Winkelman: Bank Fishing 101

“The Andy Griffith Show” was a great TV series. Remember the opening credits? That classic whistling song played as Andy and his son Opie strolled along that country lane, carrying their rods and reels down to the fishing hole. Then Opie rushed to the bank and skipped a stone.

That show opening was a work of art. It really captured the joy of a father and son sharing one of the most meaningful things a parent and child can experience together: fishing from a bank. In this world of $50,000 bass boats and sophisticated electronics, bank fishing remains a simple pleasure that’s accessible to anyone. Even though I have a darn nice boat with wonderful accessories, I still take time every year to fish from shore with my daughter. It reminds us about what the fundamental thrill of fishing really is and that’s sharing the moment, when that bobber goes down, with family and friends.

Go to The Bank!
I want to write about bank fishing, and encourage everyone to get out and enjoy a day on a lakeshore or river bank this summer. As long as you’re going to do it, you might as well catch a big pile of fish, too! So here are some tips for making your day as productive as it can be.


Babe Winkelman and his daughter Karlee and a big catfish.

First of all, know where you’re going and what you’ll be fishing for. A day of catfishing on a river is a far cry from bobber fishing for sunfish on a lake. It requires a unique set of tools; from the rod, reel and line, to the types of baits you should pack. As with any fishing venture, do your homework and find out what’s biting and where — then make a good game plan.

A lot of shore anglers gravitate to spots where a wide range of fish species can be caught. This makes sense to me. If this is your game, I highly recommend packing in at least two rod/reel combos per angler. Rig one with fairly light tackle for panfish, bullheads and the occasional bass. Spooling up with 6-pound-test monofilament is a good bet. And make sure your tackle box is well-stocked with small jigs and hooks, bobbers, split-shot sinkers, in-line spinners, and beetle-spin type baits. You can’t go wrong with having live bait on hand too, such as night crawlers, leeches, waxworms, and minnows.

For your second rod, go with a heavier-action combo spooled with 12-pound-test mono. Bring along some spinnerbaits, top water plugs and crank baits (both shallow-diving and mid-depth models) in a variety of colors. That way, if you see a big bass or pike blow up on the surface while panfishing, you can grab that other stick and pitch a bait to the bigger gamefish. I hope you catch him!

Be comfortable on the bank. A folding/collapsible chair or even an upturned 5-gallon pail is a welcome perch as you enjoy the day. Have a cooler with some cold drinks and snacks along, especially if you’re bank fishing with the kids.

Bringing a Frisbee or a football is a good idea with kids, too. It’ll help them pass the time if the bite slows down, and prevent them from uttering those dreadful words: “can we go now?”

Don’t Forget The Bug Spray
Remember that summer and lake/river banks almost always add up to bugs. Nothing can cut a day of fishing short like swarms of mosquitoes or a bunch of ticks. This is especially true when fishing in areas that have ticks carrying Lyme Disease. A good friend of mine contracted Lyme and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So don’t forget the bug spray/repellant.

Now here’s some final advice. I know I recommended bringing chairs, and you should. But get up every once in awhile and stroll up and down the bank exploring new water. The more ground you cover, the more likely you’ll stumble into a good school of active fish. For this run-and-gun approach, a small fish basket is a must if you’re intending to keep a few fish for the frying pan. A basket keeps the fish livelier than a rope stringer will. When it’s time to go, put your fish in a plastic bag and immediately on the ice that has kept your drinks cold all day. This will guarantee a tasty meal that would even make Aunt Bea proud!

Good Fishing!

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