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Basic Equipment for Bank Fishing

There are people who like to fish but do not have access to a boat. This article addresses the equipment needs of people who fish from the bank either from necessity or by choice. This article is not targeted at the avid fly fisherman.

The hard core fly fisherman is in a different class from the average bank fisherman and requires specialized equipment. The target audience for this article is the average Joe (or Jane) who fishes for relaxation and perhaps a meal or two not to show off his fly-casting skills or the fancy equipment he can afford.


Primitive Fishing Tackle

The absolute minimum for the bank fisherman is some line, a hook and something to use for weight (a small pebble perhaps). A pole of some kind is helpful but not necessary. Hand-lining is the oldest form of fishing and dates back to prehistoric times. Fish can be caught on this basic setup. Hand-lining a larger-than-average catfish or carp can be a real challenge.

The basic hand line setup has a weight at the end of a line, a length of line sufficient to reach the areas where the fish are likely to be and at least one hook hanging off the main line. The weight allows the angler to throw the baited hook some distance into the river or lake. The best bait is something natural from the local environment. Cricket, worm, grasshopper or another insect will almost always get a response from some fish in the vicinity. The hook(s) should be small enough to be picked up by bluegill or other sunfish. Detecting a bite and hooking a fish [using a hand line] will require both luck and some practice. Multiple hooks on one line will increase the effectiveness of the rig, but too many hooks make casting or throwing out the line more difficult. This could be considered a survival setup where the object is to catch anything edible.




Adding a pole to the hand line rig makes hooking a fish easier. The larger travel distance as the pole is raised to set the hook moves the hook faster and with more force. It is possible to use a hand line to present the bait in the fishÌs vicinity and a pole to provide hooking leverage when a bite is detected. The fish can then be brought to the bank by hand. The pole can be any long slender branch found along the bank. It should have a flexible tip and some stiffer backbone. The length should be sufficient to provide enough travel as the hook is set. The slender tip provides a bite indicator while the strong backbone sets the hook.

Here is how it works. The weighted and baited hand line is thrown out into the water. The distance depends on the length of the line, the weight used, the presumed location of any fish in the area and the anglerÌs skill. The line is pulled back enough to remove any slack then secured to something on the bank. The line is wrapped once or twice around the tip of the pole, and the pole is propped up so that any bites will be indicated by the movement of the tip. When a fish bites, the pole is swung back sharply to hook the fish which is then brought to the bank by hand. Some refinements to the basic rig include multiple hooks on dropper lines from the main line or some floats to keep the bait off the bottom and to indicate bites. Anything that floats can be used.

The above-mentioned method is the simplest form of hook and line fishing. It requires patience, practice, and luck but can be a useful survival skill. For a real challenge, an angler can take only a couple of hooks and a length of line on his next fishing trip. It may be an amusing experience. Modern fishers are not restricted to the hand line method. Next, the use of more modern equipment is discussed.

Modern Tackle



Modern fishing tackle ranges from simple spin-casting rigs costing a few dollars up to custom built rods and high-tech reels priced in thousands of dollars. The bank fisherman will most likely be found using items nearer the lower end of this price spectrum. In the real world, the fish taking the bait doesnÌt know or care how much money the angler spent on equipment.

The basic bank fishing rig is a rod and reel of the anglerÌs choice. For best results, the combination should be matched to the targeted species and the anglerÌs skill level. Do not equip a beginner fisherperson with a complicated level-wind baitcasting reel. A single spin-casting reel is much better. A cane pole with a length of line equal to the length of the pole can deliver plenty of fun when the sunfish or bullheads are active.

The experienced fisherman will have the skills to use more sophisticated tackle. Level-wind baitcasting and spinning reels provide more casting distance and accuracy. This allows the angler to better place the bait where the fish are likely to be as opposed to just getting the bait in the water and depending on luck. Artificial baits make for a more interesting fishing experience and broaden the list of target species.




The location is important to the bank fisherman. A boat allows fishers to move around in search of fish while the bank fisherman is limited in his locations. The location is often chosen by the physical mobility of the fisherman. Many people are not able to walk a mile cross-country to find the best location they are limited to accessible piers and boat ramp areas. This can restrict the number of species available for the bank angler. Open water species such as striped bass or lake trout are rarely within reach of the land-based fishermen. The more common targeted species are catfish, carp, and sunfish.

The land-based angler can fish on days when wind and waves keep the boats at home. He can stop and fish for a few minutes on the way home from work, or he can spend a relaxing weekend enjoying the outdoors without worrying about fuel, wind or boating safety. Bank fishing can be a real option that allows more anglers the opportunity to catch a keeper or enjoy the outdoors. With some experience and some interaction with local fishers the success rate can be surprising. A meal of catfish or sunfish fillets can be a bonus on the experience.


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