Review of Bankfishing Methods and Equipment
Patrick Mills


The following document provides a description of how I and others match anglers typically  go about catching fish (of any species) from the bank at my local venues. Such venues are typical those found on every urban angler’s doorstep and include, but are not limited to, Park District and Forest Preserve lakes and ponds, retention ponds, and ‘sluggish’ small – medium sized rivers. It is hoped that the information presented here will provide the reader with an idea of the equipment that is required to reap the significant rewards that such approaches offer.

For those interested in purchasing similar gear, throughout this report I have used bold, italicized type to indicate items that I use that can, in turn, be obtained through various domestic and overseas suppliers. Obtaining gear either domestically or from overseas via mail order is a pretty safe and stress free experience and well worth the trouble to obtain more specialized (and effective!) equipment. Interestingly, Wacker Baits ( of Oak Park, IL currently carries an essentially complete range of Fox carp equipment and, due to local demand, a reasonable range of Fox match gear.

The following descriptions are split into four separate categories, that in turn ‘cover the bases’ with regard to how myself and other competent match/bank anglers typically tackle the types of venue mentioned above. The four major categories are: Waggler fishing, Short pole (whip) Line to hand fishing, Long pole fishing and Swimfeeder /leger fishing. We do not typically fish with ‘top and bottom’ stick or Avon type floats and center pin reels, as one would for trout on a pacey stream or small river, as such venues are very rarely fished.  I recently presented a seminar at Joliet Junior College relating much of the material discussed here – the reader is urged to log on and download the PowerPoint presentation at the Articles and Presentations page of this site.

Waggler Fishing

As is the norm when I go bank fishing I essentially follow a very similar procedure with regard to the set up of my fishing station. My seatbox is placed as close to the water’s edge as possible and then made level using its adjustable legs. I also rest my feet on a footplate attached to the front legs of my seatbox. A level seatbox is more comfortable, plus essential for fishing the long pole (which is the most commonly used bank/match fishing method, and will be discussed below). I then attach a side tray to the left side of my seatbox – this allows for bait and essential equipment needed during the session to be kept close at hand. When waggler fishing, this will be my bait (stored in maggie boxes), Drennan loose feed and/or groundbait catapult(s) and a towel. I also attach my keepnet to a bank stick and place it in the water in front of my footplate; screw a rod rest head into another bank stick and place it in a one O’clock position to the right side of my footplate. I will rest my 13 ft waggler rod (match or carp waggler rod) on this when fishing. I also set up a landing net (handle and head) and place it to my left with its handle within easy reach. I also keep my match disgorger within easy reach – most often on a string around my neck.

Having set up my fishing station I begin assembling my rig(s). Waggler fishing is typically conducted at ranges between 15 and 30 yards out, with floats taking between 3 AAA and 4 SSG required to cast the distance. My personal favorites for swims of 3 feet or less in depth are the Drennan Puddle Chuckers, which are ‘stumpy’ and made of transparent plastic. Such floats really help avoid spooking fish in clear and/or shallow water. In deeper or more colored water a longer Kamasan or Drennan peacock waggler is preferred – the extra length keeps the angler’s line under the surface, and so less affected by wind. Straight wagglers are used when fishing over-depth for bottom feeders such carp and cats (their thicker tips don’t pull under as easily), while insert (thinner tipped) floats are used when fishing off bottom for pan fish. A typical pan fish rig will consist of 2 – 4 pound test line, an insert puddle chucker or insert peacock waggler float (attached bottom end only and locked in place by 95% of the shot needed to cock it, with the rest, typically a few number 6 or 8 shot, evenly spread out between the float and hook). Carp and cat rigs are similarly assembled, but feature 4 – 6 pound test line and a straight puddle chucker. A size 14 Kamasan B611 spade end hook is typically used when fishing for cats or carp, while a size 18 Kamasan B520 spade end hook is used in conjunction with smaller baits, such as spikes, for pan fish. I keep my hooks on pre-tied leaders in hook wallets (although pre-tied hooks to nylon are also available). Spade end hooks are tied using a spade end hook tier. Spade end hooks offer a better presentation than eyed hooks. However, analogous eyed versions of the 611 and 520 hooks (B 525 and B 980) are available and work very well. The depth of the swim is found by either pinching a large shot on to the hook and then ‘pluming up’, or by using a dedicated plumet. If carp or cats are sought the float is set a little over depth (more so if windy), while if pan fish are expected the float is set so the bait comes to rest an inch or so off bottom.

The key to amassing large weights when bank fishing I accurate feeding – this basic truism is common to all four of the major methods discussed. In a nutshell, the angler must consistently cast his rig and introduce his bait to the same small area in order to be successful. When fishing the waggler this task is accomplished by using the float itself as a ‘target’ for loose feed and/or groundbait. Thus, the float must be consistently cast to the same spot each time. This task is accomplished by applying two simple ‘tricks’: First, cast the rig out to a comfortable distance, then trap the reel line behind the line clip on the reel’s spool. In this way the float can only travel a fixed distance and no further each cast. Next, dip the rod tip under water and quickly reel in three or four turns - this sinks the line and, consequently, keeps the float in one spot (the angler’s fishing spot!), even in high wind. Second, when casting out always cast to a far bank ‘marker’, such as a tree or building - the angler then consistently achieves both accurate distance and direction on each cast.  Once the angler has his distance and direction feed is periodically introduced via either loose feed and/or groundbait catapult(s). Check out the below pictures that MA founder John Wilkins took during an early season outing – I used a puddle chucker waggler to catch 54 pounds (9 fish) of carp over 3 hours at a local PD park. The bait of choice was corn, introduced a little at a time (~a dozen grains) every cast with a Drennan loose feed catapult. 

Carp on!

Battle in progress – note the puddle chucker float.

Nine carp for 54 pounds in 3 hours!

Whip Fishing

Whip fishing is the simplest and most efficient bank angling method – period! It is highly effective for gills and other pan fish that inhabit the margins or ponds and lakes during the summer and consequently makes for a ‘non-fail’ match technique. The whip has probably accounted for more match wins than any other single method, especially when the larger species won’t cooperate.

Whip gear and rigs are very simple – a carbon fiber or glass fiber pole of around 16 feet in length is used (what are sold here in stores as crappie poles work well), to which is tied an equivalent length of 2 or 3 pound test line. A small size 20 – 16 barbless hook (Kamasan B 510) terminates the rig, with a light pole float competing the outfit. My favorite whip float is a 0.25 or 0.50 gram Drennan Quad, attached to the line with silicon tubing.

Fishing the whip is all about rhythm – feed, cast, strike, swing, unhook, and then repeat. Maggots (most often double on a size 16) make for the best bait as they are robust and can be used for up to approximately ten fish before being replaced. Since the fish are swung to hand barbless hooks are preferred as they speed up unhooking, while the fish don’t typically wriggle off during the swing retrieve. Regular feeding is the key - between six or so maggots introduced before each cast (with the rig then dragged on to the spot where the free offerings went in) almost guarantees a take as the fish chase the spikes around. The best whip catch I have heard of is 511 fish in 4 hours!!

A bucket of whip caught ‘gills for Elise

An ‘internet search guy’ getting into a rhythm while whip fishing

Long Pole Fishing

While whip fishing can be described as the most efficient bank fishing method, in terms of the total number of fish caught, the long pole must be described as the bank fishers’ most devastating method, as it generally accounts for much greater total weights of fish. The reasons for this are two fold: First, pole fishing allows the angler to fish exactly over his groundbait and, second, pole fishing allows for a degree of control over the angler’s rig (and bait) that greatly surpasses all other methods. The only real disadvantage the pole possesses is that the angler can only fish out from the bank to the maximum length of his or her pole, which (although poles are available to 17 meters) is realistically limited to ~ 12 meters. My personal choice of pole is a Maver H41 – it is a 14.5 M ‘match’ model, meaning it is light and stiff, but lacks strength. In all honesty I feel it isn’t quite up to the job of landing a double figure carp and, in hindsight, I should have originally ordered a more robust ‘power’ model. My recommendation for the US angler who demands the best would be the Diawa Spectron or Diawa Tournament Professional (both retail in excess of $3000!). For the angler beginning pole fishing the models offered by Fox (via Wacker baits) offer good value for money and decent strength.

When fishing the pole I take full advantage of its inherent advantages, and do so by following a set procedure: After setting up my fishing station, as described above, I then set up a tulip style rod rest to my right (such rod rest heads trap the tip end of the pole during re-baiting etc.). I then set up my pole roller some five or six yards behind and slightly to the right of my seatbox. The pole roller allows the long pole to be run backwards through the anglers hands quickly when re-baiting, playing fish etc., and supports the but end of the pole while re-baiting etc. In addition to the tulip rest, a pole roller is essential to fishing the long pole effectively. I also set up a pair of pole roosts (rig rests) to my left, which are basically rectangular pieces of foam with groves cut in. These are where extra pole and cupping top kits (the last 2 or three sections of the pole, to which the rig is attached) are kept. I own a pair of Drennan ‘Team England’ rig rests, one of each size (although two of the larger size would be better). Rigs are kept on pole winders and secured by rig anchors. I prefer the Drennan ‘Choppa’ pole floats in the 0.5 gram size for shallow water carp fishing and the Preston PB 20 in the 0.5 or 0.75 gram sizes for deeper water. Carp rigs are typically tied using 4 or 5 pound test rig line, with a size 14 Kamasan B 611 hook finishing the rig off. Pan fish rigs typically incorporate either a Drennan ‘Quad’ or Preston PB 19 floats in the 0.4 – 1.0 gram sizes. The Drennan Tipo float is also good. The hook is a size 20 – 16 Kamasan B 520, tied to 2 or 3 pound test rig line. I use top kits fitted with size 12 or 14 elastics for carp and size 6 elastics for pan fish. I have 5 top kits in total – each has a bung, appropriate internal elastic, appropriate diameter (for the elastic used) PTFE tip bush and elastic- line connector. I also have a Drennan cupping kit – a top kit with a small cup attached, which allows for the accurate feeding of groundbait. Finally, I insert a ‘skid bung’ in the butt section of my pole, such devices prevent damaging the pole when shipping back. Drennan offer ‘Skid Bungs’, with the diameter chosen to fit the angler’s pole. For a full review of top kits and other essential pole bits and bobs see the Tackle Box section of the ‘Patch’. 

Having set up my gear and rigs I then mix up my groundbait in my Drennan Team England groundbait bowl(s) (although any circular bowl(s) will do). It is important to mix up the groundbait at least half an hour before fishing commences, as it absorbs water quite slowly. I then plumb the depth all around my swim, out to the complete length of my pole. I do this to locate the ‘drop off’ (or other fish holding features), which can normally be found between 4 and 9 meters from the bank. Larger fish love to patrol just over the drop off, so it is important to find and fish just past it. Once found, I mark my pole with Tipex at the length where the shelf is – this ensures totally accurate fishing later in the session. Once the depth of water just past the shelf is established, I set all my rigs to this depth and similarly mark up their respective top kits (where the float tip rests against the top kit) accordingly with Tipex. The rigs are then ‘fine tuned’ with micro shot (good quality Anchor shot in the AAA – 12 range can be purchased in the trout section of larger outdoor stores, such as Gander Mountain) until they sit ‘just right’, with the length of line between the float and pole tip shortened to ~ 2.5 feet (I always make my rigs up ‘too long’ at home, as one can always shorten them to the required length on the bank). If it is windy the rigs are fished up to 6 inches over-depth in order to hold them still – 2 inches over-depth is a good starting point for carp, as they generally won’t hit a bait that’s dragging across the bottom. Pan fish, on the other hand, like a bait suspended just off bottom. Jigging the bait often works well for both carp and pan fish, as it mimics the ‘wafting effect’ initiated by fish feeding.

After I have my rigs assembled and tested, the groundbait is normally ready to go. I introduce between 3 and 5 balls and a sprinkling of corn via the cupping kit just over the shelf, spreading the bait over an area about the size of a small coffee table. Once this is done the waiting game commences – it typically takes between 15 and 90 minutes for the carp to find the bait, although the gills usually find it right away. Thus, fishing the PB 19 or ‘Quad’ rig with spikes works well initially, but when the carp arrive fishing double corn on a size 14 B611 is the way to go, although a size Kamasan 12 animal is better if the fish start to come thick and fast (it’s a very strong hook).

Typically, match fishers generally fish the whip for the first hour or two of a match (it’s quicker than the long pole for ‘gills) before having a look on the pole line for carp. Given that a good 4 hour ‘gill only’ match weight typically comes in at around 14 - 20 pounds, and that carp average 5 pounds a piece, whoever catches one or more bonus carp usually wins the match.

Rear Pole roller

Front Tulip style rod rest head

The long pole in action – attached to the other end is a 10.5 pound carp!

Leger / Swimfeeder Fishing

Sinker and/ or swimfeeder fishing is often considered a ‘last resort’ by the competitive bank angler, and is most often only employed when fishing either a very deep venue, when the fish are feeding beyond waggler or pole range, or when fishing in high wind. In each of these situations pole or float rod based tactics would be rendered impractical. Having said that, the swimfeeder, particularly the method ‘feeder, can be a deadly method for bottom feeders such as cats or carp. In fact, ‘big’ carp anglers fish almost exclusively with sinkers or feeders.

I generally adopt one of two strategies when fishing the ‘feeder: First, in early season competitions, when the ‘gills have not yet moved on to the marginal beds, they are only catchable at range. If it is windy (rendering the long pole or waggler ineffective) I use my Drennan swimfeeder (quiver tip) rod to fish a small groundbait or cage feeder with a 2.5 ft hook length to a size 18 or 16 Kamasan B611 hook. On shallow water a Drennan cage type feeder is preferred, while on deeper venues a more traditional Drennan groundbait feeder is better. The rig, aside from the use of a ‘feeder in place of a sinker is, in almost all respects, identical to a catfisher’s sinker rig. The reel line I prefer is 6 pound test Fireline (the zero stretch characteristic of this line allows for better bite detection at range), while the hook link is usually 2 – 3 pound test mono. As with the other methods discussed, the feeder is effective because it consistently introduces groundbait (and hook bait) to the same small area. Similar tricks to those employed when waggler fishing are used with regard to fishing the same distance and direction, although it is not necessary (or recommended!) to reel in several turns so sink the line. Groundbait feeder fishing for pan fish, when done correctly, is similar in some respects to whip fishing – a rhythmic procedure of baiting, filling the feeder, casting out to the clip, tightening up then waiting for a bite is the goal. Bites are normally experienced from small fish soon after the feeder touches down (the hook bait is slowly sinking through the ‘strike zone’ towards the bottom at this time). The quiver tip pulling sharply around indicates a bite. Quiver tips are available in several test curves, with a 1.5 - 2 oz TC models best for fishing lakes, with 4 oz versions better for countering the flow on rivers. Feeder rods are typically supplied with several interchangeable tips. In each case the rod is set at an angle as close to 90 degrees as possible relative to the rig, so to maximize bite movement at the tip. On lakes the rod is kept low and almost parallel to the bank, while on river it is pointed almost straight up in the air (so to keep as much line off the water as possible). The second type of ‘feeder fishing I do is with a method swimfeeder. I basically fish a method feeder on a carp rod during matches (that allow 2 rods to be used) for carp and/or cats. The rod basically fishes itself, especially when used in conjunction with a bait runner type reel and an electronic bite alarm. Both of these are specialist carp items and can be viewed at the Wacker baits site. Method feeder fishing is quite simple – I have a couple of quick casts over the area I want to fish with a large, loaded cage feeder in order to get some groundbait ‘on the deck’. I then fish over this with the method feeder. The method feeder differs from regular feeders in that it is basically a frame type device around which a very firm ball of groundbait is molded. The angler’s bait is fished on a very short (3”) trace and often placed inside the method ball. Large species like carp actively ‘attack’ the ball of bait and typically hook themselves against the weight of the feeder after picking up the angler’s hook bait. The result is an unmissable bite (the angler typically just picks up the rod as the fish is already hooked). Fishing a pair of method feeders allowed me to win the 3V carp tournament in 2003!

A cage style feeder used in shallow water

A loaded groundbait feeder just before casting

Fox ‘flat bed’ method feeder before loading

A method feeder ‘good to go’

Sundry Items 

Other items important to own include a rod holdall, a carryall, a tackle cart and an angling umbrella. The luggage items are available through Fox, who make some of the best. I personally use a Fox ‘Elite’ match holdall for transporting my rods, pole, umbrella, landing net handle and assorted bank sticks. I also own a Leda carryall, in which I keep my groundbait, hook bait nets and rod rest heads.