It's A Shore-Thing

Viewer Question:  "Hey I love the show. There is a lake in Morris IL that's supposed to be loaded with many different types of fish, called Heidecke Lake in Grundy county. Me and my friends go there and we have no luck because we don't know how to fish from shore there. We try everything and no luck. Any suggestions?" -Sean

Heidecke conditions:  Stained water, some grass, lots of shoreline rip-rap


I must admit, that although I love fishing from my fully rigged bass boat, fishing from shore can be a relaxing and therapeutic way to catch fish because it tends to force you to use simplistic and minimalistic approaches.  Really, unless you have a pack-mule on hand to carry 200-pounds of gear (which might not be a bad idea…..), you are essentially limited to no more than a small tackle box and maybe two rods.

As a person who cannot stand to look at as much as a puddle without having to have a rod within reach, I have come up with a very simple "shore kit" that I use to cover all my bases while fishing from the bank, but first, let me talk about your lake in particular.

Home-Base Bassin'

By looking at Heidecke Lake from satellite imaging and Navionics' WebApp there are some things that immediately jump out at me:  

  1. This particular lake looks like it has ALOT of fishable shoreline, which can make it difficult to pick just one area.  
  2. There doesn't look to be much cover in the water to fish, other than- as you mentioned- some grass beds.

With the knowledge that there is some grass, and the water is somewhat stained, my first inclination would be to focus on the very small, isolated, cover and irregularities.  It doesn't take much for bass, or other fish, to relate to a piece of structure or cover.  It could be as simple as a small twig sticking out of the water; a small grass-patch on an otherwise barren bank; or even a small flat or finger that creates shallower water next to the shoreline.  

In your particular instance, there looks to be corners on the lake where the rip-rap meets a grassy bank, the mouth of a launch area, or where the bridge is.  These are areas that immediately look different, and need to be checked out.  

Also, like the bridge and boat launch basin, I want to find areas that have lots of deep water, or wind-breaking, shelter.  These areas are going to be more stable and have a population of residential fish available, so start there.

Shore Kit

In order to cover most of your shore-fishing bases, and to get you started on the path of fine-tuning Heidecke, I'm going to recommend two rods, and three lures.

Spinning Rod:  If you can only afford to bring one rod, I would really suggest sticking with a spinning rod for shore fishing.  I guess it's just my preference, but I just think I can cover more shore-fishing conditions with a spinning rod, than a baitcaster, which is actually backwards from what I would suggest fishing from a boat.  

I like a 6'6" Medium action rod, and a 25 or 2500 size spinning reel.  I like the shorter rod because sometimes you're bushwackin' it, and you don't want the extra tangling potential.  I then spool my spinning rod with 15-20lb Vicious Braid for my mainline, and then I will add about a 2 foot 8-12lb 100% Fluorocarbon leader for most conditions.  

As for the baits that I would suggest, there are two for the spinning rod- a wacky rig, and a "Ned" Rig.  

The wacky rig is one of the most simple, yet effective, fishing rigs ever devised……and I bet it was created by a three-year-old.  It is essentially any straight-tail worm with a small hook right through the middle of it.  Though you can use many different styles of worms and be effective, I like to use a stick bait style body, like a Z-man ZinkerZ, in either green-pumpkin, or watermelon-red color.  If you use the ZinkerZ as your bait, one little tip I will share, is when hooking the worm, make sure you fold the worm in half evenly and then hook it through where it bends- this will ensure that it falls evenly, without gliding one way or the other, since you want it to fall vertically.  Other brands fall differently and you just need to figure out where to hook them to make them fall vertically.  As far as the hook, I like the Trokar TK97W weedless wacky-rig hook, since it is the right shape, and has two weed guards.  

The wacky rig is going to be your shallow water (5' or less) target casting bait.  You want to use this rig to cast to the isolated pieces of cover I mentioned, to catch the solitary fish that live around them.  This type of rig requires absolutely nothing but slack line to work, since the action the fish crave is the subtle shaking motion the worm makes on its own as it falls.  Make one cast to the cover, let it fall to the bottom, if you don't get a bite, reel back in and make a cast to the next piece of cover.  Keep it simple.

 Wacky Rig!

Wacky Rig!

The other rig, the Ned Rig, is a lure I suggest is for slightly deeper water, or for around vertical cover or structure like bridge pilings, boat docks, or big rocks.  This is a great lure that will catch everything in the lake too!  Read more about it HERE.


Though I like shore-fishing with spinning gear, there is always going to be situations that only a baitcaster can handle, and there was one bait in particular that I love to shore fish with, and catch fish everywhere on- and it's the Chatterbait!

Though you technically could throw the Chatterbait on a spinning outfit, it is really best to use it on a baitcasting rod instead, with stouter line.  Again, I like to use a 6'6" rod, with a Medium Heavy action, and I pair it with a baitcaster with a 6.1:1 ratio or higher, and then I spool it with 17lb mono, like Vicious X.A.C.T..  I generally don't use much monofiliment (other than some top waters) for tournament fishing, but for shore fishing it is still a good all-around choice…….and it's cheap!  

As for the Chatterbait itself- I would suggest a 1/2oz Chatterbait Elite in the Smokey Shad color, which can imitate a huge range of baitfish you have in Illinois, like shad, perch, bluegill, or even other bass.

I like this bait because it is so darn versatile, and in stained water this thing can catch a lot of big fish.  The best thing about it is that you can really learn the lake quickly because this bait is good at covering water.  Just simply make casts close to cover, or parallel with the riprap, and reel it back in.  It doesn't need much added action to work, but you can fine tune things if you feel the fish want a varied retrieve.

Overall, this is my favorite setup for fishing from shore, and I hope this helps!

Fish On!