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Written By: Cal Kellogg, December 1, 2011
With the north state's lakes cooling, trout are once again moving back within easy reach of bank anglers. Fall and early winter is prime time for encountering fat hard fighting holdovers. As a result I thought that this would be a good time to provide an excerpt from my book, The Trout Fishing Handbook detailing the basics of bank fishing for trout, so that you can get out there and enjoy some of the great trout action that is just getting underway!
Banking for trout is a fairly simple endeavor, but like other types of fishing it requires a selection of good quality gear and a solid systematic strategy. The first thing the aspiring bank angler needs is a rod and reel.
Obviously, when bank fishing you'll be doing a lot of casting. This makes spinning tackle the best choice. I prefer a 7 foot stick. Much of the time you'll be fishing your baits close to the bank, but there are some situations where casting well offshore gives you a distinct advantage and this is when a longer rod really shines.
Once you've settled on a rod, it's time to pick out a reel. The first requirement is that the reel has a smooth drag. At times 4 pound leader material is required to draw strikes. When fighting trout on line that light you don't want the drag to stick at all.
Another consideration in selecting a reel is its line capacity. An average size trout isn't going to pull a lot of line off the reel. So a very small reel with a modest line capacity would do the trick most of the time, but what happens when you hook the trout of a lifetime? When that happens you need plenty of insurance in the form of line capacity. A reel capable of holding at least 200 yards of 6 pound line is a sensible choice.
End tackle represents the nuts and bolts of the bank angler's toolbox. Since trout spend most of their time holding near the bottom, that's the most effective zone for presenting your bait. The basic bait fishing set up is the sliding sinker rig. To construct sliding sinker rigs, you'll need a selection of hooks, weights, beads and swivels along with some fluorocarbon leader material.
I keep my various bait fishing supplies in a plastic compartment box. I like to have both bait holder and octopus hooks on hand in sizes 8, 10 and 12. It is important to use super sharp hooks Gamakatsu hooks are my favorite brand, but they are a little pricy. You can save a little money and use Eagle Claw Lazar Sharp hooks without compromising much in the way of performance.
Egg sinkers are the most popular choice among bait anglers, but I prefer to use the tapered bullet sinkers popular among bass anglers, since they hang up less and come through the water with less resistance. A selection of sinkers from 1/4 to 1/2 ounce will cover most situations, but I like to add a few in the 1/8 and 3/4 ounce sizes as well.
I swear by fluorocarbon leader material. Due to its molecular make up fluorocarbon line diffuses light in much the same way as water, making it virtually invisible to fish. Most often I use 6 pound test, but I also like to have 4 and 8 pound test on hand.
Once you've gathered all the necessary components, putting together a rig is simple. The first step is to pass the line of your spinning rod through one of your sinkers going in from the narrow end and out through the wide end. Next pass your line through a bead and then tie on a swivel using an improved clinch knot. The bead acts as a spacer between the weight and the swivel, protecting the knot. To the other end of the swivel attach an 18 to 36 inch section of fluorocarbon leader with an improved clinch knot. The final step is to tie a hook to the end of the leader using a palomar knot.
There are several popular and productive baits and bait combinations for tempting trout, but the best baits all have one thing in common, they float up off the bottom. Trout will seldom pick a bait directly off the bottom.
My go to bait is a baby night crawler injected with air. Worms being a natural bait appeal to planted, holdover and wild trout. When fishing a worm you are using a bait that has both an attractive scent and taste, but it also boasts movement. That is something that most other baits don't offer.
You can buy commercially produced "worm blowers" that are simply a small plastic bottle that has a needle attached. My only complaint about worm blowers is that the needle is usually thick. This punches a big hole in the worm allowing a good portion of the air injected into the worm to escape. A hypodermic needle does a better job, but they are difficult to get.
Twenty five years ago, worms, salmon eggs and soft cheese were the kings as far as trout baits were concerned, and then it happened. Floating dough baits arrived on the scene and things haven't been the same since. Power Bait is the most popular and arguable the most effective of these putty like concoctions.
A glance at the Power Bait display in your local tackle store will likely reveal an extensive array of colors. Which colors do you need? It seems that everyone has a favorite. Rainbow is very popular as is chartreuse. My strategy is to keep things simple. I carry a bottle of rainbow for stained water situations and a bottle of yellow for when the water clarity is good.
One of the tricks to effectively fishing with dough bait is to use a ball of bait that is no more than a quarter inch across. You can catch fish on larger dough balls, but you'll miss more trout because it takes them a while to get a large ball well into their mouth.
Many bank anglers seem to have an obsession with flinging their baits as far from shore as possible. At times this is a good strategy, but when the water is cool these anglers often cast their bait out into deep water well past the depth zone where most of the trout are holding. Before you make your presentation consider the conditions and let them be your guide.
Once you've baited your hook with a worm or ball of Power Bait and lobbed your rig into the water, you'll want to place your rod in a holder, while waiting for a bite.
A common mistake is fishing with a tight line. This works great for catfish and other less sensitive fish, but when a trout feels any kind of resistance it will likely as not spit out the bait. To prevent spooking trout it is important to have some slack in the line so any trout that picks up the bait can move off and swallow the bait without feeling anything.
One trick to accomplishing this its to hang a small plastic bobber on the line between the tip of the rod and the second eye. Enough slack is pulled off the reel to allow the bobber to hang down almost to the ground. When a trout takes the bait and moves off the slack is paid out gradually as the bobber pulls upward toward the rod. When the line comes tight it's time to set the hook and begin fighting your prize.
The Trout Fishing Handbook, details all aspects of conventional tackle trout fishing from both the bank and boats. The book sells for $16.95. To order a copy, call (530) 320-0368.
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