My Recent Catches – Late season joy!
Despite the late autumn and early winter weather’s best attempts to scupper my chances, I have found some excellent sport in recent weeks – primarily during those (very) brief interludes when the wind has dropped and the rain has stopped. However, I have had to amend my tactics significantly to keep on catching some nice sized lure caught bass during late November and into December – there is a plus side to it staying so mild!
Atlantic depression after Atlantic depression has torn the open coast to shreds – dumping ridiculous amounts of seaweed all over the coastline. Furthermore, the spectacularly clear seas that we’d become accustomed to during that wonderful late spring, summer and early autumn have been replaced by a brown, grey, frothing and an angry-looking mess that just isn’t conducive to bass lure fishing, or indeed safety for that matter. I’ve had to forget about the open coast entirely, and have instead, been concentrating solely on exploring the river systems that are abundant in south Devon just to keep on fishing.
This is something that I have been extremely eager to do – experimenting, searching out and casting a lure into places that are relatively ‘alien’ to me it has to be said. I have caught bass on a variety of lures over the years in brackish water, lagoon type scenarios and fast flowing water moving over sandy seabeds at the mouths of estuaries, but the average size has generally been small.
More often than not, I’ve generally felt that I may be ‘missing out’ on a better stamp of bass from the wild and rugged seascape that I love (and that I am very lucky to have around me) by fishing ‘inland’ so to speak, and it has never really floated my boat in the same way as experiencing that arm wrenching hit in the dead of night under the stars from some remote shingle cove, or that last gasp grab and flash of silver when a bass drags line from your spool as the wind is howling and the waves are crashing around you. Well. I think I might be turning after recent results, and at the very least it has provided me with even more successful venues and many more options (for when it is positively howling) in which to guide my clients next season.
I am more than happy to admit that I’m always learning and (hopefully) improving. A need to progress, attempting new methods and considering and respecting other people’s ideas are something I embrace emphatically – attributes that have helped me in recent weeks in my quest to catch some late season silver beauties!
Numbers not size
One of the marks that I’ve been concentrating on (when conditions have allowed) is just inside the entrance to a very narrow estuary mouth, where the seabed is mostly clean and sandy. At a very precise and short period/stage in the tide, it appears the bass move through en mass. However, rather interestingly, only two types of lure have enticed them despite trying many others – the 19g + 27g Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel here and the new kid on the block, the 95mm 15g Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire here.
None of these bass have been over 2lb, but in the short sessions I’ve conducted I have managed to land between three and six in quick succession – great sport indeed, especially when there has been a bit of surf running in the shallow water.
Late Autumn Sun
The 26th November was a glorious day down here in Devon – not a breath of wind and some warmth in the sunshine that was beating down from a cloudless sky all day long. My plan was to fish in darkness over the high water period (that was due at 2007 that evening), but as it was so nice, I decided to head out and fish another estuary mark as the tide began to flood.
The water was very clear as I watched mullet cruising around practically everywhere, and as I’d been catching bass in bright conditions from a similar mark on the 6″ OSP DoLive Stick here I decided to attach one of these versatile lures first. Letting the lure drift in the flow of the tide very close to (if not on) the seabed whilst maintaining ‘soft contact’ alongside the odd twitch being applied I was astonished (as this was the first time I’d ever fished this mark) to receive a very firm tap, immediately followed by the rod slamming over only 30 minutes into the session!
As I wound down quickly onto the fish the rod arched over and the line began to zip off of the spool against the drag – this was more like it! Initially, the fish attempted to head out into the direction of a deeper channel before turning and heading uptide (always a very good sign of a better bass), then turning once more and using the momentum of the current to power to my left (taking line again in the process) and remaining under the water the whole time. A boil, then a splash as I brought what I could now see was a good bass in the 5lb range into the shallower water before me, and out of the force of the tide.
What a perfect start to the session, and what a perfect bass – her splendour enhanced by the late afternoon Sun glimmering off of her flanks.
Not this time…
As the tide rose and the light faded I walked the mile or so to the venue where I’d caught my last decent bass in darkness here on a white 18g senko. Like that night, the water was as calm and still and as it can possibly get, but this time the air was decidedly chilly – in fact bloody freezing! As high water approached, peaked and began to ebb gently without incident I contemplated a change of lure, and following a glug of coffee to keep me going for a further 30 minutes I attached a lure that a friend of mine had told me he’d caught many bass on at night, from various lagoons and estuaries – the IMA Komomo SF125 here.
First cast, and as I commenced the retrieve the rod just hooped over, stopped and then hooped over some more!!! At the same time the spool was buzzing as whatever had grabbed the lure (a good bass presumably) went ballistic by way of taking around 7-8 metres of line until… everything went solid!? Now, in my experience this is somewhat unusual for a bass to ‘go to ground’ as it where, but from talking to a couple of my fellow anglers who fish these types of marks in darkness, they say that this occurs regularly where large clumps of weed are scattered among an otherwise muddy or gravelly seabed. Anyway, no amount of giving the fish slack line or attempting to wrench it out worked, although I did eventually (after ten minutes) manage to get my lure back – without the fish that had somehow released itself.
Rain, wind and winter bass
After this session the weather deteriorated significantly, and I only managed a couple of very short sessions on two separate marks, where I managed to land a couple of small (1-2lb) bass on the Spittin Wire during the first couple of days of December – one of which was taken in very shallow water that only had about 8″ of clarity due to the amount of fresh water (rain) that had flooded the area. It wasn’t until the 10th December, following a calm night and no rain in the preceding 24 hours that I ventured out again – in the hope that I could find some clarity to the water somewhere.
I had the whole day to myself and no chores to complete – a rare event, but one I grabbed for all it was worth! Earmarking two venues on two different river systems, I planned to fish one on the ebb and the other on the flood. The first mark is somewhere that I really think is going to come good at some stage, but as yet, hasn’t produced anything at all! For four hours I flogged away with the DoLive, soft weedless paddletail lures and my new favourite surface lure, before scoffing my pasty and driving to my ‘flood’ mark.
That’ll do nicely!
Again, my plan was to actually fish well into darkness, but for one very good reason I decided to go home early – I caught a rather nice bass!
There hadn’t been a breath of wind all day until the tide turned, and with it a freshening breeze developed to gently create a slight ‘chop’ on what had previously been a millpond. With a hazy Sun behind me, and the water clearing gradually as the water level crept up the bank, I decided to ‘stick’ with the Spittin Wire fished very slowly and continously rather than the soft plastics that had been given all the attention earlier in the day.
Methodically, I cast, retreived and then moved a few yards for around 45 minutes or so, before stopping to remain in one spot where two channels converged and then slowed around a hump in the seabed. Four casts later, eight metres from my stance and in 12″ of water (the water clarity here was around 18-20″ I’d estimate) literally within a ‘blink of an eye’ a bass swiped at the lure and the rod yanked downwards solidly – I was in!!
To be completely honest, in the first ten seconds of the fight I had absolutely no idea what size this bass was. It didn’t really do anything but hold in the flow, which (as I’ve learnt recently) is what even the small ones do when hooked on these types of marks – but then it woke up! Sensing it was attached to a chubby bloke from Devon it did what the bass I’d caught two weeks earlier did… It headed for the faster flowing water, slowly but VERY purposely, and taking line as it did so – this was when I realised it was a good one.
On the open coast, many of the bass my clients and I hook will run parallel to when hooked, but these estuary bass just seem hellbent on heading away from you at a rate of knots! There! I saw it’s dorsal fin and tip of its tail break the surface at a range of what had now become 15m, before the bass arched around to my left and attempted to swim downtide – slow thuds reverberating through my beloved Major Craft Skyroad 862ML.
Each time I brought it to within 3m of my rod tip it would head directly away from me again – which was worrying from the perspective that I could see the 21lb leader rubbing on the bass’ gill plates (not good considering how sharp they are!). I’m always very conscious of pulling the hooks from their mouths in the final seconds of a battle (and I had slackened the drag slightly admittedly by this stage) but I could just sense that I couldn’t afford to mess about too much before the leader would be sliced through…
What I’d now clearly seen was a broad bass of over 6lb gradually tiring I lowered the rod to my right, applied some pressure and postioned myself to the left of the fish in the ankle deep water before guiding her onto the mud and wrack – she was a cracker!
Laying my prize onto the wrack I worked as quickly as I possibly could to capture the moment. Measuring her (67cm), unhooking her and grabbing two quick shots on the timer, I then gently placed this really chunky bass into the water, holding onto the jaw and supporting the belly concurrently with her head facing the tide, so to swill some aerated water through the gills. After about 15 seconds she shook her head and I relased my grip, whereby this special fish slowly meandered in the shallows before swimming powerfully away with the current, with the dorsal fin erect and breaking the surface film of the sheltered and oily calm water – wonderful. I say it a lot I know, but I just love these fish so much!
I am literally praying that the weather isn’t continually wild in the coming weeks, but at least if it’s raining and its windy it’ll mean the overall air temperature will be on the mild side – as if it turns very cold it could deter them… Time will tell, but I will be giving it a go whenever the conditions and Christmas responsibilities allow…
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. I have commissioned a second batch of books that I will receive in the next few days, therefore, please get in touch if you would like one (or you would like someone else to buy you one for Christmas).
Thanks for reading
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