If you’re stuck without a boat, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to fish a large lake from the bank. But don’t worry, while you certainly are at a disadvantage, you can still catch great fish from a lake on the shoreline.
Below are 6 tips that can help you catch fish from a big lake from the shore this year.
Use Navionics Webapp or a Topographical Map to gain information before going fishing
If there is one thing that not enough anglers do, it’s studying a topographical map of the lake they’re fishing before they head out to the lake.
Most of what’s under the water is a mystery to fisherman. You can’t actually see much, so a topographical map will give you the best possible information about what’s happening under the surface. And that information is key to finding where the fish are in any lake.
The Navionics Webapp is the best online resource for finding topographical maps of most major lakes. Take a look and see if your lake’s information is available. If not, you’ll have to look up a topo map which is usually available at the lake’s website, on an information board, and can often be purchased from local bait shops.
Reading topo maps and how each kind of fish relates to all the different structure you can find on them is too broad a topic to cover here. Just covering one species could take hours. So I recommend you google the species you’re looking for with the time of year you are fishing to get the absolute best information.
But there is one thing you can find on a topo map that can help you find most any fish quickly – look for something unusual.
Topo maps have the depth represented by lines. The closer the lines are together, the more quickly the depth drops. If they’re spread far apart, the depth stays the same for a good ways. A good way to find areas fish hang out in is to find where the lines are just doing something different than what’s around them.
The best example of this is a point. Here, the lines on a topo map curve around and make an actual point out in the water, usually with deeper water around it. It’s something different in the contour of the lake bottom that all kinds of fish are drawn too.
So if you see relatively straight lines and then a random point sticking out – fish where that point is. That little something different happening in the bottom of the lake that fish are drawn to.
But you can find many structures like this. The key is just finding the areas you can fish and finding areas where just something different is happening. It’s a great sign that fish could be there ready to be caught.
Break down a big lake into small sections that you can actually reach
Following the tip above, you do have to break down a large lake into sections that you can realistically reach and fish.
When you look at a topo map you might find hundreds of spots that look fishable. That’s great if you’re in a boat and can get to each of them. If you’re fishing from the shore, chances are there’s only a few that you can reach.
So instead of dissecting the whole lake break it down into the areas that you can feasibly reach. This means areas that are publicly accessible first of all. There could be the greatest structure of all time to fish but if it’s in someone’s backyard it’s not doing you any good.
But also make sure you can actually reach it from the bank. In most cases you aren’t going to be able to cast out more than 50 feet from the bank. So if you’re trying to fish a hump in the middle of a lake you’re just not going to get close enough to actually catch anything from it.
When doing your map study, make sure you’re only studying the areas that you can actually get to and reach from the bank. You’re sure to still find some interesting features on a topo map that you can fish and it will save you time and headache finding great places to fish that you can never actually get to.
Pick a few techniques or lures that are ideal to the location you're fishing
There seems to be about a hundred different ways to catch a fish. But they all have specific situations where they work well.
When you’re on a boat you could be fishing grass one minute, rocks the next. 50 feet and then 2 feet. It’s what makes a boat so great but also makes it hard to plan out exactly what to throw. It’s part of why you see professional fishermen with 20 rods on the boat at all times.
If you’re on the bank though this is likely not as big of an issue. You’ve chosen your spot and scoped it out on the topo map. Maybe you even looked at Google Earth to see what it looks like from above. That should give you almost all of the information you need to pick the best technique for fishing.
So take all that information into account and pick the absolute best lures that will work to your strengths. If you looked at the topo map and found that everything you can reach from the bank is 10 feet or less, don’t pick a crankbait that dives deeper than 10 feet. Or you saw on google earth that it’s very grassy, then don’t throw a bait with open hooks that will get stuck in grass.
Instead pick the lure that best matches your conditions. So if I find a rock pile in 8 feet that I can reach from the bank I’m going to bring a jig and a crankbait that dives to 8 feet with me. Because those two lures work for the type of fishing I’m going to do and work at that depth.
Really pick apart the key spots that the fish should be
Which brings me to my next point – if you find a place where fish should be, fish it hard from every angle.
The boat fisherman has a lot of advantages but this is one they don’t. A boat is constantly moving in the water from wind and tide. Plus they usually troll along bank lines anyways and don’t stop and fish one spot too hard.
From the bank you can stand in one spot and fish all day long if you want to, really making those tight-lipped fish want to bite.
So if you have found something that should hold fish – stick there and fish it. For example, there may be a big tree fallen over into the water that you can fish around. Don’t just throw a texas rig into it once and then decide there’s no fish and move on.
Throw at the edge of the tree, then in the tree. Walk to another angle and fish it again. Fish it quickly, slowly, knock into some branches with your lure. These are the things that make the big fish bite.
Or if you’re doing a slower kind of fishing like bottom fishing or bobber fishing, let your bait stay in those prime locations for a long time. Fish will swim in and out of an area. They will get hungry or seem to decide to start feeding randomly. Patience is a virtue in fishing and will pay off.
The key here is to make sure you’re spending your time fishing the areas where the fish should be. Don’t sit in a spot with no fish holding features for an hour if you aren’t getting bites, But if you found something in the topo map or see something that you’re sure can hold fish. Don’t be afraid to fish it hard for a long time to get those bites.
Use lighter line or heavier weights to cast farther
We’re onto the more practical tips now of simple things you can put into your practice to help you when fishing from the bank in a large lake. This will help you with casting farther so you can more easily reach the middle of the lake if needed.
Using a heavier weight is a sure fire way to get your casts going further. I’m not a scientist so won’t pretend to explain this with some great level of detail – but a heavier weight is going to go further with the same force of cast as a smaller weight.
This is because you can get more momentum behind a heavier weight and the resistance from the reel, wind, friction, and other factors aren’t as impactful the heavier you go. But just trust me or go out in your backyard and see for yourself. You’re likely to be able to throw a ½ ounce weight about double the distance you can a ⅛ ounce weight.
If you want to get even more distance out of your cast you can also go to a lighter line. Again, just try it for yourself. The lighter line will have less diameter which creates less resistance when you’re casting. You can also use braided line instead of fluoro or mono to maximize casting distance for the same reason.
If you just need a few extra yards to get where you want – downsizing a line or upsizing your weight can easily get you there. Obviously there is a break even point though where you don’t want to fish too heavy a weight with too light of line. If you want more information on that, please read this article which goes into it in much detail.
But in most cases, adding an extra ¼ ounce weight just to get out further won’t hurt you much. And if you have the ability, outfitting a good long pole with braided line is great for bank fishing when you want to really wing it a mile. I have one pole specifically for this purpose when trout fishing in larger lakes where I need to get as far from the bank as possible.
Find areas on the lake that no one else is fishing
I want to begin this by clearly stating I am not at all suggesting you trespass on private property to fish in a great looking area. It’s simply not worth the chance of getting caught or having an angry homeowner come after you.
But there are often many public areas off roads, unkempt pathways, and other areas you can find at a big lake where most fisherman don’t get to. Maybe even some people in boats will never have fished the area. And that can mean a lot of unsuspecting fish ready to be caught.
The best method I’ve found for doing this is just using Google Earth. Just download the program and enter the lake’s location. Then, try looking for paths, roads, or any other way around the lake that isn’t clearly marked or obviously private. Then you can get in your car and scope the area out to make sure it is actually fishable.
One helpful hint for doing this is also to use the feature which lets you got back in time, to view the lake when the foliage is dead. Or maybe even when the lake was created which can give you some clues as to old access points that may be available. You’ll be surprised what you can see when the tree leaves just aren’t in the way.
Again, I am not suggesting you use this to find ways to sneak into a lake. But using it to find perfectly legal ways to access the lake that other people just normally don’t use or see is a great way to get into good fishing areas. Especially if your lake is overcrowded by bank fisherman.
Fishing a big lake from shore can seem daunting, but is still worthwhile. Just put in the prep time to look up your lake on Navionic Webapp or buy a topo map to really study where the fish will be that you can access from shore. Then tie on the right bait for the area, use the gear that lets you cast as far as possible, and maybe even find a new fishing hole that isn’t used often. Then, you’ll be able to pull in some quality fish from any sized lake from the shore in no time. If you have other helpful hints please share them below in the comments! Keep Fishin!