changing creatures. The thought of catching them possessed me. So with an ancient rod & reel combo from the shed, some archaic tackle and earthworms dug from the yard, I set out to triumph over those fish. I spent many hours soaking worms from that streamside bank until finally, one bit. The catch set me on a lifelong journey of fishing, and it’s been a wonderful adventure.
In this world of $50,000 bass boats and sophisticated electronics, bank fishing remains a simple pleasure that’s accessible to anyone. Even though I have a darn nice boat with wonderful accessories, I still take time every year to fish from shore with my daughter. It reminds us about what the fundamental thrill of fishing really is – and that’s sharing the moment, when that bobber goes down, with family and friends.
I wanted to honor bank fishing in this month’s column, and encourage everyone to get out and enjoy a day on a lakeshore or river bank this summer. As long as you’re going to do it, you might as well catch a big pile of fish too! So here are some tips for making your day as productive as it can be.
First of all, know where you’re going and what you’ll be fishing for. A day of catfishing on a river is a far cry from bobber fishing for sunfish on a lake. It requires a unique set of tools; from the rod, reel and line to the types of baits you should pack. As with any fishing venture, do your homework and find out what’s biting and where. Then make a good game plan.
A lot of shore anglers gravitate to spots where a wide range of fish species can be caught. Makes sense to me! If this is your game, I highly recommend packing in at least two rod/reel combos per angler. Rig one with fairly light tackle for panfish, bullheads and the occasional bass. Spooling up with 6-pound test monofilament is a good bet. And make sure your tackle box is well-stocked with small jigs and hooks, bobbers, split-shot sinkers, in-line spinners and beetle-spin type baits. You can’t go wrong with having live bait on hand too, like night crawlers, leeches, waxworms and minnows.
For your second rod, go with a heavier action combo spooled with 12-pound mono. Bring along some spinnerbaits, topwater plugs and crankbaits (both shallow-diving and mid-depth models) in a variety of colors. That way, if you see a big bass or pike blow up on the surface while panfishing, you can grab that other stick and pitch a bait to the bigger gamefish. I hope you catch him!
Be comfortable on the bank. A folding chair or even an upturned 5-gallon pail is a welcome perch as you enjoy the day. Have a cooler with some cold drinks and snacks along, especially if you’re bank fishing with the kids. Bringing a Frisbee or a football is a good idea with kids too. It’ll help them pass the time if the bite slows down, and prevent them from uttering those dreadful words: “can we go now?”
Remember that summer and lake/river banks almost always add up to bugs. Nothing can cut a day of fishing short like swarms of mosquitoes or a bunch of ticks. This is especially true when fishing in areas that have ticks carrying Lyme Disease. A good friend of mine contracted Lyme and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Fishermen I’ve talked to are really excited about a new insect repellent called OFF® Deep Woods® Dry – and “dry” is the definitive word. I always disliked that greasy, sticky feeling that other repellents have, especially when I’m fishing. I feel like it’s going to get on all my lures and equipment. Well I’ve used this new dry formula and when you spray it on it’s a totally dry, comfortable feeling on your skin. Plus it protects the same way OFF® Deep Woods® always has – against ticks, mosquitos, black flies, sand flies, chiggers, gnats and no-see-ums.
One application lasts a really long time, and it only costs around five dollars for a four-ounce can. I won’t bank fish without it, and there’s always a can in my boat too. How do those mosquitoes get way out there on a lake? And what are they looking to feed on? A fish as it jumps out of the water? I read somewhere that mosquitoes have been known to fly up to 10 miles! Amazing.
Now here’s some final advice. I know I recommended bringing chairs, and you should. But get up every once in awhile and stroll up and down the bank exploring new water. The more ground you cover, the more likely you’ll stumble into a good school of active fish. For this run-and-gun approach, a small fish basket is a must if you’re intending to keep a few fish for the frying pan. A basket keeps the fish livelier than a rope stringer will. When it’s time to go, put your fish in a plastic bag and immediately on the ice that has kept your drinks cold all day. This will guarantee a fresh tasty meal for your family, compliments of the simple pastime of bank fishing.
Host of “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets” Check out Winkelman.com to learn more and now find Babe on Facebook.