My Recent Catches – Things are looking ‘up!’
After what was understandably ‘groundhog day’ for seven long weeks, the past ten days have, by comparison, gone in a flash – due primarily, to being utterly engrossed (alongside rescheduling my bookings for the season!) in my search for silver! My tactics have encompassed fishing a variety of differing marks along different stretches of coastline in the hope of finding those pockets of bass, hot on the trail of the ‘pin’ sand eel – not an easy task, but one that if you get right can yield some excellent results…
Being ‘partially released’ and able to fish from the 13th May was liberating, however (and I’m not complaining here!) the fact that it coincided with a bout of cold North-Easterly winds, lower than average temperatures and tiny neap tides made for some rather sparse sessions initially. Indeed, in conjunction with feeling somewhat ‘rusty’ in regards to working/retrieving numerous lure types I joked with a few friends of mine that maybe I was losing my touch!
Moreover, it felt extremely ‘strange’ being outside again and enjoying myself after such a long period without fishing. Indeed, I almost felt guilty just being out there and I don’t mind admitting I feeling very apprehensive overall – a natural reaction perhaps?
Four or five elements stood out for me during those first few sessions out on the glorious south Devon coastline though:
- The sand eels were (initially at least) conspicuous by their absence around the dozen marks I’d earmarked for these initial forays.
- Whether I’m on the open coast or up an estuary system, at this time of the year I would normally witness mullet confidently cruising around, however, they were also absent as far as I could tell…
- Surface lures were receiving absolutely no interest at all – again, no matter where I fished them – either the fish weren’t there or they weren’t prepared to ‘chase’ items way above their heads…
- Lures fished deeper and on the seabed itself, slower and with increased levels of vibration (such as paddle tails incorporating a jig head) were accounting for a good percentage of fish in daylight with senkos and Albie Snax accounting for the others in darkness.
- The fishing wasn’t necessarily ‘switching on’ once it became dark either – an occurrence that I’ve come to expect when the sea is calm and clear and the Sun has been blazing down all day.
Above all, despite a good friend of mine latching into a beautiful 59cm bass that he nailed on a paddle tail, it just didn’t feel overly ‘bassy’ out there to me, and although I was catching, all of the fish were in the sub-2lb range. But with the scrutiny of the tide tables, the long-range weather charts and my previous diary entries becoming evermore fervent, I knew that with the increasing tide heights and the increasing air temperature, that my season could be about to begin in earnest…
What a feeling!
Following what I considered to be an almost inexplicable blank, on the next beautiful sunny day and a lovely steak and red wine pie that evening, I decided to change tact completely and visit a stretch that I’d ‘researched’ a few times prior to ‘lockdown’ just to see how the water moved, and above all, to see if I could safely climb down to it! Before venturing out I made a quick check on the sea temperate and noticed that it had increased by 0.5º C over the past couple of days… Good news!
With a fair bit of current ripping through on this deep-water mark, it was my hope that as the ebbing tide speeded up around mid-tide, that a few bass shoals would move through the area. So despite previously having had no success whatsoever with the surface lures within my previous four sessions I decided to give the Xorus Patchinko 125 here a solid one hour workout just to see… By making its presence very obvious, it was my hope that any groups of bass, that I imagine would be in competition with their peers could be enticed into hitting the lure without really thinking it!
Putting a bend in the fabulous prototype Major Craft lure rod that I’ve been playing with since November, after maybe twenty minutes of whacking the slithering, splashing surface slider out into the flow, and admiring its action, around halfway in the recovery, a bass totally obliterated it! I knew straight away that it wasn’t a small fish by the way it attempted to overpower me – no chance – not with the grunt that this amazingly light yet very powerful rod possesses. And within what was a hugely enjoyable ninety seconds I utilised the swell to lift my first proper bass since the latter stages of January up onto the rocks and into a pool – what a feeling!
I was a happy man, made all the more happier when a couple more admittedly smaller bass attached themselves to the ‘Patch 125’ before I decided a drive to a beach mark in order to fish well into darkness.
As I stepped out into the beach on what I felt like an extraordinarily dark night I had one lure on my mind – my self-designed Signature Needlefish (that you can read about here). Armed with a well-stocked lure box equipped solely for ‘night lure fishing’ as I snapped open the lid I felt like a kid in sweet shop – the adrenalin causing my fingers to shake as I attached the white version to my lure clip and headed down to the shoreline under the red glow of my head torch.
The last time I’d thrown one of these lures out was approximately two months prior (mid-March) having only released them into the public domain a week or so earlier. On that occasion, and with the COVID pandemic brewing, I’d landed a small bass on one and was brimming with excitement about the season ahead. Although I knew they’d catch bass (the wooden prototype had accounted for a number of fish up to 4lb during spring 2019 see here and here) I was literally ‘bouncing’ with anticipation as I made the first casts out over the broken ground (rocks and sand patches) submerged by around 3-4ft of water before me.
It was an exceptional two hours – with a dozen bass hooked, landed and released on a lure that had started as a drawing based on a series of notes and what I considered to be a number of bass attracting qualities. Although all of the fish were only in the 1½- 2½lb range it was like a dream to be stood there, ankle deep as the water swirled around my legs, awaiting that heart-stopping ‘thud’ through a rod that I couldn’t even see in the blackness – below is a slideshow of just some of those perfect bass:
Expected and unexpected!
The next evening was calmer, warmer, muggier and cloudier therefore, following an early dinner I was soon out on the same rocks as the previous evening – the only difference being that I attached the larger 140mm Patchinko II here – big lure, big fish as they say! Eyeing up a car-sized section of rock that was just about peeping above the high-tide line, on my third cast I pitched the lure just over and behind it and began working the lure in a slow, rhythmic fashion causing it to slash on the surface quite vigorously.
There was a big swirl, and I felt a ‘twang’ through the rod and braid as something made a half-hearted attempt to grab the lure. I paused very briefly before continuing, whereby what appeared to be three bass made a beeline for the lure – one of which made solid contact – I was in! Aggressively, it sensed the tension I was administering from my perch 3m above the water and around 12m away from it and decided to dive back in behind the rock.
Unlucky mate! I was seriously plugged into my fishing this evening and was practically expecting both a hit from a bass, in addition to this kind of dirty manoeuvre therefore, I quickly brought the rod high and to my left in order to counter its surge downwards and to my right. With that splendid ‘jagging affect’ booming through the carbon the fish surfaced, spotted me, and went about swimming quickly towards my stance and then parallel to me – all classic bass behaviour!
With the polariods stuck to my cheeks and eyebrows I could see it’s lips and then its dark back following as what I could see was a 5lb bass gradually tiring below me. Nearly! Following one more attempt to zoom towards the seabed that saw the drag on my Vanquish creaking, once her head was up and out of the water it was just a case of carefully timing the swell and that final ‘wrench’ up onto a wonderfully useful platform behind me – a text book landing, although my heart was clearly in my mouth throughout!
Historically, my first 5lb bass of the season has generally been achieved in early to mid-May, and although this one had taken a little longer to find, in all honesty, I was just counting my blessings that I was allowed to even be fishing before that moment. Upon returning her, within minutes of untangling and eventually cutting and re-tying the mess she’d made of my braid and fluorocarbon leader, I was into another bass that had me thinking it was a whopper ‘kiting’ in the tide and below the surface!
Unfortunately, and much to my initial disappointment, it was only a 2lb bass that was slightly foul-hooked. Hilariously though when I think about it now, around ten minutes later and during the two seconds that I’d taken my eye off the lure in order to see what was squawking overhead (a Peregrine I believe) was enough time for a further bass in the 3lb range to smash into the lure (see below).
As I brought this one close to me I spotted ‘Sammy the Seal’ in the corner of my eye sliding back into action from my left – he’d obviously picked up on the commotion! Hesitating slightly, the bass must have felt the slackening in tension momentarily, as it made a last-ditch attempt to dive for the ledge under my feet whereby everything went solid… Oh dear!
I don’t know if the bass did this to avoid capture by me or the seal if I’m honest – although it clearly had a better chance of survival should I get my mits on it! A rare occurence, and one that you’d normally associate with a wrasse and most certainly a pollack rather than a bass, after a short bout of giving slack line, followed immediately by applying serious pressure, this third bass of the evening was soon ‘encouraged’ up onto the surface again and quickly dragged up into a rock pool before my ‘competition’ could snare an easy meal and my expensive lure!
Eyes ‘up’ for a full-house…
As the light faded I made a change to a hard diving minnow in the form of a IMA Hound Glide 125F and added a rather plump pollack to my tally too. As I was packing up I couldn’t help but contemplate ‘why’ over the past two evenings the bass had suddenly started taking surface lures again… Was it the venue? The increasing prevalence of the bait fish (pin sand eel)? The increase in the air and sea temperature or (most probably) all of the above? Either way, things were looking up and so were the bass, in addition to their appetite and willingness to take surface lures – oh what fun!
As I clambered back into the car and made my way to the beach mark I fancied in darkness, even though I was buoyed beyond belief by the evening’s catches so far, even I couldn’t have envisaged what would happen next…
My Book and the MC Signature Needlefish
The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society recently re-released their review of my book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ which can be found here. I shall be commissioning another batch of this self-published title within the coming weeks therefore, if you would like to be added to the waiting list please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this post.
Furthermore, the Marc Cowling Signature Needlefish can be purchased from the following retailers:
Thanks for reading