From the May 2011 issue

No Boat, No Problem

By Justin Newkirk

One thing that keeps people away from fishing is thinking you need a boat to fish. Granted, there are some places you can get to only in a boat. On the other hand, there are places only a land based angler can reach and many think it's easier for an angler to wet his line from the bank than the seat of a boat. All told, a boat hardly guarantees you will get more fish than a person on foot. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in the “best” fishing spot.
    Obviously shore fishing is the complete opposite of boat fishing. Fishing from the shore involves you fishing off of the mainland instead of in the middle of the lake on a boat. The best thing about shore fishing is that you don't have to spend too much time packing and getting ready to go on your fishing trip.
    Odd as it may sound, there are actually times you may be ahead not to have a boat. Being restricted to a limited area may actually make you a better fisherman. I know it sounds crazy, but if you have a boat and the fish aren’t biting, it may be too easy to head for a different spot. But if you're "stuck" on land, moving around may take a big portion of the time you have to fish. In a situation such as that you're often forced to think of different ways to catch fish, what you're actually there to do, instead of putting about in your boat. Maybe what you need to do is something as simple as slowing down your presentation. Maybe you need a change in bait or even the size of your bait. If you think about what you're doing, you may be surprised at the success you'll have!
    I don’t think many of us really realize how fish may be able to hold up in small areas, provided there is ample cover or forage. I look back to times in my life when I didn’t have the luxury of a fancy bass boat or I had limited time to fish so I would take any opportunity I was given. Sometimes that meant just carrying a rod down to a local pond.
    There were times I can remember when I caught large numbers of fish from only a limited area of shoreline—as many as 20 or 30 fish from a 50-yard section of bank. That’s what really made me a better angler because I was forced to utilize what the area gave me. Where as now I might give up quickly and run to another area of the lake or river, instead of giving an area a fair shot. I know so often fishermen pass through an area and catch a couple fish and keep moving. To never realize the potential that spot had. Or they here of other anglers who came in and cleaned house on that very spot.
    It's also very much more affordable than boat fishing, especially in today’s economy. You won't have to pay to either buy or rent a boat. Just like its positive reasons, it also has its negatives; you will be limited on the areas you can access. That can also be its biggest positive, since you can access places boats cannot. I have some places I frequent that I simply cannot get my bass boat into, but either can anyone else and they’re dynamite. I have one particular river near my house that houses smallmouth bass in the five-pound class and in most locations you can cast across it from one bank to the other.
    If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always explore to find some different areas but at times they will likely have other people fishing there. If you are fishing from shore you will have to accept that you won't have many locations to choose from and that you will have to share your fishing area with other fishermen. This can help you hone your skills by paying attention to what others are doing. Change up and give the fish something else to look at besides the same old spinner everyone else is hurling. But I caution you that other will do the same. I have had a few times when other angles scramble to find the lure I was catching fish on and had my area virtually ruined as the fish became so conditioned to that presentation.
    It doesn't matter where you live, tossing a line around piers, lay-downs, lily pads or bridges are probably going to pay dividends if you don't have a boat. One reason these are usually good places to fish in rivers is because the covers provide protection from the current and small fish even feed on the algae that grows on them and then bigger fish feed on the small fish. Artificial rock walls, known as riprap, are another exceptional area you want to target. When the weather is cool, rocks are going to hold heat and fish may hang close to get way from the cold.
    Since nobody catches fish if their tackle is home, "packable tackle" that stores in your vehicle lets you enjoy freshwater fishing without busting your budget. The Pflueger Company offers great options for this type of fishing. Their lineup offers solid, flexible choice for beginners, compact outfits suit experts as backpack or backup tackle too, but they do have one small drawback. They eliminate the "I left my tackle home" excuse for getting skunked. Of course, if you own decent tackle and know or are willing to learn a few basic techniques, you will rarely get skunked. The keys to a good catch are tackle that's ready when you find fish in your travels and a few basic casting and rigging skills, plus a basic knowledge of fish behavior.
    It boils down to this—if you think you can't fish without a boat, you're just making an excuse to sit on the couch.

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