Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 6 (Sea Temperature)

Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 6 (Sea Temperature)

This is Part 6 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:

  • 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 lure 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 lot has been written over the years in relation to how the sea temperature affects the movement and feeding behaviour of bass. From a spawning and migratory perspective, a constant sea temperature (around 9 ºC for eggs to fully develop) is sought, before bass return in the early spring to re-populate their regular summer haunts.

Lengthening or shortening periods of daylight trigger fish movement, but the weather also plays an extremely important role. For example, a late cold spell in the early spring can hold sea surface temperatures down – possibly delaying the movement inshore of bass and other species. Conversely, a mild start to the winter can see the sea temperature remain higher than usual – possibly delaying the rate at which bass will retreat from our shoreline.

Below is a chart denoting the current (it will automatically refresh) sea temperature. When this post was written the weather buoy that I use for reference (Mid English Channel) confirmed that the sea temp was between 10.2 – 10.4 ºC.

Image result
The chart was originally published in late March 17 when the ’10’ was just nudging into north Cornwall, southern Ireland and south Devon. The chart will automatically refresh denoting the current temperature.

Feeding and the magic figure?

Further research also suggests that as the sea warms up, so does the metabolism of a bass (and prey species such as sandeels) therefore, it makes perfect sense that the more mobile they become, the more they have to eat – meaning more likelihood of connecting with one.

From a bass lure fisherman’s point of view, a sea temperature of 10 ºC is commonly referred to as the ‘magic figure’ in which bass will remain ‘active’. In the context of this post ‘active’ pertains to swimming and feeding therefore, what do my personal records indicate?

A very cold day in January 17 – the bass were there but we couldn’t land one!

temperature and bass fishing

Sea Temperature – My thoughts, conclusions and experiences

Below is a table whereby I have collated my diary entries into a simple format, in order to display the percentage of bass caught during the specified temperature ranges.

Sea Temperature Range 

Percentage of bass caught

Below 10


10 – 11


11 – 12


12 – 13


13 – 14


14 – 15


15 – 16


16 – 17


Above 17


The results above form the following conclusions:

  • Not surprisingly, a very small percentage (2%) of my catches are made when the sea temperature is below 10 ºC  with only 5% (in total) of my catches achieved when the temp is below 11 ºC.
  • The 14 – 15 ºC temp range throws up an interestingly large catch rate figure of 30%.
  • The 4% catch rate figure when the temp is above 17 ºC is low, due to the reason that the sea around south Devon will only exceed this temperature during very warm late summer periods.
  • 61% of my bass catches occur when the sea temp is above 14 ºC – significant I think.

My experiences:

  • I do continue to lure fish for bass in the Winter months (3 or 4 sessions per month) when the sea temp is at its lowest. If they’re present, I do encounter/catch them. I have caught bass in south Devon (on lures) in every month of the year, but this certainly doesn’t occur every year – I didn’t catch one in February this year for instance.
  • My lure bass fishing doesn’t really ‘kick in’ until the sea temperature reaches 11 – 12 ºC in the early spring and tends to ‘drop off’ in late December or very early January (which was certainly the case last season) again, once the sea temp is hovering around 11 ºC
  • After careful analysis, it is clear that the sea temp rises most quickly in June – which so happens to be when it hits the 14 – 15 ºC mark. Furthermore, the sea temp is also within this range in October. Based on average values for Plymouth, the sea temperature is only within this range for 39 days therefore, to say that 30% of my bass catches within the past 7 years occurred within this ‘temperature window’ or ‘amount of days’ is very, very interesting indeed…
  • In my experience, the saying that ‘larger bass are caught at the beginning and end of the season’ (seasons vary according to geographical location of course) does ring true. For example, I have caught a greater number of bass approaching, or over 5lb, in the months of mid May – mid June and mid October – mid November than other periods outside of this – could the sea temp have played a part?
  • I’ve read a lot about bass moving in over rocks warmed by the sun in the early season on a rising tide, but to be perfectly honest I can’t say I’ve really experienced this – certainly not to extent that I would swear by it…

A bass caught when the sea temp was between 10 – 11ºC

Late season lure caught bass

Is it worth bothering?

Scraping the ice off the car, getting battered by the elements and shivering on the rocks probably doesn’t sound all that appealing; especially when the chance of catching a bass on a lure is unlikely… So why do I bother in late January through February and into March?

Various reasons spring to mind. I love being out there for a start – like we all do of course. Maybe I’m a blind optimist? But we are always learning when we’re actually out there fishing. Moreover, I always believe that there are bass (big and small) in and around my particular area of coastline all year round – you just need that extra slice of luck on a cold winter’s day to locate them; as there will obviously be far fewer about.

Most of my winter sessions will actually see me testing out new areas and completing reconnaissance (finding/confirming paths exist) as much as actually fishing – so to catch one is massive bonus. The way I see it, if I can catch a bass on a lure in adversity, then it should be a lot easier for a me or a client to catch one from the same spot when the sea temperature , water clarity and weather conditions are more favourable.

It is imminent

With the sea temperature now above 10 ºC around my marks, the next set of spring tides will see me making a concerted effort to catch one before the end of March – from marks that I know produce bass a large percentage of the time.

The anticipation is building!

cold and lure fishing for bass

Thanks for reading – I welcome any feedback.

Marc Cowling





  1. I’ve just read a few parts and find them interesting and thought provoking. I will certainly apply parts to some waters I intend to fish over the next few months., hopefully you might see some results.


  2. Great read, I do the same in Dorset noting similar variables. I find the quieter months good times to find new marks further a field. Which I’ve now got a few in the bag and ready for the better months/tides/temp/clarity/conditions etc.


  3. Hi Mark,

    Interesting reading. I just wonder how much your results above are skewed by the relative amount of effort you put in at various times of year. IE, would your 2% of bass below 10c be significantly higher if the effort was the same as when the temps are hugher?


    1. Possibly Simon yes. I agree and admit that I do go lure fishing more outside of the winter months. If the sea remained calmer/clearer I would probably get out more in the colder months – but the truth is; sometimes it’s just too dangerous. Very valid point though and I appreciate the feedback.


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