Two young shore fishermen land crappies at Centennial Lake at sunset.
Two young shore fishermen land crappies at Centennial Lake at sunset. (Bill May photo)

This spring’s rains and threats of thunderstorms have restricted my kayak fishing and renewed my interest in shoreline fishing for bass and panfish. However, even these options are more reduced now.

Where and When

Triadelphia reservoir is closed due to the dam repair. At Liberty Reservoir, working my favorite shoreline is severely limited due to high water. Piney Run Lake, Cunningham Falls Lake, Centennial Lake and some private waters are still options.


Most of the waters listed have dawn to dusk accessibility. I have had far better success shore fishing in low light situations, especially at dusk. So I recommend the first couple of hours of daylight or water’s opening and the last couple of hours before closing. Just make sure you know and abide by an area’s closing time to avoid getting locked in. Some parts of Liberty and Cunningham Falls can be accessed without going through entrance gates.

Tackle Bass

I usually take two spinning rods, a medium rod with 10 to 15-pound braid and a light rod with 8-pound braid or monofilament. In most situations, the best approach is fan casting with long casts, and I like to use surface lures for bass. (See casting note below.) My favorite by far is the Super Zara Spook, Jr., which can be cast far and has a unique ability to draw bass from the bottom to attack it.

This big smallmouth took an original Zara Spook fished from shore at Liberty Reservoir.
This big smallmouth took an original Zara Spook fished from shore at Liberty Reservoir. (Bill May photo)

Retrieved at medium speed with a steady “walk-the-dog-retrieve,” the Spook Jr. or the larger original Zara Spook cover a lot of water and have produced some of my biggest shore bass including a 21+-inch smallmouth and a 5 ½-pound largemouth both from Liberty.

Close behind is the ¼-ounce Tiny Torpedo or the 3/8-ounce Baby Torpedo; the latter can be cast further. I use these when casting to places where I have seen bass swirl and when waters are mirror calm and fish them with a couple of short twitches, then a pause, then repeat. In waters with lily pads, like Piney Run and Centennial, I try dropping a hollow Pad Crasher Jr. frog into holes in pads and gently twitch it in place then slowly drag it to the next hole and continue this retrieve back to shore. This is my favorite frog, and even the Jr. size can be cast a good distance yet lands fairly lightly on the water.

Some guides swear by the ¼-oune Pop-R fished very slowly and quietly, similar to the Tiny Torpedo, with a slight gurgle rather than a popping sound. A black Jitterbug is another evening favorite. I prefer the 3/8-ounce size. However, I recently came across some Musky Jitterbugs in a popular tackle shop. When I asked the proprietor where they were used, all he would tell me was, “Reservoirs.” Makes one think.

This largemouth inhaled a pad Crasher, Jr. fished from shore at Piney Run.
This largemouth inhaled a pad Crasher, Jr. fished from shore at Piney Run. (Bill May photo)

Dropping below the surface, a good choice is a spinnerbait, since it can be cast a long distance, is fairly snagless and takes big fish, including giant crappies occasionally. Yet I have had better success with shallow-running crankbait/jerkbait types such as original floating Rapalas and X-Raps. Texas-rigged 3 to 4-inch flukes are a good choice in snaggy areas.

I like black or natural colors for all these lures.


Here I use the light rod. I have had some banner evenings catching crappie on small Rapalas and 3 to 4-inch flukes. But usually I fish a size 10 beadhead black wooly bugger or a Trout Magic jig with a chartreuse tail below a clear float with a small shot above the fly or jig. These should be retrieved in gentle twitches with pauses to take crappies, bluegills, stocked trout, and a surprising number of bass.

Casting Adventures

Shore fishing can be hazardous to tackle, from wacking rods off trees and rocks to throwing expensive lures up inaccessible trees. Where vegetation permits, long casts are often best for reaching distant working fish and for covering water. But making a perfect 80-foot cast to drop a lure within inches of a shoreline to work it back over a breakline can be ruined when the line drifts down into overhanging trees. Your odds are getting the lure back are minimal. Likewise planting a lure into a stump probably means a loss.

So think before you cast. Sometimes the best strategy is a series of short casts and walking the bank –- where possible. Be aware that good fish can be right up against shore. Stomping up to a likely area can spook them; tread lightly. One trick for casting in tight areas is to break down the rod, make a short cast with just the top portion, then quickly reassemble the rod. Another is using the bow-and-arrow cast. Both tricks are best done with flukes or single hook lures; trebles can be dangerous.

Gear and Safety

Plan on protection from, brush, thorns, mud, mosquitoes, ticks and other hazards with long pants, possibly boots or hip boots, a long-sleeved shirt, hat, glasses and insect repellent. Inspect for ticks when you return home.

Carry a backpack or tackle satchel that includes a fishing license, reliable flashlight or headlamp and cell phone. Include a plastic bag that will fit inside if you wish to keep fish, and a knife for quickly dispatching any fish to be kept. I recommend a wading staff or walking stick to helnavigate uneven areas in the dark and check for soft muddy banks. Pepper spray may be a good idea in some places. Finally I carry a large trash bag to help clean up shoreline trash left by slobs.

Leave your car locked at the parking site with no valuables inside or at least visible.