Client Catches – Storm Force Bass!
I was really enjoying that wonderful start to Autumn! But we all knew it wouldn’t last… Since the third week of September the weather has been somewhat unsettled – with former hurricanes and named storms continually battering the UK on the conveyer belt that is the jet stream. But has it spoilt the fishing recently? Most definitely not, although ‘knowing’ my marks intimately has definitely paid dividends…
During the final weekend of September, those ‘monster’ tides combined with strong south-westerly winds and the associated low pressure systems to give our coastline a bit of a pummelling. Of course, at this time of year this what is to be expected, but it is how these weather patterns, and more specifically how the direction and the strength of the wind affects where I fish and guide that concerns me.
Two of things that I love about the south Devon coastline (there are many!) is that, generally speaking, the sea can take a lot of movement (swell/waves) before it becomes very dirty (weed fragments and becoming silted up), plus, there is always somewhere to get out of the worst of it with a better than average chance of catching a bass on a lure.
RESEARCH! That is what I spent years doing in preparation to becoming a professional bass lure fishing guide. Researching the marks, not only to determine the mostly likely conditions when bass would or could be present, but just as importantly, understanding how certain wind directions and strengths affected each specific venue so that I had a portfolio of marks in which to guide my clients whatever the weather (bar thunder and lightning) threw at me.
So with the weather forecast potentially troublesome, and with a returning client (a mad keen salmon and sea trout angler called Stu) travelling all the way down from Scotland for his arranged three days with me I knew I would have to dig deep into my vast array of bass fishing marks. What’s more, selecting the right lure in which to deal with the overall conditions, in addition to precisely where to cast and work it would have to be ‘spot on’ for his trip to be a success.
Thankfully, the wind, although strong, had essentially held a westerly component to it in the week prior to Stu’s first session – which meant anywhere on the open coast essentially facing East would have remained relatively protected. I say ‘relatively’ because as each storm moved through, the wind would swing up from the South for a few hours before backing around to a westerly or north-westerly again, serving to only stir things up on these marks rather than obliterate them!
At this time of year the presence of gulls and terns gets me excited… Yes they can be annoying when they’re swooping down for your surface lures! But this gives away one very important clue – that they are ‘switched on’ to seeing items splashing on the surface. And if they are, so to will the bass…
It was for this reason, having witnessed numerous flocks circling over the gentle swell that greeted us on the first mark, that the first lure I asked Stu to attach was his Patchinko 125 here. Alongside my suspicion that there were shoals of sprat in front of us (they weren’t visible at any stage I must add) at this time of year the garfish are in residence. Now, you might have noticed that when a garfish chases a lure (and you’re praying it doesn’t grab it and tangle your braid and leader into a stinking mess!) it creates an ‘S’ shape across the surface of the water – this is precisely what I wanted Stu’s lure to mimic.
And it worked! As within 10 minutes Stu’s Tailwalk Salty Shape Dash (here) was bucking to the fight of a modest, yet powerful bass – what a great start! And it didn’t take long for bass number two, three, four and five to hit the shingle also. But although very welcome, they were all in the sub 2lb bracket, therefore, I decided a change was required…
Clearly there were a lot of bass around, and they were having a field day snapping at the slashing, thrashing and zigzagging garfish-esque action of the surface lure. But I wondered if there were some larger bass present, and if so, where were they situated and what type of lure would they hit… So far, all of the fish had jumped on the lure around 15m form the water’s edge, but with the size of the swell increasing with flooding spring tide, and with waves now smashing up the shingle I reasoned that the better fish could in fact be swimming in the ‘gutter’ as it were – the zone where the slope of the beach flattens out and/or where it meets a section of reef.
Although it was in danger of being ‘spat’ out of the breaking waves as they turned onto the beach, the Tackle House Feed Shallow 105 in the mullet pattern (here) that Stu was now casting more or less parallel to the shoreline and expertly retrieving was soon seized (via an extremely violent take) only a rod’s length from his stance, before the culprit tore a couple of metres of line off against the drag. This was a the one he’d travelled all this way for and as I scooped her up in the net we congratulated each other!
My exceedingly happy client ended this session and the one on the following day from a very similar mark with twenty-two bass in total, with the Patchinko 125 and the Feed Shallow tricking all of them! Of note, was that the gigantic tides, augmented by the low barometric or air pressure (increasing the height of the tide) created some unusual ‘eddies’ (in this case, large zones of swirling water) over a bank/ridge of rocks on the second mark that is normally only under a few centimetres of water – the precise zone in which the surface lure was continually nailed on day two.
Under the stars
Something that we’d been unable to achieve (or rather unwilling to, due to heavy rain and already being soaked to the skin as the light faded) over the sessions was lure fishing for bass at night. On Stu’s previous visit to south Devon (that you can read about here) he’d massively enjoyed the wildness and the wilderness of it all, but most of all he’d enjoyed the sheer ferocity of the ‘hits’ in the gloom.
It was therefore, a delight to be able to identify an area that I reckoned would afford some protection from the Gale Force south-westerly wind in order to conduct a session during the evening and long into the night. Again, thankfully, although it was very windy the actual weather forecast was for clear skies with only a slight risk of a light shower – which did arrive incidentally!
For the first time in a while, the black and blue-speckled Wave Worm Bamboo Stick failed to attract any interest during dusk. But as the stars appeared one by one, what has proven to be truly fantastic lure for me this season (the white version of the Wave Worm) was cast out and straight retrieved continually across the clean sandy seabed interspersed with clumps of seaweed under the very shallow water in front of us…
A ‘big tide’ mark, that can turn on instantly as groups of bass of various sizes patrol through with the strong current, even I was concerned at the potential height of the tide as we were pushed high up the shingle and into the bushes an hour before high tide! Moreover, it seemed very, very quiet to me, but I summoned my own enthusiasm and passed this on to Stu via stories of previous red-letter sessions from this season – including some notable catches from his exact location.
It was a waiting game for sure, but just as the ebbing tide started to pull the unweighted soft stick-bait lure around in the tide and a slightly quicker retrieve was required, the rod ‘twanged’ over and within 30 seconds Stu has grinning with a well-earned bass of around 2lb. “The next one will be a good one I reckon Stu”, I enthused, as I straightened out the lure and settled back into my position amongst the brambles – a bizarre scenario for a sea fishing venue!
It was quiet again for a few minutes, but then, as I stood waist-deep in the water next to him the rod just thumped over after only a few turns of the reel and the drag zipped – dramatically so! “This one’s better”, quipped Stu, as the bass then stopped and swam directly at us! This isn’t the first bass to have done this on this mark and it was something I’d warned him could occur. But his overall angling prowess prevailed, and bar a worrying moment when the bass attempted to bury itself in the large clump of weed to our right, the fish came into view under my headtorch light head-first and into my net.
Considering the scrap that it had given him, I must say that I was somewhat surprised not to have netted a 5lb+ fish for Stu! But at getting on for 4lb it had matched his PB that he’d landed and released with me 48 hours or so previously. And after successfully returning his silver prize we decided to call it a night.
I am always immensely proud and satisfied when my clients achieve their objective, whether that is learning a new skill or catching their first bass on a lure or indeed a PB. And as I sipped a glass of red and put my feet up later that night recounted the events – from choosing the right venues and the most effective methods during what were periods of adversity in regards to the weather and sea conditions, but above all, thinking that those thousands of hours of research were most definitely time well spent.
Thanks for reading.