Jim Moynagh with a large bass

Awesome Bass Fishing Without a Boat!

If I were to have a friendly one-on-one tournament with my friend, Gunnar; and we each could choose anywhere to fish within an hour’s drive of Minneapolis, I’d be hard-pressed to beat him! That’s because Gunnar has fully taken advantage of the little, out-of-the-way fisheries that hardly get touched by fishermen. And he’d do it fishing from his float tube!

Looking at all of the bass fishing TV shows, the host is typically saddled up in a state-of-the-art bass boat costing more than $50,000 these days. I’m here to tell you that you can catch just as many bass and quality bass by fishing from canoes, kayaks, and float tubes as my buddy Gunnar has proven. Ain’t that sweet! For less than $1,000, you can have access to top caliber bass fishing!

Jim Moynagh (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)
Jim Moynagh (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)

Fishing skill and know-how with presentations is still vitally important (Gunnar has won his share of typical bass tournaments in Minnesota). When knowledgeable fishing is applied to bass that hardly see fishing pressure, the results can make for extraordinary catches!

I’m not going to tell you which tube, kayak, or canoe to go buy because I don’t know much about them. What I am going to tell you is how to discover these hidden fishing hole gems. All that it takes is some time on the Internet to get started.

In the state of Minnesota, for example, the Department of Natural Resources has a website where any lake can be accessed for data regarding boat accessibility and fish populations. This makes it very easy to get started. For example, you can Google “MN public boat access” to obtain the links to the DNR’s boat access maps. These maps indicate the locations of all DNR lake accesses statewide. Use these maps to narrow your options. By discarding any lake having a boat landing, you know that fishing pressure will be at a minimum. Some lakes may have only primitive accesses or motor restrictions, so keep these lake options open. Typically, the smaller lakes and ponds are the targets of a search because larger lakes will have plenty of access.

Another section on the MN DNR’s website will provide information on fish populations (Google “lake finder MN DNR”). This is very useful because most of the small lakes and ponds in Minnesota are too shallow and suffer winter-kill. This is a term meaning that all of the fish die during winter because oxygen levels get too low beneath the ice, which is typical of shallow lakes and ponds. By reading their fish population reports, you’ll see which water bodies support bass and which don’t.

After using the above two filters, you’ll have a short list of places within a reasonable distance of your home. Now it’s a matter of picking one and giving it a try.

Another tip for finding these special, little bass factories is to make a note in your head when you see somebody ice-fishing a place having no access. If you see that, time to use the web to begin the investigation! Don’t forget your observations when the ice finally thaws.

The author caught this May 16, 2015 from TR Fuller's pond near Auburn, Alabama. It measured 24.25 inches long and 18.5 inches girth. These measurements provide an estimated weight a little over 9 pounds!
The author caught this May 16, 2015 from TR Fuller’s pond near Auburn, Alabama. It measured 24.25 inches long and 18.5 inches girth. These measurements provide an estimated weight a little over 9 pounds!

More Boatless Fishing Options
Other boatless options exist as well. Small rivers often can only be fished using canoes and so forth, because the shallow gravel shoals keep normal boats away. Typically, these rivers will offer more smallmouth bass than largemouth. Then, of course, there exists the more exotic options, such as designated wilderness areas. Two I know of would be the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota and the Quetico Provincial Park region just across the border from Minnesota in Ontario. Here there are vast water bodies that are wilderness preserves meaning all outboard motors are restricted. Fabulous smallmouth fishing exists along with excellent angling opportunities for other species such as walleye and pike. Just bring your canoe or kayak.

Finally, one last “boatless” option I can think of would be the private farm pond. In the South, countless big bass live in such ponds! My buddy T.R., living near Auburn, Ala., has a couple ponds on his farm and he has caught bass weighing more than 10 pounds in them! With his ponds, he fishes from shore. The downside with private ponds is just that — they’re private.  

As you can now see, awesome bass fishing is available without having to spend the money on boats and motors. With just a canoe, kayak, or float-tube, any angler can find and catch just as many bass as somebody who is fishing from a $50,000-plus bass boat! It can be done by getting to places where bass boats can’t and fishing for bass that see minimal fishing pressure.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Float Tubes/Pontoon Boats!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Canoes/Kayaks!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine assortment of Fishing Gear!


Guide Outdoors Readers: Tell us the biggest fish you caught that was not out of a boat?

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One Response to “Awesome Bass Fishing Without a Boat!”

  1. Sandy Cohen

    I’m from Southern New Jersey and we have heavily pressured lakes, and the state bass record is like 10.50lbs. so needless to say, fishing is tough. So I do as Jim says, I would use a tube or kayak and punch for donkeys. It really frees you up to hit untouched spots. So even if you have a boat, give it a try you may like it. Oh and take someone fishing. Thanks Jim for another awesome article.