My Recent Catches – Finding the formula…
If you’ve read my previous blog post when Henry Gilbey accompanied me here, then you’ll recall how I stuck religiously to firing one lure (and one lure only) a long way out into a tide race, where a mixture of submerged and exposed rocks proved to be the ideal patrolling and ambushing point for our predatory and silvery friend the bass.
With distance, accuracy and stability on the surface of the water within what were slight swell/chop conditions paramount, in addition to a high degree of ‘noticeability’, the Xorus Patchinko II (or ‘Big Patch’ as it is commonly referred to) has been my ‘go to’ lure on this and many other occasions just recently…
Since the 13th May, when here in England we have been ‘allowed’ to fish, my initial approach saw me lure fishing for bass over extensive stretches of coastline incorporating a varied range of marks and differing terrain. The reasons for this approach were twofold: with my prospective clients in mind for this season I was keen to ‘suss out’ where the bass were located over the near 20 miles of coastline in which I guide, plus, I just wasn’t catching from some of my regular haunts and decided that I needed to really ‘hunt’ the shoals down!
So with what I don’t mind admitting was a glorious period of being able to fish on my own for pleasure and sheer enjoyment, what did I discover? Quite simply, the bass, as expected in many respects, have been extremely localised. But when I have found them, I have caught lots of them – including (as I’m sure you’ve read) a number in the 3-5lb range in the daylight hours and a 7lb+ cracker mixed in with literally dozens of smaller bass on my Signature Needlefish during darkness.
To be fair, the bass have appeared pretty much where I’ve expected them to be at night – with a multitude of U-shaped shingle coves, surf beaches and estuary mouths seeing a continual stream of mainly small (1-2lb) bass keen to hammer the lure – especially over the larger tides. Pleasingly though, it has been my catches when the Sun has been well above the horizon that have seen me ‘tap into’ something a winning formula of late – the Big Patchinko fished, at distance, into zones of current/tide and (for me anyway) rather deep (20ft+ at times) water, where the water is being deflected and funnelled around various rock formations.
Now I’m not saying that this is a ‘ground-breaking’ approach’ by any means, but it has been hugely significant in regards to facilitating my capture of a number of decent-sized bass. Do I have a theory? Of course I do! I’ve chatted to quite a few of my angling friends about this (especially those in Cornwall who I know have been having a bad time of it recently) and in basic terms, I think that the staggeringly clear water and, primarily, settled weather conditions this spring and early summer have incentivised the sand eels (and the mackerel, gulls and seals chasing them) to remain in often large, yet very tight and localised shoals within concentrated regions of our seas – and where they go, the bass have simply followed…
What’s more, something else that has been very apparent when I study my notes, is that the sand eels and mackerel have been far more prevalent inshore and within ‘luring range’ during the building spring tides. Further, with onshore winds and more turbulent sea conditions a rare event over the past few months (although this could be about to change!) I believe these greater numbers of essentially ‘bass food’ are being influenced (to move close inshore) when the greater tidal ranges dictate – with headlands jutting out into tide races being obvious holding areas for both of these species.
There are definitely periods within specific segments of a season, a tide or when certain weather and the associated sea conditions that will influence the way a bass lure angler needs to ‘adapt’ their approach in order to keep catching – essentially, this is all that I’ve been doing in regards to the types of mark or venues I’ve frequented. Furthermore, the way in which I have retrieved and effectively ‘worked’ the Patchinko II (in the 500g or Lieu/Sand eel pattern incidentally), I believe, has contributed to my catch rate.
The technique or method in question has seen me casting the substantial sliding surface lure within close proximity to any exposed or recently submerged structure and working it in a slow ‘thrashing’ motion – keeping the lure more or less on a sixpence as it turns almost on itself five or six times before allowing it to rest on the surface motionless – when a high percentage of the attacks will occur. There are a number of advantages to this – namely the lure is allowed to be carried with the swell, waves or eddies in a very natural ‘fish in distress manner’, in addition to it remaining within what I consider to be the harrowingly named ‘kill-zone.’
So with the imminent arrival of the increasing wind (an occurrence that would render all of my most recently productive marks dangerous) I made a snap decision to get out there early one morning (a rare occurrence in itself for me!) in order to make the most of the conditions before they deteriorated. It’s crazy isn’t it – for years I stared longingly at the forecast weather models looking for signs of an onshore breeze, and here I am nowadays hoping it will remain calm and with high pressure sat over us!
Forever keen to experiment, I actually fancied a mark that used to produce a fair few fish, but that I haven’t fished for some time. In addition to being a glorious walk to access it, this mark met all of the previously mentioned criteria with the added bonus being that I would arrive when the middle hours of the tide would culminate in enhanced levels of flow/current – perfect!
Plucking my current favourite out of its position in my lure box, as I attached it and surveyed all before me everything just felt ‘right’ – I cannot describe it in any other way! I promised to mention the new lure rod (that I’d been drooling over for months and that I eventually purchased) and I can now reveal that it is a Yamaga Blanks Ballistick TZ Nano 86M rated to cast 6-32g. Although not available in the UK (as far as I know) I didn’t fancy the long wait (plus the additional import duty by way of purchasing it from the Far East) on this one, so I was made up when I spotted it and managed to procure it in Europe, courtesy of an extremely helpful online store in Greece called Captain Lures.
Yes, it costs a small fortune, but I can tell you right now that this rod performs even better than it looks! Of course, I will endeavour to write a full review in the coming weeks and months, but the greatest compliment I can pay it is that it instantly felt (from the moment when, third cast, I nailed a 3lb bass on it) like I’d been using it for years – I am in love! Whether my 7 year old daughter sprinkling her ‘fairy dust’ on it before I took it out made a difference I really couldn’t say – bless her!
Back to the story! After effortlessly ‘launching’ and ‘working’ the Patchinko in and around what I reckoned would be the archetypal bass patrolling route, in conjunction with some lovely swirling and ‘eddying’ water, after only 10 minutes of fishing, dragging myself out of bed and annoying the missus was made worth it – instantly!
An extra-smooth cast saw the lure climb and descend like a guided missile as it reached beyond a line or ‘slick’ of smoother water, highlighting where the current was at its most prominent. With the braid instantaneously tighten onto the lure at what I considered to be extreme range (60-70m) I waited a couple seconds before commencing with that ‘thrashing’ action to the lure – something it was capable of performing with the minimal amount of effort with the ‘Ballstick.’
Thrash, Thrash, Thrash… SPLASH! It was like a cannon ball entering the water as a bass did its best to impersonate a Great White destroying a poor seal pup! She was angry alright! With a bout of serious headshaking and thrashing on the surface (what a spectacle!) I thought for a brief couple of seconds that this was a monster! However, when the bass failed to take any substantial line against the drag I realised it wasn’t quite as big as I initially thought (and hoped).
Attempting to ‘hang’ in the tide more than anything else with the occasional obligatory headshake, this bass was surprisingly easy to tame! And even though I was expecting it to surge either to my left or my right upon seeing me, or even make a dive for freedom into the string-weed beneath me, it did in fact do neither, and more or less allowed me to pull her up onto the platform I was comfortably stood on.
After taking the photographs above, as I went to unhook her she mirrored the name of the rod she’d just been landed on and went utterly ballistick – twisting and bucking, spikes and fins being flared all over the shop and with one of the spines on her anal fin sticking right into the top of my middle finger – OUCH! Or words to that affect of course!
Finally… Below is the release video of this majestic bass that I posted up on Facebook. Many people ‘liked’ and commented on it, including her behaviour – which appears to me to depict touching the rock formations with her snout on two occasions (in order to get her bearings perhaps) before appearing to enter full-on ‘hunter mode’ almost instantly – you’ve just got to love these beautiful fish haven’t you!
Thanks for reading
Hi mark any idea when you’re guiding will start again?
I’ve just started again in the past week.
Interesting comments re Sandeel shoals. As well as fishing from the shore I also fish from a kayak equipped with a fish finder. As you suggest this has been recently showing very localised dense shoals of bait fish up to a couple of hundred yards offshore. I’ve been catching lots of schoolies but no large Bass thus far.
Thank you for the comment Martin, and for corroborating the theory 😊👍