Client Catches – A season’s best as the temperature drops
Even though the air and sea temperatures really plummet in November, in relation to the bass fishing potential, it can be and often is, a very good month to head out lure fishing for bass. Buoyed by some recent successes, I was thoroughly looking forward to meeting up with my clients (Dave and Chris) for this session on the 16th and 17th.
For a variety of reasons, their session had been rearranged for these dates, but sometimes this can be a blessing in disguise… Furthermore, I had been corresponding with both clients for a number of months via Facebook and Messenger therefore, by the time we actually met ‘face to face’ I felt like I already knew them.
My persuasive nature strikes again!
With Dave and Chris residing in Hampshire, they had arranged to spend the night of the 16th in a nice warm, comfortable local B&B – however, I had other plans!
With the sea having completely recovered following the most recent storm to hit our shores, I had ventured out night lure fishing on a sheltered part of the wonderful south Devon coastline with a friend only a couple of evenings before this session – and caught three lovely bass with the largest at 63cm (6lb). Therefore, I hatched a plan and presented it to my clients in the form of a ‘split’ session – 4 hours during daylight on an exposed (to the North-Westerly breeze) stretch on the 16th and a further 4 hours during the very early hours of the 17th on a very sheltered area of coastline.
OK Mr… Was Dave’s response to my insistence that it would offer him and Chris the best possible chance of connecting with a bass in the very clear water that has been a real feature of this season. Indeed, I cannot remember a year when the sea has remained so clear, for such long periods and cleared so quickly post any strong onshore winds.
Licking their lips!
Both clients had brought along their own rod, reels and hard lures therefore, upon meeting it was case of filtering out what I thought they would require for the daylight session. My plan was for them to fish the first 4 hours of the flooding tide, on two similar marks that would see them casting and retrieving weedless soft plastics (that I’d brought along), surface lures and shallow ‘swimming’ hard minnows in and around some very rough ground.
Once we were on the beach, I wanted to make the short walk out across the rocks as rewarding as possible to my clients – particularly as this terrain was so different to the shingle banks and muddy lagoons that they’re used to. The 100 yard stretch of reef to the first mark has been responsible for some notable catches and it was a real pleasure to be able to stand my clients in deeper pools, gullies and patches of shingle among the larger rock formations that are bass ‘hot-spots’ over mid-high water – they were fascinated and practically licking their lips with anticipation by the time we reached the first spot I’d chosen.
The tide had just turned as I demonstrated the ‘action’ of the two lures I wanted them to use – at least initially until there was some more movement to the water via waves breaking and pushing through the outer rocks present here. The lures in question were the Fish Arrow Flash J SW 5″ and the OSP DoLive Stick rigged onto Owner twistlock weedless hooks respectively (the Arrow flash rigged onto the 4/0 belly weighted version here).
Accurate casting would be required here therefore, it was paramount that Dave and Chris were able to make a mental note (as the tide was so low) of the fingers of rock and the sandy gullies that their respective lures would be enticingly moving through as the tide rushed in – and rush in it did! Within 30 minutes the water had gone from 7′ deep to 9 or 10′ deep over the sandy patches there were targeting.
With no hits on the weedless soft plastics and with the power of the waves and tide now making it difficult to remain in contact with them, I changed these avid lure anglers over onto a small surface lure (Chris) and a shallow diver (Dave). I instructed Chris to keep casting into an area of almost ‘boiling’ water in the vicinity of a narrow (6ft wide) underwater opening to the open sea, where I was expecting the bass to appear at any second. Dave on the other hand, was casting his beautifully detailed DUO lure (I think) into a region where two gullies met (an intersection if you like) and following a slight tweak to his casting style, he was hitting the spot every time.
Time to retreat
It just looked so, so good! 18″ of water clarity (that was steadily improving with the new tide) and safe amounts of white (aerated) water being moved around the mark. But with the tide flooding so quickly, with the fresh breeze behind it, we had to retreat – a shame but clients need to remain safe at all times of course.
The next mark is at the direct opposite end of the beach to where we started. And as we’d walked past it (on the walk from the car) it was again very useful for Dave and Chris to be able to see the actual reef they’d be fishing over later in the tide, from high up on the clifftops.
The sea was slightly less turbulent on this side of the beach as the wind was essentially blowing over our right shoulders here rather than in our faces therefore, it allowed the opportunity to attach completely different lure types (attempting to match what the bass wanted) to their fluorocarbon leaders and lure clips. Dave was placed in position with a Tacklehouse Feedshallow 128 and Chris was utilising a Smoke Silver coloured Albie Snax – both small fish imitations with the former a noisy more pronounced action and the later, a more subtle, silent motion that could be drifted slightly with the current and waves.
Many, many times this mark has produced the goods and I really was expecting a shout at any second – there just had to be bass about but they were being very elusive… Just as I was beginning to think about moving my clients off of the mark due to the increasing tide I saw Chris wave his hands and shake his head in disbelief.
A bass, that he estimated to be in the 3lb range had ghosted in and lunged unsuccessfully at his Albie Snax right at the end of the retrieve. He’d done everything right, in relation to ensuring he ‘worked’ the lure all the way to his stance and he was very unlucky really, as he said a breaking wave had moved the lure just as the fish was about to make contact with the lure… He’d told me he was the unluckiest angler in the world and at that moment, I believed him!
A cold starry night
At 0250 the following morning, and with the air temperature hovering around freezing, I met Dave and Chris for the second part of their trip to south Devon. As we clambered into our jackets, waders, boots and woolly hats there wasn’t a sound to be heard. With no Moon, the only ambient light came from the stars – ideal conditions for this sortie that would be conducted two hours either side of high water (5.0m Salcombe scale).
Chris had brought along some white (pearl) Albie Snax and was eager to optimise their use. Given that he’d never had a single bite on them until this point I thought that was admirable however, we’d spent a few minutes earlier in the day practising how to retrieve these superb lures and it transpired he’d been retrieving them far too slowly in order to achieve that lovely slalom action they have. Furthermore, I believe he’d been fishing them far too deep, as in my experience allowing the Snax to be sihouletted above the bass (only 6″ beneath the surface) by retrieving them relatively quickly has been the most effective method for me.
Dave was utilising one of my 6″ white senkos therefore, with both anglers briefed about what to do in the event of a hook up and set about 30m apart it was time to make the first casts. It was bloody cold make no mistake, and I did feel bad that I hadn’t replaced my broken flask so that I could offer my friends a coffee as they fished, but one of them was about to warm up very nicely…
I was stood wth Dave, yapping quietly about life in general when, following a smooth cast out in the darkness, just as he about to start the retrieve, the rod walloped over “Here we go!” said Dave! He must have literally dropped the lure on its head! The fish gave a good account of itself – taking some line from Dave’s Shimano Stradic reel and putting a pleasing bend in his 9′ 6″ Majorcraft Truzer rod.
What a beautiful, beautiful bass. And at 58cm (4¾lb) it was Dave’s largest of the season so far. All three of us were buzzing by now, and as this fish had been caught in the first 20 minutes of the session the signs were positive – were we in for a bumper session?
As already mentioned, Chris was using one of his own Albie Snax and he was next to receive a really good hit, followed by another a few minutes later. Now, it could have been small bass or pollack having a go or he could have just been unlucky. By now, Dave and I were willing him to catch one and hatched a plan that if Dave caught another bass from the underwater feature that he was targeting (a gully that runs straight into the reef/beach) then we would move Chris to that very spot for the remainder of the session!
As high tide approached, I decided that cast and move tactics were required – taking Chris with me first of all in order to seek out some of the other zones were I reckoned bass could be stationed before the tide began to ebb. As we approached Dave, he confirmed that he’d had another ‘knock’ that had come to nothing.
As the tide began to ebb with more vigour, I decided on a change of tactics. It was a risky move given the depth of water over the reef (2 -3ft) but I wondered if the bass were just slightly further out? Attaching a 150mm white (pearl) Jim’s Lures Needlefish to Chris’ lure clip, I instructed him to cast as far as he could (they cast a long way) and retrieve steadily, at one rotation of the handle per second and again, to ensure the lure was kept just below the surface all the way to the shingle.
I had left Chris for only a few minutes to check on Dave (who was only 15 – 20m) along the beach when we heard Chris calling out of the gloom to our left! I sprinted across the shingle to find Chris struggling with something pulling very hard on the end of his line… “I didn’t feel the bite, it just felt like a big weight suddenly on the line, like a massive lump of weed when the lure was only 1m from the beach, but now its taking line and moving!” I flicked on my head-torch to full power and tried desperately to find the fish in the beam. Too late. The lure catapulted dangerously back towards us… Urrgggghhhh!!
Fair play to Chris – he took it well, but when Dave appeared out of the shadows to say he’d seen the size of the bass in the backwash we both began to feel sick. Dave reckoned it looked ‘a hell of a lot bigger than mine’ If only I’d been stood next to him, as I think I could have grabbed the line and alleviated some of the tension between hook hold, braid and rod since the fish was practically on the beach anyway!
We’ll never now of course, and Chris was very philosophical and relaxed about it all, but it was a real shame. I feel that if the bass had taken the lure slightly further out from his stance (Chris reckoned the fish must have grabbed the lure nearly at his feet) then it might have ran (taken some line) meaning it would have at least given him time to adjust and would have allowed time for me to get the light onto the fish. But it is just so easy to become disoriented, especially when you’re taken completely by surprise and ultimately Chris was just very, very unlucky… Again!
A couple days later his luck changed! I receievd a message saying he’d had a manic session, on one of his own marks where he’d never had success, with bass up to 4lb taken in darkness on the Albie Snax – well done Chris.
It’s always a total pleasure putting clients onto bass, but when you feel you already know them, they’ve driven a long way, taken days off of work and also spent money on accommodation it definitely makes my job feel even more rewarding.
Thanks for reading.