Guided Bass Fishing – More success in the dark

Guided Bass Fishing – More success in the dark

16 hours on from shaking hands and saying goodbye to Simon (my previous client who’d caught two bass on lures in darkness) I was meeting up with Dave and his Wife Debbie. Dave had asked if she could come along as she enjoys being out on the coastline to relax. This was absolutely fine with the caveat being she was happy to sit on a beach in the dead of night! The weather conditions were very calm and the sea very clear, with a neap tide (4.6m Salcombe scale) peaking at 0100 therefore, the plan was for my client to fish between 1800 – 0200.

Now Dave is a very accomplished lure angler, who up until this session had already landed 81 bass this season! With that in mind, my first question of the day to him was ‘Why do you need to book me?! Well firstly, he wanted to fish another stretch of coastline that was different to his usual marks in Dorset and Hampshire but secondly, he also wanted to try night fishing with the lure of the moment – the needlefish.

The plan

Meeting up at 1730, Dave and his Wife followed me out through the lanes of south Devon to the stretch of coastline I had chosen – an extremely shallow, rugged area with a fair bit of tide running parallel along it. The plan was to fish surface lures (IMA Salt Skimmer) , weedless soft plastics (DoLive Stick) and very shallow divers (Tacklehouse Feedshallow 105) for the two hours either side of low water in daylight. Following this, a further four hours or so would be completed in darkness, utilising the white 6″ senkos and some 150mm needlefish that I’d obtained from Jim’s Lure/Veals Mail Order.

With the tide receding gradually off the reef I directed Dave towards an area where the tide is forced to rise over a group of underwater rocks. We’d reduced his impressive lure collection down to a dozen lures for the session, and it was the IMA Salt Skimmer that encouraged a ‘boil’ on the surface initially, but the fish (bass?) didn’t attack it with any conviction unfortunately. So following another 10 minutes of surface action we moved along the reef slightly.

Dave fishing from the reef during a very calm evening – what would darkness bring?

Fishing weedless lures for bass

A beautiful calm evening – perfect for night lure fishing

Fishing surface lures for bass

Highlighting areas to be fished later

As the reef gradually exposed itself I periodically highlighted to Dave the very specific areas that I wanted him to be covering in darkness – once there was 3 ft of water over the reef. Essentially, these were larger pools and gullies that we could actually stand in and search for crabs and gobies etc. And this is what really stands this particular mark out for me – every stone you overturn is teaming with life, and I have no doubt that this is what makes it so attractive to the bass. This was something that Dave found very interesting but obviously the proof would be in the pudding later on that night!

Fish on the surface – Mullet?

As we arrived on the next part of the reef it quickly became apparent that there were a number of fish moving around on the surface – with fry also skittering occasionally. I hoped they were bass and when Dave received a strong pull on the DoLive Stick he was now using it looked very positive. But the one thing that was missing was the occasional spiky dorsal fin breaking the surface (that I’d witnessed recently with a previous client).

With no more hits on the weedless lure, but with even more activity occurring in front of us – on again went the IMA Salt Skimmer. A fish followed but again, it didn’t connect with the lure… As the tide receded further, strands of weed were now breaking the surface, so after a bit of thought and a rummage through my lure box I found this (see below) – the Savage Gear TPE Mudd Minnow. This lure behaved impeccably – casting well and spitting and popping on the surface very invitingly, whilst also not snagging on the weed – brilliant! Frustratingly though, we had to concede that the majority of the fish breaking the surface were probably mullet and/or very small bass.

Savage Gear TPE Mudd Minnow – it made very easy work of the weed breaking the surface

Savage Gear TPE Mudd Minnow

As the tide turned and began to flood across the outer reef we moved out onto a pinnacle of rock where Dave could ‘launch’ a surface lure out into the flow again. I say launch, as the awesome Tacklehouse Vulture he was using in conjunction with his very nice HTO Shore Game S962MLM 7-35g meant he could hit 100 yards easily – not essential, but sometimes useful.

After a fruitless 30 minutes, I asked Dave to try the smaller Tacklehouse Feedshallow 105 (that casts better than the larger 128 incidentally) in and around some nearby gullies that were beginning to fill in, followed by another move along the rocks to target a similar area with the DoLive Sticks whilst dusk set in. But it remained surprisingly quiet therefore, I made the decision to really ‘rest’ the area – setting a few markers in the sand (in line with the areas I wanted Dave to cast) ready for later…

Into the darkness

Following a 20 minute break in proceedings for some food/drink, we embarked on the next stage of the session only a few hundred yards along the coast to a quiet little cove, where the water was oily calm and lapping the shoreline – it looked absolutely perfect for a night of lure fishing!

I asked Dave to attach one of his 6″ white senkos onto the lure clip and reminded him of two areas that I had pointed out on our way to the mark when we were standing on the cliffs above. One was a sandy gully that runs straight into the cove and the other was a slightly lower area (lower than the surrounding platform) of reef further to the left. As the flooding tide began to really push through and the water gradually rose from our ankles to our knees Dave continually worked the lure and searched out the area as briefed… This is an enthralling way to lure fish as you’re expecting a tap, a hit or a smash on the rod tip at almost any second!

Like clock-work

As the tide reached a small boulder on the shoreline (signalling the moment on the previous session when a client had caught a bass) I commented to Dave that ‘this is the cast when you’re going to catch one’ Sure enough, after two turns of the handle, at a range of 30m and following a cast straight up the sandy gully Dave had a really good take – Get in!! The bass put up a pretty good scrap considering its size (2½lb) taking a little line against a fairly tight drag before he could manoeuvre it into the shallows for me to grab – a beautiful fish.

Dave’s first Bass at around 2½lb – taken on a white 6″ senko

White senko caught bass

A quick shot with his happy guide!

South Devon Bass Guide with a client

OK, I was probably a tad lucky with that call but bass, without doubt, do move onto reefs and through gullies to their own timetables so it did seem perfectly feasible to expect bass in that area at that time – either way, it had started the night off on a high!

The next 20 minutes were quiet with only a couple of plucks therefore, I invited Dave to attach a 15g 150mm needlefish to the clip and proceeded to talk him through how my client’s and I have achieved success with them. With Dave happily fishing away and his Wife Debbie snug in her blanket I wondered around the headland to see if the tide and water depth was suitable over the reef – it certainly was, so I excitedly crunched back to my client along the shingle, with just the red filter on my head-torch to guide me so to not spook any fish.

The wait was over

No more hits had been forthcoming in the cove, it was time to move. With the water no more than 18″ deep over the reef, even though the needlefish ‘swim’ only 6 – 10″ below the surface it seemed prudent to recommence with the white senko. Now I must admit, I haven’t tried any other colours yet during my solo forays and the white senkos are doing me just fine with a 6/0 hitch-hiker hook therefore, I wasn’t about to change anything while it is working so out it sailed into the gloom…

It didn’t take long… Within 10 minutes Dave announced he was into a fish that had taken the lure very close to the shoreline – 5 metres out perhaps. Seemingly, the larger fish just inhale the senko rather than play around nipping the tail and this one (at around 3lb) really wasn’t happy at being pulled out of the relative security of a dark old night into our world of admiring headlights…

Nicely hooked – this 3 pounder didn’t mess about with the senko

catches from south devon bass guide

A quiet spell until the ebb…

The next hour and a half, as the tide reached its peak was quiet but extremely pleasant. There wasn’t a breath of wind, the sky was clear – with only the occasional shooting star and our mutual love of bass lure fishing in general to comment on. However, Dave still had another objective to complete…

So with the tide just beginning to ebb, I encouraged him to attach the needlefish onto the lure clip and move 50m along the beach to target another area of reef. First cast, and as so often happens BANG! halfway through the retrieve – here we go! This was clearly a much better fish and at one point in the battle (I know you’ll laugh at this) it actually pulled Dave forward slightly! I was praying it wouldn’t come off (even though he’d already landed two stunning fish) and I was very eager to see how big it was therefore, I asked Dave if he was OK for me to switch on the head-torch (which he was) so that I could help him land it.

It was a lovely long fish at 62cm – quite slim but I would estimate it to have been over 5lb in weight. The needlefish had done it again and I’m increasingly starting to believe that it sorts out the bigger fish… Time will tell of course.

Dave’s 84th and largest of the season – another convert to the needles!

Big bass caught on a lure in darkness

I doubt I will ever go out night lure fishing without a needlefish – I love them and so do my clients!

Jim's Lures needlefish

As an aside, I like to grab the line just as a client’s fish is nearing the beach, as I feel this mitigates the risk of the tension on the line/bent rod puling the hooks out; especially if there is any back-wash or undertow present – however, I’m very open to any other suggestions or ideas in this respect.

And another to end the evening…

We had taken our time returning the 62cm fish (Dave would have loved to have weighed it) therefore I promised him that if he managed to hook another big one in the short time we had left, that he could indeed weigh it.

Five casts later and another SMASH! on the rod saw line being dragged from the spool – this is seriously consistent bass fishing! Again, the fish had taken the lure very quickly after the start of the retrieve and was doing its best to shake the hooks some 25m or so out in the gloom. But this guy knows how to fight a bass and despite a few shorts runs towards him (making us both think the fish had come off) it was quickly splashing around in the ebbing tide just a few yards out therefore, I quickly did the honours.

At 60cm this was a wonderful looking specimen and, as promised, following another quick ‘team photograph’ courtesy of Dave’s very patient Wife, the fish was weighed in Dave’s sling at 4lb 11oz – confirming my thoughts that the previous fish was around the 5¼lb mark.

As a guide, it doesn’t get much better than this (I was shattered by this point as I’d been out until the early hours on the previous night – and it shows!).

Bass Guide Marc Cowling

A short release video of the 60cm bass – catching them and watching them swim away is a wonderful experience



Off to Ireland

By the time you read this, Dave will probably be in Ireland sampling (for the second time I believe) what they have to offer alongside Henry Gilbey and John Quinlan here. I wish him all the best and hope that he’ll also make the trip from his Oxfordshire home back to south Devon again sometime in the Autumn – it was real pleasure being your guide.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling





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