Client Catches – Hitting it hard!

Client Catches – Hitting it hard!

Another apt title for this post given that I have been guiding very hard in recent weeks, but also because many of our recent captures of bass have been on ‘hard’ lures such as the ‘quintessential’ diving minnow. This post is an example of such an event.


Buoyant, with a vain or lip under the chin, or indeed a slanted face that allows the lure to swim at a predetermined depth, the reason the hard minnows have accounted for the bass catches recently is purely down to them having being used more over the past fortnight or so!

But that only tells part of the story – as it is the overall ‘conditions’ that will dictate which lure type that I will ask my clients to attach and use. Without spoiling the 3 Part series of blog posts that I have written for the Lure Fishing For Bass website (see Part 1 here) I will describe what was going on through my head as I guided Mark (featured image) and his friend Brett in this post.

Hard diving minnows
Buoyant, diving hard minnows of various diving/swimming depths and colours…

The real thing?

How many times have you witnessed a bass follow your lure? Quite a few I’d bet. But… I believe that these ‘followers’ are only the tip of the iceberg so to speak, and that they make up a fratcion of the number of bass that will interrogate a lure, before realising it isn’t the ‘real thing.’ Moreover, I suspect that you may actually see only one of these bass for every twenty or thirty times that it actually occurs! This is why lure selection is so vitally important if you are to succeed in extracting a bass from their underwater sanctuary..


I mentioned the ‘conditions’ above, and as I walked out onto the beach with my eager clients I began making an immediate assessment of the following:

  1. The sea state
  2. The water clarity
  3. The amount of weed fragments in the water

My initial planning for this session had involved checking the forecast weather, wind direction and strength, plus the times and heights of high/low tide days in advance, in addition to double checking the actual wind situation (15mph) and air pressure (1010Mb) on the day itself prior to heading out. Therefore, I knew exactly which stretch (of the seventeen miles of coastline that I guide upon) I was going to guide them on, with two very precise zones also earmarked.

There had been a relatively strong onshore wind blowing over the previous few days, therefore, I knew there would be some movement to the water – perfect for this area! In my book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ here there is a whole chapter dedicated to the ‘movement and behaviour’ of bass, with a section within dedicated to how I approach lure fishing where there are ‘islands of rock.’ This is precisely the type of ground that my clients would be working their lures in and around today – protruding pinnacles of rock interspersed with deep gullies encompassing a sand/shingle seabed.

So onto the ‘conditions’ list above. The sea state was ‘choppy’ with an intermittent swell of between 1-3ft serving to really boil and fizz around the edges of the rocks. The water clarity was around 1.5m, which to some may seem fantastic, yet this equated to ‘murky’ for here in south Devon. Further, there was very little in the way of ‘strap weed’ or loose pieces of ‘lettuce’ floating in and around the myriad of gullies before us – it looked good!

Fizzed up bass conditions
These are great bass lure fishing conditions, despite the very bright sky and sunshine. Note the white aerated/fizzing water around the rocks and the greeny-tinge to the water. In these types of conditions bass have a split second to make up their mind – meaning they are generally far more positive, and less likely to just ‘follow’ a lure.

Ground work

With an hour or so of the ebb tide remaining I positioned my clients so that they could target a series of gullies running parallel to our stance. The problem here however, was that each gully was separated by a finger of rock (three in total) lying just under the surface – and that were also running laterally…

I knew that the bass would, potentially, be patrolling through these gullies, but the only way to target them would be to cast a surface lure over all of the ‘fingers’, and then to work the lure in bursts and then leave it within the pauses in the retrieve, allowing the lure to lay motionless when it was directly above those sandy gullies. It nearly worked too, as Mark had a number of inquiries but no solid hook ups unfortunately…

Prior to venturing out onto the first mark I had shown my clients precisely where they would be fishing during phase two of this session, and once the tide had began to flood. “Make a mental note of those two gullies”, I said encouragingly, “as that’s were you’ll be sending your lures into in a couple of hours time.” And before long it seemed, and after clambering over some fearsome rocks (that I’ve just recently slipped on and shredded my arm!) we arrived on the second venue – our ground work having been complete a couple of hours earlier.

P1050602 (2)
A photograph of the second mark (the successful one) during a winter foray – a period when I assess any new marks for their bass producing potential…


The lure for the job

Very importantly from a lure selection point of view, I anticipated that the bass would be moving through some very narrow gaps in the reef in front of us (and that connected ‘our zone’ to the open sea) before travelling towards us and directly through the respective gullies that I’d previously highlighted. Crucially though, now that the tide had began to flood in earnest, the associated swell was forcing the waves through the gaps in the rocks, around the islands and up and over reefs only just below the surface to create a fantastic looking ‘bass heaven.’

What was required was a lure that could be ‘arrowed’ very accurately up through these channels despite the wind, and that would ‘dive’ deeply and quickly and then ‘swim’ in a stable manner within the turbulence between the rocks. After rummaging through Mark’s lure collection I found the perfect lure for the job – the Rapala X Rap (below).

Rapala X Rap
My own Rapala X Rap. A medium/deep diving hard minnow representing a pollack or wrasse – perfect for searching out those deeper gullies between outcrops or islands of rock.

First cast, and a near 3lb wrasse nailed the lure! Now I know this wasn’t what we were fishing for (and it’s the first I’ve seen caught on lure for over 18 months in the course of my guiding) but it was a first for it’s captor (Mark). Moments later though, and as I took a swig of juice from my bottle (this always happens!) Mark was hit again! But this time the flash of silver gave away its identity long before I could slide the net under his prize – a gorgeous looking bass that glimmered spectacularly under the misty/hazy sky (see below).

bass on lures daylight
The end result – a cracking bass for my client Mark. When you’ve put a degree of thought into which lure type to use it is even more satisfying when you land one.

Would this bass have taken a surface lure, a paddletail, or weedless soft plastic? Possibly… However, I think the gullies were just a little too narrow to keep a surface lure hovering in the hot spot as it were. A paddletail would have easily snagged on the ‘kelpy walls’ of the rocks and it would have been very difficult to control. What’s more, a weedless, weightless soft plastic (even with a belly weighted hook attached) would have been buffeted too severely on this mark; especially in these conditions.

The fact that the water wasn’t crystal clear, in which case a bass may have spotted the lure and followed it before refusing it, and that there weren’t too many issues with bits and pieces of weed meant my decision to concentrate on using the hard diving minnows was justified.

Incidentally, Mark did land a wrasse on an OSP DoLive Stick drifted around the base of our platform (a method and a lure that I’ve enjoyed success with on this mark in the past in similar conditions) and Brett hit into another wrasse on his own hard diving minnow which showed they were most definitely out in force that day!

An insight

Hopefully, this brief post gives you an insight into the types of ground my clients and I target, but more specifically under which set of circumstances I would ask them to utilise certain lure types.

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling



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