Fishing the Banks: Largemouth Bass and More
In this day in age, all we ever hear about is the guy running the 20 plus foot bass boat powered by a 250 motor, twin Power Poles, dual sets of electronics with side scan, down scan, sonar and some I even think to get HBO! The rig has a trolling motor that could push my old 10-foot flat bottomed to water skiing speed. But what about the guy that goes fishing the banks in search of his favorite fish – bass, panfish, walleye, perch or whatever? I grew up on Long Island and for many years I never had access to a boat, and most of the lakes I fished did not allow boats, let alone the bass boat I currently run. But you know what, I caught a lot of fish. In fact, other than a fat 8 pounder I caught in Mexico, my largest bass came from fishing from the banks of Stump Pond in Southaven Park, NY…from the shoreline! It was 24-1/2 inches long and took a small 1/4 ounce chartreuse spinnerbait.
I am sure that throughout the east coast from Maine to Florida and beyond there are ample amounts of anglers that fish the shoreline. Whether it be a 30 minute lunch break outing or a walk through the woods to a favorite honey hole and every place in between. And, to make it even easier, the KastKing Fishing Tackle Backpack or the KastKing Pond Hopper Fishing Sling Tackle Storage Bags will have you trekking to your favorite lake in no time, and fully stocked.
Over the years, I have fished a lot of baits (lures) and always found I went back to three basics – spinnerbait, frog and stick bait. These three baits will always produce bass, pickerel, walleye, perch and more up and down the coast. Let’s take a look at these three, and what I like about them.
The spinnerbait is a go-to lure by many bass anglers around the country. For a lot of the smaller bodies of water, you need to carry two spinnerbaits. I prefer either chartreuse or white in 3/8-ounce. The only difference is the blade configuration. On one, the blades should be willow, while the second should be Colorado. The main difference is a willow will create more flash, while Colorado will create more vibration.
For starters, anywhere there are lily pads a spinnerbait will catch fish. What I like to do is cast to the middle of the pads and then let the blades smack against the pad stems. After hitting, I will also pause at times, just briefly before continuing my retrieve. I will also keep the spinnerbait on top, letting the blades flip and flop amongst the pads.
For the deeper lakes where you can get water over 10 feet, the Colorado blades cast, and then allowed to free-fall is a proven winner. Allow the line to go slack, but pay close attention, if it twitches at all; set the hook. I also will work a spinnerbait, making casts parallel to the shore, reeling at a pretty fast pace. Bass and especially pickerel/pike will ambush this retrieve, coming from under shoreline weeds, or from just outside the shallows, heading towards shore. Both species are notorious for ambushing baitfish in the shallows, and spinnerbaits are perfect matches.
With the abundance of cover in lakes from Maine to Florida, it makes sense to carry a frog. My only requirement on a frog is that it is a hollow body style. A frog is not just used to fish heavy cover. In fact, a frog can be used in open water or walk-the-dog style like a Heddon Zara Spook. When walking the dog, you may want to trim the legs, which allows for easier walking. For the most part however, you will be using it in dense vegetation areas above milfoil and lily pads.
A frog is a great search bait to find where the bass is lying. What I like to do is pick apart a lily pad field from the outside, working closer to shore in a systematic method. Work the outer edges of the pads, and then get deeper and deeper towards the shoreline. At times, you can locate bass with the frog by seeing a swirl or actual crash of the frog. If you do not catch them, you can always follow it up with another offering – spinnerbait or worm. When using a frog, there are two approaches. The first is to allow the frog to move along at a steady pace, not allowing the bass to get a good look, but to attack instinct. The second is to use the frog slower, allowing it to pause in the openings of lily pads or visible holes in the vegetation. When doing this, allow the frog to remain motionless, like a “live” frog would do when pausing. If a bass does grab your frog, pause for a second or two, and then hit ‘em hard. For the colors on the frog, I like black and black/yellow and yellow.
The last lure is probably the one I use less than any in my box. I consider myself a power angler – many casts, a lot of lures, very fast paced. Wormin’ is the slow methodical method, but it works great, especially when fishing the shoreline of your favorite lake.
There are several ways to use and rig a worm. You can fish it wacky style using a 3/0 or 4/0 Gamakatsu weedless drop shot hook or weedless 3/0 to 4/0-worm hook. The main difference is the placement of the hook. For the wacky style, the hook is placed mid-section of the worm, while the standard weedless or Texas Rig places the hook near the nose.
The sinking style worms rigged wacky will flutter towards the bottom. Make a cast, and allow the worm to settle, carefully watching your line. Any slight twitch or change in direction usually means a bass, pickerel/pike or another predator. Bluegill or crappie will usually run, but then drop it while the others will not let go. Where I will use a worm wacky is as a follow-up to a miss on the spinnerbait or blow-up on a frog. They make great lures for this bait and switch approach. For the Texas rigged style, I like to slowly bring the worm through the pads or dense vegetation. Another method would be to drag the worm across the bottom. This will usually get a hard whack by a bass, so on this method, set the hook as soon as you detect a bite. As for colors, you cannot go wrong with green pumpkin, black or blue/black.
There you have it, three proven winners for small pond action, and all three will catch fish from any body of water, and attract the big boys too!
Tom Melton is an expert in all aspects of inshore saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing. As an authority on angling he strives to excel while teaching others, and in his own outdoors adventures. Whether it is a freshwater bass fishing tournament, or recreational fishing with family, his skills and knowledge always shine. Tom has been an outdoor writer for more than three decades.