Guided Bass Fishing – A 70 cm beauty for a delighted client
My client for this session was Lee, a Facebook ‘Friend’ and someone who I’d been corresponding with for 8 months or so. He has been a real supporter of my bass fishing exploits therefore, I was really looking forward to meeting him and conducting this session – one that was to be completed solely in darkness, at the clients request.
The forecast of very little wind and a cloudy sky, in conjunction with a High Tide (4.7m Salcombe scale) expected at 2330 and darkness at around 2210 meant all the right ingredients were in place. The only difficult decision I had to make was exactly where to fish given the amount of success my client’s and I have been experiencing from a multitude of marks recently – a nice problem to have.
Now Lee is a very keen angler who has dabbled in a bit of LRF (Light Rock Fishing) and general bait fishing for a variety of species, but his most recent love is attempting to catch a decent bass on a lure. So with lure fishing in darkness the way forward during these settled summer evenings we were soon driving out to the stretch I’d decided offered the best chance of a beast from the gloom…
Up until this session, Lee had never lure fished in the dark as he said he just didn’t have the confidence in it – something that would be 100% rectified in about 4 hours time! I can totally understand people’s apprehension; especially if they haven’t experienced consistent success in daylight. But this season has been a complete eye opener for me in relation to bass catches at night with senkos and now with needlefish – all of which I am very pleased to say has rubbed off on my clients with astonishing (relatively speaking) levels of consistency.
Practice for the main event
As we arrived on the shoreline, there was just enough light for me to point out a couple of features such as areas of reef, sandy patches, gullies and rocks that would protrude even over high tide. Cross referenced against photographs on my mobile and my camera it enabled Lee to completely appreciate why we were targeting such a mark with the lures I had with me – 6″ white senkos, 150mm needlefish and a couple of subtle surface lures.
Considering Lee’s inexperience of lure fishing in this way, for the first 20 minutes of the session (and just prior to complete darkness) we spent some time talking through and practising the different types of retrieve. I have found that a straight (linear) retrieve accounts for most of the hits, but it does sometimes pay to mix things up a little – letting the senkos drift occasionally, the odd twitch before commencing with a straight retrieve again can often induce a whack on the rod tip.
Also, the speed of the retrieve can make all the difference – from excruciatingly slow to fairly rapid, to the point where the lure is close to breaking the surface. The needlefish are simplicity exemplified, in that a very basic steady retrieve appears (at least for now as things may change when the sea is colder perhaps) to be the ‘killer’ method.
If you’re reading this, apologies to the lure angler who was to our right during this ‘practice session’ I really didn’t realise you were there, tucked in amongst the boulders until Lee said to me ‘Yeah, he’s been there for ages! Sorry!
Once I was satisfied that it was dark enough (it takes quite a while at this time of the year) we moved along the shoreline to the intended area for the evening. Initially, the white senko was deployed with Lee doing exactly what he needed to do – concentrate, keep working the area in front of him in a methodical manner and prepare for that tap, bang or wallop…
After 30 minutes with only a couple of tiny taps (small fish?) I changed Lee over to one of the white needlefish that I had with me. With the 8′ 6″ Savage Gear Salt CCS 7-28g lure rod (one of my client rods) that he was using really punching the lure out into the murk, I was expecting a hit at any moment – but it wasn’t to be… not just yet anyhow.
As the tide approached its peak, I swapped Lee back over to the white senko before moving to another section of the reef – he would still be fishing from the beach (he was wearing walking boots, not waders) but casting and retrieving over ‘fresh’ ground as it were. The initial mark has been more of an area to remain on, waiting for the fish (bass) to move in, but from this point, as the tide began to ebb, I decided we needed to tune into ‘hunter’ mode – effectively searching out every pool, gully and sandy patch across a 100 yard stretch in order to increase our chances.
The beach lights up
So the tide is beginning to pick up again (ebbing) and the plan is to make two casts and then move 5 yards, make another 2 casts and then move 5 yards and so on, until Lee gets a hit. We did this for the entire 100 yard stretch with a white senko and then we repeated it with a needlefish.
As I was changing the lures over, the cloud was just beginning to break behind us, very gradually exposing the Moon intermittently. It was at this point that I remarked to Lee that if it became fully exposed, that it could make the difference as the lure would be spectacularly silhouetted against the reef to the extent that it would become a very easy target/meal for a hungry bass…
A few minutes later and approximately 50 minutes into the ebb the beach was completely lit up as the Moon presented itself in all its glory – it was literally like switching on a floodlamp in a stadium! Two casts… quiet, move 5 yards, another cast… quiet, next cast YANK!!!! Lee’s rod is pulled over and is ‘flattening out’ with the drag singing!! The fish stops (the rod shudders as the fish shakes its head) and the the rod starts to bend right over again as the fish pulls to left and then does ‘the usual’ (for these types of marks) and heads towards Lee. ‘Lost it’ no hang on, it’s still on (I’m very pleased to hear him say that!) as the fish then pulls to the right. But Lee is, by now, in charge and slowly works what is clearly a very decent fish towards the beach within range of my head-torch that is scanning the area.
At first glance I was a little disappointed (their size can appear distorted in torch light and the ripples of the waves) but as it cruised closer to dry land to the point where I was able to grab the line I realised this was a ‘special’ fish. And when I felt its weight I definitely knew! My first estimate was 6½ – 7lb but when we measured it at 70cm we both knew it was easily over 7lb. Indeed, the measurement – weight conversion that I use here confirmed that it probably weighed between 7½ – 8lb – what a lovely fish!
Did the Moon make a difference?
100% Yes. The fact that Lee had been covering 100 yards of reef for 3½ hours with barely a touch on lures that until that point had accounted for 25 bass in 5 sessions (my individual and client sessions) brings me to the only conclusion that makes sense – that the increased light level (caused by the moon coming out) may have switched on a very decent bass into pure attack mode.
Moreover, Lee continued fishing (even though he was still shaking with excitement long after the fish was released) for another 20 minutes with the cloud again covering the Moon and he didn’t a touch… Very, very interesting. Another aspect that is constantly on my mind is just how effective this method of fishing is following those hot/calm/settled days – But why is this the case?
All of these catches are being achieved over multiple marks with similar components: shallow water (2- 4 ft) rocky (platforms of rock with deeper gullies and pools) where a multitude of life (crabs, prawns, gobies etc) hides under the rocks and in amongst the weed – a veritable banquet of bass fodder.
Considering I have caught bass from all of these marks in rough (waves/white water) conditions during the day, my theory is that the bass are ‘itching’ to get onto these reefs in order to feed but aren’t comfortable doing it in calm, sunny, clear water conditions therefore, once it’s dark it is like the dinner bell being rung! They just swim onto the reef and clean up!!
One thing is certain though. Lee had never caught a fish like that before from the shore, and it is one that I doubt he’ll forget in a hurry. Indeed, he later wrote an article himself depicting the session from his point of view therefore, I have attached it below:
Light in the dark – The secret ingredient?
“The moon is trying to come out and that might just make a difference“.
About 5 minutes before the Savage Gear lure rod I was using folded over, my guide Marc Cowling had commented on the lunar activity.
Then as the clouds broke just long enough for the moon to light up the world around us, fish on. And oh what a fish she was. I felt was a tap on the tip of the rod, and then the vibration of the line stripping from the reel as the fish took off like a silver bullet.
On Friday night after months and months of correspondence I finally met up with Marc Cowling, ‘The South Devon Bass Guide’.
Coming from South Devon myself, and having a recent (over last 2 years) obsession with lure fishing, Marc’s activities and blog posts are right up my street. I have been searching out information to improve my catch rate for a while, and as I had discussed with Marc was struggling to find anything with substantial information until his blog came along.
The detail Marc gives out is almost criminal! 🙂
So here I was sat in a pub in a remote South Devon village drinking a Coca-Cola waiting to go lure fishing.
From the minute Marc jumped out of his car and shook my hand, he was rolling into anecdotes of recent client catches and was genuinely excited to tell me all about how the night fishing and night guiding sessions were going. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much of course but the thought of catching a decent fish on a lure at night really was doing it for me.
We wandered to the ‘mark’ that he had picked for the session. A fantastic stretch of mixed shingle and sandy beach where the tide had covered reef, gulleys and many rock-pools.
Marc showed me his recent client’s catches and pictures of the marks geography at low tide in daylight so I would understand the ground I would be fishing over in detail.
He was consistently upbeat about my chances of catching and this gave me great confidence in the lures, the marks and the method. He almost promised me I would beat my personal best lure fish, he didn’t actually say it of course, but hinted close enough to it.
The lure choice for the night was simple, white Senko’s and handmade white Needlefish plugs. We set up before dark so I could learn the retrieve rate and methods before wandering down the stretch of beach to where we would be fishing for the night.
Chopping and changing between the 2 lures and a few spots on the beach we were trying to locate the fish and induce a take.
I had a couple knocks on the Senko but I am guessing they were small fish ‘nipping the tail of the lure’. We discussed later the possibility of adding a treble to the tail end of that lure to try and catch some of these smaller fish.
Marc consistently fed me with valuable information throughout the session including how to find my own marks for different species such as Wrasse, Pollock and Bass of course. We talked about many different lures and when they are best suited.
At around midnight, we also discussed a theory from Henry Gilbey’s blog https://www.henry-gilbey.com/blog/the-moon-and-bass-on-lures-at-night-whats-the-story?rq=night%20fishing%5C about the effect of the moon on Bass fishing at night but were undecided.
And then strangely enough the moon decided it was going to try and make an appearance whilst I was fishing the Needlefish lure over a gulley Marc had showed me earlier on his phone.
The moon came out from behind the clouds for less than a minute (could have been dead on midnight and the end of the official UK Bass ban) and then…………………. Fish on!
I had been waiting expectantly all night for a sudden take that Marc had described would really surprise me. I didn’t get that take but instead the fish inhaled the whole lure and run with it much like I would expect from bait fishing.
This was my first experience of fighting a fish that was seriously taking line in anger. The first run seemed like it wouldn’t end. I tried to lift into it and see if I could turn it around and then the line went slack. I was certain it was still on so reeled in quickly until I could feel the weight of the fish again. Remembering Marc’s blog over the last few weeks had me worried about fish coming off these needlefish lures, but I was confident that if I kept good contact throughout the fight it would stay on and I would be able to land the fish.
It ran 3 times and each time turned and came back towards me before thrashing around to try and run again. Very nervous moments! I couldn’t tell you how long this went on for (maybe Marc can remember) but it felt like the longest I can remember fighting a fish for, and this wasn’t helped by how much line it took on the first run.
Once I thought it was a few feet from the beach Marc switched on the head torch and waded in slightly to help land the fish.
When I first saw it, be it the dark or just distance to me I was shocked at how small I thought it was as at the beginning of the fight I told Marc it felt like a big fish.
But Marc replied that is was a decent fish and when he got it clear of the water and held it up, I knew it was a special fish by my standards at least.
I posed for a couple of photographs with the Bass once it was unhooked & measured in at 70cm and then waded into the sea in my walking boots and trousers to release the fish myself. Typically for a very calm night, there had to be a couple of rogue waves at these moments and I got soaked. The fish took a minute or so get going but swam away unharmed.
To some a 70cm Bass might not be such an achievement, but for me I felt like I had finally caught ‘The Monster’ me and my buddy Adam had been talking about for a while now.