14 Tips for Successful Bank Fishing

An experienced bank fisherman can catch fish no matter what time of year it is. Keeping a few special tips in mind will help make your next fishing trip successful.

1) Fish where the fish are

This tip is about starting at the right spot. If you're fishing an unknown body of water, research local fishing reports and see where others are catching large numbers of fish. You can find out what species they caught (and when), how many they caught and any other useful information such as time of day the fish were caught.

"The number one reason anglers don't catch the fish they could is because they go to the wrong place and expect to catch a trophy when the fishing pressure is off," says Joe Clements of Fishin' Tips in Stroud, OK. "When you get on a new body of water, start with an hour or two of scouting around and familiarizing yourself with the habitat, structure, depth changes and anything else that can attract fish to your area."

2) Match the hatch

Fish will always be on the look out for food. So if you're fishing a specific body of water and looking to catch a certain species, match your lure or bait with what the fish are currently feeding on.

Whether it's a specific species or a particular time of the year, learning about the natural food sources of fish in your area will put you ahead of other anglers. "Springtime is one of my favorite times to fish," says Clements. "There are more options for lures versus bait and there's always baitfish or shad in the area working their way up the water column to spawn. Every year is different, but if you read the signs in nature, you can find some incredible fishing opportunities."

"Local information is crucial to finding a wide variety of fish," says Scott Winkeler of Winkeler's Bait & Tackle in St. Louis, MO. "Weather reports and water level changes are great information, but knowing what is in the water will make or break your day."

3) Use the right equipment

Fishing gear needs to be strong enough for the task at hand. If you're fishing with a large bait like an 8-inch nightcrawler on a 3/0 hook, your equipment needs to be tough enough the handle the load. Using smaller baits on bigger hooks might seem like an easy way to increase your catch, but if you're not using strong equipment, any fish that takes your bait will probably just tear it from your line and end up getting away.

"Using tackle that is too light for the baits you're using will hurt you in the long run," says Richard Duncan of B&D Lures in Winona, MS. "Shore fishermen are notorious for having a lot of rods rigged up with very light line, but if you're fishing heavy cover or rocks your line can become frayed and cut very quickly."

Also, if you're fishing with a heavy creature bait like a eel or crawfish, using light line can cause more damage and prevent the fish from staying on your hook. Duncan advises anglers to make sure they understand the weight of their baits before setting out for a day of fishing.

"If you have any doubts about the weight of your chosen bait, test it before you head out for a day of fishing," says Duncan. "If you have extremely small hooks or lightweight line at your disposal, try rigging up some different baits with them to get a feel for how they work."

4) Plan ahead and prepare

Anglers should always spend time thinking about where they're going and what their day on the water might look like. Whether it's fishing a favorite body of water or trying to catch a new species, getting around an area and knowing the habitat beforehand will put you in a better position for spotting fish. "The most important thing is to plan ahead," says Stephen Stoner of Lunker's Bait & Tackle in Columbus, MS. "You should know the bodies of water you are fishing as well as you know your name."

"I like to spend at least an hour driving around a body of water before I get out on it," says Stoner. "I'm looking for docks, piers and anything that might attract fish, including weed lines and grass beds. I also like to scout out the times of day when local anglers tend to be on the water."

5) Stick with it!

"You can put all of this knowledge into action at once or apply just one tip," says Clements. "The idea is that if you continue to learn things year after year, you'll always have a leg up on other anglers."

Clements also recommends going to tackle shops in your area and talking to the experts with hands-on knowledge. "These folks are great resources because they live and breathe fishing every day," he says. "Find out what they're catching and use this information to plan outings."

6) Be realistic about your luck

The most successful anglers are the ones who go after fish every time they're on the water. If you have a full day of fishing planned, don't expect to catch twenty bass in three hours. "The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be realistic," says Duncan. "Don't set out for a day of fishing with unrealistic expectations."

With this in mind, anglers should try to be patient and work slower when they're on the water. "I like to think about my day as a whole," says Duncan. "If I know that I'm only going to catch three or four fish, then I can enjoy every bite of my favorite catch and feel good about myself when I head home."

7) Be more observant!

Fishing is a game of patience, so anglers should be looking for short-term opportunities to take advantage of while they're on the water. This might seem obvious, but catching fish usually happens in small bursts. "You never know when a fish might take your bait," says Duncan. "If you can be more vigilant and keep your eyes open for these small opportunities, you'll do better in the long run."

8) Don't keep fishing if it's not working

The toughest part about fishing is that it's often difficult to see results. Anglers have to be patient on the water and willing to walk away from their favorite fishing spot if it's not producing bites. "If you find a productive bank, take note of where it is and then try to return later in the day," says Duncan.

9) Keep your bait hidden

There are many tricks anglers can use to keep their bait hidden from potential predators lurking on the bank. The most common, says Duncan, is a plastic tail that extends below your hook. "It acts as a meat shield and seems to drive fish nuts," he says.

Shaped tails are also effective because they move in different directions when an angler is reeling the bait back towards the bank. "I think it's important to have multiple baits in your arsenal," says Duncan. "If you're not using one that's working, try another."

10) Try a different bank!

Sometimes an angler can be so focused on his or her favorite bank fishing spot that fish aren't able to see the bait at all. "I usually bank fish the bank of a river or reservoir," says Duncan. "This way you have more room to maneuver and can keep your bait hidden."

11) Check out other bank fisherman!

When an angler is bank fishing, he or she should take note of how other fishermen are doing on different banks. If one bank is producing bites, it might be worth trying to mimic their actions. "I like to check out the action on neighboring banks because you never know when someone will show you some new way to catch fish," says Duncans.

12) Try a bottom bouncer!

Anglers can use a variety of methods to stay afloat on the water, but Duncan recommends using one that has a built-in bobber. "This will keep your bait hidden and more productive than other methods," he says. Anglers can also take advantage of underwater structures like logs or rocks if they slow down their method of fishing.

13) Prepare your rod

"Before you head out, you should tie on a shock leader followed by 20-pound fluorocarbon," says Duncan. "The added strength of this setup will help to keep fish from breaking off at the boat." 

14) Have confidence!

Anglers need to have patience and confidence when they're fishing with a bobber. "I recommend using a bobber that has some weight to it," says Duncan. "This helps make your bait more productive because you can cast further and keep your float stable."


Anglers should be more observant when they're on the water and keep an eye out for short-term opportunities to take advantage of. If you can find a productive bank, it's important to take note of its location so that you can return later in the day if necessary.

Adhering to these tips will help anglers have more confidence in their fishing abilities. It's also important to be patient and willing help others if they're struggling on the water.

These simple steps will help anglers enjoy their time bank fishing without having to worry about what could have been.

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