Guided Bass Fishing – When it all comes together…
James’ Birthday present
This was a Birthday present for James that his Wife had arranged for him a good 6 weeks in advance. For good measure and to share the experience, he brought along his Brother-in-Law Joe for the occasion.
James arrived first and within 2 minutes he was showing me his pride and joy – a 10 ft Rovex lure rod, an expensive looking Penn Fierce reel and a small but very expensive looking lure collection, the showpiece being a couple of my favourite minnow type lures – the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner that he’d bought after reading about my affinity for them!
Joe arrived soon after therefore, once we’d exchanged pleasantries (and a re-cap of my Health & Safety brief), whilst we were donning our waders/jackets I went into the detail of the day ahead.
Ebb, Flood and different types of marks
Originally booked as a 4 hour session, my clients today both wanted the option to extend it to 8 hours – something that did indeed occur. Ultimately this allowed us to fish the last 2 hours of the ebbing tide and the full 6 hours of the flood.
What has struck me in the short time that I have been guiding, is the similarity between what the clients want to be taught. Generally speaking, they want to learn about where Bass can be caught (the types of ground and watercraft), how to fish a multitude of different lure types (be it surface lures, soft plastics etc…) and most of all, when to pick the correct lure to suit the conditions and marks.
James is an accomplished angler. To experience his casting style and natural awareness, it is very obvious to see. Joe on the other hand, had a very limited casting style and had completed very little rod and line fishing, so the contrast was significant.
I explained that the marks we were going to fish today would encompass fishing an estuary, a long promontory of rock extending into the tide (where we would be casting onto sand), a very shallow reef, off of the beach itself and finally the extremities of that beach.
This meant my clients would be able to experience fishing with multiple lure types, ranging from trotting weedless soft plastic lures down in the flow of the estuary, bouncing paddletails across the sand between rocks and working very shallow diving minnows and/or surface lures over the very shallow reef systems along this particular (half a mile) stretch of coastline.
Estuary fishing – knee deep in the flow waiting for that BANG!
Pointing out the marks
Despite it being a chilly start, for mid November it actually turned out to be a very warm day – 16 degrees in fact! Therefore, the walk from the car along the cliff top path at 0830 was absolutely lovely and with the tide nearly 4 hours into the ebb, it allowed me to point out areas where we would be fishing later in the session – something that is extremely useful. If you can get visual with the ground (including the gullies, pools, sandy patches and of course rocks) that you’ll be casting over later in the tide, it can really pay dividends (and assist you to not lose lures of course!).
So onto the first mark. Once I had described where my clients needed to cast (up-stream, towards the direction of the flow in around the 2 o’clock position) and how to let the lure ‘flutter’ and ‘bounce’ along in the flow (until the lure reaches the 10 0’clock position) off James went towards the estuary mouth. I say James, as Joe required a little more tutoring in order to start perfecting his casting style. However, with some words of advice and a few old habits identified and rectified, he was soon casting out the lure into the desired area and letting it do its thing.
As I often do when I have two clients at the same time, I had attached two different lure types to their respective clips in order to try and increase our chances of finding the feeding Bass. Therefore, onto James’ clip went the superb Illex Nitro Sprat 90 14g and onto Joe’s clip went the Megabass Super Giant Xlayer in Ayu with a 15g jighead – I had also checked James’ very secure looking knot linking his 20 lb braid and the 5 ft of 15 lb fluorocarbon leader and had tied a similar length onto Joe’s set up. He was using my Daiwa Airity 8′ lure rod and Mitchell Mag-Pro Extreme 500 reel – an extremely light but powerful set up.
The water was very clear in the river (hence the slightly longer fluorocarbon leaders) and flowing wonderfully out of the estuary mouth and I was expecting a ‘shout’ at any moment as I walked/waded gently between the two of them positioned about 100 yards apart. But it wasn’t to be and with no Bass forthcoming, off we trudged for the 20 minute walk to the next mark.
James’ first Bass from the second mark, caught on the first cast!
First cast strikes again!
I had scheduled in some additional time on the way to the next mark. This enabled me to point out areas where I, and my previous clients have been successful and the sort of ground that had attracted the Bass. Additionally, this also allowed some time to demonstrate the ‘action’ of various lure types – something that they were very eager to see .
Stopping above a large pool, the pair of them were greatly enthused about actually experiencing and learning how the slightest twitch of the rod and/or change of retrieve can affect senko (worm type) lures, or shallow diving minnows or indeed the paddletails or weedless jerkbaits or the surface lure snaking across the surface – the list is almost endless – at least when I had my full complement of lures with me for this session!
I knew that we would only have a maximum of an hour and a half on this promontory of rock as a 10 ft wide sandy gully fills in very quickly behind it – something that obviously requires close monitoring so with my ‘risk assessors’ head on, off over the rocks we went. We appeared over a stunning stretch of sand, rocks and underwater reefs…. covered by a sea that had about 4 ft of clarity to it, with a nice 2 -3 ft swell rolling through on 5 or 6 consecutive waves every 3 or 4 minutes or so – without a cloud in the sky these sea conditions were most welcome.
I directed my clients onto their respective platforms and proceeded to describe the type of ground in front of them, the zone to cast into, the retrieval rate, how to ‘work’ the rod and most importantly – what to do if they latched into a fish. So with my net at the ready – they went for it!
First cast for James, on his own Fiiish Black Minnow 12g expertly positioned onto a patch of sand, between two reefs exactly where I’d asked him to cast and literally on the first sink and draw of the rod tip…… WALLOP! The tip was dragged down and the battle commenced.
The Bass had hit the lure no more than 8 yards from his rod tip and tried its best to power to his left across a sharp rock but very quickly, a perfect Bass was slid onto our platform (the net would have complicated this battle so a very quick decision to use the swell accordingly was made).
A very happy memory
Obviously ecstatic, James was stunned I think at the simplicity of the method and the sheer beauty of this wonderful fish. They had told me that they both really, really wanted to actually handle a Bass as much as to feel the power of one smashing a lure! So one of them had now achieved this – brilliant stuff.
More of the same
Remember, we only had about an hour and half on this mark so once the fish was photographed, returned and the ‘mangled’ Fiiish Minnow replaced with another new one (simply to save time) he was away again – with even more vigour! While this was happening Joe, who I had given an IMA Salt Skimmer to fish with had been stood in awe, taking in every moment, no doubt wishing he was next!
He was next, but this time the Bass, which had grabbed at the lure really close to his stance managed to shake the hooks – an unusual occurrence on these brilliant little surface lures… Of note, my clients were simply astonished at the casting ability of the IMA Salt Skimmer, which although isn’t necessarily required, is good to have in your armoury when the conditions dictate a longer cast to reach a patch of turbulent water/reef for instance.
Whilst consoling Joe, a ‘screech’ coming from behind me signalled James ‘second ‘hit’ of the session and a very similar battle, landing of the fish and that massive smile erupting across his face. The classic comment of the day was about to come out of his mouth as he was about to return the slightly smaller, but no less beautiful Bass “I know what you mean about no wanting to wallop them on the head” a great response to me reminding him on the walk to this mark that I practice pure ‘catch and release’ – A fantastic moment captured on the video that you can watch at the bottom of this post 🙂 Brilliant!
By now I could feel Joe’s pain! And with no other boils, hits or takes on the surface lure I switched him over to one of my Fiiish Minnows – considering they were clearly turning on the Bass. However, within 5 or so casts, it wasn’t a Bass but this rather nice little Pollack that took a liking to the vibrating paddletail of ‘the minnow’ It was taken as the lure was simply ‘straight retrieved’ (not sink and draw or bouncing it on the seabed) after hitting the bottom.
A nice lure caught Pollack from only 6 ft of water
Things went a little quiet for a while until James became snagged on the edge of a reef that he had cast just a little to close too. I had been considering asking them if they would like to ‘swap spots’ as it were but James’ misfortune allowed Joe to nip onto ‘his’ mark where he almost instantly nailed this stunning Bass in more or less the same position as the others had been caught – this time the lure had been kept very close to the bottom.
As I mentioned, this spot has been really consistent for a long time now – One my early clients (Ron) caught a lovely 3 lb Bass from here, and another previous client (Andrew) lost what I think was a pretty decent fish here in rough conditions, when it used the undertow of a retreating wave to escape…
Joe’s Bass – look at the weather too!
Time to move!
With the tide really flooding quickly we made our way back across the rocks and the sandy gully (that was now knee deep) in order to take in the spectacular scenery, the weather and most of all, the fantastic sport they’d just witnessed – Guiding doesn’t get any better than this I thought.
Onto the next mark then – a similar tidal set up, in that the current runs strongly from right to left on the flood. But the seabed here is a real mixture of rock pools, intertwining gullies and patches of dense wrack. The real feature here though is the extended pool or gully that runs roughly at a 30 -45 degree angle to the main rocks (your stance) which the Bass will patrol through with the rising or falling tide.
Having witnessed how realistic and deadly the jerkbait, weedless soft plastic lures looked in the large pool a couple of hours previously, they were both very keen to give them a try – and as this was a very shallow mark were they have been effective for me in the past, on they went.
James with a Manns Hardnose jerkbait (see below) and Joe (after fishing with the Salt Skimmer and a small Duel Aile Magnet surface slider for 30 minutes) with an OSP Do-Live Stick (see below). Both of these lures are proven fish catchers that I always take out with me on my solo excursions as well as the guiding sessions – see my post 10 lures that are bringing me success for more details.
OSP Do-Live Stick
I estimated that we had approximately the same amount of time on this mark and explained to my clients that we would have to move again once the water started to flow into a rock pool behind us. With the tide now approaching the 2nd – 3rd hours of the flood and with my clients slowly twitching and drifting the weedless lures around I was confident we would see some more action, but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.
As the water level started to creep up and the swells became more regular and slightly larger a switch over to some shallow diving hard minnow lures was called for. On went one of James’ Shoreline Shiner’s and Joe went back onto the surface lures for the final 20 minutes we had on this mark.
This is the frustrating part of being a Bass guide – your clients are fishing correctly, into known Bass hot-spots, with proven lures, in tasty looking conditions and I’m literally waiting with the net for that shout! The times when you’ve previously caught Bass by doing the exact same thing that they’re now doing – come on Bass where are you…
That’s what makes tasting success all the more sweeter I guess, as it’s never that easy all of the time… So, after navigating back across the rocks and pebble gully, I managed this lovely shot of James (below) as a consolation.
James using my Daiwa Airity to his immediate delight
A new rod in his hands
Up until this point, Joe had been using the Daiwa Airity Tournament lure rod (14 – 56g) that weighs around between 130 -140g. It was teamed up with one of my remarkably reliable and very light (179g) Mitchell Mag-Pro Extreme 500.
At just over 300g for the whole set up and with the ability to effectively use every possible type of lure and with huge casting ability when you require makes this an outstanding combination. Indeed, everyone that has used it, even when I’ve placed my heavier and slightly larger Daiwa 2500 Exceller reel onto the rod has been impressed – and James was no different… In fact it didn’t leave his hands for the rest of the session!
The tale of two extremities
The extremities of beaches are often Bass hotspots – if you have rocks or a reef at either, or both ends of a beach, then at some point in the tide, under certain conditions Bass will often be present. It could be because:
- Food items are naturally washed into such areas.
- The current is often stronger here.
- Other small fish (prey) tend to congregate here for cover/protection.
- Bass may need to swim closer to these areas to access the beach.
- These areas are prone to rougher seas/larger waves/swell.
The last two marks are exactly this – extremities at opposite ends of a long (500 yard) beach. Following a short break (quick drink and something to eat) I replaced the lures on the clips to a Tacklehouse Feedshallow and back to the OSP Do-Live Stick respectively as the ground in front of us was the very shallow reef that we had walked across some 2 hours earlier.
As the tide continued to flood strongly, James and Joe kept hard at it, moving a few yards either side of their original stances after each cast in order to cover more ground. An hour later and with nothing doing, I decided that we should head over to the opposite rocks – now with a lovely looking swell breaking around them…
The final mark of the day is basically three marks rolled into one. It is however, very uncomfortable underfoot – so after checking that my clients were happy to commence, off we went. By now, with the sun starting to sink lower in the sky, the tide a fair way in and a thin layer of cloud starting to appear from the west, a chilly wind made itself noticeable.
This area of rocks and reef has had me scratching my head a little this season… In previous years it’s been really consistent, indeed it can be spectacularly good. However, I’m still waiting for it to ‘really fire’ this year. With only an hour or so left of the session, I placed James in one position where he continually cast and retrieved the Shoreline Shiner up through a gully – waiting for the Bass to move through.
With Joe, I took the complete opposite approach, assisting him with different lure types, casting into different zones (which he was becoming highly efficient at) from one stance, before moving him onto another spot only a few yards away and again, rotating through the lures in order to try to find the magic formula – all to no avail.
I didn’t want the session to end and neither did my clients even though we were all ‘cream crackered’ by this point – I think the combination of the excitement, the sea air, the walking and climbing and the sun had really shattered us out!
The picture below really captures the experience of the day. A day in which my clients became my friends. I would have loved for them to have experienced catching more Bass as we moved around the marks and/or catching them on every lure type they’d used (as this is where even more confidence in what you’re doing comes from) but overall the smiles say it all – They loved it and so did I.
My clients at the end of their guided Bass session
James returning a Bass to grow, breed and make another anglers day…