Guided Bass Fishing – Catches from south Devon

Guided Bass Fishing – Catches from south Devon


High Pressure, light winds and neap tides

Not exactly ideal conditions on paper perhaps, but at least the recent high pressure and (mainly offshore) light winds has kept the sea relatively calm and very clear in my neck of the woods. Normally at this time of year you’re trying to fit in sessions around the conveyor belt of Atlantic storms. So to be able to consider a very exposed headland as the ideal guiding location was unexpected but welcome.

The headland itself is a very prominent ‘point’ that does literally stick out into the English Channel. It is one of my classic types of mark, where there is a small rock or island situated 100 yds or so offshore enabling any swell, breaking waves or current to be accentuated. I love these types of marks, and so do the Bass as the natural conditions create a very easy hunting ground for them – aerated water, a fast-moving current and white water = disoriented prey fish… Perfect!

Brotherly love….

The client today was none other than my Brother, Richard. Having recently recovered from a broken elbow, he was very keen get some fresh air and to sample what I get up to with my guiding… It was a win win situation really, as I wanted to ‘road-test’ a new venue – one that is remote, but involves less climbing around the actual rocks than a lot of my other marks…

Richard has caught a few Bass on lures over the years – most notably a 5 pounder that I got a total soaking for (when I grabbed it) as a wave broke over me some 10 years ago… He is what I would describe as an ‘occasional angler’ in that he ventures out 2 or 3 times a year – the ideal person to mentor on a new mark, where the pressure wasn’t on me as much seeing as he wasn’t a paying a customer.

Richard ‘working’ the lures in the current



Illex Nitro Sprat – the ideal testing ground

The Illex Nitro Sprat is an articlated weedless paddletail lure that was designed to be fished in a variety of ways, sink and draw, straight retrieve or it can be bounced along a sandy seabed or even, due to its weedless profile, in amongst the weed/rocky areas without easily snagging up.

Following some correspondence with FishonLures founder, Total Sea Fishing writer/photographer and fellow lure fishing blogger Steven Neely I attained some of these lures (in the 14g/90mm and 21g/120mm size) with a view to testing them out over the exact type of ground found at this mark.

Richard and I arrived on the venue at low water (1.8m Yealm Entrance) just as the tide was about to start flooding. There was very little wind to speak of and the sea was calm and clear with a very slight swell (1 – 2ft). My theory, based on similar marks to this one, was that the initial surge of current would offer the greatest chance of success. The area he would be casting into was the channel between the point and the island, where the seabed is mainly shallow rocks and kelp forming an underwater reef linking the two.

I instructed Richard to cast the lure ‘up tide’ (the current was moving from right to left therefore he was casting in a 2 o’clock direction) in order to work the lure slowly towards him. Moreover, I asked him to alternate the speed of the retrieve (slow or fast) and to also either bring the lure in with rod tip in a constant position (down) or to bring the lure back in a ‘sink and draw’ style (twitching the rod tip up 1-2ft and then dropping it back down again whilst winding in the slacker line) – basically mixing it up as much as possible in order to maximize the lures extremely inviting action and get that paddletail doing it’s thing!


On around the tenth cast, halfway back between where the lure had landed (50 yds out) and his stance and on the ‘sink and draw’ retrieve, Richard had a really solid hit. It took him a little by surprise initially but he soon had the small Bass at the base of the rocks whereby I netted it for him – he was chuffed to bits!

Richard’s first (small) Bass of the session



One to test the elbow!

With renewed confidence and a definite sense of expectation, out went the 21g/120mm Nitro Sprat again. By now the tide was really pushing through and the swell was breaking very nicely over the ‘island’ creating a very inviting area of water (very oxygenated, bubbly white water that was almost swirling) just within casting range.

I directed Richard to cast the lure onto the edge of this zone, some 40 yards out…. After 30 -40 minutes of continual casting/retrieving and a few turns of the handle following a nicely placed cast it happened – wallop! I could tell instantly from the bend in the rod and the initial 2 or 3 yards of braid being pulled against the drag that this was a better fish that was doing its utmost to use the current to its advantage. Richard’s poor elbow was getting a bit of a workout, but after a few head shakes on the surface and the obligatory parallel run close to a submerged rock just in front of his stance, I managed to net the Bass safety (and on the first attempt!)

Eager to get a few quick pictures (for family bragging rights as much for my blog) and to get the fish safely back into the water, I didn’t measure or weigh it, but I would estimate it to have been close to 4 lb.

Richard’s (larger) Bass in pristine condition



On the sand…

Even though this was proving to be a good session, it was still in the back of my mind that this was actually a ‘scoping’ trip for a quality, relatively ‘easy-going terrain type’ mark where my future clients could comfortably lure fish for Bass. Additionally, I was very keen for Richard to try out a different method in regards to fishing with the Nitro Sprat.

I knew from looking at Google Maps (and over a recent low water spring tide) that adjacent to the headland, there is a huge expanse of sand interspersed with some patches of rock/reef closer in. With the tide now halfway in and with no further takes ‘out in the flow’ I decided to ask Richard to move positions enabling a cast out onto the sand as it were.

Moving onto the slighter smaller 14g/90mm Nitro Sprat, I was surprised that Richard was managing to attain the same casting distance as the 21g, if not further due to it’s smaller size and less wind resistance presumably. Again, by varying the retrieving but allowing the paddletail lure to maintain contact with the sandy seabed things were initially a bit quiet, not even a Wrasse or Pollack attacked the lure close into his stance which I did find surprising. However, a small Bass (1lb) eventually obliged creating a real ‘thump’ on the rod tip after a few turns of the reel handle – it’s amazing how often this is the case when fishing with all types of lures (a very quick hit in the retreive).

A close up of the Bass and the 14 g/90mm Illex Nitro Sprat (Clear Ayu)



 To conclude

All in all this was a very satisfying lure fishing session that provided further evidence that doing the homework on a mark pays real dividends. Above all else, it highlighted a new area that holds Bass in calm, clear, neap tide conditions – something that is not always easy to find.

Weather permitting, I fully intend to fish for Bass through the winter months with bait likely to make an appearance, particularly in the inevitable rougher, murkier seas.

The South Devon coastline at the end of a great session


Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling



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