Client Catches – Saving the ‘beast’ until last…

Client Catches – Saving the ‘beast’ until last…

My clients during Monday and Tuesday of this week were Father and Son team Colin and Peter. Both had completed a vast and varied amount of sea and coarse fishing around their South Wales base over the years, but catching a bass of any size (lure or bait) had so far eluded them.

My remit was to teach them as much as I possibly could about bass movement and behaviour, the types of marks they inhabit and most importantly – how to choose the correct lure for the conditions and how to ‘work it’ correctly. The plan was to guide my clients for 4 hours in each of the two days, in addition to 4 hours in darkness over the subsequent nights.

Moreover, for a variety of reasons, I had to choose marks that offered comfortable fishing conditions (not remote, slippery rock marks miles from the car) whilst ensuring my client’s had a good chance of connecting with some south Devon bass – a bit of pressure then!

Bespoke gided fishing
Day 1 – Time to apply the sun cream before anything else!


On Day 1, the forecast ‘overcast conditions’ yet again, didn’t materialise – instead we were greeted by swelteringly perfect sun-bathing weather. Luckily, I’d chosen a mark that does usually produce a bass or two (generally smaller ones) in bright conditions as the tide ebbs across a reef covered by 2-4ft of relatively fast flowing water.

In very calm, clear sea conditions the two methods I usually employ are to either go ‘very natural’ with the lure selection or to go for more of a ‘reactive’ approach by way of tapping into the instantaneous nature of a bass to grab something off the surface that is scattering and/or splashing – especially if there is a strong current present

After demonstrating to my clients how to ‘walk the dog’ with the small surface lures Bear King Slim Skimmer and Savage Gear Sandeel Surf Walker respectively, I initially attached them to their lure clips (so that they could both master the technique) before exchanging Colin’s lure over to the extraordinary realistic and very easy to use Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel.

After 3 hours baking in the Sun and with only one small bass having a ‘dig’ at Peter’s surface lure (very close to his stance on the beach) I decided to end the session an hour early so that we could concentrate on a slightly longer evening/darkness session later.

Savage Gear LineThruSandeel
The Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel – is there a ‘better’ sandeel imitation than this? The additional benefit is that they cast like the proverbial missile.


The evening/night session was conducted from a long sandy beach where rocky outcrops and sunken reefs are present on both extremities – ideal ground to fish the flooding tide. With Peter perched on the adjacent rocks, I was really expecting him to latch into a bass on the surface lure he was using – especially as dusk approached. But despite one lost lure (that I managed lose while demonstrating its use!) there was no real action to speak of.

With Colin having been taught the virtues and use of a weedless/weightless soft plastic lure he was left working the shoreline and the underwater reef some 20 yards out with an OSP DoLive Stick. It remained very quiet on into darkness, even after I had changed their lures over to an Albie Snax and a Super Strike Needlefish – the latter being required to reach a neighbouring reef that is a good 50m out from the sand over high tide.

It was a particularly dark night, and on such nights a shallow diving ‘noisy’ rattling lure can sometimes be the difference between a blank and a bass. Therefore, with 30 minutes of the session remaining I changed Peter’s lure over to a brilliant little lure that is available in limited numbers, but that I believe Savage Gear should resurrect – the Manic Prey 90.

After a further 25 minutes, Colin was just packing up his lure rod when we both heard Peter shouting “I’m in!!” A bass had hit the lure in the trough where the slope of the beach levels off some 5m out – Brilliant! However, as the (admittedly small) fish washed around in the surf breaking onto the beach it (rather annoyingly) managed to shake the trebles and escape… Bugger.

A lure I really like – the Savage Gear Manic Prey 90. The casting abilities and action on these very underrated lures is superb.

Estuary mouth

Day 2 – And with a cold easterly wind blowing hard (that again, wasn’t forecast to be anything like the 20kts it was gusting) I’d chosen a mark that would see my clients attempting to intercept the shoals of bass moving out of an estuary mouth with small surface lures, the Line Thru Sandeel and possibly trotting paddletails down in the current.

Colin and Peter had been a tad unlucky up until this point, and once on the mark and fishing with the tide beginning to ebb strongly, I was a little alarmed to see so much weed moving through the water – I needed to think around this problem and fast, as it was ruining the session to be honest.

A sand bar that is present on this estuary mouth was beginning to uncover, but it required a wade (in knee-deep water) to get out to it. Essentially, its position offered a modicum of shelter from the wind, and it is situated in such a way (in relation to the wind direction we were experiencing) that the weed fragments wouldn’t accumulate here in the same amount as where they’d previously been fishing. So after checking there wasn’t any soft (sinking) sand patches, I guided my clients out across the soon to be uncovered ’causeway’ and out onto the sandbank.

Well done Colin!

It looked good – we’d entered the 3rd hour of the tide (when it really speeds up and when the bass often move through this zone) and my clients were now positioned safely and happily fishing under far less frustrating circumstances.

With a tweak required to Colin’s technique with the Slim Skimmer, I very briefly demonstrated how to retrieve the lure when I saw a splash and felt some resistance on the line. Typically (considering I was working the lure) a bass had taken it! I duly handed the rod to Colin, who enjoyed the brief battle before ‘beaching’ the tiny bass  – now his turn for real!

As I was attaching the same lure to Peter’s clip, we were startled by the ‘shreek’ of “Yes! Yes! Got one! Sprinting across the sand, I grabbed the landing net and slid it under a tiny thrashing school bass – he’d done it! Well done Colin.

Colin and I on the sand bar celebrating his first ever bass on a surface lure – a method totally alien to him 24 hours previously and one he’ll be exploiting on his own ground back in Wales. It’s the confidence (rather than the size of the bass) achieved that is most important when you’re learning how to catch this marvellous sea fish.

Note the direction

I hatched a plan for the final 4 hour session that would be completed in darkness. It involved my clients standing on sand, but fishing into a fast-moving volume of water either side of high tide. With success earlier in the season achieved (7 smallish bass) on the Line Thru Sandeel at night, and under similar conditions/circumstances, I opted to place my confidence totally in these lures for the forthcoming session.

The brief I gave to Colin and Peter was to cast the lure slightly up-tide (noting that the direction of the flow/current would change as the tide flooded and then ebbed during the session) and to very simply retrieve them at brisk pace so to enable that delightful ‘wobble/slalom that these lures possess.

It was a very still night and with only a neap tide the current was gently oozing through our legs as we stood knee-deep in the water – with me alternating between the two of them. High tide approached without even a sniff of a bass, but in the back of my mind was that start the ebb (as is so often the case at night) might just producing some ‘takes’ – something that I used to encourage them both as the ‘home straight’ approached.

The beast…

I waded gently into the shallows to check on Peter and asked him to make a cast straight ahead, and then to retrieve it, so that I could ascertain/confirm that the tide was now indeed ebbing – which it appeared to be. “Ok, Pete” I said, “start casting that way now”.

A further 5 minutes of cast and retrieve passed… It is a great feeling when you’re stood yapping away to a client and then you witness that rod hooping over! “Yep, a fish” he said as the rod pulled down hard as a bass smashed the lure at a range of about 30m out (a third of the way into the retrieve). An experienced angler, Peter held the rod tip high and maintained the ideal amount of pressure as I dashed to grab the net off the beach behind me. As my head torch searched the darkness, his line could be seen zipping through the water, the rod tip ‘jagging away’ as the clearly ‘very decent’ fish attempted to use the freshly pulling current to its advantage.

This bass had stayed remarkably deep throughout the battle, with no thrashes on the surface or splashes therefore, I was having real difficulty locating its whereabouts, when it just appeared before me about 3m out and only 6″ under the surface – Wow! “Gently does it Pete” I said, and as the bass breached the surface ‘side on’ to us, I just about managed to get it over the rim of the net – Come on!!!

Big bass south devon guide
A very angry yet simply ‘awesome’ bass measuring 69cm for Peter – his personal best by a significant margin.

Perseverance pays yet again

This beautiful specimen was very, very lightly hooked just outside of the mouth (would you believe) and upon being placed gently onto the sand (still in the net) it went berserk! It was not happy at being out of the water which made un-hooking it very difficult – hence the lack of a photograph with the lure attached to the fish.

Perseverance – a virtue that I’ve mentioned time and again and something that Colin and Peter had displayed from the first cast they’d made with me, until the very last – they’d loved every minute and so had I.

The big bass took a good 5 minutes of careful handing by Peter in the water (see below), but she eventually swam off strongly into the tide – it doesn’t get much better than that. Congratulations to Peter for landing such a fantastic bass, and my sincere thanks to both of them for being so receptive, patient and generally great company.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

DISCLOSURE: If you purchase any lures or equipment using the links contained within this post then I may receive a percentage of the sale as part of an affiliate program. Using these links will not cost you any more than it would from purchasing directly from the website(s).







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