Client Catches – Surface lures reign supreme

The session described in this blog post actually occurred well over a week and a half ago, but alongside family commitments, guiding (with success) and my other writing responsibilities (a fortnightly blog that can be found here at the excellent Lure Fishing For Bass website) it has been difficult to find the time! But considering I am currently consoling myself, writing this piece is the probably the best form of therapy there is for me…

Consoling myself because a client has just (this morning) had a 6lb+ bass make a ‘last ditch dash’ for the rocks (in slightly turbulent seas and under a beautiful blue sky) and snap the line – just as my net was hovering… This is on top of watching another client’s 5lb+ bass (four nights ago) shake the treble hooks in darkness, just as I grabbed the leader at the precise moment a slightly larger swell washed into the sandy gully where he’d expertly guided it – a bit of a nightmare really even though he had landed 14 bass up to 4lb over the course of 2 days (story to follow).

All in all I’m hoping this is all ‘karma’ and that it will all even out by way of a  ‘double figure bass’ that I think just might be landed this season by a client, or me maybe!

Hot and Sunny

My clients during this session were Alan and Steve – two very experienced anglers who, alongside catching numerous species of fish from their boat, had previously enjoyed Fly Fishing and Stillwater angling. My remit was to help them identify bass feeding areas and potential marks, plus lure selection and improving their overall shore/lure fishing knowledge and expertise.

With a high tide peaking at 2210 (River Yealm Scale) my plan was to head out late in the day because it had been so hot and sunny, and then fish the early evening from headlands and coves, and then into the first few hours of darkness from a shingle beach. Although the walk from the car to the first mark was somewhat arduous, especially in the heat, it did enable me (as always) to point out and actually stand my clients in actual features where bass have been caught – along with an explanation as to why.

Bass fishing bright skies
Steve casting out a surface lure into a ‘tide race’ – a favoured tactic of mine in bright conditions.


The first mark is the type that I routinely target under such conditions – deep (10ft+) fast flowing water whereby the bass are moving through quickly and where small-medium sized surface lures are utilised in order to ‘ring the dinner bell’ so to speak. With the receding tide about to reach its lowest point, I spent the first 20 minutes of the session demonstrating how to use both a small and a more substantial ‘sliding’ surface lure before placing my clients onto their respective ‘positions’ ready for the first push of the flooding tide.

20 minutes in, and whilst standing with Steve that we both witnessed a bass of around 2lb move out of the flow, follow the lure and practically stick its nose onto it before cruising back down into the depths – a good sign for sure. But rather annoyingly, having watched the same thing happen to Alan 10 minutes later and then again to Steve (when two bass this time had a ‘look’ at the lure) that I decided to ask Steve to try something different – drifting an OSP DoLive Stick here down in the flow with just the occasional twitch.

He did receive a ‘bang’ on the second cast but in preparation (another walk) for the next mark in mind, plus the frighteningly fast flooding tide, after a total 1 hr 30 minutes of fruitless effort here, I called time on this part of the session.

More tide

The next mark was similar to the first, but far shallower (6-9ft in the time we would be there) and with a couple of rocks protruding out into the flow – perfect ambush points for bass as the tide screamed past. Again, surface lures were deployed with the strict instruction to cast ‘up-tide’ so that the lure would ‘skit, pop, splash’ and move in an overall direction with the direction of the flow.

Fishing with surface lures from haeadlands
Alan and Steve casting their lures ‘up-tide’ and working them back towards them as dusk sets in – seconds after this photograph was taken the action started.

No way…

On this type of mark the bass can move through at any time however, generally speaking, it is once you’re within 1hr 30 minutes of high tide and particularly once the light begins to fade that the action can start – information that I used to encourage my clients…

It was just as I’d taken the photograph above, and as I inched my way back over the rocks that I heard both Alan and Steve shouting – Alan had latched into one on an IMA Salt Skimmer here and judging by the bend in the rod silhouetted against the orange sky it was decent! He had it on for about 25 seconds and just as I arrived with the net… No way! It was gone – the bass had shaken the hooks… But at least it looked like ‘they’ were on the feed.

At this stage, I decided to change Steve’s lure over to something larger – a ‘classic lure’ called the Duel Aile Mag Popper (a hybrid sliding/popping surface lure). It’s a shame these lures are so difficult to get hold of nowadays as theY absolutely ‘fly’ and have a wonderful popping, bubbling, zigzagging action when retrieved.

At last!

The right mark, the right conditions and the right lure – it just had to happen and it did! A big swirl at a range of 20 yards and Steve’s rod pulling over – fish on! With a rock situated just under the surface (that I’d warned Steve was there) he had to apply quite a bit of side strain in order to ‘turn’ the bass – a good one by the way it was battling. But following a couple of ‘hairy’ moments I caught sight of that mesmerising silver flank – and as it rose to the surface and remained there, I scooped the net under her – we’d done it.

Fishing guide UK
Congratulations Steve! I had to be very, very wary of those spines as the bass was determined to ‘prick’ me as I unhooked it – and it did!

At around 3½lb and with spines and gill plates thrashing everywhere it decided to make a bit of a mess of my net – something they seem to do at this time of year when they are full of vitality. By the time we’d unravelled it and unhooked the fish, I decided that taking too many pictures wasn’t wise therefore, following a quick shot the bass was safely returned.

Around 20 minutes later and with darkness nearly upon us, Alan managed a small one (around 1lb) that we both deemed wasn’t quite large enough for a ‘grip and grin’ – but I was so pleased he’d been successful as he’d stood there working that surface lure to near exhaustion! (huge respect).

Dusk fishing
It is extremely rare that I ever see anyone else out fishing when I am guiding clients – such is the remoteness of the marks I fish.

New experience

Although they’d completed a fair bit of Sea Trout fishing in darkness over the years, Alan and Steve hadn’t fished for bass on lures from the shore at all, let alone the dark therefore, this was totally new territory as we embarked on a spot of night lure fishing.

With high water due in the next 20 minutes, I had planned this session to coincide/end with them fishing one of my favourite sections of reef, whilst casting from a shingle beach during the first part of the ebb – the best time in my experience from this mark.

With Alan utilising a pearl Albie Snax here and Steve whacking out one of my brand new Silver Jim’s Lures Needlefish here out a good 50m across the reef and into approximately 3-4ft of water I was rubbing my hands with anticipation! Poor Steve, he’d lost my one and only Duel Aile Magnet lure and unfortunately, he’d now snagged my needlefish – and no matter how hard I tried to free it, eventually (so that he could continue fishing) I decided to pull for a break… There was a silver lining to the story and no, it didn’t involve me getting the lure back for a change!

Time for one more

Luckily, the leader knot hadn’t given way, only the leader itself a few centimetres up the trace therefore, once I’d thoroughly checked it for any frays or weakness I tied on another snap link (I use these here) and then an Albie Snax for the final 30 minutes of the session. With both of my (tired) but contented clients concentrating hard it was while I was stood with Steve that his rod thumped over – much to his surprise I think!

As is often the case in the dark, from my perspective it is very difficult to ascertain the size of the fish from a client’s description of how it is ‘fighting’ – which was why I was slightly disappointed to pull a sub 2lb bass up the beach. It didn’t matter one jot to Steve however, as like he said “I would never have thought of fishing in this way for bass and it is amazing that they can see the lure” before adding, “food for thought”.

Sabage Gear Salt CCS bass lure rod
For the money (around £80) these Savage Gear Salt CCS lure rods here are the perfect weapon to hand to my clients as they are just so easy to fish with.
Bass taken on a soft plastic at night
Steve’s first ever ‘night time’ bass – a method that he reckons he’ll be doing a lot more of from now on!


Something that we all definitely noticed was that the ‘daylight bass’ (and a couple more swirls and boils close to the lure) occurred immediately after a run of ‘swell waves’ had moved through. The swell was caused by the remnants of the very windy weather we’d experienced 48-72 hours prior to this session, but it appeared to me, that the bass were alerted to and possibly anticipated the fact that food items may be dislodged by these waves and items (small fish) could be struggling on the surface?

Finally, you may wonder why my clients were continually fishing with surface lures in daylight? The reason is that, routinely, the high sea temperature (currently between 17-18ºC here in south Devon) serves to increase the metabolism of the bass, which of course means they will eat more and swim more. Ultimately, they are more content to chase their prey, and this, combined with the amount of bait fish in the water means they are expecting to see items ‘skitting and scattering’ on the surface.

I’m already feeling better about the two lost client fish, and in the comings weeks I will have a very exciting announcement to make regarded something I’ve been working on for a number of months… Watch this space as they say!

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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