A review of my bass fishing year 2017 (Part 2 of 2)

A review of my bass fishing year 2017 (Part 2 of 2)

As promised! Here is Part 2 including converting fly fisherman in the ways of bass lure fishing, young and ‘older’ anglers first ever shore caught bass and PB’s being obliterated all over the place!

August (Things start to hot up!)

As with July, within the first few minutes of August, a returning client (Mark) landed a really nice bass nudging (what I believe now was 5lb) on a Maria Squash F95 – another lure that was to prove invaluable for those nights when there was very little ambient light and the bass were possibly homing in on the noisy rattling lure?

bass fishing unique experience
This is Mark’s PB bass at 58cm although the fish looks bigger every time I look at this photograph! I definitely think it’s heavier than the 4¼ lb I originally estimated – Santa is bringing me an electronic scales and a sling ready for next season!

The next evening, I had the pleasure of guiding a 9-year-old (and his Mum) for his Birthday present. This is most pressure I’ve felt as a bass guide as I desperately wanted him to experience the thrill (and battle) that bass provide. Sure enough, he managed to land one (on the Maria Squash F95) and was unlucky not to land a much bigger bass that I made out in head-torch before it somehow shook the hooks. Things look very bright for the future of fishing though judging by Noah’s natural ability, perseverance and care in handling his little bass – a lovely moment. You can read the account of Mark and Noah’s bass here

Young anglers
Following Mark and Noah’s success above, the first week of August was relatively quiet on the bass front. Apart from small schoolies, my clients and I had to make do with pollack and wrasse. But in the back of my (and my fellow lure anglers’) mind was the imminent arrival of the sprat/sardines/fry being chased all along the coastline by the mackerel – this is when the bass have a field day as all of these are prey to them!

With increased bookings already confirmed (including a number of fly fisherman keen to sample some lure fishing) alongside balancing a multitude of work related projects I unfortunately had to turn down a number of guiding sessions in August – something that won’t be a problem in 2018 when I’m guiding full-time. When I was able to guide, my clients were enjoying some excellent sport with multiple fish being landed during most sessions (see below):

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The icing on the cake to very productive month was the three days (incorporating a 2x 8 hour sessions and 1x 4 hour guided sessions) that I spent with Kevin. A real fishing enthusiast who’d asked me for an entire breakdown (list) of what to purchase prior to his ‘holiday’ as he’d never caught a bass from the shore… Well we certainly sorted that out!

In total, he landed seven with fish of 3lb, 4lb and 5lb on the first evening, and a 6lb bass on the following session that wins my prize for the hardest fighting fish of the year! I had to write two separate blog posts to cover Kev’s exploits here Part 1 and Part 2 but below is gallery of his achievements during that wonderfully hot and sunny Bank Holiday:

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September (PB’s smashed all round!)

In the final two weeks of August I lost over half a stone in weight courtesy of all the hiking and long days out on the coastline – and I loved every second of it! The weather gradually turned more unsettled towards the end of the first week and by the time I’d had a couple of days off I felt invigorated and was licking my lips with anticipation – especially considering all the bait fish that were around in conjunction with the increased movement to the water.

It looked perfect from high up on the cliff tops at the start of my session with Johnny – a client who I was about to spend a couple of days with. It took all of 10 minutes (once we carefully manoeuvred ourselves over the rocks) for him to land without doubt, as he put it, his personal best and a brute of a bass. It was caught a large Xorus Patchinko and was one very angry fish as you can read here

Bass fishing professional guide
I’m not sure who was the more petrified – the bass or Johnny! No picture of the lure in its mouth or a Go-Pro video of its return (it did go back in swish of its spade like tail) as this fish was not happy being out of water…

With Johnny needing to rest up his sore knee, the following morning I just couldn’t resist the temptation to head out. I knew I’d get it in the neck as I had loads of household chores to complete, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with your instinct – and mine said you’ve got an excellent chance of catching a big one!! The full story of how I caught my personal best bass can be found here 🙂

Bass guide south West England
My personal best bass measuring 73cm (9lb+) caught on a lure I have total faith in – the far from easy to get hold of Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z120F Vertice

The next day I was out guiding Steve, an experienced lure fisherman eager to gain some tips and tricks to enhance his overall bass fishing expertise. The sea conditions (clarity/weed fragments) had deteriorated slightly and the wave height was due to increase as the day progressed therefore, after convincing him a very early start was required, the bass he caught (below) was just-deserts for his effort – the story is here

Bass fishing exclusive fishing
Steve did exactly as briefed and worked the lure all the way to the rod tip after casting continually up a gully as the tide flooded. At 58cm I believe this is also his shore caught PB.

Things went relatively quiet for a week with only small bass, wrasse a few near misses with larger fish (bass?). Something that went nuts when hooked (a big pollack that I spotted beneath a shoal of fry and encouraged my client to cast towards I think) taking a lot of line until the braid gave way (a real shame for the client). A couple of days later I had the pleasure of guiding three k’een as mustard’ anglers for an 8 hour session commencing at 0200!

It was worth it though as Nick nailed the beauty below on what was to become one of my most consistent lures later in the season (a pearl coloured Albie Snax) with what I believe to have been a very decent bass lost after dawn broke, halfway into the ebb for his friend Glenn.

Bass fishing things to do
At 57cm (it does look bigger) this was first time I’d handed a client an Albie Snax lure to use. I had all three anglers spread along a 300 yard beach, casting over snag ridden ground therefore, I was glad I was stood right next to Nick when he latched into this one a few metres off his rod tip!

A rare species

A Twaite Shad – that’s what everyone informed me (via Facebook) that my client, Roger had landed and thankfully returned (as they’re protected) in late September. It hit the Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel very close to the beach and gave a very good account of itself before covering our hands in scales, posing for a picture and then zipping back across the reef out of sight – wonderful!

Twaite Shad
A British Record qualifying weight Herring? No Marc, it’s a Twaite Shad as I was enthusiastically informed on Facebook!

The water remained gloriously calm and clear into the later stages of September therefore, it was pleasing to be able to place clients onto bass at night and in bright sunny conditions:

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After purchasing a new reel I was keen to actually test it out! I didn’t have to wait too long and enjoyed a very pleasant couple of sessions in the last week of September, again both in darkness and under sunny cloudless skies – the Albie Snax and a new Savage Gear lure (Savage Gear Jerk Minnow 145F) attracting bass off 55cm and 57cm respectively amongst some smaller ones:

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October (Watching the Moon…)

With clients eager to experience the dark side of lure fishing, I started to venture to pastures new (on my solo trips) in search of even more consistent night fishing marks. I’d originally earmarked around twenty similar shallow reefy areas during the winter and had so far taken bass from all but one of them. The results from these sessions can be seen below):

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Back to my guiding and it was hugely satisfying to be able to place Andrew (who was one of my first ever clients in late 2016) onto a couple of nice bass when I am certain the Moon appearing made a huge difference (see here) and below – the white 6″ senko did the business on this occasion.

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Big Wrasse

Bass and bigger wrasse hunt alongside each other – unsurprisingly, they do inhabit the same shallow, snaggy, weedy, food rich terrain therefore, it is inevitable that some wrasse are encountered whilst lure fishing for bass. It’s become widely accepted that wrasse aren’t always ‘hole in a rock dwellers’ at all, and that they will in fact hunt over long distances over expanses of reef.

Small wrasse will be eaten by bass which is part if the reason that when my clients or I do catch one, they are generally of a decent to large size. They are a pretty spectacular species and when hooked on braid and a very light rod and reel they put up a fair old scrap! Here are some photographs of the wrasse my clients and I have caught this season:

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Long distance anglers

A large percentage of the anglers that I guide are from outside of Devon. Indeed, an increasing amount, particularly in the second half of the season travelled down from London, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Kent and stayed the night in local B&Bs or Hotels (see my recommendations on my Useful Links page here).

My next client was Richard, a real Gentleman and very talented lure fisherman who completed a 4 hour session in daylight followed by 4 hours in darkness (a popular choice). He was rewarded for his long drive from Sussex by this stunning 59cm (5lb) bass taken again on the white senko – I really enjoyed writing his story here

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November (My favourite month)

November… I always look forward to this month – there’s just something about it in terms of the bass fishing potential and if the sea conditions are safe, then it can be the best month of the year here in south Devon.

It didn’t half turn cold though! Blimey, I’ve haven’t had to scrape ice off the windscreen so often in November for a long time but it certainly didn’t put that bass off. The largest ‘client’ bass of the season (in terms of weight as it measured 70cm and very fat) was caught by Michal (see here) in 2ft of water, very close to the beach when the air temperature was around 3ºC – this could possibly explain why the fish didn’t battle it out as you’d expect?

Personal best lure caught bass
A very nice bass! What was interesting was that the hit on the (Albie Snax) lure was very subtle and the fight very subdued. He hadn’t had a bite for 3 hours but when the full Moon set behind the cliff and the tide turned – this was the result.

A few small bass were caught in the second week of November, but at the start of the third week I enjoyed a really enjoyable session in darkness with my friend and fishing companion George (my former client who caught five on a needlefish back in May). The bass were definitely about in numbers and feeding avidly and I managed to land three in the end – the biggest at 63cm (6lb) all on the Albie Snax.

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I have a persuasive nature! Which is useful sometimes especially when you’re attempting to convince a couple of anglers (who are again travelling a long way to be guided) that heading out at 0300, with the air temp hovering around freezing, is the way forward if they really want to enhance their chances – fortunately Dave and Chris, my next clients agreed (see below and here):

Bass fishing blog Marc Cowling
One of my favourite photographs of the year following some advice from Henry Gilbey of how to take effective shots in darkness (never easy). At 58m (just shy of 5lb) it was Dave’s largest of the season taken on a white senko about 2 turns of the handle into the retrieve – well done Dave!

I was pretty gutted for a client a few days later when he hooked into a good bass (in daylight) on an OSP DoLive Stick only for his leader knot to give way. A pity yes, but he did email me a few days later saying he’d caught two bass of 3lb and 5lb on the same lure from one of his local marks – a place he previously didn’t know how to fish. So it all ended well (nice one Rob!).

A couple of days later I managed this stunning looking bass (and another smaller one) during a very quick session. Both fish took the larger Savage Gear Jerk Minnow 175 in amongst some surf, that was breaking where the sand meets a reef, quite a distance out.

Contact Me
Look at those spines! Bristling with power and attitude – bass are just an amazing example of a sporting fish.

A week later, with the frost literally forming around me I managed two more nice fish both on, you guessed it – the Albie Snax! The mark in question has been very consistent at night and has yielded bass in darkness during only the middle two hours of a flooding tide – any other period hasn’t produced a single bite…

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December (Near misses!)

It was so cold on the night of the 1st of December that I had to stand in the water (with my waders on of course) to warm my feet up! With ice forming around us on the rocks, my client (Nick) managed to winkle out this small bass between sips of hot coffee. The sea temperature at the time was 12.8ºC which is actually the same as it is at the end of May!

December bass on lures
He’s made of sturdy stuff this client! Admittedly, copious amounts of coffee and this little beauty helped to make this winter session a successful one.

The day after, I guided another client (Angus) for 8 hours with the final two completed in darkness. Right at the end of the session he had a slack line bite whereby the fish (presumably a bass) had grabbed the Albie Snax and headed straight for the shore – if the fish had ran in any other direction he might have landed it.

Things have gone quiet from the shore recently. I had a very big bass follow my lure all the way to the rock I was stood on 10 days ago and I managed a small one at dusk last weekend. I did head out with a friend a couple of nights ago, but we only had a couple of knocks (no proper hits). I do know from social media that there are bass just offshore feeding around shoals of smaller fish (herring?) so it wouldn’t take much for them to head inshore.

A diver friend of mine also confirmed a couple of days ago that he’d seen two decent sized bass tight to the shoreline around where I learnt how to fish in my teenage years, so maybe I’ll head over that way over the Christmas holidays!

Thank you to my clients, followers and friends for reading for all your support, comments and feedback.

Merry Christmas!

Marc Cowling


  1. Hi Marc
    Compliments of the season (I’m one of the trio from BASS you guided in the very early hours (during our Fish-In) of a still September morning).
    Just a quick note to say I’ve been enjoying your blogs since then, and hopefully we’ll meet up next year, maybe during the Fish-In, or earlier.
    Steve Veitch


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