No boat? Here are some tips you can take to the bank

(Ray Sasser/Dallas Morning News/MCT)
Bank fishermen should concentrate their efforts around structure that&#...
Story by Ray Sasser
The Dallas Morning News
April 29, 2011
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DALLAS — In the spring, a young man’s fancy may turn to love, but an angler’s fancy looks toward the water. The winter chill is over and a lot of fish are in shallow water near the bank. That situation changes somewhat as temperatures rise and the fish move into deeper, cooler water.

Spring is prime time for fishing from the bank. Many anglers don’t own a boat, but they still enjoy catching fish. Here are some tips on how to get a bite with your feet firmly planted on dry ground:

Select the correct lures or baits for bank fishing. Since you have no boat to retrieve lures that are tangled in submerged cover, you’ll need to fish with lures and bait rigs that are relatively snag-free.

For bass fishing, this means plastic worms or other soft plastic lures that are rigged Texas style, with the hooked point buried in the body, as well as safety pin-style spinnerbaits and topwater lures. With these three lure types, you can cover the water column from top to bottom and avoid most hang-ups.

If you’re fishing for catfish, bluegills or crappie with live or natural bait, use an adjustable slip bobber to float the bait at whatever depth proves productive. A bobber serves double duty by signaling a bite. The slip bobber is also easier to cast than a float that stays attached to a predetermined spot on your line.

Fish around structure that’s attractive to game fish. Because of the aforementioned problems with hang-ups, many novice anglers studiously avoid casting near weeds, submerged bushes or stumps.

That’s where the fish live, however, and you must learn to identify those spots and fish them thoroughly. Reading structure is much tougher for bank anglers who lack the sonar used by most boaters.

Visible structure is easy to identify because you can see it. Submerged structure is not so easy, and you must visualize what the bottom does within casting distance of the bank. Fishing under bridges is popular and productive because the bridges usually span a creek or river, and deep water near bridge pilings, shade and riprap rock used to slow erosion is a good spot for just about any game fish species.

When possible, steer clear of a bank with a gentle slope. Fish prefer a more abrupt drop-off, and such a spot puts fish within casting range of the bank. A point that juts out into deep water is always a good fishing spot.

In spite of the fishing pressure they attract, piers are also good. Each support post has the potential of holding fish, and many of the posts are connected by horizontal or diagonal braces.

Make repeated casts to a likely spot. Repeated casts may agitate a game fish into a striking a lure that invades its territory one time too many. Boat fishermen keep moving to cover as much water as possible, but bank anglers don’t have that luxury.

Remember the spots where you catch fish and return time and again. Even if you can’t identify it, there’s a reason the fish were there in the first place, and they will be there again.

When water levels are lower than normal, visit your favorite fishing spots and look for the fish-holding structure that’s usually covered by water. Take photos of the exposed structure or at least make notes for future reference. Although you think you will remember what you need to know, it’s not that easy a year from now.

Fish early and late in the day when the light is not so bright. A cloudy day is usually better for shallow fishing than a bright, sunny day. It’s difficult to fish in windy conditions, but the fish often bite better when waves break up the light penetration. Choose a bank that the wind is blowing into. Casting into the wind is difficult, but the wind often blows bait fish species up near the bank, and game fish follow.

(c) 2011, The Dallas Morning News.

Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at http://www.dallasnews.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Ray Sasser

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