Guided Bass Fishing – Midnight Manoeuvres
I’d been watching the weather forecast all week, praying that the hot/calm spell would coincide with the ideal tides for a night session with my client Simon. The previous weekend, I had guided him during some difficult conditions (strong winds, large waves and floating weed) without a sniff of a bass. I was therefore, very pleased that he wanted to ‘give it another go’ with a session in darkness taking his fancy. He’d read all about my previous client George’s success with the white needlefish and really wanted some of the action.
So with a neap high tide of 4.5 m (Salcombe scale) peaking at 0120 (3 hours into darkness) we met up at 2145 in order to ensure we were on the mark with plenty of time to spare. The 30 minute walk would see us arriving right on darkness which gave me ample time to describe to Simon the terrain, how to fish the lures and basically what to expect, as he’d never lure fished in the dark before – like many I suspect.
Photographs from our daylight foray
Tail nipper finally snared!
The area of reef that I wanted Simon to fish over later in the night was, at this stage. still only just being covered by water therefore, I proposed that we concentrate our efforts on a nearby sandy cove until the tide had flooded for another 40 minutes or so.
With white senkos, needlefish and a couple of subtle surface lures stashed in my waders this was very mobile lure fishing – we were both pretty excited! There was a noticeable and somewhat ‘nagging’ left to right (easterly) breeze blowing though as we rounded the headland – which I certainly wasn’t expecting! Is it me or are the weather forecasts becoming less and less accurate lately; especially when the wind direction and strength are involved…
With Simon fully briefed I attached a 6″ white senko onto his lure clip. He was using one of my client set ups tonight – a Savage Gear Salt CCS 7 -28g with his own Shimano reel attached. The breeze down at this end of the beach was relatively light so contact with the lure was manageable, but not completely comfortable.
The first mark was in essence, a test run for later in the tide – just to make ensure Simon was retrieving the lure in the correct way, used to the equipment and that he was completely comfortable with his surroundings. Soon after we’d settled into the fishing my senses were snapped into life when (after five or six casts) I heard those magic words drift out of the gloom ” I think I just had a hit” Next cast, the same thing happened again, and again… There were clearly fish in the shallow water and over the sandy seabed in front of him, but they just weren’t fully committing themselves.
So the next step appeared the most logical one – attach a needlefish (two trebles dandling from it) and cast into the same area just to see if the fish out there, were indeed, small ones. My logic was that even a small bass or pollack would eventually impale themselves onto one of the trebles on a needlefish…
Two casts later and Simon was in! A brief struggle ensued until the culprit revealed itself to be the small bass below. Another 20 minutes or so passed with no further action so we excitedly made our way around to the next mark – a good start!
Simon’s first lure caught bass in darkness
Two decent bass lost!
The water was by now around 1ft over the main reef – but it was the deeper pools and gullies that I wanted Simon to target so again, I attached the 6″ white senko for him to seek out the bass that I expected to be moving in…
After 20 minutes or so without any action I asked Simon if he’d had any bites – which he hadn’t. The wind was also starting to pick up again therefore, I asked him if he could ‘feel’ the lure in the same way that could earlier in the session to which he replied ” No, I don’t think so”. The crosswind was making it a little difficult to stay in contact with the senko and by now the main reef had a little more depth over it, so it was needlefish time!
With a slightly quicker retrieve required, I instructed Simon to concentrate on a deeper area initially at a range of 30 – 40m, just so that he could gain confidence in how to fish the handmade lure over such shallow, rocky and weedy terrain. OK, I’ll also admit that I didn’t want him to lose it either!!
I needn’t have worried though as four casts later a really solid hit resulted in the rod slamming over halfway into the retrieve!! Yes!! I’d briefed Simon on the way to the mark that he needed to maintain pressure on any hooked fish (not too much) as I’ve had (as did my previous client) quite a few bass somehow shake the hooks when using the needles… We’d also talked about the requirement not to switch on the head-torches – but all of that was thrown out of the window as the bass headed straight towards him to the extent that he thought it had come off straight away! But it hadn’t and with Simon stating that it felt like a decent fish I decided to switch on the head torch…
I’d just caught a glimpse of the bass (it was 2 – 3lb) and watched in disbelief as it thrashed on the surface before making good its escape… Gutted… Worse still, seven or eight casts later and the exact same thing happened again!
Hard to hook?
Does the size (150mm) and shape of these lures make it difficult for a bass to get a really good hold of them? I really don’t know… But I do know that if this many fish were hitting a 120mm shallow diving minnow then the ‘hits-to-fish landed’ ratio would be a lot higher – food for thought I guess.
Ahhh how the tide turns…
As the guide, I was feeling a little dejected at this point – so I imagine Simon was totally distraught! I did my best to encourage him, but following no more bites in the next 20 minutes I decided we should move 100m down the shore to target another area, before eventually returning to the ‘scene of the crime’ so to speak…
It had all gone very quiet though. I’d said to Simon that the fish (and bites) appear in waves along this mark, but in the back of my mind was the fact that the tide how now reached its peak. During the day but in rougher seas, this had routinely been the quiet spell before the first hour of the ebb saw the fish coming back on the feed – so I was hopeful this would also be the case at night.
Another 20 minutes without incident was enough to convince me that a change of tactics was in order – casting and moving along the shoreline and hunting them down! By the time we’d edged our way back to where we’d left the kit (on the original hotspot) I knew it was now or never in Simon’s quest for a decent night-time bass. The tide had been ebbing for around 40 minutes and we were nearing the end of the session when out of the darkness I heard my favourite phrase – Got one!!
The bass had snatched the needlefish at range following a few turns of the reel handle and proceeded to do what the previous two had done – head inshore! But wise to this, Simon kept the line very tight and slowly manoeuvred the bass closer to the shingle. I was literally praying this one wouldn’t come off as he really deserved the opportunity to hold a nice fish and after a few minutes she hit the shingle. 3 lb (maybe a little more) of bristling bass captured in both our head-torches – I was quite relieved and Simon was chuffed to bits so it rounded off a very pleasant evening.
Simon’s bass (I was so glad he managed to land the biggest one that he’d hooked)
A good omen
Not surprisingly, we both had a spring in our step during the 1 mile hike back to the car at 0230! And with another client booked in for a late evening/darkness session in less than 16 hrs time, the forecast of lighter winds and calmer seas saw me struggling to sleep with anticipation of what that session would bring.
Thanks for reading.