No Boat? No Worries! Ten Tips for Successful Shore-Fishing

By Diana Rupp

If you’re fishing from the bank of a pond, lake, or river, you might start to think that all the anglers who are drifting around in fancy boats offshore are catching all the fish. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, there are certain advantages to fishing from shore. After all, many fish prefer shallow water. This is especially true in the spring and fall, but even during the summer, fish often come into shallower water to feed. That means they are near the shore — right where you are. Here are a few tips to improve your odds for shore-fishing success.

1. Distance yourself. Most shore fishermen prefer banks with easy access, especially places that are only a short walk from their vehicle. Unfortunately, these spots receive a lot of fishing pressure. If you don’t mind a little hike, find a shoreline that’s not as close to the parking area and is a little farther off the beaten path.

2. When fishing lakeshores, look for a point that extends into deep water, or find a drop-off or ledge. Shallow banks are generally not as productive. 

3. Fish near structure. Fish love logs, brush piles, lily pads, weeds, and stumps. You’ll often find these in the shallow water near the shore. Many shore fishermen don’t want to cast near these for fear of getting snagged, but this is where the fish will be.

a loggy lake or river
Fish love logs, brush piles, lily pads, weeds, and stumps—which are often found in the shallow water near the shore. Photo credits: Trail’s End Media

4. If you’re fishing with artificial lures, try weed-resistant lures such as spinnerbaits, Texas-rigged plastic worms, or shallow-running crankbaits. If your lures have treble hooks, consider replacing them with single hooks so they are more resistant to snags. Cast your lures parallel to the shoreline, along ledges, and near weeds and stumps.

5. Use a long rod. When fishing from shore, it’s advantageous to be able to get your line out as far as possible. Many bank fishermen use rods of 9 to 13 feet in length.

6. Don’t lay your rod on the ground. If you’re fishing with bait, support your rod with a forked stick stuck in the ground, or a commercial rod holder.

7. If you’re bait-fishing and not holding your rod, make sure a fish can take your bait and run with it without pulling your rod into the water. You can do this by keeping the bail open, with the line lightly secured under a line clip or rubber band. Better yet, use a reel with a Baitrunner feature that lets you keep the bail closed, but allows a fish to take the bait and pull line from the reel with very little drag.

A fishing rod on an improvised holder
Avoid placing your rod on the ground. Support it with a forked stick or a commercial rod holder. Photo credits: Trail’s End Media

8. If you’re fishing with bait, try using a fish attractant. Called “chumming” in the USA and “ground baiting” in England, this involves using a homemade mix of protein and flavoring to bring fish close to where your baited hook is. Ingredients for chum vary, but usually include breadcrumbs, cream-style corn, and powdered milk, all mixed slowly with water to your desired consistency and usually formed into a ball. A good strategy for keeping the attractant near your bait is to pack it around your sinker so it dissolves slowly in the water right around your hook. Check your local regulations, as chumming isn’t legal in all waterways. And don’t overdo it—after all, if the fish eat too much of your chum, they may not be hungry for your bait.

9. Move around a little. If you’ve had a bait sitting in one area for ten minutes or so, pick it up and move it a few feet toward the shore, or to a different spot along the shore.

10. Late afternoon and evening are usually the best times to shore-fish for most species. That said, I once asked a successful bass tournament angler about the best times to fish. His answer? “The best time to fish is whenever you can.”

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