10 ways to catch more bass on lures
Things that get you thinking……
Becoming a guide has really got me thinking about how I used to approach my own fishing compared to how I do now, and all the things that I’ve learnt along the way. Therefore, I wanted to share some of the methods that I believe helped me to become a better Bass fisherman and angler in general.
The wonderful walks along this majestic coastline really help to inspire me, bringing back not only happy memories but thoughts of anticipation of what the next Bass fishing session will bring. I absolutely love being able to live and fish in such a beautiful part of the UK.
The crocodile lure
When I look back at my very early days of lure fishing for Bass, there was hardly any information out there – it was all about bait fishing in the surf. I remember the day my Dad brought home a lure that he had found floating around in the Dockyard – it looked like a crocodile! 7 inches long, luminous green, with stripes and an adjustable lip/vane on the front! But because it was a plug/lure, and that was how I wanted to catch Bass, I flogged it to death on a 12ft beachcaster obviously without coming anywhere near catching anything… especially not a Bass!
Ugly but probably good for Pike…?
I knew I wasn’t really doing the right things and the fact that I hadn’t connected with any Bass proved it. So what did I do? I went to the library and borrowed ‘Hooked on Bass’ by Alan Vaughan and Mike Ladle and then proceeded to renew it every month, for about 6 months…
I read it again and again… I was completely ‘hooked’ and literally dreamed about catching a Bass on a buoyant plug fished over the rocks and wrack from some remote cove. Continuing with the 12ft beachcaster as I couldn’t afford anything else, but now armed with an original floating Rapala plug, I can vividly remember that cloudy, windy day, climbing onto the rocks casting away with enhanced expectation.
After a dozen or so casts, just as I was settling into the session, of a sudden and completely out of nowhere, a strong ‘YANK’ on the rod (the type that I had never experienced before) and that unmistakable silver flank, signalled a decent Bass flashing before me! Before I knew what was really happening, the rod was doubling over and the fish had pulled the line across a finger of rock and… SNAP… The drag was set far too tight allowing the fish and my brand new expensive lure to escape. I was of course gutted beyond belief however, I had gained something very, very valuable in Bass fishing – confidence.
Confidence in your own ability, confidence to try new things, new marks, to think outside the norm and to always try to improve are fundamental elements to catching more and bigger Bass from the shore.
A TRULY great book
How to improve your own catches
Below are 10 methods, ideas and/or advice that I hope will improve your own catches especially if you’re a novice, in a bit of a rut, or indeed hit a brick wall – I welcome any feedback.
1 – Get the right tools for the job
You do not need to spend £300 on a rod, £200 on a reel and £20 a pop on lures in order to catch Bass.
However, if you’re currently using an 11 ft carp rod or a 1 – 3 oz rated ‘spinning rod’, a big 4000 – 5000 reel and 20lb monofilament then, although you might be catching Bass, I firmly believe you are limiting yourself. In order to get the best out of any type of modern lure, be it a minnow, surface or especially soft plastic lure, then you’ll need an 8 – 10 ft rod specifically designed for casting lures (look for ratings in the 5 – 30g range), a small 2500 – 3000 size reel and 20 lb braid – You won’t regret improving your set up.
If you’re just starting out or your budget is limited then I can personally recommend the Teklon range of lure rods here and the Daiwa reels found here. If you’re looking to upgrade or have more to spend then the choice is quite frankly, staggeringly good… But as I don’t get to test rods and reels, I can only add a few things that aren’t routinely put ‘out there’ from my own experiences.
If you can, hold the rod with a reel on it, and make sure it feels comfortable to you – especially in relation to the way your hand sits on the rod when retrieving and where the butt sits under your arm. I’ve found some just aren’t very comfortable and can spoil the enjoyment. Furthermore, I personally try to avoid rods that feel ‘tip heavy’. You’ll notice this (without a reel attached this time) when you balance it on your index finger – the further away from the reel seat that your finger needs to be in order to ‘balance the rod evenly, the more tip heavy the rod is.
When it comes to reels, do your homework on the weight of it (over 300g is too heavy I think) in addition to ensuring the spool isn’t too deep or too shallow – 150m of braid is all that you need on there, with or without backing (mono).
I currently use a Major Craft Skyroad 862ML that I bought here and a Mitchell Mag Pro Extreme 500 that I bought here. The whole set up (rod and reel) is very light, weighing just under 300g , yet it is extremely powerful. Combined they cost £310 – middle of the road believe it or not, in the modern Bass lure fishing arena.
My current set up
2 – Take notes
I know I’m always banging on about this! I understand and appreciate that it is sometimes difficult enough to find the time around work/life commitments to go fishing, let alone to keep a diary about it! But it does pay dividends – plus its nice in the winter to sit back with a cup of tea and review the previous seasons (s). See my previous post here about the type of notes to take/keep.
A ‘snippet’ from my own notes
3 – Fish all states of the tide
When I first started Bass fishing with lures, I would only fish the final 2 hours or so of the flood and only up to high tide. Nowadays, limiting myself in such a way seems totally bonkers, to the extent that occasionally I actually find Bass harder to come by over high water…
One of the things that really motivates me about Bass fishing is the way that you can start putting in all the homework in the winter months, looking at maps, taking pictures etc.. You then fish the mark (s) in all sorts of weather and tidal conditions until you feel that WHACK on the rod and the line starts to be dragged off the spool!! when it all comes together for either myself or my clients, it is very satisfying indeed.
Fish from the start of the flood on a new mark if you can, as I’ve often found that the increase in the flow/current on the 2nd – 4th hours of a new tide are excellent. Conversely, through sheer patience and time spent on these marks, it is surprising how many times the Ebb can often fish better than the flood – one mark I know is a classic in this way and is very predictable in the required sea conditions.
An Ebbing tide on a favoured venue – looks good!
4 – Trust your instincts
How many times have you been out fishing, possibly moving from one mark to another perhaps and thought… I’ve never cast a lure into that gully or over that reef before, but today, due to the way the waves are breaking around/or into it, I’ll give it a go, only to be rewarded for your effort – subsequently finding a new Bass mark.
A few years back, I had a week off in the middle of winter, during a very settled spell that coincided with some very low spring tides. Rather than fish, I just walked miles and miles of coastline and took hundreds of pictures of anywhere that I considered (at the time) might be a good Bass mark.
Fast forward to the spring and a very high tide, sandwiched between basically two marks that I liked the look of, was a very shallow gully/inlet. The way the waves were crashing into his area just looked too inviting to resist – clearish water, oxygenated by the crashing waves further out and foaming into this gully. So out went a very shallow diving Maria Chase lure…. Wallop!! 3 casts and 3 Bass, the biggest 7 lb. It was when I got home and reviewed the pictures of the area at low tide that I realised why – the lovely pavement of rock that flooded into a ‘scour’ or ‘pool’ The Bass had simply been holding here due to the tidal and weather conditions.
The moral of the story is when you’re out fishing, to always be on the ‘look out’ for conditions that can transform a mark (watercraft) – when they’re in the mood, Bass can be caught practically anywhere on the open coast – see here
It’s always worth a cast just to see whats there…
5 – Routinely go the extra mile – literally
What is around that next headland, cliff or bay? It could be another excellent venue that no-one else has ever fished – Well that’s my theory anyway! Even though I spend far too much time pouring over Google maps or photographs, nothing beats getting out there and actually seeing it for yourself. Even the tiniest inlet, reef or sandy patch can be attractive to Bass at some point in a tide therefore, the more effort you put in the more you’re likely to get out of it – if you have to walk 2 miles to get to a mark that you know could or will produce, go for it.
A long walk from the car park!
6 – First and second casts
It is really annoying when you spot a Bass snaking away into the depths because you’ve suddenly appeared in their field of view therefore, imagine how many times you’ve done it and never even noticed.
When you first approach a mark, stand well back (5 – 10 yards or as out of sight as possible using rocks for camouflage) and make your first 2 casts very short, for example close in to where you actually intend to stand. On many occasions I have caught or seen a Bass caught on that very first cast – the post here is a case in point.
Also consider trying different spots only metres apart, or cast to the spot/area, but from a different angle – sometimes seeing a lure from a different perspective/angle can sometimes be enough to spur a Bass into attacking it, it seems – food for thought that one…
As far as the second cast is concerned, I’m also convinced that a Bass will (routinely?) follow a lure without hitting it, but will then remain in situ, only to take a swipe when you next retrieve the lure past their nose? I’m sure anyone who does a lot of lure fishing will sometimes get a ‘knock’ on a retrieve, the type that you think ‘was that a rock?’ so you make an identical cast/retrieve and then get a solid hook up.
The Bass could be very close to you here, especially in these conditions
7 – The weather
The strength and direction of the wind, how much rain has, or is falling, the temperature, the cloud cover – all of these things affect how Bass behave. Therefore, when planning where you’re going to fish it is very important to try and predict how this could affect your marks.
Generally speaking unless there is a swell rolling in, onshore winds bring larger waves, offshore winds will flatten the sea out. If you’re planning to fish near an estuary, or if a river runs onto a beach and it has been raining for 2 days, it could affect things. If we’ve had an early or late season frost, and the tide has flooded over very cold rocks, it could be worth finding a slightly deeper venue.
Bass like to use the elements to hunt (look at how good they are at feeding in rough conditions) therefore cloudy or dull conditions could suggest a higher likelihood of them using this to sneak into the shallows. Also days when the sun is in and out (showery days) can be really good – if you think about it, the sun comes out between a shower or cloudy interlude and suddenly small fish, prawns (your lure) are now immediately more obvious, particularly if there is a bit of clarity.
The website I use to see how much wind or rain is forecast is Net Weather.
The Met Office (FAX) charts tend to be the most accurate
8 – Learn how to connect braid with fluorocarbon
Braid is superb to cast, is extremely strong and offers that instant connection and ‘feel’ that is enjoyable when using modern lure rods and lures. However, the downside is that it can part on near instant contact with rocks and some will argue, it is more visible to the fish…I went back to using braid straight through for a couple of seasons and I’m totally convinced it reduced my catches.
The only way to combat both of these issues is to tie fluorocarbon (supposedly invisible to fish) to the braid, 18 inches – 3 ft is generally what I use, ensuring that the knot doesn’t enter the tip ring at all. The other advantage is that the fluorocarbon allows for a certain amount of fraying (allowing a better chance of landing a fish). This is however countered by the potential ‘weak link’ of having a knot at the business end of the set up.
Personally, I think the advantages out weigh the possible disadvantage. Have I lost a Bass when the knot has failed, yes I have, twice. Have I caught Bass in very clam clear conditions because the fish couldn’t see the line? Or have I managed to land a Bass after feeling the leader rubbing across the rocks? – Probably on the first count and definitely ‘yes’ on the second… It’s up to personal choice.
The knot I use that hasn’t (so far) let me down (add 3x hitches to the braid after serial 6)
9 – The weedless, weightless soft-plastic (SP) revolution
I do admit and appreciate that to have the confidence to fish these things you need to either see a Bass caught with your own eyes, or even better still, hook one yourself. Additionally if you’ve already enjoyed success lure fishing with hard minnow sub-surface or indeed surface lures, then it can be easy to think, well I don’t need to fish weedless, weightless soft-plastics…But
In a similar way to sticking with the carp rod, if you think like this you’re limiting yourself. I implore you to not only obtain, but to positively test their use at the start of sessions, not when everything else has failed – they are a lot cheaper than most hard lures too!
A recent client, who had never seen a paddletail lure, weedless weightless worm or even a surface lure ‘skitted’ across the surface was astonished at how life-like they all looked when twitched, flicked or bounced around with a lure rod and braid. However, the real bonus is these SPs can be used in and over the most evil-looking ground, in the shallowest of water, when a more subtle approach (calm and clear) is required and when the presentation needs to be extremely ‘natural’ looking – all potentially very important factors when you’re targeting Bass.
If I had to pick one SP (as a starter) then it would be the OSP ‘6’ Do-Live Stick that you can buy here with a 4 or 5/0 weedless hook that you can buy here. They cast very well – just as far as most hard lures in fact and are very effective Bass catchers in calm, rough, clear or murkier conditions. Retrieved at a dead slow pace, drifted around naturally, brought to the surface or twitched about – there is no right or wrong way to fish them.
Just ensure that you keep a modicum of contact (not a tight line, but not a slack line either – a slight bow is ok) and wait for the savagery of the take!
Weightless/Weedless Soft Plastics – Do-Live Stick, Dot Crawler, Gary Yamamoto Senko, Slug-go, Fish Arrow Flash J SW and Z Man Jerk Soft Bait
10 – Choose your lures wisely
We’ve all done it, walked into a tackle shop, gone straight over to the fantastically stocked lure section and ended up walking away £50 lighter… Additionally, many of us have lures that are hardly ever used – Now is the time to be ruthless!
I know of one Bass lure angler who only uses 6 lures – that’s a bit too limiting for me personally, however carrying between 10 and 15 to cover all eventualities appears more prudent. So what eventualities are we talking about? To keep it very simple (as this is definitely worthy of a separate blog post) I would consider the following:
- The sea conditions – how rough is it? Do you need a lure that can handle the turbulence?
- The weather conditions – Is it bright, cloudy or low light conditions?
- The water clarity – clear, milky or dirty?
- The depth you want to, or have to fish – On the seabed, mid-water or on the surface? Is the venue very shallow 0 – 2ft, medium 2- 8ft, or deep 8ft and beyond ?
- Type of ground – sandy, rocky, weedy or all of these?
- What are the Bass looking for – Sandeels, brit, pollack, wrasse, gobies, prawns, worms?
- Do you have imitations of the above?
Nowadays, I only buy new lures if I consider there is a void in my armoury based on the types of ground that I fish, or if I need to replace them. Have a look at my blog post 10 lures that are bringing me success to see what’s currently in my lure box.
A selection of ‘Sandeel’ and ‘Pollack’ lures from my collection (barbs are crushed)
I would be very interested to hear about your own catches and/or experiences of how you improved as a Bass lure fisherman
Thanks for reading.