A new season, and some new lures…

A new season, and some new lures…

Like all bass lure anglers, the winter and the early spring is when I turn my attention to the coming season with a view to replacing split rings, hooks and purchasing some new acquisitions – namely shiny lures and odd smelling pieces of soft plastic! And alongside replenishing, and in some cases replacing my personal armoury I, of course, also have to restock what is an expansive collection ready for my clients to utilise (and hopefully not lose!).

Many of the usual suspects are in the process of being primed ready for the season ahead (when it’ll start, of course, is anyone’s guess) – namely the following lures that have served me well over the past three seasons:

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There are a few others that I have purchased over the winter though – some of which either intrigue me, I have personally seen work and now want one myself, or will see me returning to a particular style of lure that I’d sort of ‘forgotten’ about! Below is a brief description of them, why I purchased them and how and where I intend to utilise them…

Major Craft Jig Para Slow 20g + 30g (here)

Major Craft Jig Para

I’ve mentioned it many times (I believe there will be an article that I have wriiten on the subject in the next edition of Sea Angler Magazine) that when the water was relatively cold, calm and clear, yet the weather conditions were bright and sunny last season, my client’s and I caught dozens of bass by casting out various metal lures into deep (15-40ft) water covering a sandy seabed, before working them on a very basic ‘sink and draw’ technique.

I surmised that, over many successful sessions over a period of months, that the bass (most of which would ‘nail’ the lure on the drop as it fluttered through the water column) were reacting far more positively to the piece of metal being retrieved in this manner over the standard straight retrieve, as we’d given them far less time to ‘think’ about what they were attempting to eat. Further, during the early season bass aren’t, generally speaking, all that keen to chase items down that are moving quickly and horizontally – even more so if the item is above their heads…

A metal lure specifically designed to fall slowly and enticingly ‘loop’ on the descent in the conditions I’ve mentioned above, in addition to being capable of being whacked out in wild conditions and retrieved through the surf in shallow water, was high up on my list of ‘must haves’ for the coming season -with the Major Craft Jig Para fitting the bill perfectly it seems.

Tackle House Feed Popper 100mm/22g (here)

Tackle House Feed Popper

I’ve always had a real affinity for surface ‘popping’ lures from my days of luring bass in turbulent and swell conditions on the ‘icon’ that is the Storm Rattling Chug Bug. Subconsciously perhaps, I have used this lure type less and less over the past ten seasons, however, I shall be making a conscious effort to use them during 2020. Therefore, I have purchased something that does precisely what a Chug Bug does, but with greater casting capabilities – the Tackle House Feed Popper in the 100mm/22g guise.

Feed Popper

My reasoning? The largest bass I landed last season (and that you can read about here) smashed the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire after I’d effectively ‘dragged’ it across the surface when I thought I’d felt some weed on the line. Moreover, some of the places I have been frequenting more often over the past 18 months (such as estuary mouths for example) have a great deal of current present, which makes ‘working’ a sliding surface lure quite difficult on occasion – for example, maintaining a realistic action to the lure and without dragging it unrealistically across the tide. Yet a lure ‘popped’ and left to drift with the tide to mimic a struggling or overpowered prey item is just begging to be eaten by a bass, and very often, it is!

Sunslicker Mishna Eel (19) (here)

Sunslicker Mishna Eel

In a similar sense to the popping top water lures, fishing with a paddletail lure, be it an articulated version or one attached to a jig-head of some form is something I haven’t done an awful lot of in the past 24-30 months. But having a variety of lures and methods associated to them in your ‘tool box’ as it were, in order to take advantage of changing conditions within a session, or indeed, just to be in a position where you can ‘show’ the bass something else when they haven’t been hitting the lures (but you’re confident they are present) is always prudent.

Sunslicker Mishna Eel
A clients’ near 6lb bass from last October that gulped down the Sunslicker Mishna Eel just as it touched the seabed.

A blog post that I wrote back in October here is a case in point, whereby a client of mine landed two excellent bass from the same mark and in varying tidal conditions, but on two completely different (opposite I’d say) lure types – a surface lure and a paddletail ‘bounced’ along the seabed in the flow. The lure he was using was the Sunslicker Mishna Eel rigged onto a Decoy Voilence 11g/3/0 jig-head (here). Purchasing this little combination therefore is a direct result of witnessing them working, as it was his lure, not one of mine, that caught the fish – I merely suggested something trundling along the gravely seabed at the time could work.

Trulinoya Bear King Slim Skimmer (here)

IMA Salt Skimmer

The IMA Salt Skimmer is one of those lures that has achieved ‘cult status’ among bass lure anglers in recent years – but they are bloody difficult to get hold of nowadays! But a lure that is, dare I say it, almost exactly the same (especially in the way it ‘dances’ on the surface on a walk-the-dog retrieve) is the Bear King Slim Skimmer.

Bear King Slim Skimmer Veals

I have used them extensively in previous seasons, both personally and when I’ve handed them to clients, and I have to say that they are superb – I just couldn’t get my hands on any last year though, which is why I have purchased five for the 2020 season! I would say that they are best suited to very calm days when the baitfish are prevalent on the open coast, or indeed when fry are being hammered within the many saltwater lagoons and estuaries around our coastline These lures are available exclusively from Veals Mail Order via the link above) and if you’re quick you’ll be able to pick them up at £8.99 each – an absolute bargain I think.

Savage Gear Sandeel Pencil (here)

Savage Gear Pencil Sandeel

The Line Thru Sandeel, the predecessor (of sorts) to the Sandeel Pencil was and is one of those ‘marmite’ lures – some people love it and some people hate it. Personally, I gradually warmed up to them – especially when a client of mine bagged a 69cm bass on one here! With that slalom/S-Curve action on nothing more than a straight retrieve, alongside the capability to be slung a very long way, they are possibly one of the easiest lures you can use.

Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel
A big bass that I landed on the ‘Line Thru’ version. Many anglers reported that their trace would fray on the opening of the lure, however I never had any issues myself. My only gripe was that the lure sliding up and down the trace would almost ‘chisel’ the hook out of the fishes mouth.

Some anglers didn’t like the ‘line through’ element to the original lures, therefore, I believe Savage Gear were encouraged to create a ‘fixed’ version that could simply be attached to the lure clip and wouldn’t slid up and down the trace – somethng that I felt loosened the hook hold. The end product is the SG Sandeel Pencil – arriving in a 125mm/19g version and a 150mm/30g pattern here.

I’ll be totally honest, I haven’t used one of these yet (I didn’t get to test them unfortunately) but if the ‘hook up to fish landed ratio’ is improved upon then I think they will become extremely popular this year. I particularly like the addition of a ringlet in the centre of the belly of the lure (where an additional single or treble hook can be attached) as many bass will side-swipe their meal. Plus, I believe the extra hook could prove crucial when attempting to land bass in pounding surf conditions, where it is often difficult to maintain contact with a fish.

Heddon Super Spook JR (here)

Heddon Super Spook

Another top water lure that has been around for a while, and one that at just over eight quid I just couldn’t ignore! Joking aside, I’ve had lots of clients turn up with them in their lure boxes, but it wasn’t until late last season, when fishing a long way up an estuary, that I ‘switched on’ to their virtues…

OK, they aren’t going to set any casting records, but what I really like is their subtle, waking action across the surface (again, serene sea conditions are most probably best) and that very noticeable and noisy ‘knocking’ it emits – one that I imagine bass will find hard to ignore… Only some dedicated ‘water time’ will determine how effective they are, but I’m willing to take a punt on them this season.

Fish Arrow Flash J Split 7″ (here)

Fish Arrow Flash SW

A variant of the Arrow Flash J SW (the one without the Paddletail) that I had successfully used for a few years (although wrasse also took a real shine to them on many of my rough ground/shallow water marks) and that doesn’t seem to be available any more, the Split 7″ version is another one of those lures that intrigues me somewhat.

I have witnessed them ‘lure’ a bass last season, and they do look incredibly realistic, (both in the packet and in the water importantly) alongside being capable of being cast fairly well in most situations whilst unweighted. Fished weedless on a 5/0 or 6/0 hook, I can imagine many situations when and where these lures could come in very handy –  such as weedy margins where bass are actively hunting for small fish. I’ll see how I get on…

IMA iBorn 98F (here)

IMA iBorn 98f Shallow

Who doesn’t love a shiny, shallow diving, long casting and beautifully made hard diving minnow? Thankfully, they do catch just as many bass as anglers, and like many, I do admit that I have a penchant for such lures, with anything from IMA always likely to catch my eye!

When you look at the pedigree of IMA lures (the Komomo, Hound Glide, Salt Skimmer just to name a few) you just know that it’ll consistently swim and cast exceptionally well. Again, in more recent seasons, and more so since I have become a professional guide, I have found that bass are far more positive about hitting a smaller lure than their larger (120-130mm) stablemates – especially when the water clears, warms up and the baitfish are in residence, to the extent that I now tend to purchase these shorter patterns over their bigger brothers…

IMA iBorn

I’m ashamed to say that I do have a number of very similar hard diving minnows – lures that I utilise either at night when the Needlefish and Soft Plastics haven’t worked perhaps, or more especially, in choppy to medium swell conditions around the rocks and reefs during the day. This stunning little iBORN 98F is definitely going to be fast-tracked into my personal lure box!

Marc Cowling Signature Needlefish 125

Bass lure designed by Marc Cowling

Can I add my own lure into the equation here? It goes without saying that after all of the testing, tweaking and watching clients catch bass on the prototypes last season that I am dying to catch a monster on a lure that I designed myself! And after enlisting a former client of mine (Tom Cooper of TC Lures) to build them for me I am delighted with the end product – one that matches, exactly, what I had in my head in regards to sink rate and the way it looks, swims and reacts to the angler’s actions.

In case you’ve missed it (doubtful I know, and I do apologise if you’ve seen this blog post everywhere!) you can read all about what I believe these lures represent/mimic, why I designed them this way, and how and where I utilise them in my blog post here. Further, below are some photographs and a short video that an angler in Jersey (Mark Cooper) very kindly sent me of the bass he has caught on the lure over the past couple of weeks – my sincere thanks to him.


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The Marc Cowling Signature Needlefish 125 can be purchased from the following retailers:

Delayed start

There are, of course, far more important things going on in the world right now than our fishing, therefore I hope everyone stays safe and well during the coming weeks and months. What will almost certainly be a delayed start to the season for many will no doubt enable us to appreciate being out there even more once we get through this. Massive, massive respect to the NHS and those who have to work during this pandemic.

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling





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