A lure caught bass in March for a returning client
The thrill, pleasure and feeling of sheer delight that I get from watching someone latch into, land, hold and return a lure caught bass from the shore is something very special.
Indeed, the bond created in the pursuit of this prize predator and the handshake (and man-hug!) that accompanies achieving such a triumph is a wonderful experience, both for me, and of course, the client.
Here is the story of two contrasting sessions completed on consecutive days earlier this week.
Session 1 – George in action
The huge tides that coincide with the spring equinox are when I start to really concentrate on landing that first lure caught bass of the season. I’ll admit that it might seem a tad early in the year, but from my records I’ve ascertained that these tides will often see bass appear and feed around south Devon. There are many variables of course – the weather and associated sea conditions being a huge contributory factor to a successful session, in addition to the sea temperature.
In my last post Analysis from my Bass Fishing Diary (Part 6) Sea Temperature I mentioned the fact that the sea lapping the shores of south Devon had reached the supposedly magic figure of 10 ºC – which is slightly above average for the time of year.
With that in mind, two clients (George and James) who had been badgering me (nicely) all winter were contacted with a view to completing a one to one session: George on the Monday (27th) and James on the Tuesday (28th) of March respectively. Although outside of my official guiding season of 1 April – 31 January the huge tides, recent increase in air temperature and reports of concentrations of bass being seen close to the coastline were encouraging signs – certainly enough to warrant having a go.
The Sunday evening saw me checking and re-checking my guiding bag (First Aid Kit, rope etc.), the weather forecast, tide times, tide heights and my client lure boxes to ensure that a selection to cover all eventualities (including water depth, terrain, sea conditions etc.) were in place with either hooks sharpened or replaced.
What a nice bloke – chilled out, up for a laugh and massively into his bass fishing (with some impressive bass catches on bait to his name) but with limited experience and success on what he’s adopted as his favourite method – lures. One of the main questions that I ask a client is ‘What would you like to learn?’ and in George’s case, the answer was ‘How to find marks and watercraft’
George had a fair way to travel therefore, we arranged to meet at 0930 for an 8 hour session. With low water at 1235, the ebbing and ultimately very low tide would enable me to point out a number of areas/zones from which I (or previous clients) have caught bass – but more importantly, I could describe why the fish were there in the first place (watercraft).
The weather on this day was worthy of sun cream – it was that sunny! And with a strong south-easterly wind ruling out some stretches of coastline (too rough and too murky) we embarked on area slightly more sheltered in order to find some clarity in the water; important, especially at this time of year.
Session 1 – An ‘inlet’
Stealth and subtlety
Due to the sunny and clear conditions, I explained to George that stealth and subtlety would be the order of the day. Not highlighting yourself against the skyline and weedless soft plastics (senkos and shads) would be the way ahead until the tide and swell began to increase slightly with the flooding tide; whereby we could utilise some paddletail or sub-surface minnow type lures.
The first mark was a narrow gully (only 3 m wide at its narrowest point and 6 -7 ft deep) that snakes its way through of a reef system running onto a shingle beach. I was a tipped-off about this gully by a member of the pubic a few of years ago when he approached me (as I was walking to a spot at the end of a classic hot, calm, sunny day) to say he’d earlier spotted a large bass seemingly ‘mooching’ around, in what I now conisider to be a natural pathway or patrolling route. I’ve subsequently been successful here; particularly on senko (weedless soft plastic worm imitations) slowly drifted and twitched invitingly whilst remaining out of sight. If the bass are at home, you’ll know very quickly, so after half a dozen casts with no signs of fish we moved to the next spot.
The next mark can only be fished in calm to moderately rough conditions (up to 4 ft swell/waves) over the last 2 hours of the ebb or first 2 hours of the flood. It is a complex of inter-linking gullies (ranging from 3 ft – 10 ft in width and 6 – 8 ft in depth) on the outer each of a long (30 m) reef system. In the calm, clear conditions that we faced, George continued with the subtle (OSP DoLive Stick lure) as the tide receded further until I decided a move was required.
OSP DoLive Stick and Shad
The beauty of a very low spring tide is it enables you a very unique insight into the terrain you’ll be fishing over with your lures. This was a subject where George was very eager to expand on his knowledge, with a view to putting it to use on his own patches in North Somerset.
What was interesting and very pleasing to hear, was that in areas where he has experienced success, be it on lures or bait, when he later investigated why the fish were there, he noticed certain elements were in place (mussel beds, rock pools, gullies or large rocks that were used as ambush points). Therefore, these discussions were important for George, in that it was actually confirmation that the tactics he’d been employing were correct and it was pleasing to see his confidence grow as a result of this.
Paddletails, Slug-gos and Shads
Following a ½ mile walk along the cliff tops, down a steep path, a shingle beach and finally the narrow sandy patches between a very rugged reef we arrived. As George had continually remarked throughout the walk – this area is stunningly beautiful aswell as offering the bass lure enthusiast classic ground to explore.
Over the low water period, whilst taking in some food and water we took the opportunity to talk bass fishing and I went on to explain/demonstrate why certain lures are in my client lure boxes. Additionally, it enabled me the opportunity to have a few casts with his 8′ 6″ HTO Lure Game rod that he’d bought new for £60 – very impressive was my conclusion.
Once the tide turned, George was on the mark, concentrating and fishing hard to keep a variety of paddletail lures (including Illex Nitro Sprat Shad and Effzett Kick S Minnow) bounced around or straight retrieved, and the good old Lunker City Slug-go drifted very naturally and inticingly through the area. With the occasional slight swell breaking over a submerged reef the area in question (a patch of sand some 5 m x 5 m between exposed rocks, again at the end of a long reef/promontory) was looking likely to produce. But after a couple more of hours of effort completed, it was time to retreat across a shallow sandy gully to discuss the next move – with George extremely happy about what he was being taught and the surroundings in which he was completing it in.
Effzett Kick S Minnow and Illex Nitro Sprat Shad
With the tide now flooding strongly another walk ensued – this time back to a mark that I had highlighted to George (the scours, the expected movement of the waves/current and his fishing stance) earlier in the session. The wind (SE) had also started to increase now and the rather nice 1 ft swell and choppier conditions meant the sea here had taken on more of a greeny/chalkier colour.
Now with a lack of sandeels around at this time of the year (as expected of course) my theory was to try to imitate a pollack or wrasse moving over the shallow reefs therefore; onto the lure clip went an OSP DoLive Shad… These things look awesome in the water – they also cast well, sink slowly and offer a decent mouthful to an early season bass so they were given a fair dunking, interspersed with differing lure types and patterns such as the a IMA Salt Skimmer (surface lure) and Maria Chase (sub-surface lure) all to no avail…
Another friend made
As the session began to near its end, a final push to find my client a bass saw us tucked out of the strong breeze, searching out the reef systems between large expanses of rocks (inlets) as the water depth also increased into a small bay, that we had again walked across a few hours earlier.
George had remarked prior to the booking that he didn’t expect to catch a bass at this time of the year, and that all he wanted to do was have a great day out, enhance his knowledge/understanding and confirm some of his own theories – which I believe he certainly did considering the review he kindly wrote and posted. A top bloke and now a friend – cheers mate!
The final casts of the session for George
Tuesdays session – A lure caught bass in March
Over the past 7 seasons when I started taking extensive notes, there has only been 2 seasons (or years) when I haven’t caught a bass on a lure from south Devon in March. Now admittedly, I haven’t caught a bass in the March just gone (writing this on 1 April) however; what is more pleasing, is that I managed to guide a client to catch a bass on a lure in March instead.
Session 2 – James in action
A returning client
James is a former client from when him (and his Brother-in-Law) caught a number of bass on lures when they were guided by me during a very warm, calm day in November Guided Bass Fishing – When it all comes together – which turned out to be a memorable day.
The last time I saw James was back in January (when it was bloody freezing and no-one was catching anything) when I asked him if he would like to come out with me (for free, as I was also going to fish that day) so that I could capture some images for some forthcoming articles I was going to be writing – as I’d been asked to become a regular feature writer for Total Sea Fishing magazine.
By the end of March, he was champing at the bit for his next official guided session. And so with a lure collection costing nearly as much as my car burning away in his back pack, a short afternoon 4 hour session in very different weather and sea conditions commenced. Just to add – James is probably keener on his lure bass fishing than me, and that is really, really saying something!
Cloud, wind and surf
Following a very pleasant walk through a quiet village and out onto the coastal path, we could hear the sound of the waves before we had caught sight of the sea… And what a sight! The quintessential or the commonly perceived ‘ideal’ conditions were there before us – a 3 ft swell in choppy seas, white water breaking around the rocks, 1 – 2 ft water clarity and a spring tide about to turn and flood strongly – It looked bloody amazing!
Neither of us could contain our excitement, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to tell someone to ‘slow down’ whilst walking across slippery rocks whilst guiding them – but James is both fit and sturdy, in addition to being a surfer and a diver so he knows his way around this kind of terrain.
The first mark was ‘the scene’ of his last accomplishment out with me (that he also kindly allowed me to film) so it was with a real sense of anticipation that he made his first cast (with a 12g 90mm Fiiish Black Minnow attached) into the sandy gully that was foaming with white water… Everything looked right but I had to keep telling myself that it was still only March and that even though I knew there should be bass around, I also knew that they aren’t around in numbers this early in the year.
Lure changes ensued, with a white red-gill and Rapala J13 deployed into the melee – firm favourites and successful lures from previous seasons in late March and early April; my mind was totally focussed on maximising this opportunity as it just looked too good. I was so, so glad that I’d decided to guide on this day, as I very nearly rearranged it following the previous day’s blank.
Due to the rapidly increasing tide, the mark we were on was soon to be swamped therefore; it was with a my risk assessor’s head on that I told James we should move on – without any sign of a bass.
They must be there surely?
A ½ mile walk, up and down the slippery paths saw me drawing up the battle plans of exactly where I wanted James to fish – when I say exact, I mean literally casting into an area 3 m x 3 m in some instances to where the bass may be swimming or waiting.
The next mark is an extremity of a beach, where the waves break to really create the type of conditions where items (small fish) can become very disoriented, particularly between the very narrow gullies that adjoin the deeper gullies here. It’s a great spot where you fully expect to get hit at any moment as the fish move in with the tide… not this time though… surely they’re around and feeding today were my thoughts – surely?
The next spot is the opposite end of this beach, where a large reef (tennis court sized) with scours and large pools is essentially flooded on the incoming tide – a real gem early in the season and into May according to my accounts. With tables of surf moving over the reef and with time limited due to the velocity of the flooding tide, I handed my client a number of different lure types in an attempt to find the magic formula for the session. Lures such as the Storm Chug-bug and Xorus Frosty (imitating a wounded fish on the surface) and OSP DoLive Shad and Tacklehouse Feedshallow (Ochiayu) to imitate a small pollack were all worked brilliantly by a client who has a very natural lure angler’s instinct. He knows where to cast, when to hold that lure back in the undertow, when to let it drift; that kind of thing… No bass were forthcoming and with a very close eye on the tide we again retreated to the beach in order to discuss the next move….
The first cast – make it count
When attempting to catch a bass from the shore on a lure, if there is one single constituent that can make the difference it is to make that first cast into a new area, mark, zone or gully the most important one. By that, I mean don’t rush it, think about what you’re going to do, the placement of the lure, the way you want it to look in the water (natural) – fish it properly with 100% concentration…
So we’ve walked across about 1 miles worth of rock and reef, it’s starting to rain – but that doesn’t matter because we’ve been splashed countless times by waves hitting the rocks (we were safe) and there is about 30 minutes of the session left… I know from experience and my notes that there is a myriad of rocks tucked inside a particular headland, where on a huge spring high tide, bass will enter a series of inlets and just wait and hold at the base of the rocks – facing the incoming waves/flow/current it seems.
Tacklehouse Feedshallow (Ochiayu)
I instructed James to continue with the Tacklehouse Feedshallow and to follow me out across the sharp rocks onto a position/stance where he could fire a lure into two separate ‘inlets’ – essentially small coves where the seabed is broken (weed, rocks, gravel patches etc.). His first cast was into the ‘left hand’ inlet, over a finger of rock (that I could just make out with my Polaroids to be about 8 inches under the water) that was running parallel to his (our) position (some 10 yards out). The retrieve would see the lure effectively ‘appear’ over this piece of structure and be retrieved through a ‘bowl like area in the seabed made up of gravel’ until it reached the base of the rock that he (we) were stood on…
The lure landed amongst the now almost frothing sea and I watched closely as he lowered the rod tip and began the retrieve ‘I though I felt a tap then he said’ (and I remarked that it was probably the lure just nudging the finger of rock) before at that very instant, just as the lure was moving through that ‘bowl’ that a bass absolutely ‘SMASHED’ the shallow diving lure!! No mistake, this was a bass and a decent one too – that flash of silver is unmistakable at close quarters – truly, truly exhilarating stuff!!
His natural ability, the Majorcraft Skyroad 862 ML and a tight drag setting very quickly had the bass under control despite his extreme excitement – but he had to be very careful not to allow the braid (or 2 ft fluorocarbon trace) make contact with any of the very sharp rocks situated here; especially during the moments when the swell and waves were washing through. 20 more seconds of keeping the fish on the surface and manoeuvring it (between swells so to not drag the fish through the undertow) saw it grounded on a small (slightly higher than sea level) platform and as a gentle wave ‘boiled’ through I saw my opportunity to grab it… The air erupted with shouts of ‘GET IN and YESSSSSSSS! or expletives to that effect!
A contented client!
Below is a couple of photographs and a short film that catalogue the moment – the homework, the dreaming, the effort, the fight, holding the fish and releasing it back into its environment is incredible and extremely satisfying.
Great memories being made
The video of an early season bass being returned
Persistence and the conditions
James continued to fish for another 20 minutes or so after releasing his bass that I estimate was just shy of 3 ½ lb – we didn’t measure it or weigh it as we both just wanted to enjoy the moment and ensure that it was returned safely. What a beautiful fish and proof that bass can be caught in south Devon (and many other parts of our coastline of course) outside of what is considered the most opportune times of year.
Did the conditions (an onshore wind after days of offshore conditions) play a significant part in proceedings and James’ success? I’d say so, yes…. I have, and my clients have caught bass in calm, clear conditions during neap tide periods and I don’t generally subscribe to the theory that rough sea conditions or an incoming tide are essential to catch bass on lures. However, what I do believe in is putting all the odds in your favour and being in the right place at the right time…
So when there are so few bass around at this time of year, I have to conclude and admit that a culmination of factors probably did make the difference between the two sessions. Being a persistent so and so also helps!
Thanks for reading