Updated: Jan 23
If so, where do you start?...
The short answer is: Yes, you can catch big bass from the bank. I'm primarily a bank angler and have been from the very beginning. With some simple ideas and standards put in to practice, I believe you can maximize your time on the bank and specifically target giants.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to bank fishing. For example, when fishing with big baits, I find that fishing from the bank can be incredibly rewarding. You have the ability to plant your feet, get a proper hookset, maintain positioning and grind the fish to the shore. If you're a kayak fisherman, you know that this is not always possible. For instance, if you're not positioned correctly and get an unexpected big strike, the chance of losing the fish is greatly increased due to an improper hookset and the inability to control the fish from the get go. (Of course, this also depends largely on the type/brand of kayak that you're utilizing... I find that sitting down and Big Bait Fishing don't particularly mix, but that's a topic for a different day). However, what you gain in positioning from the bank, you sometimes lack in accessibility: a particular body of water may only have a few open areas to fish from. You're also primarily fishing uphill as you're retrieving the bait to shore. This is not always optimal. I'm getting slightly ahead of myself here. Let me break this down and give you several things to keep in mind in order to have a successful day on the bank and increase your odds of landing a big fish...
There is simply no substitute for ample planning and research. Familiarizing yourself with every aspect of the fishery/body of water that you are thinking of frequenting is paramount to success. If you want to target big bass, you need to target bodies of water where there is a good probability that these bigger fish live. At this point, you may be thinking, "Um... No kidding, but what does that even mean?!"Let me break it down and get into specifics.
Target trout stocked bodies of water. Big bass eat trout. No matter what part of the country you are in, this simple fact holds true. In my particular area, I fish a few different bodies of water with regular trout stocking programs and the quality of the bass and overall frequency of larger bass caught is astonishing. You can literally google "trout stocking NJ (or whatever your applicable state is) and you will find a list of trout stocked along with the schedule for the stocking.
Here is the applicable link for fall trout stocking in NJ:
Here is the applicable link to the master trout stocking page for NJ:
You can also search for trout stocking information on your local county, city or township websites. If you don't have trout stocked bodies of water in your general vicinity, another viable option is to target bodies of water with large Gizzard and Threadfin Shad populations. This requires a bit more research but again, Google is your best friend.
Ideally, you want to find bodies of water that have the perfect storm of coexisting bait options. For instance, if you can find a fishery that has a good ratio of bluegill, golden shiner, crayfish and is also trout stocked you're in business. I've found a few fisheries with an abundance of multiple species of bait and the results have been incredibly fruitful.
Become familiar with the topography and idiosyncrasies of the body of water you want to fish. When you're fishing from the bank, sometimes it's difficult to pinpoint contours, drop offs and general depths. There are several ways to attack this and get a better idea of your surroundings so you're not just mindlessly casting into the ether and hoping for a big bite. Amazingly, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries maintains survey maps of a good deal of New Jersey lakes and ponds.
Here is the applicable link for NJ Lake Survey Maps:
If the body of water that you're targeting isn't listed, you can attempt to Google the name of the lake/pond/reservoir you are targeting followed by "survey map," "contour map," or "depth chart." More often than not, the info will be listed. It may take a few minutes of research, but again, this can be crucial to success. Once you've obtained a survey map, use Google Maps "satellite view" to zoom in to make sure there are bank accessible areas to fish from. Try to target drop offs, points, and secondary points that you can cast to from shore. Interestingly, certain survey maps also display 'artificial reef program sites' (like the Assunpink Lake Survey depicted above) and actually show where Christmas tree (and other forms of artificial reef material) have been dumped in the body of water to create sanctuary for fish. This type of information is gold! If you can target these areas from shore you can bet that your chances of hooking into a quality fish are increased. It should also be noted that the popular app, Fishbrain, has contour maps of certain bodies of water as well. This brings me to my next point...
Utilize Fishbrain and other online resources to help determine waters with documented big fish catches...
When all else fails, turning to an app like Fishbrain where people post pictures of documented large bass catches can prove to be incredibly useful in pinpointing a particular body of water to fish. If this type of valuable info is available, why not use it as a resource? Let me stipulate that the main thing that I utilize Fishbrain for is to confirm that large bass have been caught in a specific body of water that I'm planning on checking out. If multiple large bass have been documented, even better. I'm not as concerned with what bait/lures were used to catch these fish or the particular spot where these fish were caught. That's something that can be dialed in later. I'm merely trying to ascertain that big bass are available to be caught where I'm planning on fishing. I keep a Google Drive folder of screenshots of various bodies of water that I've found on Fishbrain that have confirmed big bass catches. Once I locate these bodies of water on Fishbrain, I do a secondary Google Search to see if there is any additional info that I can drum up. As touched on previously, I will also look at several satellite/street views to determine if that particular body of water is accessible from the bank.
With ample planning and research, you can maximize your time on the water, become a more informed angler, and increase your chances of running into a better quality fish.
Preparation goes hand in hand with Planning and Research. With the right type of preparation, you will maximize your time on the water. There are no two ways about it.
Have everything ready to go the night before at the very least. Instead of wasting time rigging everything up hours before you head to the fishery you are targeting, or even worse, rigging on water, have everything ready to go and accounted for a night before your trip at the very least. I like to leave more time just in case I run into any problems which require additional time to correct. For example, if I know I'm going fishing on Saturday I try to do all my rigging on Wednesday or Thursday. This way, if I run into an issue or realize I have an unforeseen shortage of something I need, I have one or two days to figure out a solution.
Plan accordingly. Make sure you leave enough time to get everything ready to go. For example, I primarily fish braid to mono or fluoro leader. This means that every rig that I'm going to bring out gets a new leader tied on which is joined by an FG knot. I devote ample time to accomplish this as I fish with multiple rigs. Each leader diameter/lb test is picked based on the lure that I'm going to implement. I keep several leader spools on hand at all times. If you start getting everything dialed in like this you will never turn back.
Bring multiple rigs outfitted with lures that will be conducive to producing a bite at the fishery you plan on targeting (if you can afford it). This is absolutely essential in my eyes. I know a lot of bank anglers look down or scoff at carrying around multiple rigs and prefer to simply bring one or two rods and constantly change out lures throughout the day. I disagree with this methodology. Can you find an all around rod and reel combo to cover multiple techniques that will get you through a day? Absolutely. However, is this the most effective or efficient way to fish? Not a chance in Hell. The amount of time wasted retying can add up throughout the day. Of course you can argue, "Well why not use a snap?" Certain snaps are incredible (I'm looking at you, Decoy Egg and Ex snaps), however, the more time you open and close a snap, the more likely it is to fail. All that aside, specific lures require specific rod actions and line diameters to function properly. I'm not joking when I say that I will sometimes carry around eight different rigs outfitted with different lures. Most of these rigs are big swimbait specific setups! I don't care how ridiculous it looks or how many "Do you have enough rods?" comments and odd looks I garner. At the end of the day, I know that a good deal of the success I've had is attributed to the fact that I can continually switch between premium finely-tuned rigs and situationally adapt seamlessly. I don't mind carrying multiple rigs and I think of it as an extra workout! I will rig up each rod I plan to bring with a lure that I think will generate a bite at the specific body of water that I'm targeting. For example, last weekend I brought out a large glidebait rig, a large wakebait rig, a small wakebait rig, a multijoint swimbait rig, two large walking bait rigs, a popper rig and a crankbait rig. These baits were all selected based on the makeup of the fishery I was at. One of the large walking bait rigs yielded a quality fish and I landed two smaller ones on the crankbait and popper rig. I also took into account that it's the middle of the fall feed which influenced the selection of my baits.
Do you have to bring out eight setups to be effective? Not necessarily... but in my opinion, there is no reason that you can't bring four setups and have a lot of bases covered. One more piece of advice here: if you're going to bring out multiple rigs, utilize rod gloves to avoid tangles and unnecessary hangups (see picture above).
I use these for my larger swimbait setups:
3. Use the best gear you can afford
Do not cut corners with gear. Simply put, use the best gear that you can afford. When you are in a battle with an absolute certified giant, having great gear can be the difference maker that ensures that you land the fish. If you pay more up front for quality gear you will end up paying less in the long run. What does this mean exactly? Well, let me break it down. As a general rule, I put my trust in reels that are made in Japan. My two favorite brands are Shimano and Daiwa (in that order). I remember saving up for my first Chronarch back in the late 90s. It took me an entire summer. I purchased the reel through Cabela's and at the time, it was one of the most cutting edge baitcasters on the market. When it arrived and I unpackaged it, I could instantly feel and admire the quality. I caught my PB on that reel and it's hauled in countless largemouth. Guess what? I still use the reel today for certain crankbait applications. It's never been serviced (aside from receiving a drop or two of oil every now and then) and is still as smooth as ever. Let me put that into perspective: The reel is over 20 years old and still going strong. This reinforces my point. If you pay more for a quality product, you are buying longevity (in almost every instance). Guys I know in the fishing community burn through reels every couple years and I'm still fishing the same stuff. There's something to be said for that. When you buy high end Shimano or Daiwa reels that are made in Japan, you are purchasing finely tuned tools designed to perform optimally for many years. You should feel like the reel isn't there. It should be so smooth that it becomes an extension of your body.
Buy rods that have a lifetime warranty. There are so many rod options on the market right now that it can be difficult to narrow down the selection process. Unfortunately, a lot of very expensive rods are outsourced to China these days and to me, that's a deterrent. If I'm spending a significant amount of money, I prefer to turn to companies like G. Loomis (which is now partnered with Shimano) and St. Croix. The rods are manufactured in America and offer great warranty programs. If a problem ever arises, you can rest assured that you're covered. Since I'm so passionate about throwing big baits, I decided to turn to a custom shop rod builder rather than a production rod company to fulfill my needs (even though there are great production options out there as well). There are some serious custom shop builders making it happen at your disposal. After countless hours of research and email correspondence, I ended up selecting Low Down Customs as my primary swimbait rod builder. Ben has been building swimbait rods since he was a kid and just like time on the water is invaluable, there is no substitute for time in the shop building rods for a very specific application. LDC has a similar warranty program and if a problem ever arises, Ben is there to make sure everything gets sorted accordingly. I can't say enough good things about his rods after field testing them extensively. I own a plethora which are all suited for different applications and each one is an amazing tool/weapon that I feel gives me a distinct advantage when fighting, and ultimately landing a fish.
Utilizing high-end rods and reels has greatly impacted how I fish and also increases my productivity. I can cast farther, manipulate baits in the correct fashion and control the fish during a fight. Of course, a lot of this is attributed to angling skill from time on the water, however, implementing these high-end rods and reels takes it to the next level.
4. Implement a Braid to Leader System
I encourage you to explore fishing a braid to leader system. It's revolutionized my game. At this point, 95% of my rigs are run this way and it's simply outstanding. Braid is extremely resilient and has unrivaled power, toughness and sensitivity. This means longer casts (which is absolutely essential from the bank) and more 'bait awareness.' There is no stretch so you have more responsiveness and feel every little tick. Generally, you also have a little more leeway in precarious cover situations (depending on the lb test of braid you implement). I utilize Powerpro Maxcuatro which is a four strand braid. This means thinner diameter which is outstanding for reducing potential visibility issues and spooling a greater amount of line onto the reel (essential when using higher pound test). Let me use my swimbait setups as an example. I use 80lb Maxcuatro on all of them. You may be thinking, why do I need to run 80lb braid fishing for Largemouth Bass? Isn't that overkill? The answer is: absolutely not. It all has to do with Line Diameter: 80lb Maxcuatro is equivalent to 16lb monofilament. When you're throwing big baits, you want to have cushioning to absorb the shock of casting such large, heavy lures. Thinner diameter braids tend to dig into the reel or possibly snap if you backlash. Utilizing 80lb braid greatly reduces this from happening. I generally pair this with a 25 lb mono leader or a 35lb fluoro system shock leader depending on what bait I'm throwing. Both the mono and fluoro system leader (which is stretchy like mono) also aids in shock absorption. Since braid has no stretch and mono (or fluoro system leader) has a significant amount of stretch, when the two are paired, they balance extremely well. Mono is significantly less visible than braid and fluoro system leader is virtually invisible. The stretch in these two types of leader ensures that you won't pull hooks out of the fish's mouth which is a distinct possibility when fishing with straight braid. I like to utilize a leader length around 8 ft (my connection knot usually starts right outside the line guide of my reel). My favorite mono leader is Maxima Ultra Green while my favorite fluoro system leader is Sunline FC100 System Leader. I have a ton of confidence in both of these leaders and utilize them for different applications. I will go into more depth on this in future blogs. Lastly, this goes without saying but make sure you're tying solid knots (both connection and direct to bait). I prefer an FG knot for my braid to leader connection and a I utilize Double Uni, Single and Double San Diego Jam, and Single and Double Palomar as direct knots for various applications. My favorite of the bunch is the Double Uni with 5 or 6 wraps. Again, I will go into more depth in a future blog.
Try putting some of these ideas into practice in your own fishing. I'm confident that you will see results and become a more effective bank angler by planning, preparing, utilizing great gear and implementing a braid to leader line system. Remember, my goal is for you to land more quality fish and upsize your catches. Get out there, put some time on the water and get it done!