Bank Fishing Basics: Creek wading for bass

Summertime fishing can be downright brutal. The bass are trying to recover from a grueling spawning process, often positioning themselves in deeper waters. These fish are unreachable by anglers fishing from the bank and hard for even boaters to fish for once the pleasure boaters hit the water around 9 a.m. On top of all this, it’s just plain hot out, and if sitting in the middle of the lake baking in the sun and bobbing in the waves is the best bet, is fishing even worth it?

Well now, hold on now. I know it’s a grind, but fishing is almost always worth it. You might just have to think a little outside the box. Better yet, outside the boat. Grabbing a rod, a buddy and a handful of tackle and bailing off in a creek is a great way to keep cool and catch lots of fish. Let’s look at a few of the ins and outs of this style of fishing now, and why you may want to give it a try.

The pros

One of the things I like most about wading creeks in the summer is that it’s refreshing, in multiple ways. The trees alongside these small creeks and rivers cast shade over the fishery throughout much of the day. And the water you’re wading through is often hovering around a brisk 70 degrees. But, as refreshing as these cooler conditions are on the body, the soul is often soothed even more so by this easy and old school way of fishing.

Little creeks, streams and rivers litter the landscape of much of North America, but it seems fewer and fewer anglers bother fishing them these days. This is the style of fishing my dad and all his brothers and cousins grew up on, one of very few options they had back then. Now, with endless tournaments and ever advancing equipment options, the focus has shifted to bigger lakes and rivers. This means the bass in these smaller tributaries rarely see an artificial lure, and they attack with fervor anything in their vicinity.

The cons

There are a few negatives to consider and navigate if you’re wanting to wade a creek. To start with, you’ll need to check the applicable laws in your area to see if the waterway is considered public property and fishing is allowed. Landowners will often own the shorelines, but many of the waterways themselves are public, so staying in the water makes it a legal endeavor. You just need to check and make absolutely sure.

Limited tackle, the chance of stumbling upon a snake and the remoteness of these fisheries present a few challenges as well. But planning well, keeping your eyes peeled and dressing accordingly will help. Long and thin fishing pants do a good job of protecting against briars, but also drying quickly when you leave the water. And it’s a good idea to wear socks, even with sandals or water shoes, so that sand doesn’t rub your feet raw. Trust me on this one.

What to take

A spinning rod is typically sufficient when wading a creek. Most anglers can cast and skip well with spinning gear, and a lighter action combo like this creates more exciting exchanges with the bass and other panfish that are often a little on the smaller side. For this reason too, it’s a good idea to go with smaller baits, like Rooster Tails, Beetle Spins and undersized jerkbaits, crankbaits and jigs.

You’ll want to keep your phone on you in case of emergency, and you’ll definitely want to have a way to keep it dry. Even with phones that are waterproof, slipping your cell in a ziplock is a great way to keep water and sand from creeping into its crevices. And be sure to stay hydrated, though the shade and the moving water may keep you cool, you’ll still exert a lot of energy trudging through the sand and against the current, and so it’s easy to dehydrate.

Having some sort of wearable, small tackle bag is a great method for transporting your tackle, keeping your phone above water and holstering your tools, a spare reel or even a pistol, if you’re able to legally own and carry one. This last bit of equipment can come in handy in a pinch, if it comes down to you or a cotton mouth exiting the creek alive.

In conclusion

I’ve waded creeks off and own since I was just a boy, unable to venture more than 3 feet deep without being in over my head. Though there are some things to be cautious of, I’ve rarely felt uneasy fishing this way. Just make sure you do your research and take the right amount of gear, not too little and not too much. And, the best way to really enjoy this style of fishing while also feeling as comfortable and confident as possible, is to go with a buddy.

If you’re suffering from summer fishing fatigue, wading a creek is an easy prescription for your ailment. Just call up one of your close friends, grab your gear and bail off in a creek near you. You’ll be glad you did.