Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 2 – (Flood, Ebb, what state of tide?)

Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 2 (Flood, Ebb, what state of tide?)

This is Part 2 of a 12 Part series in which I will share my thoughts, conclusions and overall personal experiences of Bass fishing over the past 7 years from the South Devon coastline. In the following parts of the series I will also cover the following:

  • 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, 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!

Why 7 Years? Please go to Part 1 (Tide Heights) where I explain.

A productive ‘Ebb tide’ mark



Increasing my catch rate

Without a shadow of a doubt, fishing for Bass over different stages of the tide massively increased my catch rate – I cannot emphasize enough the importance that this played in my own ‘self taught’ Bass fishing education.

Very early in my lure fishing ‘career’ I only used to fish around the high tide period, generally over spring tides – it was only years later that I realised quite how much I had limited myself, my learning and above all else, my potential for success.


So what changed?

Two things completely changed my way of thinking. Firstly, and quite by chance, a mark that I used to fish very regularly required me to remain on a huge rock platform over high tide. In extremis, and on the lower scale high tides, I could wade back (30 yards or so) to dry land as the seabed was sand/shingle (tricky if the sea was rough however) but more often than not, as I had been fishing for 3 – 4 hours, I would simply chill out and wait for the tide to retreat a bit first. Hilarious really, when I think that I’ll sometimes go out fishing for 8 hours+ where I’ll obviously be fishing across at least part of the flooding and ebbing tide.

Up until this particular session, I had always believed (and was told) that fishing an ebb tide was a complete waste of time, but I decided to keep on fishing (with lures) on this day. 2 hours later and 3 Bass in the 2 – 4 lb range to the good, a lightbulb moment occurred!

A few months later, on a day when I had 2 hours to fish (a common event for many I imagine) a quick look at the tide table confirmed that the 2 hours happened to coincide with a very low spring tide therefore, a long walk out across the slippery rocks ensued… Again success! This time in the form of a  5 lb Bass – the fish having been caught on a J13 Rapala cast into a gully, at the end of a long line of rocks in a turbulent sea… I still remember the fight it gave me!

These two moments were enough to convince me that further investigation and more hours fishing (outside of my ill-conceived preconceptions) was required!

Low tide over a productive ‘High tide’ Bass mark



Flood, ebb, what state of tide? – My thoughts, conclusions and experiences

Below is a graph detailing (in very simple terms) the percentage of Bass I have caught during the respective ‘hour’ of the tide – across the 12 hours (or so) it takes from low water, all the way up to high water and back down to low water.


The results form the following conclusions:

  • The first hour of the flooding tide (immediately after low water) is often very productive – 10%.
  • Very interestingly, the 3rd and 4th hours of the ‘flood’ are when I have taken a large percentage of my Bass catches – in total some 41%.
  • 1 hour either side of high-tide and over high tide itself accounts for substantial percentage of catches – 23%
  • Another ‘spike’ of activity (catches) is also evident around the third hour of the ebbing tide.
  • The last 3 hours of the ebbing tide appear to account for the least amount of catches.

My experiences:

  • I have personally found that the period around ‘high tide’ is often a time when it can be quite difficult to locate the fish.
  • Conversely, they tend to be in groups, shoals, pockets and generally holding up which means if you can locate them, you can often catch 2, 3 or even more in a short space of time! Hence the high percentage of Bass caught 1 hour either side of (and encompassing) high tide.
  • The perception that Bass love following the tide in with the water barely covering their backs over reefs, sandbanks, shallow rocks and between gullies does appear to ring true going by my personal statistics – very interesting indeed as I definitely wouldn’t count myself as a ‘flood tide’ only Bass angler.
  • The last session that I conducted on a rock mark, I was nailed by 2 Bass in the last 30 minutes of the ebbing tide, just before low water therefore, even though the stats suggest a lower percentage of catches around this period, it completely depends on the type of mark you’re fishing on and the conditions.
  • When I’m out with my clients, many of them ask me “What is the best state of the tide to fish for Bass?” My honest answer is that it appears to me that the 2nd – 4th hours of the Flood or Ebb, when the tide is running at its strongest is when I personally feel most confident of catching a Bass.

A lovely, well conditioned Autumn Bass caught, as you can see, when the tide was very low – and still ebbing incidentally.



To round up….

This is a subject that is both extremely interesting and very, very open to debate and speculation. No doubt, there will be a lot of Bass anglers who have come to completely different conclusions. This is what makes fishing for these magnificent creatures so appealing – there are so many ways to catch them, so many different types of marks where they can be caught. No wonder they’re revered as such a sporting species.

Bear in mind that a high percentage of my Bass (lure) fishing is completed ny fishing from rocks but over very rough, weedy, snaggy ground interspersed with small sandy bays and gullies – another angler down the coast might concentrate his/her efforts on fishing the estuary mouth or the beaches therefore, I’d expect their diary, conclusions and experiences to be slightly different.


I welcome any comments on this subject. Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling


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