My Recent Catches – The one that I really wanted!

My Recent Catches – The one that I really wanted!

In my last blog post here I described the lures that I have been using (the white Bamboo Stick here and the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z97F Vertice here) plus how I have been working/retrieving them to catch bass this winter. Since that post I have added a further fifteen to my tally for the month of February – something I wasn’t expecting to achieve that’s for sure!

These captures have only been realised on the lure types/patterns above (I have tried others) during, essentially, two different sets of sea/weather conditions, but from a number of similar marks. As always, I been learning a hell of a lot along the way, culminating in the capture of a proper mature bass, the one that I really did want to land, that proves that they can be caught in the depths of winter if all the ingredients in conjunction with the effort, planning and homework are in place.

Noticeable and notable

As I am still learning to fish these newly discovered marks, during what is a very difficult period of the year to find and catch bass, I am being even more meticulous about my note taking! The way I see it – if I can catch bass in adversity then when it really is conducive to catching them (warmer periods in the year/when even more food is available etc.) I would have already have put all the ‘groundwork’ so to speak into it, which in turn, should,in theory, reap further rewards – for my clients and I.

A few factors that have been highly ‘noticeable and notable’ and that I will expand on are:

  • The sea temperature.
  • The food available.
  • Day vs Night.
  • Small ones, and bigger ones.

Sea Temperature

At the time of writing this post (2nd March 19) the sea temperature around the zones that I am fishing here in south Devon are around or indeed above 10ºC – the chart below demonstrates that very clearly.

current UK sea temperature
I have corroborated this data with another station very local to me here and this one is also currently reading above 10ºC.

I have mentioned this in a number of posts and magazine articles over the past two years, but for me, that golden figure of 10ºC has always been hugely significant in terms of whether the bass are feeding, and therefore catchable, on the marks that I routinely fish. Remember, these are just my observations based on the coastline surrounding me – I’m not attempting to prove or dispel anything here.

The fact that the sea temperature is significantly higher than this time last year, clearly because of the warmer air temperatures in addition to the glorious sunny days we’ve been experiencing (the Sun is quite warm in late February) have, in all probability, served to assist me in my quest to catch them.

Available food

This leads me nicely onto another reason why the bass could be hanging around – the amount of readily available food. I was out on the coast the other day for a wonder around at low water and I was staggered by the amount of and the overall variety of bass fodder on show. Blennies, shrimps and numerous species of crab hiding under practically every rock I lifted are in complete contrast to the barren and seemingly desolate shoreline that was apparent during that very harsh winter we experienced last year. Moreover, in any quiet bays and sheltered lagoons the quantity of fry (mullet/smelt?) is extraordinary – easy pickings for a marauding shoal or mature bass…

 

Day vs Night

All bar one of the bass that I have caught during February were taken in complete darkness. Admittedly, 70% of my fishing time was conducted at night, but only one small bass (caught on the Shoreline Shiner) within the remaining 30% tells its own story – that for whatever reason, the bass just feel more confident or whatever they are looking for at the time is more prevalent under the cover of darkness.

Bass on hard lures February
Once again, the smaller bass, generally speaking, will ‘nip’ at the small fish – which could also explain why you receive so many hits when using a senko (where the hook-point is protruding, at best, halfway down the lure’s body) yet fail to hook them – is it just small bass ‘nipping?’

Could the increasing numbers of cuttlefish being washed up around my local coastline also offer a clue I wonder? More on that later… Something else that has struck me is that the very bright full-Moon that was ‘on show’ during the third week of the month did not appear to ‘put them off.’ Indeed, there was one evening when, once it became dark, I was literally inundated with ‘hits’ from ravenous bass – landing four on one evening and three during the next when I felt like I was fishing under a floodlight!

Small ones, and the bigger ones

Something has been highly noticeable, and notable actually, is that all of the smaller bass, ranging from tiddlers of ¾lb up to still immature fish of 2lb, have all taken the hard diving minnow fished at a steady and relatively slow  speed – enough so that I can just feel the lure vibrating on the rod tip and through the blank.

Winter bass on hard lures
A greedy little bass (probably the smallest one I have caught in February) that couldn’t resist a wriggling, flashing and ‘knocking’ piece of hard plastic.

Conversely, any bass above the 2½lb mark (including the estimated 3¼lb fish landed earlier in the month here plus the 57cm beauty in the featured image) have nailed the Wave Worm/senko. What’s more, there has been two very distinct ways in which the bass have taken the lure. Bear in mind that my Abu Garcia REVO MGX 30 reel here recovers 89cm of line per full turn of the handle, they have either taken the senko almost immediately or certainly within ten (very quick) turns of the reel’s handle after the lure has hit the water or, the rod has been pulled around sharply during a very slow retrieve (one full turn of the reel’s handle per three seconds (meaning the lure is only travelling at approximately 30cm per second).

Lure caught bass February
One of just under 3lb that, as expected, took a liking to a delicately fished weedless, weightless white senko being gently retrieved with the direction of the tide.

I have a couple of theories regarding why this might be the case, and the one that I keep going back to is that the slightly larger bass (even though they are still small at around 2lb) and, of course, the two over 3¼lb are just more cautious (experience comes with age perhaps). Therefore, they haven’t been fooled, unlike their less experienced compatriots, by the comparatively ‘brash’ minnow wriggling and flashing in comparison to the far more subtle and almost gliding Wave Worm/senko. Could it be that the larger fish are hunting for cuttlefish alongside the crabs, shrimps and fry present?

Bass on lures winter south Devon
This beautiful bass took the lure around eight turns of the handle into the recovery with a real wallop! I imagine the ‘plop’ on the surface arouses their interest, and then they see its prey (a fish, squid or cuttlefish?) moving swiftly away – enough to provoke an almost instant attack.

Adding further weight to my analysis of recent events. In particular, it has been that much slower retrieve, whereby the senko is essentially drifting in a controlled manner with the current (versus having to retrieve very quickly or slightly across the current in order to maintain contact with a hard minnow) that has been attractive to the better sized bass.

Bass on white senkos in winter
Not only are the slightly larger bass taking the senkos, but they are also being extremely positive when doing so. This one took the lure almost the second it hit the water under a full-Moon – quite remarkable really in late winter.

Ultimately, there were occasions when I was forced to use a hard minnow during some of the sessions as there was a wicked crosswind present. The senko (even the heavier versions or those rigged onto a weighted weedless hook) were either moving through on the larger springs tides either too quickly or were just skating up onto the surface due to the strength of the wind.

Bass on soft lures in winter
The Tailwalk EGinn 88M rod here is beginning to feel like an extension to my right arm – and with bass like this eager to put a bend in it I am really enjoying my new acquisition.

 The ‘momentous’ bass

So why am I considering my 57cm, rather ’round’ bass as a momentous capture? Of course, I know that it isn’t a huge bass by any stretch of the imagination, but like I said in my last post, it is the feeling of accomplishment, and achieving something you set out to achieve that really counts.

Firstly, pretty much all of the bass that I had previously landed in February (half-a-dozen or so up until this year) where arguably a ‘fluke’ in that I hadn’t set out specifically to catch them as the wrasse lure fishing, more especially during a settled period of weather, can be excellent throughout winter here.

Secondly, it seems almost astonishing really, when I consider just how effective I now know this method is and how many bass my clients and have landed in darkness, but it is still less than two years ago (April 17) that I landed my first ever bass (by design) on a lure at night (my blog post/story about this fish can be found here). Yet here I am testing out marks, with my future clients in mind, and catching bass, some of which that are highly likely to be ‘breeding stock’ in late February – these fish never cease to amaze me!

There is one other reason why I consider this bass to be ‘special.’ Not only has it taken a lot of time and effort looking for and attempting to extract bass from these marks, but this one actually took me over twenty-five minutes to land! Allow me to explain…

I hooked it about 12m in front of me from a zone scattered with large clumps of bladderwrack and knew straight away that it was a good one. That ‘jolt’ followed by everything momentarily stopping as the bass realises it’s bitten something that it shouldn’t, whereby it decides to take off (taking line against the drag in the process) was performed wonderfully until she headed for and subsequently ‘burrowed’ itself well and truly into a large patch of ‘wrack.’

Now, this is something that is extremely rare in my book, as bass don’t generally ‘go to ground’ in this manner, and I feel almost embarrassed to admit that this fish stole the upper hand before I could a: switch on my head-torch and b: adjust myself to what was occurring. For over twenty minutes I patiently rotated between maintaining pressure and allowing the hooked fish some slack line – the latter of which resulted in a few taps reverberating through the braid and rod on each occasion as the bass outwardly attempted to manoeuvre itself deeper into (from my perspective) trouble.

After nearly twenty-five minutes I was bursting to answer a call of nature, but luckily I had one of my fishing companions with me (John) who was fishing thirty metres to my right (he caught two small bass on this evening incidentally which were his first ever in February) therefore I asked him to (ahem) to hold onto the rod while I went for a wee. As I was pulling the straps back over my shoulders he uttered words that were music to my ears “Marc, it’s moving!”

I took the rod and immediately felt the bass nodding its head and attempting to move into the flow of the flooding tide. It only took a few seconds before she was on the surface and looking pretty tired, therefore I kept the rod tip low and essentially ‘dragged’ her towards John who cradled what we both knew was a cracker onto the beach. How happy was I!

Lure caught UK bass in February
If I don’t catch a bass in February larger than this one for rest of my life I’ll still be a happy man – it meant a lot as you can probably guess! Thank you John for taking the excellent photograph and Action Camera footage – what a mate!

Overall effort

Someone commented on my Facebook page here that “effort equals reward” – I have to agree.

So onto March, a month that has produced bass on lures on a more regular basis including a nice one for client here just over two years ago now. Looking at the forecast synoptic weather charts, it does look as though the UK is likely to take a bit of pounding in the next fortnight, which is going to make it extremely difficult to locate and catch bass on lures due to the associated rough and murky water. The only plus side to westerly winds and rain is that it should stay on the mild side, therefore, the sea should retain its warmth and even begin to increase in temperature towards the second half of the month. When I can, I will be out there – good luck and stay safe in your own pursuit of an early lure caught bass.

My Bookings and My Book

As it currently stands my bookings are filling up very quickly indeed. I only have availability in early April (which is looking prosperous in regards to bass numbers based on current form), around the two middle weeks in July, the 4-10 August and the entirety of September, October, November and December. Therefore, if you are considering a guided session with me then it may prove advantageous to book sooner rather than later.

 

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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 or you postage to a location outside of the UK 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.

£18.98

 

 

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

 

 

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