This guide has everything you need to know about largemouth bass—how they live, what they eat, and what you can do to catch monster largemouth!
Last updated: January 12, 2023
By: Jon Stewart
Many anglers new to the sport are unaware of how productive bass fishing from the shore can be. That needs to change. 💡
Certain conditions favor shore fishing, and you might find that bass in some bodies of water might be approachable only when your feet are on the ground. Beginning anglers and those on a budget will find the shore is their gateway to those lunkers hiding nearby, while those with boats or kayaks might need to ditch their platforms to reach bass in certain areas.
Proper technique and equipment are crucial for landing fish along the bank. Let us examine the things that can make your shore fishing as productive as fishing from the water.
When you are doing initial scouting, look for existing water access points. Recreational paths will make it easier for you to move around the water as you hunt for a wall hanger.
Focus on areas that warm up quickly. These include back bays, canals, coves, and sheltered areas.
Inlets and feeder creeks are bass buffets, especially in spring. Look for the slack areas near eddies and deeper holes in the area.
Travel as lightly as possible. Many shore anglers use backpacks to carry their gear. The bulkier and heavier the load, the less you will move.
Comfortable footwear is more critical when walking the shoreline than floating on the water. Opt for something like waterproof hiking boots.
Fishing the shore with a group lets you cover more ground and experiment with depths and baits faster. Besides, fishing with club members or friends is fun!
Start your survey at home using the internet. Many pros and traveling bass anglers use things like Google Maps, and some states provide online fishing maps. Satellite images and contour maps help you clue in on spots you want to target, including routes into deeper waters.
One of the best resources you can find is word-of-mouth from others who fish in the area regularly. Local tackle shops, bass pro shops, and convenience stores near the location might be able to clue you in on what is and is not working out on the water.
Scouting the shore ahead of time can save you lots of frustration too. You will know beforehand if there are parts of the bank you can not access or what terrain you will have to cross to get to that secluded cove you want to fish. Scouting saves you time and energy, two resources you should conserve when shore fishing.
Knowing the local diet of largemouth bass in the body of water that you’re fishing is crucial for generating strikes. When you get to the location, look for the prey items the bass may be feeding on. Matching your presentations to crawdads near an inlet or feeder creek might help you land one of those bruisers hiding near the shore.
Bass can see well, meaning they can see you standing on the bank while you fish. Your presence can be enough to spook the fish, making them leave the area or hesitant to strike at everything you throw them. The best strategy for bass fishing from the shore is to stand a few feet away from the water edge so the bass can not see you.
Water clarity and wind can also help or hinder your cause. Clear water with no wind provides bass with the best views above the surface, while choppy or discolored water offers less visibility.
The all-time money winner in professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam, likes to keep the sun on his back to avoid spooking the fish. Doing so lets you see into the water better while keeping the sun in the eyes of the bass. You can also make yourself less visible by wearing neutral colored clothing that blends more easily.
Your voice and other noises traveling through the air will not penetrate deep into the water column. Noises from you wading through the water, slipping on rocks, and other commotions will travel to the fish quickly, however. Again, you can avoid disturbing the bass by keeping away from the water as you cast and retrieve.
Most beginners, and a fair share of experienced anglers, tend to cast straight out into the lake. A better approach when you are bass fishing from the shore is to parallel cast instead.
This method has you casting your lure to make it move along the shoreline during retrieval more than coming back to you from a specific point farther out. You can explore several different depth ranges in this manner and zero in on where the fish are. As you move along the shoreline during the day, this information will help you make the most of each cast and cover lots of water before focusing on contours and structures.
Casting parallel like this allows you to fish along the bank without exposing yourself (as discussed previously), preventing bass from getting spooked and relocating. That can be a good option for pre-spawn or early fall bass fishing when bigger fish are actively feeding in these shallow locations.
Some anglers make the mistake of avoiding weeds because of their fear of snags, but these are some of the most productive areas that will improve your catch rate. Government management agencies understand this and mention it on various resources when describing how to catch various species, including largemouth bass. Weeds play a crucial role in the day-to-day life of a fish, acting as a home and a refrigerator.
Have you ever watched a lunker back into vegetation? They use weeds as a source of oxygenated water, cover that protects from predators and heat, and an ambush spot.
Those same weeds offer similar benefits to the amphibians, insects, and bait fish bass love. It is an ideal habitat for ambush predators like largemouth because it attracts these high-protein food sources needed to thrive.
Uneducated anglers avoid weed beds because of snags. Exposed hooks will get tangled in vegetation, but some lures and rigs have designs that reduce snagging potential. You can also cast and retrieve along the edges of vegetation beds to reduce those snags and pull lunkers out from their weedy ambush spots to inspect offerings or trigger a reactionary strike.
Selecting the right lure is critical if you want to land those bruisers. You cannot choose a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner and hope you catch a world-record largemouth like George Perry.
Your lure has to be where the fish are lurking. Top water lures will be unproductive if the bass are in deep waters because of temperatures. That is why parallel casting can help by letting you discover the depth of the fish.
Action is crucial, too. Sluggish pre-spawn fish might ignore something they think will require a lot of energy. Conversely, loud and fast baits can trigger reaction strikes from aggressively feeding bass.
Most importantly, your lure selection has to be functional for the environment. Some lures are better than others in vegetation, while others excel along rocky bottoms.
Soft plastics can be a powerful enticement when bass fishing from the shore. These lures can imitate crawfish, baitfish, lizards, toads, and worms. You will also find a wide variety of creatures and tubes with extra appendages that provide high visibility.
Learning how to fish with soft plastics can bump up the number of strikes you get, but how you rig the hook is an important consideration when fishing from the shoreline. You will want to use a Texas rig or other setup that keeps the lure from snagging as you retrieve in the shallows. You will not be vertical fishing like you might from a boat, so an exposed hook will tend to grab onto anything.
Lifting and dropping is a good technique for shore anglers using plastics. Once your offering hits the floor, lift your rod tip about a foot and let the plastic drop again. On the decent, reel in the slack so you can detect strikes.
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to dispose of your old or damaged plastics. It is safer for the fish and helps us do our part to keep the sport environmentally friendly.
Using a spinnerbait can yield success in almost all scenarios, including shoreline fishing. A properly tuned and adjusted spinner should provide you with the control needed to place it on the edges of blow down and cover, where the lunkers near the water edge tend to congregate.
One thing to consider is weight. If you want to cast longer distances, especially if you are fighting the wind, consider adding some weight to give you extra reach from the shoreline. You might feel the temptation to toss out a large spinnerbait, but you will discover the smaller wire frames can prove advantageous when bank fishing.
The water depth near the shoreline does not favor slow retrieval speeds that let this tackle drop in the water column unless you are fishing a steep bank with a severe drop-off. Faster speeds that suspend the lure above the grass or other structure put the spinnerbait in the bass' best field of view.
Bass fishing from the shore provides an ideal environment for fishing the water surface, and buzzbaits could attract that wall hanger you are trying to entice away from that blowdown twenty feet away. These lures will create audible gurgling and vibration in the water that bass finds hard to resist.
You can cover a lot of ground with one of these, which can be an advantage to the shore angler who often needs to reposition or relocate. These lures sink, unlike other surface fishing tackle, which allows you to drop down in the water a bit before reeling your spinner toward the surface. That could be beneficial if you are trying to attract fish nestled into an ambush location that would miss it going quickly overhead.
That said, the spinnerbait is best for bass when churning the surface. Staying on top of the water means you will fight fewer snags, which shoreline fishing is famous for in bass-friendly environments.
If you want to reach the bottom of a body of water from the shore, bass jigs will get you there. The weighted head allows these lures to sink, and some designs create movement as the jig drops. You will likely have a skirt or trailer dressing up the hook, and you can add additional motion with your retrieve style.
The weed beds and other vegetation near the shoreline can be accessed using a jig, making it a popular choice for those bassing from land. It is also a valuable tool for reaching down along the sides of structures.
You will catch on to more things moving up contours and drop-offs from the shore than dropping from them towards a boat or kayak. That makes all-purpose Arkle jigs a good option. They are small enough for bass to inhale them from the bottom, but the head design does not catch on terrain like other designs.
With affordable alternatives like kayak bass fishing growing in popularity, an aspiring bass fisherman from the shore can present fish with angles that are becoming increasingly rare, especially in areas with high boat traffic. Why not take advantage of them? Today, the leading fishing kayaks are stealthy, lightweight, and surprisingly, affordable. The increased access that they provide have led to their increased popularity among bass anglers.
As we mentioned previously, parallel casting is a solid choice from land. You will have an advantage here because you can cast and retrieve closer to the shoreline more consistently than from the water.
Fishing the back side of the cover, blow down, and other structures near shore offers another chance to present lures from an angle that bass might not be accustomed to seeing. That could entice cautious fish or trigger a reaction strike that retrieving out to deeper water might not accomplish.
Another advantage you have from shore is you do not drift. You can cover all accessible areas from one spot. Anglers drifting with currents and winds can easily miss locations that hold fish as they move.
Seasons, and the temperatures they bring, can make or break you on the shore. Gear can help you match water conditions, but it will not compensate for how bass act due to natural conditions.
Winters are cold, and the fish go deep because of that. You might catch a fish or two if you find deep drop-off points and have gear that reaches down into them.
The heat of summer will drive bass deep or into vegetation. Those within accessible cover or foraging in the milder mornings and evenings are prime targets. Use topwater lures to cover an area quickly before moving to other baits to target farther into the water column.
Spring brings the warming temperatures in shallows where bass go to spawn. The pre-spawn bass are still sluggish, but they want to eat before spawning starts. Now is the time to parallel cast some lighter gear to finesse a strike from these transitioning fish.
Fall is the last of the warm weather before cold winter arrives. Bass fishing in the fall is productive if you find the baitfish. Try out your fast retrieve techniques to entice a lunker to strike!
Shore fishing for bass is a great way to spend the day and can be as productive as fishing from the water. Taking the time to scout ahead lets you attack the water at pre-selected points. You can approach fish from different angles than boaters, and various tackle works well in shallow conditions that shoreline fishing presents.
If your finances or living conditions prevent you from getting a boat or kayak, do not worry. There is plenty of bass near the shoreline, in waters you can reach while your feet are on the ground!
Many anglers feel that the best time to fish for bass from the shore is near dawn and dusk, as their eyes work well in these light conditions. While bass will often stay in the shallows near the bank during spring and fall, dawn and dusk might be the only times you will see them during a hot summer day. An exception might be winter when bright sunny days might draw some bass out of deep water and closer to shore.
The best lures for bass when fishing from shore will match the conditions. Things like spinnerbaits and other shallow presentations work well during the mild water conditions in spring and fall. When it gets too hot or cold, however, you want to use a deep-diving crankbait or plastics that you can get down to where the fish are. A well-stocked bass tackle box lets you adapt to any conditions on the water.
Bass will stay close to the shore if the baitfish are there or they have ample cover. Those hawgs feed aggressively pre-spawn along the banks in April and again in early fall before cold weather forces them deep for the winter. You are less likely to find bass staying close to the shore during summer days when the hot waters hold less oxygen.
Natural scents like salt and garlic can attract bass to the shore. Many infused baits use these or scents that mimic fishy smells to attract fish. On the opposite extreme, smells like human oils, bug sprays, perfumes, soaps, sunscreen, and petroleum products might act as bass repellent!