3 Day Package – Camaraderie & Catches
I don’t often get nervous, but I have to admit that as I drove down the lane from my house to the Chillington House B+B Hotel there were a few butterflies… I was about to meet the three Gentlemen who would be participating in my inaugural Guided Bass Fishing ‘Package Deal’ of 3 Clients/3 Days Guided Bass Fishing, including 3 Nights Accommodation for £499 per person.
Following a great deal of correspondence and anticipation, Martin, Chris and Mike would be joining me for what I’d planned would be six, four hour sessions – to be completed in both daylight and darkness depending on the weather, wind and overall sea conditions. Moreover, they would encompass as many differing venues and methods (lure types) as possible.
Lets get out there!
Upon meeting early on the Tuesday morning, it was immediately evident that there was going to be a lot of banter, and a lot of laughs during these sessions. Chris and Mike (friends) had driven all the way down from the South-East (having departed at 0300) where as Martin had already been in south Devon holidaying with his Wife for a couple of days.
The venue I chose for ‘Session 1’ enabled me to point out a number of bass ‘patrolling and holding’ areas on our way to the first mark – something that definitely gives anglers new to, or inexperienced at bass lure fishing, a taste of what to look for in potential marks of their own.
Session 1 – A ‘follower’
The beach/reef I’d chosen was already being exposed by the tide, that had a further hour to ebb therefore, I positioned my three clients at separate positions that would see them casting soft weedless, weightless soft plastic lures such as the Albie Snax, OSP DoLive Stick and Waveworm Bamboo Stick all in natural colours (browns, greys and amber) in order to mimic the small wrasse, mullet and pollack that were in residence here.
As my clients had never used these particular types of lure, I took the opportunity to highlight their remarkably ‘life-like’ attributes in a large rock pool, alongside a demonstration on ‘how’ to effectively use them. I then walked them out to their respective marks and continued to alternate between which client to stand with (so to check on their technique, understanding and to ask them exactly what they wanted to get out of these sessions).
About 30 minutes into the session, upon venturing up to Chris, he confirmed that he’d seen a grey ‘torpedo shaped’ fish ‘follow’ the lure before puting the brakes on right in front of him – most likely, this was a bass. He also mentioned that a rounder, brown backed fish had also taken an interest in his Amber coloured Albie Snax – this was most definitely a wrasse of course.
As the tide reached its low point and then began to flood quickly, I rotated Chris and Mike through a similar mark just around a group of rocks so that they could individually fish an inlet that has been very productive for me, whilst Martin worked a gully a that was beginning to ‘fill in’ and a flat weedy reef that the bass like to investigate. But despite that early sighting of a bass, and with the clouds having dispersed to leave clear blue skies, I called time on this session in readiness for a night assault on a nearby estuary.
Session 2 – Top water action
It was obvious to me within the first 10 minutes of actual fishing that Chris was a very accomplished angler. Indeed, he had won all manner of Course fishing competitions therefore, perseverance and patience was never something I needed to remind him (or the others) of. His main aim over these sessions was to learn ‘how’ to use a surface popper or slider and, of course, to catch a bass by this method. It was part of the reason why I decided to target an estuary mouth into the evening and night on an ebbing tide, in the hope that the bass would become more and more concentrated into certain stretches and channels as the amount of water decreased.
Once, again, following a demonstration to my extremely receptive clients, I let Chris and Martin loose with a Savage Gear Pop Walker and Bear King Slim Skimmer attached to their lure clips. With Mike, due to the amount of natural food in the water (sandeels in particular) I decided on a different approach by way asking him to utilise one of my favourite lures at the moment – a Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel.
It took all of 10 minutes before I heard Chris shout those words that bring such joy “Fish on!”. A spirited little battle ensued before the small (½lb) bass was wriggling up the sand – closely followed by Chris who was ‘well chuffed’ it has to be said. Literally, 3 minutes later, he was in again as an almost identical fish smashed the diminutive surface popper that accounted for some very nice bass for my clients on the open coast last season.
I moved Martin to within 30 yards of Chris (who was getting almost a ‘swirl a cast) and was about to change Mike over to a similar lure when his rod whacked over – it was a small one, and unfortunately for him it managed to escape. Poor old Martin on the other hand, hadn’t even seen a swirl or a splash anywhere near his surface slider – the bass were seemingly swimming right on the edge of the deepest channel (we later surmised over low water on the way back to the car).
Calm and very still
As dusk became darkness, the very still air became eerily calm as my clients stood knee-deep casting Needlefish (Martin) and Line Thru Sandeels ‘up-tide’ and retrieving them with the flow as the water levels slipped down the sand. My clients fished deep into the warm night, targeting the main channel that runs out of this estuary, but despite a couple of ‘knocks’ for Martin we headed back to base camp for a good nights sleep, ready for the next day’s adventures.
Session 3 – A hard shift
The wind was forecast to increase to a 10-12 mph southerly, which ordinarily would create some choppy conditions around any areas also exposed to the tide – Perfect. However, as per usual this year, the forecast was completely inaccurate… Instead, there wasn’t a breath of wind and the sea was as flat as a pancake – even around some the most exposed headlands the south Devon coastline has to offer.
I needed to improvise therefore, I made the decision to conserve my clients’ energy in preparation for another late night session, and to concentrate our efforts solely on fishing an area with lots of underwater (parallel running) rocks and a very powerful current with surface lures. This is an area where huge ‘bait-balls’ can form which, in turn, can see decent numbers of mackerel, garfish and bass hound, hoard and savagely attack them. Not today though, and I have to say that Mike, Chris and Martin worked their socks off during that session for absolutely zero reward for their efforts.
Session 4 – Gutted for Martin
Eventually, as the evening drew in, the wind began to quickly increase from the west, heralding an unsettled spell of weather – something that I was excited about in regards to the following days prospects. However, for the here and now I chose a venue facing ‘east’ for the session in darkness that would be sheltered from the elements and would allow my clients to experience some open coast night lure fishing over a long expanse of reef with sand/shingle adjacent for some distance either side. Here, a strong current washes shallow water (up to 6ft) parallel to the shoreline with the seabed a mixture of flat, smooth rock interspersed with gravel/sand patches and slippery green weed over low tide.
The plan was to once again fish the ebbing tide that is generally more productive on this mark for 2 hours in daylight and 2 hours into darkness with the same lures that they’d been using the previous evening/night. Everything looked right, but only one small pollack fell to Martin’s pink Jim’s Lures Needlefish that he allowed to sink to the seabed at dusk, whereby the fish grabbed it – these guys deserved a bass!
With Chris now fishing with one of my favourite very shallow diving minnows, – the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z120F SSR, Mike fishing away intently with an Albie Snax and Martin belting out the Needlfish I was confident I had all bases covered as the tide began to quicken and recede off the shingle.
In an area where the current effectively swirls (due to a rock formation jutting into the tide race) creating a giant, slack ‘eddy’ anyone of my clients could expect a hit at any second, but it was Martin (just as I’d turned to walk the 30 yards between him and Chris across the beach) who shrieked “Fish on!” Running like the clappers across the wet pebbles I could see his rod tip held high, yet bent right over as what appeared (judging by the line Martin said it took against the drag) to be a decent bass that had hammered the lure within 3m of his stance…
Just as I was about to switch on my head-torch in order to scan the water the fish ‘let go’ “Damm!!!!!” or words to that effect echoed around the cliffs as Martin peeled away from the shoreline towards his rucksack further up the beach – the pristine Needlefish dragging behind him… We were all gutted…
Session 5/6 – Washing Machine Bass
I’d considered a very early start (0300) for the start of Day 3 and Session 5 but decided against it given the forecast heavy rain and 25-30mph ‘westerly’ wind – something that all three of them were open too (huge respect there). However, after scrutinising my diary notes and tide times I asked my clients to meet me at 0900 so that we could fish the middle two hours of the ebb over some delightfully rugged ground covered by deeper water, before stopping for a pub lunch. Following tis break, they would fish the entire flooding tide in some of the tastiest sea conditions I’d seen since February – when there were definitely very few (in any) bass about!
The continual easterly and northerly winds that we’d experienced here throughout March and well into June meant that the water had been ‘gin clear’ and very calm – which when this occurs for longs periods means there is an increased likelihood (in daylight at least) of the bass being further offshore chasing bait fish rather than sniffing around the shallows. A good old ‘onshore blow’ was precisely what was required to ‘encourage’ these shoals to move within casting distance, and I was certain my clients would connect (properly) with a bass or two on this final day – patience and perseverance!
I mentioned that I’d asked my clients what they’d hope to learn from the sessions, and Mike had commented a couple of times that he had zero confidence lure fishing for bass in turbulent, coloured up seas. “How do they find/see the lure? he asked – Whereby I explained that bass are ‘built’ for such conditions with their fantastic eyesight, powerful tails, armour plated scales/bodies and manoeuvrability. “I can’t wait for this” he quipped.
As we stomped our way quickly to the first mark of the day I could feel the excitement in my clients’ behaviour – they were well up for this one! But as I caught a very brief glimpse of the sea through the trees I struggled to hide my disappointment – it looked far more coloured up than I’d expected. As we neared the beach that would lead us onto the rocks, the wind was really howling into our faces – this was going to be borderline, not from a safety perspective (as I wouldn’t have even entertained fishing this area otherwise) but from the viewpoint that the water would potentially be full of weed fragments and silt.
Hmmmm, I took a long look at the water through my Polaroids so that I could ascertain where the ‘dirtiest’ water was in relation to the marks I wanted to fish. I needed to keep them relatively close together given the sea conditions that were causing the water to simply ‘boil’ around the rocks. Everywhere you looked there was foaming white, aerated green/brownish water with slicks of very dirty water threatening ‘push in’from time to time.
Big, noisy ‘in your face’ surface lures such as the sliding Xorus Patchinko II, HTO Canine and the classic Storm Chug Bug are the order of the day in such conditions, as I believe the bigger bass will be on the hunt for a large, injured, easy meal splashing and struggling in the swell being smashed against the rocks. To be honest, it was an easy choice of lure to make due to the amount of weed fragments being swirled about in the ‘washing machine’ as Mike put it.
The area I’d decided to target is a myriad of interlinking, crisscrossing deep (8-12ft water even at low tide) gullies, where large rocks protrude above the surface. The constituents of the seabed are also a real mixture here, ranging from pure sand/shingle to large clumps of weed (car size) extending towards the surface meaning that accurate casting and correct use of lures is paramount if you’re to coax a brute of a bass into an attack.
With all three clients casting and fishing their substantial surface lures (Martin/Chris on a Patchinko and Mike on much less expensive HTO Canine) I stood up on my perch, with the net primed. “Cast precisely where those gullies converge” I said to Mike, and work the lure for a few seconds, then leave it to be washed naturally in the direction the swell/eddy/backwash wants to move it…
I was briefly scoffing my energy bar when I heard Mike shout only 5 yards from me, and upon turning my head I could see the rod thumping away and bent well over (where it remained for the entirety of the fight). “I’m in, I’m in” he excitedly called – just then, as I stood right beside him, the bass broke the surface slightly to our right and only 8 yards in front of us – Wow! It was a good fish alright!
I always complain about larger waves pushing through when a decent bass is attached, but miraculously the opposite occurred! Feeling it was safe to do so (whilst wearing my life jacket) I stepped down onto a flat ledge that had only been exposed in the last 5 minutes and where a gully ran down the right side – the perfect netting point as it were. As I crept down with said net, the bass spotted me and decided it would head off in the opposite direction. This is where Mike did a superb job of remaining calm, using the rods power and the reels drag to inch the bass (that was thrashing angrily) towards the rim of the net – I reached out and in she went… Yeah!!!!!! Get in!!! Come on!!! was probably heard a good mile away!
We hugged – I admit it! Strangers 48 hours previously were now dancing around the rocks embracing during a moment I’m sure Chris would have filmed had he seen what had just occurred. The bass was pretty ‘p****d off to say the least, and was hell-bent on twisting itself into the net and squirming around the line however, with a bit of teamwork (with Mike steadying the fish so that the hooks wouldn’t become embedded in me) I managed to unhook it as quickly as possible, before placing it in the ideal rock pool to recover.
At this point, I must sing Martin’s praises. He had been stood no more than a couple of metres from Mike and casting into an adjacent gully when the bass had struck. But rather continuing fishing, he scrambled across the rocks to summon Chris who hadn’t heard our shouts above the sound of the sea – what a Gent.
Measured in the pool at 60cm (around 5lb) this was a dark ‘rock fish’ with a torn tail and anal fins, suggesting that it had spent most of its adult life in the vicinity of this bay, outside of breeding and spawning season I suspect. What an absolute ‘belter’ of a bass and it was a real privilege to watch and film her swimming away strongly. Well done Mike, now you know first-hand exactly how to fish a lure in what were demanding conditions.
Lunch, then losses…
Lunch was a blur of anecdotes and laughs and before long, with the tide about to commence flooding, we collected our gear from the car and headed off along the beautiful coastal path. I looked over the cliff to find what I would consider as fantastic daylight conditions – a green tinge to the water with around 18″-2′ of clarity and waves breaking around the rocks to create those bubbling sea conditions in and around a multitude of hopefully, bass filled gullies!
The first mark during ‘Session 6 ‘ was an extension of rock that juts out in the tide, where large sandy patches are scattered among some lovely drop offs and ledges – but there was a problem… seaweed! Due (I believe) to the rapidly warming sea temperature, coupled with the sudden increase in wind, there was just so much floating seaweed throughout the water column that it made it nigh-on impossible to utilise any kind of sub-surface lure therefore, the big surface lures were redeployed.
The tide was flooding at a considerable rate and at times, the swell would increase momentarily before subsiding again therefore, I made the decision to move around the bay a little earlier than expected – safety comes first. The next mark offered a modicum of protection from the waves, as there were a number of small islands situated in front of us. Furthermore, it allowed room for three anglers to comfortable cast into three separate regions where my clients and I have previously caught some good sized bass.
A further hour passed without any sign of anything, but I still had an ace (of sorts) up my sleeve – an inlet that faces the prevailing wind (that was starting to decrease) and the tide, making it the perfect ‘dead-end’ for bass to round-up their prey. At this juncture, I noticed that the floating weed problem was also beginning to ease. The way I look at it, if you can fish a sub-surface lure for more than 50% of the retrieve before it becomes shrouded in salad then, if the sea conditions are right and bass aren’t hitting items off the top, then I will go for it.
Up until this point, Chris had caught two small bass yes, but he was yet to feel the power of a ‘proper fish’ despite being by far the keenest angler I have ever seen – this guy was a fishing machine who would, by my reckoning, fish for a week straight before even considering giving in! I handed him one of my prize possessions – my one and only, recently discontinued, IMA Hound Glide 125F in the ‘Bora’ colour… “Please don’t lose it mate” I said.
I was stood with the net on a high platform so that I could monitor the swell and keep an eye on Martin who was fishing in the surf only 50 yards away on the shingle beach when I saw Chris’s rod (my Slash Lamya Thief) hoop over in the blink of an eye – “Yes!! Fish on!” Chris adjusted his position and kept the rod high, but the bass had other ideas…
By his own admission, he said he would normally fish with a very light drag setting however, I’d encouraged him to keep it set tight enough so that if a big fish hit the lure, it would only be able to take a couple of metres of line. In dramatic fashion, the bass had hit him very hard within a few inches of an underwater ledge, meaning that amount of leeway was enough to allow the bass to head straight for it and… ping… It was gone as quickly as it had appeared – with the lure in its mouth which is clearly not ideal.
Fair play to Chris, he wasn’t overly despondent, and after I had tied on a new leader and attached a new lure he was hard at it again for the final 45 minutes of the session as high tide approached.
I know I say this a lot, but one of the most satisfying elements of my job as a full-time bass fishing guide is not only witnessing people’s sheer happiness when they get it right, catching a fish or achieve something they had been so looking forward to accomplish – but the friendships that are forged between people who have a common interest – fishing.
The camaraderie created and overall support provided to each other makes these sessions. I have made some new friends and they walked away having learnt and experienced a huge amount during the six sessions completed along this wonderful stretch of coastline. I cannot express enough gratitude to Mike, Martin and Chris for placing their trust and confidence in me on what were my inaugural ‘Package Deal’ sessions.
I thank them for being exceptionally receptive to everything I put to them, and really wish they could all have experienced catching, holding and releasing a bass like the one Mike managed to land.
2 escaped and 1 was landed… 2 v 1 to the bass. This time…
Thanks for reading.