My rules for fishing inshore
Taking your boat inshore brings new boating pressures. Controlling the drift of a boat in breeze and tide among rocks and swell within casting distance of the shore is a challenge. It’s one that needs to be thoroughly thought through and practiced. Here’s my advice:
My first piece of advice is to pay a skipper or guide to control the boat. In my opinion, it is impossible to effectively fish with lures while safely controlling a drifting boat close to the shore.
If you are about to set sail along an exposed coastline within casting distance of the shore in order to hunt bass, then agree a plan of action. That plan should include one person driving while others fish. Keep someone on the helm the whole time.
The coastal environment changes subtly, constantly. The pace of tide will change throughout the tidal sequence. The velocity of tide will also change depending on depth and land structure.
Wind speed is never constant; it lifts and drops, gusts and sometimes seems to disappear altogether. Sometimes wind physically changes, and sometimes the topography of the land ashore can create all sorts of wind conditions. Of course, learning your patch and experience of the area will help you to understand what wind might do on any given day.
Both wind and tide will affect the drift of a boat, and constant alterations are sometimes required to keep those doing the casting in the right zone. I have the benefit of two quiet engines spread across 3 Fishes beam, which allow me to split them (one astern and the other ahead). By doing so I can better control her drift in most conditions. Never be afraid of engine noise when bass fishing. It seems that bass have no fear of engine noise.
Once you have learnt to control your boat and establish nice long drifts, the next essential step is to learn your ground. It is foolhardy to fish close to the shore without learning exactly what might lie hidden just under the surface. My key hazards are rocks and reefs but, depending on where you fish, the hazards could be wrecks, pilings or sea defences. You need to learn where they are located.
Check out a piece of inshore ground, which is new to you, at low water on a big spring tide, in clear water and still conditions, armed not with fishing kit, but with a digital camera. This was something that I did when I started the process of learning my ground.
Choose those special, still and calm days to have a good look around and note any changes. It is remarkable just how different the environment can look in different light and tide conditions. Sometimes a rock can look far away, and on another day it can look way too close.
Keep in mind actual physical changes to a particular spot. Storms can change areas of this coast completely, and in some locations I was forced to learn my drift lines all over again. Lost commercial fishing gear can appear overnight in any location.
Taking photographs from the shore can be really useful too. The change of perspective can help locate hidden dangers. There are some shallow tidal reefs that I have walked and photographed time and time again in deciding where I can position 3 Fishes best to achieve the goal of getting a client a bass. There is no substitute for taking time to learn your ground, it will keep you and your boat safe and it will find you more bass.
There are always days when it is too difficult to fish in close, and this is when experience really counts; not just when to get close to shore, but also when to avoid it. When the time is not right, when the wind blows or the tide pulls or swell thunders in, then I suggest you move away from the coast and target the offshore reefs.