Client Catches – Shifting up a gear

Client Catches – Shifting up a gear

At this early stage of the season, and while I have a little more time on my hands before my guiding commitments keep me away from my laptop, I like to ‘report’ as much as possible in regards to what is happening down here in glorious south Devon. Therefore, before I head out fishing myself later this evening, I wanted to write a quick blog post about the sensational session my most recent client (Steve) enjoyed – one that involved lots of bass being caught, but also confirmed that a certain lure would ‘work.’

In position

The first mark that I’d chosen for my client suited his requirements to learn about reading the water and conditions, in addition to understanding which lure type to consider using over others. Furthermore, we would be standing on rocks and essentially fishing an area scattered with submerged rocks (initially at least over high tide) but with primarily a sandy seabed further out from our stance.

With the tide about to peak we arrived, we would remain in position as the tide ebbed and until dusk became darkness – whereby we would trek a further half a mile in the gloom to fish a small, sheltered cove made up of shingle, flat rocks and sand well on into darkness. It looked good to me – a nice tinge to the otherwise clear water and a gentle-occasionally moderate breeze.

Through the depths

Commencing the session with a medium sized surface lure (a Tacklehouse Vuture that suited the slightly choppy sea conditions perfectly) the idea was to seek out a zone around a submerged van-sized rock at a a range of 20-30m just to see if anything was ‘at home.’ I’d explained to Steve that bass will often position themselves around such a feature for short periods and just wait for prey items to swim or drift past in the tide. After a bit of tuition and tweaking of his technique my client was very quickly working the lure ‘walk the dog style’ like a pro.

After 30 minutes of no action however I decided to attach a diving hard minnow to his lure clip and proceeded to talk him through my thought process – which was to effectively search out the water depths in which the bass may be swimming, as I was as sure as I could be that a shoal of bass would transit this stretch at some stage of the ebb. The Savage Gear Manic Prey 90 that he was now using would dive and swim fairly vigorously at around 3ft beneath the surface – rattling as it did so. But after a further 40 minutes of fruitless cast and retrieve, and with the wind increasing somewhat, I decided he should change tact again.

Small shallow diving hard minnows bass
The Savage Gear Manic Prey 90 (top left).

If the bass weren’t close into the rocks (within 10m at least) then maybe they were much further out and swimming in the laterally running tide, therefore, I asked him to utilise one of his quickly sinking Savage Gear Psycho Sprat lures. These beauties cast a very long way and will stay deep on a slow-moderate retrieve – which was ideal as I asked Steve to work the lure both close to the clean seabed (the depth of water was approximately 15-18ft) and at mid-water level, on both a quick and a slow retrieve – with bouts of sink and draw also mixed in.

Change of light

Steve fished hard and was concentrating intensely as I talked through some of the possible scenarios that might occur in the next hour before it became dark. “Once that Sun dips behind the cliffs, we’ll attach another surface lure, before giving that pollack-looking lure in your box a go”, I said. “Ok Marc” came the response. Conscious that there were sandeel shoals in the vicinity (the gannets were circling and diving 100m out from us) I pondered whether the bass and pollack would switch onto them as dusk set in.

With nothing doing ‘sub-surface’ I grabbed the (dare I say it) Big Patchinko-esque HTO Canine from his box and asked him to launch it out into what was now a slackening tide race, just to see if the bass were sniffing around whatever the gannets were chasing. The lure looked exceptionally ‘fishy’ out there as it turned, thrashed and splashed, interspersed with log pauses to mimic an injured fish, but nothing attacked it – where were these bass I was thinking….

HTO Canine
The HTO Canine. Pound for pound, one of the best lures you can buy in my opinion, as they cost a fraction of the price of the real thing whilst doing exactly the same job.

The unknown lure…

Tucked in the corner of his lure box were two odd looking Savage Gear hard plastic sinking jigs in a very ‘pollack-looking’ bronze with a dark back configuration. I’d had my eye on them for the past 3-4 hours, but I was waiting until dusk was really upon us, and when the small pollack that undoubtedly inhabit this region would be at their most active. “Right Steve, cast this out and fish it sink and draw – sweeping the rod up and then allowing it to sink again whilst remaining in contact with it”, I said.

Now I’ll admit that this was a risk, as even though I am Pro Staff with Savage Gear/Svendsen Sport I’d never seen this lure before, let alone fished with it! Normally, I would never attach a lure to a client’s line unless I knew it was proven (personally) first, but I just really liked the look of it. After a bit of research I’ve subsequently found out that the lure is a 110mm, 24g Savage Gear Pencil Prey that you can purchase here.

Svagae Gear Pencil Prey
Quite possibly, the most pollack-looking lure I’ve ever seen! This relatively old (2011?) Savage Gear lure It flutters down through the water column on the drop and has a meandering slow wiggle on a straight retrieve (is the best way I can describe it!).

And guess what… It worked! Five minutes after clipping it on I was stood next to Steve as his rod just THUMPED over with the lure around 20m out. “It took it on the drop”, Steve exclaimed! And with the rod nodding nicely and no splashed on the surface I realised that this might just be a very good bass.

Savage Gear Pencil Prey
This lovely bass tried its utmost to drag the line over the rocks in front of us after snaffling the golden jig!

As Steve brought the fish closer to the rocks, my brief to him earlier in the session (that most decent bass will run parallel to you when hooked and close in) came true, as a boil on the surface, followed by the line cutting dramatically through the water in the direction of a now protruding and barnacle-encrusted rock brought about my reaction. “Give me the rod”, I yelped, as I guided the bass away from said rock and handed it back to him straight away – something that I’ve done only once before in a similar situation as I was positioned in a way (ready to net the fish) that afforded me with the right angle to ‘turn’ the fish. With me now below Steve on the rocks, he inched what we could see was a decent sized bass (although smaller than I thought it was going to be) into my waiting net – a real joint effort!

Bass at dusk sinking jig
A wonderful south Devon bass for my client. I am confident that a 5lb+ fish is imminent during a session in May – one of my favourite months when the bass are spawning and are hungry.


The waiting game

After returning Steve’s prize I decided straight away that we should embark on the 20 minute walk to our next venue – as I don’t like to be stood on rocks when I can’t make out the horizon. Upon reaching this beautiful little beach I talked through the components making up the seabed under the water in front of him, in addition to the type of lure that he would be using. A white needlefish lure appeared from my own lure box (one that I have been ‘developing’ lets just say) and I allowed Steve to make a few practice cast and retrieves just so that he could see how it looked in the water, how it swam (in that deadly straight trajectory) and how it cast (a long way). We then sat back, had a cup of tea and a natter until I decided it was time to recommence with what had already been an enjoyable session – the waiting game, as there’s no point disturbing the area before it’s truly dark when attempting to catch a bass on a lure at night.


With my client settled, casting smoothly and retrieving the prototype lure at the desired speed I took the chance to head up the shingle to my bag for a cold drink this time. As I gulped own my juice I heard Steve shout “Marc!” I ran down the beach with my head-torch switched on to find him playing a bass through the gentle surf and into the shallows. Confidence. In a method and a lure is what is what occurred within those couple of minutes for sure, as lure fishing for bass in complete darkness is a leap of faith – one that Steve had just made emphatically.

Needlfish Jim's Lures
Nicely hooked on the treble in the middle of the lure below where the lure’s large eye is also situated – my diver friends tell me that bass hit small fish ‘head-first’ at night.

10 minutes later he added another, and then another as the tide reached its lowest point. I mentioned to Steve that it might remain quiet for a while now, but that the new, freshly running flood may see the bass, and bigger ones perhaps, move in.

Bass at night Devon guide
One of the better bass that hit the magic needlefish very close to the beach within the gentle surf (8m out) and in very shallow water (2ft).

Four fish to the good (with three already in darkness) the action started again almost immediately, with a couple of slightly better bass landed in quick succession. Plus, within the next hour he added a further six bass to his tally with another four managing to escape. Although none of the fish were huge (hooking a five or six pounder in the surf takes some beating) the fact that he’d never attempted this method before in his broad angling career, in addition to the sheer pleasure he was experiencing from feeling that solid whack and spirited battle through the rod and line meant he was in dreamland – and when I he emailed me the following the day, he still was I believe.

Importantly, the lure that he was using had proved to be highly effective. I have caught bass on it, and so has one of my fishing companions. But for a client to have landed eleven bass in a three hour period told me all I needed to know – I will, of course, reveal its identity very soon…

3 Day Packages

My 3 Day Packages (3 Days Guided Bass Fishing and 3 Nights Accommodation for £499 per person) have proved very popular, with both former clients who enjoyed these sessions last year returning, alongside a number of new clients who I will welcome down to south Devon this season – I cannot wait! I only have one more 3 Day Package available (and only two places left) which is between the 15 – 17 September. Therefore, if you are interested and would like to know more please see my previous blog post here.

My Book

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If you would like to purchase my recently released book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ (independent reviews including one from the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society can be found here) please either complete the Contact Form via a previous post (describing what is included in each of the book’s chapters) here. Alternatively, it can be purchased by paying directly by PayPal below:

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling



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