Client Catches – Out of the doldrums

Client Catches – Out of the doldrums

Historically, September is one of my more productive periods of the season, although I have to say that this one has, overall, bucked the trend. But when the chips are down it just makes me even more determined and steely in my approach to find the bass, work out what they want and how they want it – with the ultimate aim of putting one of these beautiful creatures into the arms of my clients.

A glorious sunset on the glorious South Hams coastline.

These things are sent to test or try us as they say, and with the moods of the early autumn, incorporating those swelteringly hot days and glorious sunsets, to screaming easterly winds in conjunction with the massive spring tides, I am actually extremely proud of the receptiveness and effort my clients have demonstrated, and the bass that they have caught over the past few weeks.

As you’ll read in a follow up post detailing my personal catches, with any bass present still fixated on, and often absolutely ‘stuffed’ with the bait fish that are still prevalent in often huge, if sporadic, quantities (proven in the roundness to the bellies of the bass landed!) my personal approach has been to experiment in regards to methods and indeed, lure choice – my view being that when the fish are harder to come by, it is the ideal time to try something new. At the very least I will learn a great deal, and anything that I do learn can be transferred directly into my guided sessions with immediate effect, so that we are giving ourselves every possible chance to succeed – adapt and overcome as they also say…

A much windier spell, when those surprisingly warm easterlies arrived.


There is always a ‘lean spell’ right in the middle of any fishing season (let alone when chasing the temperamental bass), which for me here in south Devon usually occurs during August – which is why I took ten days off last month although I wish I hadn’t! Additionally, there is always a period when you go through ‘the ringer’ so to speak – lost fish at the net and unseasonable weather conditions spring to mind, but in a similar way to how I quickly found the bass (and what they wanted) post COVID lockdown back in mid-May, by also fishing a variety of venues, encompassing headlands, shingle beaches, muddy creeks, shallow reefs and tide races, I have gradually been able to unlock and unpick their behaviour in order to come out of the bass fishing doldrums…

Variety is the spice of life as they say! Well, I’ve certainly been trying lots of things to find the bass!

Taken directly from my diary entries, below are some very brief accounts of the sea and weather conditions, the lure choice and the tactics that I overseen and asked my clients to administer to ‘find’ some of the more notable catches, each from a contrasting location type or venue, both in regards to terrain and underwater topography. I hope this assists you, should you experience your own ‘sticky spell’ or period in the doldrums – it does, of course, happen to all of us.

Headland Highlights

One of my regular clients (Steve) with yet another lure-caught bass – with many of them coming from a multitude of differing locations.

Steve’s lovely bass (above) was taken during the first three hours of a building (increasing from neaps to springs) and flooding spring tide. I was guiding him on a deep water (approximately 20-30ft) venue within close proximity of a notoriously ‘wild’ headland. During this session, the wind was very light and the sea extraordinarily clear and calm, with only the odd slightly larger swell rolling through as the tide picked up. Of significance here are a series of submerged car-sized rocks rising from the seabed, deflecting and causing the current to deviate from its natural course – all combining to create the ideal ambushing point for the bass!

The lure choice was a simple one to make based on the success it as brought me on very similar venues and conditions so far this season – the 140mm 26g Patchinko II. As expected, a cast just beyond one of the well submerged rock formations, into the more exposed (to the current) section of the structure resulted in a very positive swirl and hit – he was rather unlucky in my opinion to only catch the one bass from this mark.

Getting into the Gullies

A serious expression, and a serious venue to boot – Dave proved himself to be a very, very natural bass lure angler indeed.

Not a huge bass by any stretch, but one of three that my client (Dave) landed during a short session out on the rocks. Shallower water this time at between 4-10ft such was the velocity of this monster spring tide. There were a number of aspects to this session that were significant though – the poor water clarity due to the thunderous yet extremely intermittent swell (three larger waves then eerily flat) that would rise up and roll in being one of them. Further, I reasoned that the bass would take full advantage of the sudden turmoil by way of almost expecting food items to be washed out of the weed and rocky crevices.

The first bass that Dave hooked took (yet again) the large Patchinko extremely close to his stance and within an intersection of where three adjoining gullies converged. The bass struck just after a series of waves had washed through and when the lure had been retrieved fairly vigorously in a thrashing movement and then left motionless to drift for a few seconds. This is tactic that I think is deadly when utilising a larger surface sliders or poppers. This strategy accounted for another bass soon after, right under his rod tip within the gully he’d retrieved the lure through when again, it was left momentarily to be taken wherever the swirling water washing around the rocks wanted to take it.

Later, as the tide rose and all the gullies started to ‘fill in’ over the shingle/gravel seabed set between all of the rocky islands typical of this venue, very accurate casting would be required in order to effectively ‘search out’ any bass that were either patrolling through the gullies, or holding up out of the occasional melee, positioning and ready to strike. With the brilliant Daiwa Shoreline Shiner 97F Vertice attached, Dave latched into his third bass (a fourth took the lure right at the end of the retrieve on our final venue but came unstuck) after working it through a narrow zone only 3m wide and 10m long – it was just as thrilling watching the events unfold I can tell you!

Shingle Shore

A gentle giant and his modest-sized spikey friend! I was extremely pleased for Ollie as I know how much he’d looked forward to his guided session with me.

After landing his first ever bass on a surface lure in daylight, the bass above was one of three my client (Ollie) landed on the Wave Worm Tiki Bamboo Stick in darkness, fished from a shingle beach swept by an often back-eddying current, and where numerous patches of weed/wrack litter the seabed under the 10ft of water present over high tide. The night was very still and the highly transparent water was literally ‘lapping’ the shoreline as we stood yapping under the stars.

The ‘killer’ tactic on this and many occasions in the gloom with the soft plastics was to tighten up on the lure as soon as it enters the water, tethering it down slowly allowing it to sink to the seabed. Then, five quicker turns of the reel’s handle are completed to get the lure moving quickly off of the bottom (a combination that accounts for around 40-50% of the attacks on the lure) before settling into a steady half-a-turn of the reel’s handle per second retrieve rate.

Needlefish Nights

My client (Ash) was desperate to catch a bass on one of the many Needlefish creations he had nestling in his lure box. Therefore, it was my absolute pleasure to guide him onto a clutch of bass from two separate marks, on two separate nights, on two separate lures – the Jim’s Needlefish and my own creation the Marc Cowling Signature Needlefish.

Two very different marks produced the bass for Ash, but the one that I’ll concentrate on was arguably more significant as we had that recent and that awfully blustery ‘East wind’ to content with! Tucking well out of it was my priority in order to ensure he could ‘feel’ the very subtle needlefish ghosting over a flat expanse of reef, in what was fairly shallow (6ft) and surprisingly clear water given the previous day’s conditions.

The turn of the spring tide and the water stripping back off of the reef as it entered the 2nd hour of the ebb, I believe, made the difference – although I’ll take a bit of credit for asking him to move and target a specific pool where I’ve nailed a lot of bass over the years, more particularly in rough daylight sea conditions as it happens – my how things have changed over the past 3-4 years! How do we retrieve the Needlefish? Simple, let them sink as you would the Wave Worm, then turn the handle very smoothly (so that the lure doesn’t appear ‘jerky’ underwater) around one full turn per second – but hang on, as the hits are often savage!

Estuary Expressions

An emotional Pete with an equally expressive bass!

“Fish! Taking line!” What an expression, and one that I never tire of hearing! During the penultimate session of a 3 Day Package (BB Accommodation and 3 days/nights fishing for £499 per person) that I completed this week we headed to one of the many estuaries that meander down from the moors and through the valleys of south Devon.

The lure was the ever reliable Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire, but the method utilised was something that I have been playing around with and gradually ‘perfecting’ (sort of!) and that I have been encouraging my clients to try themselves – gently ‘popping’ these hybrid surface lures rather than working them in the usual zigzagging, belly-rolling, waking fashion. I will elaborate on my ‘findings’ in my next post, but essentially, all we are doing is causing the lure to ‘spit’ on the surface, and then let it rest and move very naturally with the direction, and even more importantly, at precisely the same speed as the current.

Finally, I have to mention Pete’s bass that nailed his white Wave Worm Bamboo Stick on the previous evening. To say I’d ‘bigged up’ the venue in conjunction with what I was expecting to be the ‘ideal conditions’ for the venue was a massive understatement – with the setting crescent Moon (my favourite!) almost on high water being the factor I was most excited about. “I bet that when that Moon sets Pete, you’ll get a bite within a few minutes…” Sometimes these fish can be very predictable…

Over the Moon! Not quite, as it had disappeared over the horizon a few moments earlier!

My Book

I have commissioned another print run (100 books) of my self-published book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ with delivery expected within the first week of October. If you would like to learn more then a breakdown of what is encompassed within the chapters can be found via the blog post I wrote upon its release back in October 2018 here. Furthermore, an independent review written by the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society can be found here.

Please contact me via the form below to reserve your copy:

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling


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