My Recent Catches – February bass on lures
As I mentioned at the end of my previous ‘My Catches’ post here, buoyed by the bass I have landed in January I was determined to achieve catching a lure caught bass in February. At the time of writing (17 Feb) I’ve managed to land three, with one of them most certainly being a mature sized fish. I have caught bass in February before, but bar one (eleven seasons ago) that was just under 3lb the others (half-a-dozen or so) have all been around 1lb – schoolies that are well-known to hang around all year in certain locations, most notably within estuaries.
I am, of course, extremely eager not to give away any locations as to where I have been catching these bass this winter, and to be fair I’ve probably been helped by the fact that we haven’t experienced any prolonged periods of extremely cold weather down here, therefore the sea temperature is still around 10.6ºC. This, in addition to the amount of ‘life’ I am still witnessing in the areas that I am fishing (small fry especially) mean that while there is a readily available food source the bass will potentially ‘stick around’ as it were.
Of note, is that so far this year I have only caught them at night, with the areas I am fishing remaining very quiet during the day – food for thought that one… Another question is whether these bass are ‘end of season fish’, ‘very early season fish’ or even year-round resident fish?
Lots of them?
Something that has become apparent is that when I have ventured out, I have received quite a few hits during the sessions. Indeed, during the twelve sessions that I have conducted (some solo, and some with friends who I trust implicitly not to give away the locations) during 2019, there have only been two when I have not had a bite. In total, I have landed thirteen bass with one of 5lb, one of near 4lb, two over 3lb and the rest all in the 1-2½lb range.
I admit that these aren’t huge bass, but the ones over 3lb are breeding stock – something that could be hugely significant, as in theory, bass of this size should be miles offshore and breeding in warmer seas. Furthermore, I lost one other fish (that I only had ‘on’ for around 7-8 seconds admittedly) that felt very substantial given the amount of line it dragged off the spool. Also, on the nights when I have caught bass I have received a fair bit of interest in the lure(s) I have been using – this suggests to me that there are quite a few swimming around out there!
The lures and methods
Eleven out of the thirteen have been caught on the hugely popular 5″ Wave Worm Tiki Bamboo Stick in white here with the other two (which incidentally were the most recent) on a Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z97F Vertice in the Ayu pattern here.
In regards to methods I have been employing, with the Wave Worm senko I have been allowing it to sink/drift to the seabed before commencing a slow retrieve (as slow as one full turn of the handle every one to two seconds). Then on the next cast/retrieve, I have been pretty much retrieving it quickly (two full turns per second) within two seconds of it hitting the water.
One bass has hit the lure on the drop so to speak, but most (eleven of the thirteen) have hit the lure within the first ten turns of the handle – again, this has to be significant given that it is occurring so regularly. Indeed, it seems to me that the bass are either ‘reacting’ to the splash and then the immediate sight of the lure or they are spotting it ‘rise’ from the seabed and then grabbing it as it ascends through the water column.
Two nights only
On to the story of how I managed to land the bass in the featured image then. Firstly, I have a former client and now one of my regular fishing companions John to thank for capturing the photograph for me – cheers mate! Secondly (and I’m not after any sympathy I promise!) my sessions have been somewhat limited by the fact that I am still trying to fully ‘get over’ this blasted virus that laid me out at the end of January and into early February. Therefore, I’ve had to balance heading out when I really think I’ve got a chance with trying to recover from the chesty cough I still have on these cold old nights – my wife thinks I’m nuts obviously!
It all looked very promising and I did feel very confident as I met John and donned my woolly hat and headtorch. The night of the 11th February was very calm, relatively cold at 2ºC (there was a frost on the cars when we returned) and with one of my favourite features being very prominent – a crescent Moon high in the clear sky. Some of my best catches and that of my clients have occurred when the Moon is in this state, which also coincides with neap tides – again, a period in the cycle when good catches have been made depending on the mark we are fishing.
I’d been casting away for about an hour and rotating through the retrieve styles as previously mentioned when, on one of the slow retrieves, I felt a ‘dig’ on the rod tip – it was a bite and it signalled that the bass were moving in… Around ten minutes later, this time on a quicker retrieve and about halfway in, I felt a very similar ‘knock’ and very briefly the actual fish, but unfortunately it didn’t hook up. All went quiet again for around thirty minutes, therefore, I decided to change the angle of my cast.
I heard the Wave Worm splash into the water 35-40m out as I manually brought over the bail-arm and commenced a straight and medium-quick retrieve. Around ten turns in and the wonderfully balanced Tailwalk EGinn 88M rod here that I am currently using and enjoying just ‘walloped’ over and stayed there as the drag gave a small amount of line/braid – this one was hooked good and proper! With the rod-tip nodding and the fish swimming to my left, I applied some pressure in order steer it away from the kelp present here – OK so far. I brought the fish closer, but it must have sensed both the weed nearby and the decreasing depth of water as it made a dash for cover, taking a little line again in the process.
A splash on the surface, and then the bass remained there as I guided it into my miniature bay – edging slowly backwards so not to put too much pressure on the hook-hold. As you can imagine I was exceptionally eager to land what I could now see (in my headtorch light) was a decent sized bass. “John, John” I shouted, and as I did so I stumbled backwards and fell flat on my backside – causing slack line on the hooked fish (often fatal). I jumped to my feet (embarrassingly so) and wound down quickly onto the bass praying that it was still attached – which it thankfully was. As John arrived alongside me a bass of well over 3lb arrived furiously onto the dry shingle – “Wow! Bloody hell mate, nice one!” and “Yesssssss!” bellowed out into the still night air – I’d achieved what I’d set out to do.
I know the bass above isn’t massive, but I will happily take (not literally) a bass of this size in the depths of winter. Further, it bodes well for the future, not only from a potential business perspective (clients) but more importantly, in relation to health of the stock in general. I was so happy that night (I couldn’t sleep) and I still am chuffed to bits to be honest – it’s not always about the size, but the sense of achievement I think.
Change of lure
The next night, with the wind having increased, I was planning on heading for a more sheltered mark out of the breeze. But when you have absolute confidence in a venue and you have a fair idea of when the bass may turn up it is difficult to deviate… Therefore, with John alongside me once again, I decided that we should fish the same mark but with either slightly heavier senkos (such as the Insane Creations Bass Slayer here) or a shallow diving hard minnow in order to counter the effects of the crosswind on the line/braid. I handed John the large senko so that he could rotate the lures as and when he wanted whilst I decided to concentrate on the use of a lure that I rate very highly – the diminutive Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z97F Vertice.
On what was a much warmer evening, for the first hour it remained very quiet. But just as I was beginning to think the bass weren’t going to ‘play ball’ the rod was pulled down sharply and to my right as a bass nailed the lure very early into the retrieve. “Yep” I shouted over to John (who was around 60m to my right) as the bass splashed angrily on the surface around 35m out. It was no match for the power of the Eginn lure rod though, and within less than a minute a plump little bass of just under 1lb was brought ashore. Following a very quick photograph (below) I returned this spikey one (that left its mark on my index finger the little blighter!) and within ten casts I’d been hit by its identical twin which I subsequently landed and released.
It later transpired that John had received a hit on the senko about five minutes before I latched into my first bass. Therefore I can only surmise that these shoal fish were moving with the current (that was flowing from right to left) and that John was incredibly unlucky not to land one himself – Next time!
The recent reviews in the angling press (by Henry Gilbey and the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society) can be found here. Furthermore, this self-published book is currently only available directly from me, therefore, if you would like to purchase a copy you can either pay via PayPal (via the icon below) or if you do not have a PayPal account then please contact me via the Contact Form at the bottom of this post.
Book – ‘The Lure of The Bass’ by Marc Cowling
A modern approach to catching European Sea Bass on lures by Marc Cowling.
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