Whether you’ve been fishing for a long time or you’re thinking about taking it up as a brand new hobby, bottom fishing is one of the most exciting angling techniques out there. But what exactly is bottom fishing? What types of fish can you expect to catch? And what gear do you need?
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place! Below, you’ll find the complete guide to bottom fishing. Here, we’ll cover all of the basics, take a look at some of the best areas to bottom fish, and take you through the equipment you’ll need.
By the time you’ve finished reading, we can almost guarantee that you’ll be itching to get out on the water and see what you can reel in!
What Exactly Is Bottom Fishing?
Let’s start by taking a look at what bottom fishing is. To put it simply, bottom fishing is an angling technique that involves sinking a weighted lure or hook to the bottom of the water you’re fishing in. You typically bounce the weight off the bottom and try to attract any fish nearby. This is where the name “bottom fishing” comes from.
One of the things that makes bottom fishing so popular when both experienced and novice anglers is that it can be done in an almost limitless number of ways.
Depending on the body of water you’re fishing in you’ll need to employ different techniques, use different baits and tackles, and play around with different presentations.
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It’s these things that make bottom fishing so exciting, as well. There’s no sitting on riverbanks for hours waiting for a catch. You’re actively fishing, changing your equipment and techniques, and you’ll really as though you’re taking part in a sport.
Why Go Bottom Fishing?
Aside from the thrill and the opportunity to play around with different fishing styles and equipment, one of the main reasons to go bottom fishing is because you’ll find a wider variety of fish!
Certain fish, such as salmon, flounder, halibut, sea bass, spend the majority of their lives swimming near the safety of deep riverbeds and bays. In most circumstances, a lure hovering on the surface of the water isn’t going to be enough to lure a massive fish to the top of the water.
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But, by putting a weighted hook straight into their territory, you stand a much better chance of reeling one in!
Bottom fishing also gives you the opportunity to fish in new, exciting places. There’s a social side to it as well, and you may end up meeting some new friends who will be able to pass on their own bottom fishing experiences and tips.
Where Can You Go Bottom Fishing?
Tempted to give bottom fishing a try? An excellent choice! But, before you head out with your fishing gear, it’s important to know where you can go bottom fishing.
The simple answer to this is any waters that are safe and legal to fish in. However, the very best places to go bottom fishing are quiet, isolated spots. These areas are usually abundant with a variety of fish species who gather around underwater structures, such as wrecks and reefs, for safety and shelter.
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As we’ve mentioned previously, bottom fishing can take you to many different locations all over the world. Here are some examples of where you can go bottom fishing, depending on where you are and the waters you have available:
- Shore Fishing: Piers, bridge pilings, and rocky banks.
- Nearshore Fishing: Natural reefs, artificial reefs, and wrecks.
- Offshore Fishing: Oil rigs, wrecks, and artificial reefs.
- Freshwater Fishing: Piers, rocky formations, drop-offs, and bridge pilings.
What Fish Can You Catch When You Go Bottom Feeding?
This ultimately depends on the area that you’re fishing in as different types of fish live in different waters and at different depths. This means that the number of species you can catch is almost limitless and, to put it as simply as possible, if it lives near the bottom, you should be able to catch it!
There are, however, some common catches that you’re more than likely to reel in when bottom fishing.
In freshwater, you can expect to catch Lake Trout, Walleye, Perch, Bluegill, Carp, and Bass.
And, when you go offshore ocean bottom fishing, things get even more exciting. In these waters, you’ll be able to catch Flounder, Halibut, Sea Bass, Snapper, Groupers, Amberjacks, and Tilefish. This is another thing that makes bottom fishing so exciting – there’s really no telling what you’ll be able to catch!
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What Fishing Gear Do I Need For Bottom Fishing?
The first thing you need to know here is that the type of fishing gear you need for bottom fishing ultimately depends on where you’re planning to fish. For example, you’re never going to be able to reel in a huge grouper with an old Bass rod if you’re bottom fishing offshore.
Also, bottom fishing is all about preparing for the unexpected. As we’ve mentioned previously, this type of fishing allows you to play around with your equipment and develop something that works best for you.
There is a ton of fishing gear designed for bottom fishing but, in reality, there are really only three essential items you need in your arsenal. These are the sinker, the hook, and the line.
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These three items are the key components that make up your rig which can be paired with a few additional items to make it irresistible to those bottom-dwelling fish.
We’ll discuss these additional items in more detail a little later, but, for now, let’s concentrate on the sinker, the hook, and the line.
What is a sinker? Put simply, it’s a lead weight that is used to lower your bait to the bottom of the water you’re fishing in. There are three different types of sinkers and the location you’re fishing in will ultimately determine which type of sinker you need.
- Egg Sinker: This is a rounded sinker that has a hole in the middle used for threading the line. The main advantage of using an egg sinker is that it allows a fish to take the bait and move away with it, without feeling any resistance from the sinker itself. As such, you’re able to catch and reel in with greater ease.
- Bank Sinker: This type of sinker is shaped like a bowling pin. This makes it a great choice for fishing around rocky bottoms as it’s much harder for it to accidentally get lodged between the rocks.
- Pyramid Sinker: This is the best type of sinker for bottom fishing in the surf. The pyramid shape gives it a sharp tip, which allows it to stick firmly in the sand and stops waves from dislodging or moving it around.
The shape is only one side of the story when it comes to the sinker, though. You also need to consider weight.
When you’re bottom fishing in deeper waters you’ll need a heavier sinker, and there are two reasons for this. First of all, a heavier sinker will ensure that your hook gets all the way to its intended location, rather than floating midway having got caught by a current.
Secondly, it ensures that your hook is able to easily glide past any bait pickers on the way down.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, there can be a downside to using a heavier sinker. It makes it harder to detect a bite. And, depending on the weight of the sinker and the weight of the fish you’re reeling in, it can make it harder to retrieve.
So, what’s the solution? You’ve got to go for the “Goldilocks effect” in this case. Not too heavy, not too light, but just right! This will take a little trial and error, but that’s kind of the deal with bottom fishing.
It’s about playing around with different equipment and techniques and finding out what works best for you.
We’d recommend keeping a few different sinkers in varying weights and shapes in your tackle box at all times. That way, you’ll be able to change things up if you’re not having much success.
As is the case with sinkers, there are a few different types of lines that you can use for bottom fishing. However, the type you need will depend on two things; where you’re bottom fishing and what you’re planning to catch. Each type also comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Mono Lines: These are easy to handle and budget-friendly, making them a good choice for novice anglers. They can be weaker than other types of fishing line though, which means there is an increased risk of breaking when you’re reeling in a bigger fish. Most mono lines are pretty buoyant too, which is less than ideal when you’re trying to sink your hook to the bottom of the water.
- Braided Lines: These are the strongest type of line available, making them the perfect choice for battling bigger fish in deeper waters. This strength also makes them less buoyant, so you won’t have to worry about them floating on the surface. The downside is that braided lines are quite expensive, so they aren’t the best choice if you’re trying to stick to a limited budget. Their weight also makes them a little harder to handle, so they wouldn’t be suitable for novice anglers.
- Fluorocarbon Lines: This is regarded as the best type of line for fishing in clear waters as it gives responsive feedback. Fluorocarbon lines are also highly durable, which makes them ideal for fishing around rocky bottoms as they are unlikely to snag or fray as they brush against the rock. The only downside is that it can be quite difficult to tie knots in a fluorocarbon line.
The above information should give you a better idea of what type of line you need for bottom fishing but, in reality, you’re probably going to need more than just one type. This is because it’s often a good idea to combine two types of lines to get the best from both of them.
For example, one common combination that many bottom fishing anglers choose is a braided mainline coupled with a fluorocarbon reader. This is a particularly good combination for deep-sea bottom fishing as it creates excellent line strength without sacrificing stealth or precision.
Unlike sinkers and lines, picking a hook for bottom fishing is pretty straightforward. The best type of hook for bottom fishing is a circle hook. Circle hooks are especially good for catching large fish as they are super-strong and the circular shape lodges into the fish’s mouth firmly.
Even more important, the strength and shape of a circle hook also means that it’s able to put up a good fight against big fish without being torn out. And, unlike treble or “J” hooks, circle hooks don’t need setting.
This makes them an excellent choice for novice anglers, or for anybody who simply wants the easiest (and most effective) option.
There is one important thing to remember when selecting your circle hook, though. Most bottom-dwelling fish don’t tend to have very big mouths, so you don’t need to attach a ginormous hook to your line. If you do, you may be reducing your chances of getting a bite.
As we explained earlier, your sinker, line, and hook make up your rig. But, it’s not a simple case of connecting all three together and casting into the water. In fact, there is an almost infinite number of rig variations.
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However, if you want to go bottom fishing, there are really only four that you need to familiarize yourself with. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail below:
- The Sliding Sinker Rig: Also known as the Carolina Rig, this is one of the most effective bottom fishing rigs you can create. The Sliding Sinker Rig consists of a barrel swivel connected to a single leader with a sinker, bead, and hook at the end. Super simple and super effective.
- The Spreader Rig: This also goes by the name of the Chicken Rig, and it’s a versatile setup that allows you to cover a wider area using two hooks. You’ll need to connect a couple of three-way swivels and it’s best to use a bank sinker, especially if you’re bottom fishing in a rocky area. This is a fairly complicated rig, so it’s most suitable for experienced anglers.
- The 3-Way Rig / The Drop Rig: This rig setup consists of a 3-way swivel that connects the mainline, leader, and shorter sinker line. This is the best type of rig set up for surf fishing as it will ensure your hook is floating slightly above the bottom.
- The Knocker Rig: If you’re looking for the simplest rig setup possible, go for the Knocker Rig. This uses a “straight-line” configuration, and this allows you to feel the bite instantly. It’s also an excellent setup for novice anglers as it’s virtually impossible to get into a tangle, even when you’re bottom fishing in high currents.
As is the case with almost everything when it comes to bottom fishing, it’s a good idea to try several different rigs before settling on the one that works best for you. You’ll also find that different ones work better in different waters.
To entice a fish to your hook, you’ll need to secure some bait to the end. And, when you’re bottom fishing, you have a few to choose from. The easiest option is to use dead bait, which is readily available at most local tackle shops.
This could be sardines, mullet, menhaden, or cigar minnows. Basically any small fish that you can sink to the bottom of the water will attract larger fish looking for an easy meal.
You can also fish using live bait if you prefer, but it’s worth noting that a lot of bottom fishing anglers consider live bait a bit of a cheat. Sure, it takes more effort, to begin with, but once the bait is on your hook, it draws in a crowd of bigger fish very quickly.
Finally, you can use a lure to attract large, bottom-dwelling fish to your hook. One of the best things about using a lure is that they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, so you can really play around and find out what works best.
You do need to employ a little more skill than you would when using live or dead bait, but this does mean that using a lure will help you become a more experienced bottom fishing angler.
Rods and Reels
By now, you’ll understand that bottom fishing isn’t always a case of what equipment you should use, but where you’ll be fishing. The same case applies to your rod and reel.
If you’re bottom fishing along the shoreline, the best choice would be a light spinning combo that measures around 6-7 feet long. This will allow you to cast out a good distance, but not too far away.
Anything longer than this will make it more difficult to reel in your catch. You also run the risk of breaking your rod.
When it comes to reels, again, you need to think about where you’re bottom fishing. Spinning reels are a great choice if you’re angling from a pier, while a bait caster is a better choice if you need to make long, precise casts into deeper waters.
How Do You Bottom Fish?
Now you know what sort of equipment you need and the kind of locations you can bottom fish, it’s time to explain how to bottom fish. To do this, we need to revisit one recurring theme that applies to all aspects of bottom fishing. That’s right, it’s about where you fish!
Bottom fishing for a pier, for example, is a different game than bottom fishing from the surf. And, when it comes to bottom fishing from a boat, it’s an entirely different story altogether.
This might seem overwhelming but there’s no need to panic. Below, we’ll take a look at how to bottom fish from a variety of different locations.
Bottom Fishing From A Boat
If you want to head out into the deepest waters for bottom fishing, you’re going to need a boat. You’re also going to need a lot of skill, patience, and balance in order to do it safely – especially when it comes to reeling in those big fish.
There are two ways you can safely bottom fish from a boat, and we’ll take a look at each of them below.
This is the safest way to bottom fish from a boat, and it also gives you the opportunity to take full advantage of a single productive underwater spot. It’s also fairly simple – just sail to your chosen location and lower your anchor.
Some anglers prefer to use a two-anchor system as this provides extra stability for the boat, however, it’s not entirely necessary. In fact, a two-anchor system could reduce your chances of getting a catch as you risk spooking the fish.
Don’t be tempted to believe that you don’t have to lower an anchor if you’re bottom fishing in shallower waters, either. These can still contain powerful currents that can rock the boat, carry you out further, and reduce the stability of your rig.
Some modern boats have a trolling motor that locks the vessel onto a specific position on the water without using an anchor. These are particularly useful for bottom fishing as they are much quieter, so you’re able to disturb the water and the fish as much.
If you prefer to cover a wider area when bottom fishing from a boat, drifting would be the most effective technique. This involves turning the engine off and simply allowing the current to move the boat.
It’s safer to do this in shallower waters as the waves aren’t going to be as heavy. It’s also a good idea to aim your cast down current as this will allow your bait to get plenty of “soak time” before the boat catches it up.
Bottom Fishing From The Shore
If you’d prefer to stay on solid ground or a more permanent structure when you’re bottom fishing, it’s best to stick to fishing from the shore.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow you to cover such a wide area as bottom fishing from a boat, but there are some tricks you can use to still help you reel in plenty of fish.
Bottom Fishing From The Surf
If you’re angling along the surf or a riverbank, the first thing you need to do is check the bottom structure ahead. You basically want to find out if it’s rocky or weedy.
Doing this will help you select the best gear for your rig. You’ll also get a better idea of how deep the waters are, as sudden drop-offs that you weren’t aware of could leave your bait floating halfway down!
Once you know what the deal is with the bottom structure, you need to think about how you’re going to cast. If the bottom is sandy, cast out and let your rig hit the floor.
Wait for 10-15 seconds, then slowly reel in by two turns. It would also be a good idea to use a spreader rig here as this will increase your chances of getting a catch.
Bottom Fishing From A Pier
It may seem as though there wouldn’t be too much of a difference between bottom fishing from a pier and bottom fishing from the surf. But, in fact, the only similarity is that you’re fishing in the same waters. Everything else is totally different.
First of all, you’re lowering your bait into the water vertically. This allows you to locate an exact spot, instead of casting and seeing where it lands.
Second, bottom fishing from a pier is a much more passive way to catch fish. Once the bait is in the water, all you need to do is remove the slack from the line, sit back, and wait.
This makes it a great method for novice anglers, or for those who simply want a more relaxing experience.
As you can see, bottom fishing is one of the most exciting hobbies out there. There are also numerous ways you can enjoy it, and you’ll make some seriously impressive catches.
However, to get the most out of your experience, the main thing you need to remember is that it’s all about where you’re bottom fishing.
Different locations require different types of fishing gear. So, pay attention to your location, keep a variety of different sinkers and lines in your tackle box, and play around with different rigs. You may even have to switch things up between catches, but that’s all part of the fun!