Client Catches – In the mood!
Is nature and all associated to it 4-6 weeks ahead? I mean, with the farmers currently harvesting their wheat, and after witnessing the whitebait/sprat being hoarded into the shallows a full month earlier than usual (since the start of July here in south Devon) you have to wonder…
One of the aspects that has stood out for me so far, during what was of course a delayed season of fishing and guiding, is that the bass have been preoccupied, often to the extreme, with either the sand eels (post semi-unlocking of lockdown on the 13th May) and now the whitebait and larger mackerel – as I’ve said previously, wherever these prey items have gone, the bass have followed.
Note that I’ve highlighted the ‘larger’ above, as when the whitebait were originally being corralled close inshore by only the small joey mackerel, the bass just were not in attendance. Indeed, it was only when (as I suspected and hoped!) that the ‘jumbo’ mackerel arrived, that the bass made an appearance – and spectacularly so…
On face value this isn’t an unusual occurrence by any stretch, but I just can’t help thinking that the exceptionally settled spring, when the sea was so very calm and so very clear for extended periods encouraged these prey items to form the hugely substantial and highly prolific shoals we are currently experiencing. That these shoals weren’t placed under commercial pressure during ‘COVID lockdown’ leads me to consider the possibility that it has in some way ‘altered’ the migration and feeding behaviour of the bass.
Headlands, tide races, fast-moving and deeper water during the daylight hours, taking in periods with a greater tidal range, has formed the backbone of my approach since I ‘switched on’ to the fact that this provided the greatest chance of catching myself, or guiding my clients onto these wonderfully fickle creatures. Moreover, with a seemingly endless supply of fodder to ‘chase down and scoff down’ when the Sun is high in the sky, I would definitely say that my night lure fishing endeavours haven’t been quite as productive as they are ‘ordinarily’ – the bass presumably ‘full to the brim’ as dusk descends into darkness. Below is a gallery however of some of the catches my clients have recently achieved late into the night.
Flash n’ Splash
Quite simply, even if the Sun has been blazing down from a cloudless sky and the sea bordering on ‘Mediterranean’, if the bass are in the vicinity and more importantly ‘in the mood’ then it is game on, but with one caveat – a lure that ‘splashes’ and ‘flashes’ appears to be essential at present. Depending on the sea state, water depth and to a lesser extent, the clarity, the weapons that I have encouraged my clients (some of which are in the gallery below) to attach and equally as important, to stick with, have been:
- The Patchinko 100 in oily-calm and shallow/clear sea conditions where some tidal influence is present.
- The Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire in shallow, moderately fast-moving tides, but in cloudier/murkier water.
- The Patchinko 125 in choppy seas of between 6-12ft deep, where moderate levels of tide /current are present.
- The Patchinko II (140mm) in deep (15ft+), fast-flowing sea conditions ranging from flat calm to a 1-2m swell and where the current is diverted around various structures, both exposed and submerged.
Essentially, with the water temperature nearing its zenith (at 16-17ºC) in conjunction with the metabolism of our target species also peaking, in addition to the ridiculously high levels of silvery food items prevalent within the gin-clear waters, you have to get the bass to ‘react’ rather than ‘think’ if you’re to be successful. Further, I believe that anything moving slowly and horizontally in these bright daytime conditions is highly likely to be followed and ultimately rejected – fish the same lure under twilight conditions however, and you may provoke a more positive approach from Mr & Mrs Labrax.
On the hunt
A case in point was a recent session with returning clients Mike and Tim. Both are experienced fly and game fisherman and all-round hunters therefore, my initial description of the type of mark they would be fishing, alongside the type of lure they’d be using, resonated with their love for ‘wild fishing’ incorporating ‘wild locations’. Besides, on a previous session on this venue, whilst with a client Stu (whose exploits you can read out here) the arrival of a school of mackerel whizzing past practically under our feet as we stood on our rocky ledge, signalled that the bass were soon to be ‘in town…’
With the Patch 125 (Tim) and larger Patch II (Mike) being fired out into a steady stream of the parallel-running tide, as the sweat dripped from our brows under the hot Sun, my attention was diverted away from reapplying up my sunscreen to the alarming bend in Tim’s ‘later to three-piece’ Major Craft X-Ride rod (enough said!) “Taking line” he shouted, as per my instructions to do so should such a fabulous event occur, and as I clambered for the landing net I could see the dark back of this mini-submarine ploughing through the surface layer towards us!
As I routinely do, I’d reiterated to my clients prior to their first cast that these fish fight dirty, and to expect a decent one to swim quickly at them, and then to make blistering runs close to and parallel to their stance, in order to drag the line across any rocks – of which there was a rather annoying one now just below the surface that has cost me in the past!
It was decent alright, and as it did its damndest to squirm, thrash and run powerfully for freedom in order to shake the hooks just out of reach from my landing net, my instruction for Tim to “drag it very close to me, and very quickly the next time it surfaces mate” (as I’d seen how perilous the hook-hold was) was completed with aplomb – you beauty!
I think Tim was in utter disbelief as I measured this splendid bass at 60cm (around 5lb) – flanks reflecting the sunshine so brightly you required sunglasses just to look at her! It obliterated his personal best of course, in fact I’m sure he commented that his largest bass previous to this one was about twice the size of the lure – a capture he’d achieved with me just over a year ago as it happens!
Following a couple of small bass for Mike and a few near misses for Tim, just as I felt the better fish might reappear now that the tide was peaking and the light levels had dipped slightly, a shout of “Yeah!!!” had me swivelling around at breakneck speed! Almost tripping over, as my studs caught the net I was trying to pick up whilst hopping from one rock to another, as I got within the allowable distance of Tim I asked him if it had taken any line? “About 10ft” was his response, to which I practically regurgitated my recently scoffed pasty (what else!)
As the fish remained deep and the rod nodded rhythmically to its incessant headshaking, all three of us thought that this could be an even better bass – not least the angler who was attached to it! As she swam towards us very deliberately I was getting pretty excited myself, but as the she planed up onto the surface, creating a wonderful bow wave in the process, I realised she wasn’t quite as substantial as we’d all hoped.
September and October can be excellent months for bass lure fishing, and if nature is indeed 4-6 weeks ahead, you never know, we may be in store for an extended autumn bounty. Indeed, I am aware that the fishing has been dire in some parts of the Country, but nature has this funny way of ‘evening or levelling’ itself out – so if you’ve been struggling so far this season, I am positive that it’ll turn out OK for you.
Released in October 18, following a glut of enquiries I commissioned another batch of my self-published title ‘The Lure of The Bass’ – an independent review of which (written by the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society) can be found here. If you would like to purchase a copy (or just to find out more) please complete the contact form below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Further, you can also purchase directly by clicking on the PayPal link at the bottom of this post.
The Lure of The Bass
A modern approach to catching European Sea Bass on lures by Marc Cowling.
Thanks for reading.