Client Catches – ‘Getting’ the Needle…
Yes, I’ve got needlefish on the brain at the moment, as it was this time last year that I lost (I was broken off after battling what felt like a monster for 40 seconds at a range of 50m) a complete ‘train’ when night fishing with one of these lures in very shallow water (2ft) covering an extensive area of rocks, weed and tiny interlinking gullies and pools.
I’ve mentioned many times that when hooking bass on needlefish you need a little bit of luck in relation to actually landing them! I’ve often muted a ‘capture rate’ of 2 in 3 with the other ‘1’ managing to shake the hooks – which is precisely what occurred during a guided session that took place last month.
My clients were Simon and Josh, two experienced anglers who had been bitten by the bass lure fishing bug within the past couple of seasons. More recently they had concentrated their efforts on fishing estuary marks, in darkness, with a variety of lures – with Simon having had some success with the ‘needles’ when fishing them in the current and over a sandy seabed. Josh, on the other hand was yet to taste success on a needlefish.
Although fully conversant with casting lures after dark, my brief was to ‘teach’ them how I utilise these brilliantly consistent lures over far more rugged territory – encompassing the retrieve speed, swim depth and the angle/trajectory (at which the lure should travel underwater) that has served my clients and I so well over the past two seasons.
With, not against…
Something that I notice on the very rare occasions that I see other anglers about is watching them casting and retrieving the lure against the force of the waves, and more especially against the current rather than with it. And this would be the rule of the night, as my clients would be fishing an area swept by quite a vigorous (although not particularly obvious) tide that runs laterally and from right-left on the flood and left-right on the ebb.
With a 5.2m spring high tide occurring at 2129 and darkness at 2005 the plan was to fish as soon as it became dark for four hours and a good 2½ hours into the ebb – meaning they would need to switch their casting angle during the session from casting up-tide to their right on the flood and then to their left slightly once the tide had turned.
With my clients positioned around 100m apart and retrieving the lures very smoothly and consistently (not fast/slow when turning the reel’s handle) at approximately one and a half full turns per second (taking into account their identical reel’s retrieve ratio and small 2500 Shimano spools) the Jim’s Lures Needlefish that they were using were soon cruising through what I anticipated would be ‘bass central.’ Given the excellent tide (just coming down from very large springs), weather (settled and warm) and sea conditions (calm and clear) I fully expected them to catch a bass.
As they were spread a fair distance away from each other, if the angler I wasn’t stood with latched into a bass I’d asked them to shout and attempt to switch on their headtorch (if they were able to without risking losing any hooked fish, of course). Just before high water, and as I was stood with Josh chewing the fat about all things fishing, I noticed Simon’s light flashing in the corner of my eye – whereby a 100m sprint ensued!
“I don’t think it’s that big Marc…”
After galloping across the loose shingle, I was fairly breathless by the time I arrived to find Simon attached to something nodding slowly in the small swell “I don’t think it’s that big Marc”, he said. “I’ll put the light on anyway Simon as I want to make sure we get it in”, I said. With that, I pressed the button on my headtorch just in time to witness a large silver shape gliding parallel to our stance “Looks bloody decent to me!” I said.
“Lower the rod to your left Simon and let me grab the leader as briefed” I shouted, as I crept down the shingle bank with the beam fixed on the bass as it sauntered head-first towards the beach. It was a good one alright, and as Simon appeared in the glow he could hardly believe it. “Wow! That’s my PB smashed then”
It was as I was unhooking her that I asked Simon where (in relation to distance from the beach) did the bass take the lure, how it took it, and how it battled whilst I was scrambling to get to him. “Well, there was fairly sudden amount of pressure on the line, but I thought it might be weed, so I struck gently and the fish took about 20 yards of line off the spool” AND YOU THOUGHT THAT WAS LIKELY TO BE A SMALL ONE SIMON!!!!! Brilliant and testament to how laid back the guy is!
Following a rapid and successful release (the bass zoomed away) Josh returned to his ‘zone’ with my words of wisdom ringing in his ears – keep at it, there are big bass about! As Simon was already more than happy with his evening I remained with Josh for longer periods as the tide began to ebb strongly. “This is when it can switch back on again mate” I encouragingly told him.
It was around 30 minutes later, whilst retrieving his own white needlefish, that as we were once again chatting away that quite out of nowhere THUMP!!! He was in! Conscious of attempting to alleviate the risk of the hooks pulling either at the start or particularly towards the end of the battle (I’ve seen this happen too many times under these circumstances for my liking) I’d set his drag relatively light.
Unfortunately (as Josh explained afterwards) the excitement of latching into something that felt seriously decent got that better of him, and despite my shouts of “No, no, ‘let it run, let it run”, he continued to wind quickly onto a bass that was intent on heading in the opposite direction until the inevitable happened – the only saving grace being that he got his lure back and it wasn’t left trailing in the fish’s mouth.
There was no other word for it – Josh was gutted. Along with Simon’s bite (and bass landed) this was the only other interest they’d received between them – which in my experience generally suggests that the small ones aren’t about, meaning the larger specimens get a chance to ‘get’ to the lure…
All he could do was keep hitting the desired area (I’d shown him a photograph of what the area looked like over low water) by continually whacking that lure out into the gloom and praying another bass would route through the depression he was aiming for. “Ten more casts Josh, and then make you’re way back down to us” I said, with a heavy heart…
FISH! I think the residents in the village half a mile away probably heard him! By the time I’d got to him though he’d landed it. “That was on the very last cast, I can’t believe it!” he said. At 3lb it was, in all probability, half the size of the one he’d lost earlier in the session – but it didn’t matter, he’d caught his first bass on a needlefish!
I know a lot of anglers swear by using single hooks on their lures, and I must admit, a single treble on the rear does make a lot of sense. However, both Simon and Josh’s needlefish lures had a large treble on the back and what I think was too small a single hook in the middle of the lure.
When I noticed this, I explained to them that the vast majority of bass over 3lb, and most definitely those over 5lb will side swipe a lure and hit it across the middle. Therefore, I encouraged them to ‘swap’ the hooks over so that the Size 2 treble was positioned centrally – “OK, we trust your judgement Marc” was their response.
Now, I’m not saying that keeping that small single centrally would have stopped them hooking and landing their bass, and maybe the one that got away would have stuck too. But the fact that both bass landed were very neatly hooked in the corner of the mouth (scissors) convinced them that it was a smart move – although it would be interesting to here from anyone out there who uses a very large single hook in the centre of a needlefish lure.
If you are interested in purchasing my book (that was released on the 8th October) titled ‘The Lure of The Bass’ please see my recent blog post here for details on how to purchase a copy.
Thanks for reading
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