Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Every angler knows that bass in shallow water gravitate to objects that provide cover and shade. We fish wherever we see fallen trees, weeds, boat docks, and flooded bushes. But for all the time we spend searching for shallow cover, the most obvious cover is frequently ignored-the bank.

Yes, bass fishermen regularly cast to the shoreline, but we often let our lures splash a foot or two short of where the water actually meets the bank. Sometimes close just doesn’t cut it, especially for inactive bass. This is when you must kiss the bank.

Get Close
Bass holding beneath the lip of an undercut bank or tight to a bluff wall regularly pass up lures that fall short. The fish are just not in a chasing mood, thank you. These same bass, however, respond favorably to a jig or soft-plastic bait that kisses the bank and drops within inches of their noses.

To ensure that your lure falls straight down next to the bank instead of swinging away from it, pull line from the spool of your baitcasting reel immediately after the cast. With spinning or spincasting tackle, let the lure fall freely before engaging the reel. Since bass regularly engulf lures on the initial fall, you may not sense the strike on the slack line. Start the retrieve gingerly and be ready to set the hook.

Bass may snuggle up against the bank even when more likely cover presents itself only a few feet away. Who has never diligently fished the outside edges of brushy cover along a shoreline without success? Fishing pressure may push bass behind cover in this manner, but sometimes the fish simply prefer to be close to the bank.

When this happens, ease your boat right up against the brush so you can reach over it and fish the bank behind. This approach makes for awkward fishing and annoying entanglements, but it puts you in touch with overlooked bass.

A soft presentation is essential to prevent spooking bank-holding bass in quiet, shallow water. Flipping and pitching presentations excel because they barely ripple the surface. For extremely shy bass, flip or pitch a lure onto the bank, let it rest for a moment, and then slowly drag it into the water. This method works well with jigs, soft-plastic lures, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits.

The same bank-kissing principle applies when waves splashing against wind-blown banks diminish the need for a soft lure entry. As waves stack plankton and forage fish against the shoreline, bass lie close and face the bank so they can pick off their prey. Short casts put your lures behind the bass, where the offerings are likely to be ignored.

Tricking Fish
In either situation, there is one kind of disturbance that I’ve found attracts bass. When pitching to banks that are overgrown with grass, shake the lure in the vegetation several times before jumping it into the water.

I once had a plastic worm catch in tall grass about 2 feet above the water’s surface. I shook the rod tip aggressively, but I couldn’t untangle the worm from the grass. Finally, after several seconds, the worm popped free and fell into the water. A bass darted up and caught the worm right at the surface-just like a center fielder snagging an easy pop fly. The fish had been watching the worm all along and was just waiting for an easy meal.

That trick might have worked just about anywhere, except the fish would never have seen my worm if I hadn’t placed it right in front of its nose. So the next time you sling lures to cover near the shoreline, show a little affection for a spot that many anglers fail to appreciate-kiss the bank.