Client Catches – Beginners luck?

Client Catches – Beginners luck?

To commence this post, here’s a bit of an insight into what I ‘get up to’ in the course of my guiding! With between 75-80% of my clients being ‘returning clients’ you could definitely say that I get to build a relationship, alongside an excellent rapport with many of them. In conjunction with this, I would also say that around 80% of my client base encompasses anglers who are proficient (or highly proficient in many cases) within another field, branch or discipline of this marvellous sport, hobby or pastime (whichever way you chose to look at it) be it Fly, Salmon, Trout, Carp, Predator, Game or General Sea ‘bait’ fisherman.

Essentially then, at least four in five of my clients will definitely be able to appreciate one end of a fishing rod from another! But what about the other 20%? This percentage represents anglers that have decided to pursue lure fishing for bass prior to fishing for anything else, yet they would either have caught nothing at all or would have really struggled to catch, or more likely, find any kind of consistency. Indeed, the initial email will often contain the sentence “if I do catch a bass on a lure, it seems apparent that it was more from luck than judgement Marc…”

Whether my clients’ experience and ability ranges from zero to extremely accomplished, it is a great pleasure teaching, mentoring and guiding them on this spectacular coastline whilst chasing what is a very special species of fish.

Do not despair

As a teen, having enjoyed the wonderfully inspiring articles from Mike Ladle in Sea Angler magazine during the early nineties (a publication that I take enormous pride in writing for myself nowadays of course) I don’t mind admitting that it took me over two years to hook (not land! as it shredded my line across a rock!) my first bass on a lure – a timescale that would have been a great deal longer had it not been for purchasing and then reading cover to cover numerous times, Mike’s masterpieces ‘Hooked on Bass’ and ‘Operation Sea Angler’.

The fact of the matter is that 95% of the time, (apologies for all the percentages!) bass are not easy to catch on a lure. Therefore, if you are within the category of being a beginner, relatively inexperienced or plainly just finding it very, very difficult to locate and even catch what is, in all intents and purposes, a wild, wary and wily creature on a piece of metal or hard or soft plastic, do not despair – I was once in that position myself, and I have not and will not ever forget that.

Blank canvass

So when I receive a booking enquiry from someone who is ‘a complete novice’ yet is clearly exceptionally keen to learn, I actually see this as a unique opportunity – it is someone with no preconceived notion of what bass lure fishing entails and is therefore, in effect, a blank canvas. This excites me, as the even though I very obviously love everything about catching a bass on a lure myself, teaching someone else the methods and techniques, and then witnessing them achieve it themselves is even better!

Enter Jeff, a jolly soul and an instantly likeable chap who arrived with pretty much everything I’d recommended to him in relation to waders, boots, rod, reel, lures, braid, leader etc. for his guided sessions with me. To place his overall inexperience into context, although Jeff had fished from a charter boat on a couple of occasions he was completely and utterly ‘green’ in regards to how to cast, tie the relevant knots and more especially, retrieve/work the multitude of lures he’d lovingly collected.

A ‘natural’

Now, you might be expecting me to tell you how I spent hour after hour teaching Jeff how to perform all of the above, but the truth of the matter is, everything I talked through or demonstrated he could accomplish almost immediately – what a natural, and what a dream client! What’s more, not only could he achieve working a sliding or popping surface lure highly effectively in record time, swishing a paddle tail lure out into a difficult crosswind or deftly twitching a senko down in the flow, he also managed to accomplished something that I know he’d dreamed of – to catch some superb bass too!

I was astonished at how quickly he was able to master my recommended set up – a HTO Nebula 2.7 7-35g and I imagine the soon to be discontinued Shimano Stradic Ci4 3000MHG (although what appears to be its replacement, the Vanford looks awesome!) in order to ‘whip out’ the Savage Gear Gravity Stick into what was a rather annoying crosswind and fierce tide on this muddy estuary mark. “Are you sure you don’t work for a fishing tackle company and you’ve been sent down to suss me out?”, was my way of pulling his leg!

Following what was a slow start on the bass front, I decided to move Jeff a few hundred metres along the foreshore in order to target an area where a channel led off of a mudflat. A change to what has been one of the most consistent pieces of soft plastic for me this season, and the type that appealed to the monstrous 72cm bass a client recently landed here was required though in the form of an OSP DoLive Stick in brilliant white – fished weightless on this occasion.

The OSP Dolive Stick in bright white. I know I talk about these lures an awful lot and have done so for a long time, but it is for good reason, they are just fantastic bass catchers in the ‘right’ environment – more on that another time…

After talking through the various attributes that this almost ‘magic’ soft plastic possesses, I asked Jeff to “cast it out into that area there (pointing), then tighten up quickly onto the lure as it hits the water so that you allow it to sink horizontally whilst performing that wobbling affect”. “From this point, all you need to do is remain in contact with it and retrieve the lure so that it travels in roughly the same speed/rate as the tidal flow so to appear as natural as possible, and add the occasional ‘twitch’ to the rod tip” I added.

An almost ‘evil-looking’ bass, but a thing of unparalleled beauty as far as Jeff was concerned. Furthermore, he’d achieved what he’d driven a very long way to achieve and had spent a lot of money on to accomplish, all within within a few hours – many congratulations my friend.

Third cast! That’s all it took for the rod to be yanked downwards in the direction of the murky water at his feet, and for a seriously angry bass to take a metre or so of line against the drag as it realised its mistake. For someone who’d never been in this situation before Jeff did a fantastic job of a) not panicking and b) listening to and reacting to my instructions until I could almost ‘bounce’ his first ever shore-caught fish – a 54cm (near 4lb) lure caught bass, into the net.

Stars align

The following evening I was delighted to discover the wind had completely dropped out and that the sea had settled beautifully, precisely as forecast to do so I hasten to add! With a cooler, fresher night on the cards and with high water coinciding with the Moon rising in the eastern sky you could say that the stars were somewhat ‘aligned’ in preparation for what I hoped would be a bass-filled session.

As I’m sure the majority of anglers out there (whether you fish for bass, sea trout, pike, etc.) who regularly cast a lure in complete darkness will testify, lure fishing at night takes arguably more concentration than casting and retrieving a lure (even the same lure) than it does in daylight. Moreover, although it may sound very simple (and I suppose it is), to perfect casting, tightening down onto, administering four or five quicker turns before settling into a slow, but very, very smooth rotation of the reels handle whilst ploughing nothing more than a 12g, ribbed, white ‘worm’ through the shallows actually requires a degree of maintained application.

Although about as simple as it gets in bass lure fishing terms – retrieving the Wave Worm Bamboo Stick in this case correctly and effectively can become a little tiresome if the bass aren’t biting – yet everything can change in a heartbeat!

Considering he’d never fished from the shore prior to these sessions, let alone with an unbelievably light rod, reel, floss-like braided line and lures, Jeff’s almost inherent ability, again, really surpassed my expectations. Every single instruction was followed ‘to the letter’ and to be honest, given the superb conditions, just as the tide hit its peak and the glow on the horizon signified the three-quarter Moon was about to rise, Jeff’s call of “fish, and it’s taking line” didn’t come as a massive surprise to me.

Once again, Jeff rose to the challenge of attempting to subdue a ‘battling bass’, intent on dragging his line across an adjacent reef whilst being effectively blindfolded! But by applying the requisite pressure when required to do so, and easing off in those final crucial seconds, another splendid bass (at 55cm/4lb) was soon slipping over the rim of a net I have been using this season and one that I’d highly recommend (here).


Being the breathtakingly effective and hugely adept predators that bass are, they clearly ‘know’ when a significant occurrence like the Moon about to rise can have on their chances of jumping on some poor unsuspecting goby, crab, prawn, squid or smelt – as when it is still very dark, it is far easier for them easily sneak up on their prey… To elaborate further, I think the reason bass appear ravenous and will strike often within a few minutes of it becoming ‘properly dark’ when the nights are at their shortest (during mid-May to mid-July) is because they instinctively recognise that they have a shorter window of opportunity and they need to make it count – yes, I am utterly bass bonkers!

In summary, I won’t deny that we benefitted from a slice of luck – both with the weather (which is a million times better than this time last year, although it’s heading downhill as I write this) and the fact that Jeff enjoyed almost immediate success with the methods and techniques he’d been taught. Do you know what though, what’s the saying? You make your own luck…

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling


  1. Nice to see a new angler catch some crackers, bet Jeff was well pleased with himself-and you too. We all remember starting out lure fishing for bass and most of us struggled and some still do, me included, but you always remember your very first one . Fantastic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s