My Year in Review 2018 – Part 2 of 2
A change for the good
Up until the end of July the weather had been extremely warm, dry and settled, with only a couple of brief spells when onshore winds had stirred and slightly coloured the sea. When this occurred the bass fed as avidly in daylight as they had been under those wonderful starlit nights. As often happens,August brought about periods of fluctuating air pressure and more turbulent seas (compared to the previous four months) which when combined with the imminent arrival of the mackerel and sprat shoals meant a change of tactics was required by way of more of an emphasis on utilising surface lures.
The first two guided sessions of the month went about as close to plan as they could possibly get with bass appearing almost precisely when I expected them, to in conditions that were about as prefect as they get too! With good overall water clarity, a 1-2m swell breaking around the rocks serving to create a wonderfully aerated and ‘frothing’ sea I envisaged the bass would be hunting fervently and on the prowl for an easy meal. My first client in August was the first to sample the ‘enhanced’ conditions here.
The following afternoon and evening I had the pleasure of guiding two clients (one of which has become a friend and fishing partner) along a particularly rugged stretch of coastline. Phew! It was hot that day, and all credit to them for walking, climbing and persevering until we eventually found the bass here.
The next couple of sessions saw me welcome back a client from last season (Mark), in addition to someone I had corresponded with (and who was very eager to learn how to catch bass in darkness on lures) but that I hadn’t actually met – the owner of High Street Tackle in Ilfracombe here and his wife Danny Watson. Within these sessions my clients landed some nice bass on white senkos, Albie Snax and Needlefish (see below):
I’d only commented a few days prior to my next visitor (Andrew) arriving that he may well have timed his two days with me to perfection – as all the right ingredients were falling into place. A bit of movement to the sea, building tides and mackerel being caught in numbers. He cleaned up! Catching 14 bass in total over 4x 4 hour sessions in daylight and darkness on a variety of lure types, differing stages of the tide, light levels and on a multitude of marks.
Unfortunately, the 5lb+ ‘bad boy’ that he brought all the way to his feet was the one that avoided being held up forthe camera! As I grabbed the leader it shook its head, whereby the treble hook attached to the needlefish popped out. It was comical really – me knee-deep in water with only our head-torches to illuminate our world flapping around, attempting to ‘cradle’ a bass out of the water with my bare hands, until the inevitable happened when a small wave washed through the gully and the fish made good its escape through my legs! Below is a gallery of some of the bass Andrew did successfully land. I am very much looking forward to guiding you again in 2019 Andrew!
With a ‘night off’ on the 10th August I embarked on a well-earned solo session to the same area that I’d guided Andrew on the previous two days/nights. I landed eight bass in total, with five hitting surface lures from the rocks adjacent to a shingle cove during the late evening.
Once darkness had set in properly, I clambered around to a nearby shingle beach that leads onto pure sand. As the swell combined with the shallow and retreating (ebbing) sea it served to create lines of breakers, the crests of which were glistening under the moonlight to provide a truly breathtaking spectacle. I landed a further three bass in water that was barely 18″ deep. The full story can be found here but below is a brief gallery with the largest bass measuring 62cm (near to 6lb) caught on the increasingly consistent ‘silver’ needlefish.
A couple of days later, during some rougher seas that coincided with some the highest tides of the year, I witnessed a client lose a very decent bass (7lb+) right at the net… He’d hooked it in the boiling/swirling water covering a known underwater feature at the mid-point in the ebbing tide – a period when I’ve landed some good bass here in the past.
Unfortunately, the angle of the high Sun had made it very difficult for my client to see where the fish was as it neared our stance, to the extent that he didn’t actually see the fish (just as well I think!). But I saw it alright, and I’m still having nightmares about it! Essentially, the bass had swam towards us and then went berserk by way of making short parallel runs until, just as I was about to slip the net under her, she made one final lunge and the braid rubbed against the sharpest part of the platform we were on… Next year Alex!
The rest of the month saw all of my clients catch bass (albeit many of them were in the 1-2lb range) again, on a combination of surface lures (primarily) by day and the deadly needlefish at night – with a haul of 14 bass (the largest was around 4¾lb) between two clients in an 8 hour session being one of the highlights. Below is a gallery of some of these catches.
As a proud Devonian and an avid reader of Devon Life Magazine here, to be offered the opportunity to write an article for them was fantastic. With the headline ‘Caught up in the joy of my passion’ it appeared in the August issue and recounts how and why I created my business and my affiliation for this remarkable species. Archive copies can be found here.
Chasing the shoals
With the sea temperature remaining above average, in addition to the mackerel and sprat shoals moving unpredictably around the coastline from tide to tide, at times, the bass fishing went from surreal (in that it was strangely quiet) to exceptional. It all boiled down to finding the baitfish – find them and you would find the bass in large numbers and feeding enthusiastically.
A great example of how sporadic the fishing was at times was that there was only one session in which a client didn’t catch a bass in September, yet two days after this session, in pretty much identical sea conditions (albeit a slightly larger tide) three clients managed to land 34 bass! I knew a ‘red letter day’ like this was coming, and I was so glad that three anglers were able to enjoy this event rather than just one.
We struck gold! (or Silver!) as the bass were of a good average size with all three clients managing at least one over 3½lb with the largest at just under 5lb. The action was especially frantic one hour either side of high water (including another double hook up!) where a surface lure or shallow-medium diver would be slammed within fives seconds of commencing the retrieve or at the very last second as the lure was about to reach the rod tip. What a session! The gallery below tells part of the story but it is depicted in greater detail here.
It was during a wild afternoon a couple of days later that I met up with Stu – a keen all-round angler who had steadily improved his catch rate this season to the tune of bagging a six-pounder on one of his local marks. Having corresponded for some time via Facebook and Messenger he was another client who I felt I already knew.
With medium to large surface lures deployed initially but with only a couple of small bass to show for his efforts, as the velocity of the tide and the wind speed increased in conjunction the dropping air pressure, alongside what was already due to be a huge spring tide, it just ‘smelt of bass’ as they say! A change of lure to a medium diving pattern (the sadly discontinued IMA Hound Glide 125F) cast continually into a very specific zone that I surmised the bass would need to move through eventually saw Stu’s rod arch over just as I answered a call of nature (this always happens incidentally!).
I was really pleased for Stu (you can read the full story here) as he’d driven a long way to complete this session, and as much of his own fishing takes place in estuaries and lagoons I believe he found the south Devon coastline both inspiring and invigorating. Many of my clients comment that ‘catching a bass is a bonus in such beautiful surroundings.’ however, as much as I love this coastline, the way I see it, I need to do everything I possibly can to ensure that they do catch one.
For my next guided session I welcomed local enthusiasts Simon and Josh. Although not new to catching bass both on bait and lures, they had a particular interest in how I approached bass fishing with the mighty needlefish. Simon had caught relatively small bass on them, whereas Josh remained relatively unconvinced by their effectiveness.
Fast forward 8 hours and following a daylight session when the bass were conspicuous by their absence, the night session saw Simon smash his personal best (with a 7lb beauty) and Josh nail a 3lb bass on his very last cast after losing what was most certainly a much bigger one earlier in the session. The full story can be found here but below is a gallery cataloguing the night’s events:
One of most satisfying set of sessions (as all of us needed to work extremely hard to find the fish in some difficult sea and weather conditions) was a further 3 Day Package for 3 clients that I facilitated between the 16-18 September here.
As you’d expect during the second half of September, the overall conditions varied considerably during each of the six sessions they completed – ranging from offshore/onshore winds, calm/rough, murky/clear sea conditions both in daylight and in darkness. Again, all three clients caught good-sized bass (between 3-4lb) on a combination of surface lures, shallow diving sub-surface minnows and needlefish.
My Book is published! I’m now back in the game!
On the 8th October, following over eight months of dedication to research, write and edit 71000 words, 212 pages, 32 photographs and 8 chapters I finally took delivery and held something that at times I doubted I would ever be able to accomplish. The Lure of The Bass ‘A modern approach to catching European Sea Bass on lures’ was published!
With the weather becoming increasingly unpredictable (is it me or has the forecast also been inaccurate on far too many occasions?) I had to think very carefully in regards to safety about the locations in which I conducted my guided sessions and personal forays (that I was utterly delirious about having the time to undertake!).
With my replacement camera in tow (I’d dropped my Sony Cybershot HX90V) I enjoyed a session on one of those beautifully warm and sunny Autumn days. It was a real cracker, when genuinely, I was just happy to be out fishing again – I was back in the game! My bass above (that was just over 4½lb) was one of six that I managed in that blissfully relaxing afternoon during the first week of October, on a lure that I came to love – the Xorus Patchinko 125 here. The story of how I caught these bass is told in blog post here in addition to a gallery of the session below:
As with the months earlier in the season, there were a number of guided sessions in which a client landed a bass on a lure for the first time, or using a type of lure that they hadn’t used before, or had wanted to master. Below are a few examples – although the bass aren’t monsters you can see the joy and that all important confidence going forward that catching these fish meant to them.
Now that the evenings were really beginning to draw in, following a short-lived lull in the onshore winds at the start of the third week in October I ventured out for a late night session. It took until 0530 in the morning (after a midnight start) but I eventually got my reward by virtue of this lovely 57cm bass (below) that grabbed an Albie Snax here just after high water from a very secluded cove that has been kind to me!
Forced to explore
The month of November started with a trudge across a frozen field for my two clients – uncle and nephew ‘combo’ Johnny and Jamie. On the previous day they’d fished from a shingle beach in what I’d deemed as ideal conditions, yet bizarrely they’d blanked. Therefore, I completely changed tact and decided to take them to a quiet ‘inland’ creek to lure fish with weedless, weightless soft plastics and diminutive surface lures. They eventually landed a number of bass during their guided session on what transpired to be a glorious day.
After two fabulous days November became a month of storms with heavy rain and high winds that rendered large swathes of the open coast completely unfishable, mainly due to the size of the swell and floating weed fragments. There was a silver lining to this predicament however, as it forced me into exploring and investigating many of the inlets, estuaries, lagoons and creeks situated around the south Devon coastline and that were sheltered from the continual barrage of Atlantic depressions.
Calm water and decent clarity – bar a couple of exceptions that is what all of the marks I where I ‘experimented’ in November had in common. When it came to lure choice, generally speaking, I opted to fish with the weedless, weightless SPs (either drifted or twitched) when the water was clear and the sky bright, and small surface lures (fished slowly) in cloudier sky and sea conditions. Below is a gallery of some of the catches I achieved in what turned out to be a veryuseful exercise with next season in mind.
What had been a bit of a learning curve and one that I enjoyed immensely came to fruition when I decided to fish one of my ‘new’ (and most consistent) marks in darkness, on a night when the weather forecast was completely wrong, yet in my favour for a change!
Recently armed with that all important ‘intimate’ knowledge of the topography of the seabed, on the venue in question, I was overjoyed at latching into the 62cm bass below (full story here). What was just as fascinating, was that a mark crawling with small bass by day appeared to be uninhabited by them at night – when the ‘big mammas’ moved in…
With that all important confidence growing on these types of marks I decided to search out some more! I did complete some more guided sessions in November (with only sub 2lb bass landed) but I had to cancel (until next season) just as many, as the weather/sea state just weren’t conducive enough for me to feel comfortable about guiding clients when I knew the conditions on the vast majority of marks were awful on the days that they had stipulated. Instead, I made the conscious decision to ‘test out’ my new and growing portfolio of inland venues in readiness for the same period next year, should the weather render the sea conditions similarly disgusting!
Into the last week of November, on what had become a rare but fabulous late autumn day, I was lucky enough to have the day to myself without any distractions and chores. With the water on this mark remarkably clear, under the late afternoon Sun I was somewhat surprised as I twitched the OSP DoLive Stick down in the flow to feel that unmistakable ‘jolt’ through the braid as I became attached to and subsequently landed the 59cm (close to 5lb) stunner below.
A Winter warmer
Two very short sessions during the first couple of days in December produced some more small bass (in areas where the water had some clarity to it following the all the heavy rain) on the new surface lure on the block and one I had been catching on when others had failed – the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire here.
I patiently waited until I knew the water clarity on a particular mark would be OK (at around 18″) before bothering, but 2 weeks after landing the 59cm bass and during a break in the weather, I decided to head out all day to fish the ebb and then the flood. It didn’t happen on the first mark (that I really think could produce something special at some stage) but into the flood, and just as I starting to become a little cold, I was warmed up by a bass equalling my largest of the season at 67cm. It positively crashed into the ‘Spittin Wire’ in 12″ of relatively muddy water and fought like a tiger before I managed to slide her onto the wrack – arguably my most satisfying catch of the year and maybe my last of 2018?
If I had to choose my overall highlights I think releasing the book most definitely ranks as my number one. But the people who I’ve met, writing for Sea Angler, achieving success with the 3 Day Packages that I devised and finding new types of marks (for me) where large bass can be caught on lures (a long way from the open sea and in very shallow water over a clean seabed in the surf at night spring to mind) are all right up there.
When I reviewed my diary entries and notes from all of the guided and personal sessions from this year it struck me just how much more I have learnt about how and where to catch bass. Having the capability to constantly ‘assess and evaluate’ what my clients are doing, in conjunction with the set of circumstances we are faced with has (I think) made me a better angler. Long may that continue, as quite simply, we are always learning about these majestic creatures and their habits and behaviour.
Thank you to all of my clients from this year, for your receptiveness and for making the journey down to south Devon (only 1 in 8 of my clients from this year reside in Devon). To those Zander, Pike, Trout, Salmon, Fly, Bait, Boat and Stillwater anglers out there who took the plunge and decided to place their faith in me in their pursuit of a wild lure caught bass. Furthermore, I would like to thank the many, many returning clients who have come back for more, and to those that have taken the time away from their own busy lives in order write a review or testimonial about their session (s) and their experience – it is massively appreciated.
To my family and friends, plus the new friends that I have made and for all of those who have supported me via Social Media and my blog. I would also like to thank Svendsen Sport (Savage Gear), Ed at Lure Fishing For Bass, both Osborne and Cragg and Seaview Angling in Plymouth, in addition to Veals Mail Order, Devon Life and Sea Angler Magazine. My thanks also to Jeannie and Adam at the superb Chillington House B+B Hotel for their hospitality in relation to looking after my clients.
***COMING SOON – LOOK OUT FOR A VERY SPECIAL NEW YEAR’S OFFER***
Here’s to 2019!
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