Guided Bass Fishing – August arrives with a bang!
The conditions were perfect – very little wind, a high tide 1 hour into darkness and a flat calm sea without any floating weed. The forecast ‘weather window’ between some windy/wet spells had coincided perfectly with two guided bass fishing sessions and I was very excited for my clients – Mark and Noah respectively.
A returning client, Mark was unlucky not to catch a bass (he had two wrasse) the last time he came out for a session. On that day I had spotted two bass in a very shallow cove whereby he received a really good take on a weedless shad, but the bass failed to connect decisively with the hook. Moreover, a fellow client on that very hot, bright windy day caught two bass – so I was even more determined to ‘get him onto one’ this time round.
Within 2 minutes of meeting up, Mark and I had arranged our gear, clambered into our waders, boots and jackets and were well on our way down to the stretch I had chosen for tonight’s session. It was one of my newly discovered ‘night fishing’ areas, as Mark had specifically expressed his desire to experience lure fishing for bass in darkness – having been inspired by the catches of my clients this season.
Practice for the main event
A very adept angler, Mark is accustomed to catching fish on lures, be it wrasse, pollack or indeed small bass – but tonight was going to be something he had never attempted before. Therefore, we spent the first 30 minutes in a quiet cove (well way from the actual hot-spot) so that I could run through retrieve rates, retrieve styles and importantly, how the lure should travel through the water.
The lures in question were of course, my go to collection of white senkos, needlefish (green and white) courtesy of Jim’s Lures and just in case the bass wanted something different – a selection of hard minnow, sub-surface shallow divers.
Shake, rattle and roll
When I say something different, during a recent short recce (I only had 1 ½ hours to fish) I met a very nice chap and follower of this blog called Andy. Now on that particular evening something very significant occurred, as so often does when taking on the challenge that is lure fishing for bass.
Yes, I accept that I consider lots of things to be significant! But I am always on the look out for anything that could give me an advantage over my adversary – the bass. Anyway, that night, Andy caught three bass and had multiple hits on a wriggling, rattling and rolling shallow running/swimming lure – the IMA Komomo 2 110 in the Chart (or Lemon) Back Pearl colour, yet I received only one ‘brush/tap’ on a lure that has been very, very consistent for my clients and I this season – the needlefish.
His largest bass during his own very short session measure 63cm (I know because I offered him my tape measure) and was caught in the precise spot that I’d vacated only two minutes earlier and had been casting into for an hour! I should have been gutted! But I saw it as an excellent learning opportunity or lesson identified as they say… All noted in my diary for the future.
So in my preparation for this session with Mark, I had made a list of items I wanted to take – which included a small, rattling minnow – the Maria Squash F95 in the 16H (Chrome colour) which I very nearly forgot and had to jump out of the car and open the garage again to grab. Good job I did!
A rod shaker – then quiet…
To commence with the real action in what was now, total darkness, we moved 50m to an area that is primarily sand, but where a few reefy (shallow/flattish weed covered rocks) are also present. Starting with the most subtle option and the lure I generally go to first at night a white 6″ senko was soon being lobbed 30 – 40m out into the gloom in front of us.
Following 15 minutes of no action, I was just commenting to Mark that when fishing in this way, that the bass just appear out of nowhere. It really is like flicking a switch as they seemingly just very suddenly switch onto the lures or (more likely) move into the area. Just then, Mark received a very powerful ‘hit’ that really shook the rod! ‘They’re here I muttered’ and I could see Mark’s grin in the ambient light caused by the half Moon that was fleetingly appearing and lighting up the beach – ‘I can see why you like fishing like this he said’…
Another 45 minutes or so passed, in which time I had exchanged the senko for one of the needlefish for him to try as you can cover slightly more ground with these and I had an inkling that the bass might be further out on the sand bank where a previous client nailed a 2.5 -3 lb bass over… But it was a bit too quiet for my liking therefore, once I was satisfied that the water was deep enough over a small area of reef that I’ve achieved success over, we hiked the 300m across the sand to the next mark.
Mark smashes his personal best!
In the back of my mind were two things: the ebb tide is often the ‘best’ time around this stretch of coastline at night and also, that the bass may well be lying out on the reef wanting something with a little bit more movement or sound to it. Maybe they weren’t sight feeding, but using their senses and lateral line to hunt. On the night that I had met Andy, there was 100% cloud cover and therefore, totally pitch black – something that we both believe meant the fish were easily ‘homing in’ on his noisy, rattling lure, rather than my relatively quiet, rather innocuous in comparison needlefish.
With high tide nearly upon us, I attached the Maria Squash F95 onto Mark’s lure clip and asked him to make two casts, then move slightly – in the same way that a previous client had nailed a 70cm bass from a very similar mark here. Mark had covered perhaps 20m of the cove and was now casting into and around a known ‘gully’ that runs out from this stretch, when I heard the drag on the reel scream! At the same moment, the rod was practically pulled out of his hands… ‘Got one!!! he shouted!
The bass had really smashed the tiny, but superbly weighted casting minnow about 2/3rds of the way in on the retrieve (about 10m out from the beach) – putting the greatest amount of strain thus far on his very smart set up (a Major Craft N-One 9’ 6″ and a Shimano Stradic 3000). As I’d warned him if he hooked one – the bass tried swimming towards him to the extent that it eventually grounded itself on the beach following some strong parrallel runs.
Mark did exceptionally well not to lose this fish and wholeheartedly deserved to hold what is his PB bass at 58cm (around 4 ¼ lb). I was so pleased that he’d achieved something he was so eager experience – very well done mate (below is a short Go-Pro video of the fish being safely returned)
Noah’s Birthday present
What do you get a 9-year-old for his Birthday? A guided bass fishing session if your Noah’s Mum Esther! She had contacted me a few days prior to this session highlighting her Son’s passion for sea fishing – with lures and specifically bass his target, as up until this session he had never caught one.
Now this was something very new to me – guided a child and his Mum (who was patiently observing throughout the session) in order to catch one of these sublime predators from the open coast; something that was made a lot easier due to Noah’s sheer skill and tenacity – this little guy can serious fish!
A complete natural
I’d chosen a shallow, reefy stretch of coast with various small shingle coves, that also offered shelter from the forecast increasing westerly wind (that never materialised…). Safety was clearly the most important aspect of this session and the plan was to fish the first two hours in daylight (from rocks) so to ensure that young Noah could learn as many new skills (lure choice, spotting potential marks and working the lures correctly) as possible. He would then fish the final two hours in darkness (from a sandy beach) as I felt this offered him the best chance of his first lure caught bass.
He was very keen to show me his collection of lures therefore, once we’d made our way down to the beach I took a peek. A small Patchinko, a Fiiish Minnow, Sidewinders, Savage Gear Sandeels – he’d obviously read a lot about lure fishing and had put some real thought into what he needed to spend his pocket-money on. He was using his own set up initially – a light 9′ lure/ spinning rod and 3000 size reel with 8lb mono, but I’d also brought along one of my client set ups (Savage Gear Salt CCS rod 7 -28g and Mitchell Mag-Pro Extreme 500 reel with 20 lb braid) for him to use as a comparison.
With the tide just about to start flooding the small Patchinko surface lure was attached whereby I demonstrated how to ‘work’ it with the rod up or down. I handed him back the rod and was astonished at how well he could : a) cast and b) work the lure with either method – the little subtle surface lure now zig-zagging and spluttering as it was designed to do.
The way he was handling the rod demonstrated to me that he was a complete natural and following a very slight tweak to his casting style (casting slightly more overhead) the lure was consistently and accurately sailing out into bass heaven – weed, rocks, gullies and pools.
Lure changes and darkness
As the tide began to creep into the gullies and the light began to fade, I exchanged Noah’s surface lure for an OSP DoLive Stick and then a Fish Arrow Flash respectively – again, teaching him to retrieve, twitch and subtlety remain in contact with these weedless works of art.
As darkness really set, we moved to a very sheltered sandy beach (with a few patches of reef) where I’ve taken bass at night on previous sessions. I wasn’t expecting a monster from this mark but I was expecting Noah to be able experience the initial hit and the power of even a small bass whilst standing ankle-deep in the dark, anticipating that ‘tap, whack or pull’ on the rod tip at almost any second.
By this point, he was using my set up as I was concerned that the mono he was using on his spool was just too light – the last thing I wanted was for him to lose a fish when the line rubbed on one of the few rocks present here! Additionally, even though I had been very impressed with his abilities, I felt from a safety point of view, that it was prudent to cast the lures out for him in the dark – we didn’t want any accidents tonight…
Senko, needle but wriggling rattler does it again
As with Mark on the previous evening – initially a white senko was attached, followed by the needlefish which did produce a couple of early taps on the rod tip much to Noah’s delight but no hooks ups. With my senses on overdrive, my brain was mulling over the next approach/tactic or method… Sometimes it’s a good idea to rest an area for 5 – 10 minutes just to let the fish move in and establish themselves – I believe this minimises the risk of spooking them – so that is what we did.
With the Moon becoming gradually concealed – heralding the arrival of the next days predicted awful weather, the Maria Squash F95 was attached. I was confident that if any small bass were about they would locate and ultimately snaffle the tiny fish imitation and sure enough, within 5 minutes Noah was into a bass that I initially thought was fairly decent given the bend in the rod! With the fish splashing on the surface and gradually brought ashore Noah asked me excitedly ‘Is it a bass?’
It was! Which he was obviously very, very happy about! Following a couple of photographs for the album he took great care handling the spiky little bass before eagerly returning it – what a wonderful memory.
Two lost fish! A pity
The bass were now clearly around in numbers and although (as expected) there weren’t any beasts about in the shallow water in front of us, within the next ten casts Noah had received three really good hits and lost two fish – one of which I caught sight of in the headtorch beam and it was certainly double the size of the one he’d landed.
It was a real shame he didn’t manage to land another bass but I think he was happy – going by the smiles and animated responses to the lure being hit whilst swimming only a couple of yards from his stance! For a brief period in order to ‘rest this mark again – once the incoming tide had covered another reef, Noah did try another mark just around the headland. This is a patch where I have caught bass up to 63cm this season – imagine if he’d latched into something like that! Maybe next time…
Occasionally, towards midnight and the end of the session the rod would drop down slightly as he was clearly getting tired – and who could blame him? He’d had a busy Birthday, as he’d already landed a 4lb wrasse (on a lure) earlier in the day! And how refreshing it is to see a young person loving his fishing and wanting to be out in the fresh air and countryside – fantastic.
I am positive that your patience, ability and enthusiasm coupled with your newly acquired skills and knowledge will result in many, many lure caught bass in the future Noah – I look forward to meeting you again some day.
Thanks for reading.