Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 1 (Tide heights)

Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 1 (Tide heights)

This is Part 1 of a 12 Part series in which I will share my thoughts, conclusions and overall personal experiences of bass fishing over the past 8 years from the South Devon coastline. In addition to Part 1 (Tides heights), I will also cover the following:

  • Part 2 – Flood, ebb, what state of tide?
  • Part 3 – Sunny, cloudy, wet or dry?
  • Part 4 – The wind direction and speed
  • Part 5 – Dawn, Dusk or Daylight?
  • Part 6 – Sea temperature
  • Part 7 – Moon phases
  • Part 8 – Water clarity
  • Part 9 – Sea state
  • Part 10 – Air pressure
  • Part 11 – Rocks, Beaches and Estuaries
  • Part 12 – Which type of lure?

Note – Please bear in mind that any conclusions I make in this series are based purely on my own experiences and my diary entries. I am positive that there will be many similarities in the hypothesis of my fellow bass anglers, or indeed, just as many conflicting or contradictory observations – I look forward to the debates!

So why 8 years?

Quite simply, although I have been taking notes for over 11 years, I only ever used to consistently fish a dozen or so (mainly rock) marks for bass. Furthermore, because I had less time available to me, I generally fished over high water spring tides, as I knew these marks produced, mostly when the sea was moderately rough.

Another factor, is that up until 7 years ago, 80 – 90% of my bass fishing was conducted using a small selection of sub-surface minnows and only two types of surface lure – To add these figures into a 11 year investigative series of articles would have ‘distorted’ the results towards the bias of only catching bass on a certain type of lure, over a certain type of ground and over a certain state or height of tide.

The most recent 8 year period offers a far more accurate representation of all of the 12 factors/headings above. I now have upwards of 120 different bass marks encompassing rock marks (that make up a very large percentage), very shallow reefs, deeper water headlands, mouths of estuaries, shingle backed coves and sandy beaches. Additionally, over the past 8 years I have made a conscious effort to fish as many of my marks in differing tidal and weather conditions as possible, in order to gauge the best time to fish them.

Finally, and very importantly, are the types of lures I have used, again over the past 8 years. My personal lure box now contains around 20 lures incorporating subtle or more obvious surface lures, weedless/weightless worms/senkos, very shallow diving minnows, paddletails, deeper divers and jerkbaits or shads of varying patterns and spinnners – all of which have earned their right (by being proven fish catchers) to be in there.

Hooking into a bass on a neap tide


Neaps, springs and tidal range…

A full explanation of what constitutes a neap or spring tide can be found here Neap and Spring tides.

When utilising the tide tables, I have invariably used the ‘River Yealm Entrance’ as my location when determining the ‘Height’ of a tide. For instance, a 5.5m high tide height on the River Yealm equates to roughly a 5.2m tide height in the Salcombe Harbour – by always using the same location, you will gain a far more accurate record of your findings.

Without wanting to teach people to suck eggs, it takes approximately 6 hours 10 minutes from dead ‘low water’ to reach ‘high water’. Therefore, if a neap low tide height is 2.0m and the height of the next high tide is 4.2m, then over the course of 6 hours or so, the sea will rise (notwithstanding barometric conditions or strong offshore or onshore winds) by 2.2m.  If however, the spring low tide height is 0.5m and the high tide height is 5.5m then the sea will rise by 5.0m within the same length of tim – meaning the sheer volume of water/tidal flow will be greatly increased = tidal range.

So why is the tide height so important to the bass fisherman? Because bass love current/tidal flow and use it to either patrol the coastline, penetrate estuaries/beaches or to simply wait for items to be washed to them. The greater the tidal range, the greater the current/flow = possibly more bass inshore.

Low water on a spring tide


 The same mark as above, but on a high water spring tide


Tide heights – My thoughts, conclusions and experiences

Below is a table detailing (in very simple terms) the percentage of bass I have caught during the specified tidal range – Please note that this does not take into account whether the tide was flooding or ebbing, or what stage the tide was at within the 6 hour period, as that will be covered in Part 2 of this series.

Tidal range (in metres)

Percentage of Bass caught

2 – 3m


3 – 4m


4 – 5m




The results above form the following conclusions:

  • Tides with a higher tidal range (above 4m) appear to offer an increased chance of catching bass from the shore.
  • 68% (so over 2/3rds) of the bass I have caught, have been on what I would describe as ‘spring tides’ where the low tide is 1.0m or lower and the high tide is 5.0m or higher.
  • Neap tides (under 4m of tidal range) are still conducive to catching bass – but less so in my own personal experience.

My experiences:

  • As previously mentioned, I generally fish all types of tides (not just spring tides for instance) therefore, the results form a relatively accurate measurement.
  • Some marks actually fish better during neap tides – more on that in Part 2.
  • Conversley, some marks fish a lot better during spring tides, and some only have water on the highest tides!
  • The tides buiding up to the highest springs appear slightly more reliable than the tides dropping back after the highest spring. For example, if the highest tide of the range is a 5.6m late on the evening of say the 25 May, then my figures point towards a slight bias to bass being caught on the 22/23 or 24 May rather than on the 26/27 or 28 May
  • I do like to fish for bass on the very largest tides of the year (during the March/September Equinox when the days and nights are of the same length) if I can. Therefore, the higher percentage of bass caught associated to tidal ranges of above 5m may also be down to a couple of ‘red letter’ sessions in late September!

A beautifully conditioned bass taken on a set of tides with a large tidal range – the lure is a Tacklehouse Feedshallow


It would be very interesting to hear from other bass fisherman out there in regards to their own findings on this subject.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling



  1. Hi Marc, i have experienced similar results regarding to fishing for Bass on spring tides on the South Coast of Cornwall, fishing of the bottom with live bait.


    1. Thanks for the comment Dave. I’ve had quite a few people contact me saying their results are similar on lures therefore, it’s even more interesting to hear the experiences/results from bait fisherman. Cheers. Marc


  2. Hi Marc.Similar findings here in East Devon although its easy to convince myself that I will only catch fish at certain locations at certain states of the tide. I recently fished a location at low tide and caught a cracking 9lb bass (12th November) I would normally only go to this mark at high tide.


  3. Great read Mark. I intend to start creating a log as well, based on what you are doing, l was going to add a section for mobile phone reception, in case fishing by myself and time of year, which may highlight the best tactics/time for bait or lure. Interesting on the tide range, l would have thought the larger range the better. Looking forward to reading the others. thanks Chris


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