Client Catches – The ‘Mighty DoLive!’

Client Catches – The ‘Mighty DoLive!’

After this blog post I promise not to mention the magnificent OSP Dolive Stick ever again…. Well, until another client or I lands a fantastic bass on one that is! The thing is though, these brilliant soft plastic ‘stick baits’ have accounted for some wonderful catches just recently, more particularly for my clients (including the tremendous seven pounder landed in the featured image) as I really haven’t completed a lot fishing myself in the past fortnight!

The DoLive Stick then. Although I envisage that what has become a ‘modern classic’ will most certainly occupy a position in your collection or that you have stash of them hidden away somewhere (I have!). But for every angler who ‘swears by them’ there is likely to be another angler who just doesn’t have any confidence in them at all judging by the multitude of questions I receive, asking me about the methods and techniques that I/we employ whilst utilising them.

So in conjunction with a detailed description of the techniques I use myself, and that I teach others, the finale to this post recounts a recent session in which the second largest bass landed by a client so far this season was hooked, landed and returned on one of these supremely versatile lures – the ‘Mighty DoLive!’

Thirst for information

Firstly though, I need to thank a very good bass lure angler in Cornwall (Jody) for the inspiration – both in regards to the title of this post (after he commented on a recent Facebook thread of mine) and for prompting me to highlight what is effectively a ‘re-post’ and an ‘update’ of some of the information I’ve previously provided and published about these lures – apologies in advance if you’ve read some of this stuff before.

Secondly, I appreciate that, for some, in attaching the DoLive Stick (or any soft plastic for that matter) that there is a definite ‘leap of faith’ element involved here (in much the same way as lure fishing for bass in the dark) as in essence, you might not quite believe that they or it ‘works’ until you experience that rod-wrenching hit n’ run!

Finally, I understand that there is a real thirst for information about how best to use these lures, although I must emphasize that there really isn’t a ‘right or wrong’ way to use them. Further, what you’ll find below are merely my thoughts, based on my own experiences whilst fishing with them, or in the course of guiding my clients.

The first five methods (below) have been ‘lifted’ from sections of my previous blog posts that I wrote for the online lure fishing store Lure Fishing For Bass and that you can also find on my website here – these methods/techniques are:

  • On the Drop
  • Dead Drifted
  • Slow! Twitch
  • The Reaction
  • Across the Top

The second group (below) cover some additional techniques that have come to the fore over the past couple of months in particlar:

  • Tethered
  • Quicker, Twitch, Twitch
  • Draw and Flutter

On the Drop – I am yet to find a soft plastic lure that induces as many hits ‘on the drop’ (when the lure is descending through the water column) as the OSP DoLive Stick – be it when you have paused the retrieve, or straight after the lure has landed on the surface following a cast. Indeed, the relatively graceful ‘plop and soft splash’ that one of these lures creates as it hits the surface may well arouse interest (rather than scare) the bass who will then home in to investigate.

The way in which it very naturally, and surprisingly slowly and horizontally plummets, with that seemingly irresistible and very subtle ‘wobble, in conjunction with the tail section delicately vibrating is, I believe, a huge part of its attraction to a bass – all the angler needs to do here is sustain contact with the lure, rather than allow too much slack/loose line to occur. My advice is to pre-empt the lure hitting the water by concurrently bringing over the bail arm as the lure impacts with the water, so that a relatively tight line can be instantly achieved.

Dead Drifted – Terrain that is common within many estuaries and tidal lagoons around the UK, are those shingle, sand or gravel banks that have been carved out as a ferocious tide ‘rips’ past your boots. In this situation the DoLive Stick can be what is termed ‘dead-drifted’ so that it searches out various depths or indeed certain features such as depressions, channels, patches of rocks, weed beds, mussel beds, etc.

From the open coast there are two other situations in which I would allow these lures to be simply carried wherever the waves or current take them. The first is from a headland or promontory of rock in which the tide, and deeper (10ft+) water flows past you in a parallel direction (left to right, or vice versa). Again, allowing the lure to traverse through the water layers, with nothing more than the odd twitch, whilst maintaining only slight contact has often resulted in a ‘tap’ reverberating through the rod tip, followed by the line moving in a completely different direction to what it was only seconds before!

The second ‘dead-drifted’ opportunity is when the waves, swell and/or tide is interacting with a series of rocks (large boulders are a classic example) just beneath the surface which, in turn, causes swirling eddies to appear. A DoLive ‘dumped’ into one of these vortexes, and left to drift with, once again, just a modicum of contact (a slight bow in the line is fine) applied and virtually no (if any) resistance on the rod and line could be met with a thump and a beautiful bass!

Don’t discount using them in the dark either!

Slow! Twitch – In relation to weedless, weightless soft plastics, one of the biggest mistakes an angler new to lure fishing for bass often makes is retrieving them too quickly. Now, as you’ll read below, this can sometimes be an extremely useful and effective method, however, in certain situations it can pay to be exceptionally stealthy in your approach – initially at least. Think about the way that small or immature fish behave when not being harassed – they don’t appear to be doing very much at all. But when they do move it is very often by turning forty-five to ninety degrees in a relatively quick motion – something that can be replicated beautifully with one of these versatile soft plastics by administering a ‘twitch’ to what needs to be an excruciatingly slow retrieve.

When I say ‘slow’ I mean one full-turn of the reel’s handle every two to four seconds, depending of course, on the retrieve ratio of the model you are using and the size of the spool. What’s more, the almost transfixing ‘slalom’ effect that these lures perform on nothing but a very slow, straight/linear retrieve has probably fooled more bass than any other retrieve style combined!

The Reaction – As I’ve alluded to, in complete contrast to the method above, there are occasions when a lure fished very quickly, or to be more precise, in rapid bursts, can provoke a vicious attack from a bass. A ploy that I’ve utilised over the past few seasons and in similar conditions to those described above, is to allow the lure to ‘wobble’ all the way down to the seabed and then allow it to drift with the current or remain stationary for anything up to ten seconds (especially if there is no wave action or tide to affect it). Then, I will twitch the lure into life via a vigorous lifting of the rod tip before retrieving quickly (two to three turns of the handle per second this time) for around ten-to-fifteen turns, before stopping completely, and letting the lure sink back to the seabed again whilst maintaining that all important soft contact.

What I think this represents is a small fish darting out of cover which, in turn, will alert the bass to its presence. In the same way that bass are generally more positive in regards to hitting a lure in rough or murkier seas, I believe that the shorter timeframe in which the bass has to make up its mind (as to whether what is attached to your line is real or not) means that when it glimpses this movement it reacts accordingly. I strongly suspect that many of the bass I’ve caught in this way may have ignored the same lure that has been drifted, twitched or towed slowly over its head on a previous cast/retrieve…

I don’t know why, as it really doesn’t make any sense – but a white DoLive Stick on a bright sunny day has produced time after time over the more natural coloured variants…

Across the Top – Given that the OSP DoLive Stick is one of the most realistic lures out there in terms of colour (of which there are many varieties) and overall action, it may seem a tad strange to consider making it splash and wriggle across the surface! However, in the same way that whipping the lure off the seabed in a flash, there has been a few instances for me when a bass has slammed one of these lures when worked quickly across the surface or literally millimetres under it.

Why not just attach a surface lure you may say? What I’d suggest, is that fishing this soft plastic or any other for that matter on the top first (after exhausting the other methods) provides a classic definition of the very fine line that is something being subtle yet noticeable. Besides, anything is worth a go when or if you suspect the bass are there, but that they’re just being fussy!

A change that I have made is that I now favour the 6/0 Gary Yamamoto Weedless Twistlock ‘Strong’ Hooks over the 5/0 – a decision I made after a client and a very good angler told me that the 5/0 had actually straightened out on him!

Tethered – I don’t mind admitting one iota that I am always learning, in addition to being entirely open to anything bass lure related! If I wind back even a few months ago, I would have said 100% that I preferred to retrieve/work the DoLive Sticks weightless at every conceivable opportunity, as for me, they are designed to be fished at their most effective in this manner, via all the attributes I’ve previously listed being accentuated rather than nulled (slightly, it has to be said) by a belly weighted hook.

However, there have been numerous occasions just recently on the venues I have fished and guided upon where the flow/tide/current has been just a touch too powerful to achieve natural presentation – which again, for me, means either retrieving or drifting the lure at as close to the speed of the flow as possible. But after some fine catches now on a DoLive that has been tethered by the additional weight, I can safely say that I am now a convert to rigging the them onto a 2.5g or 3.5g belly-weighted weedless hook when required – with the ones that I found here currently my hook of choice.

My main concern (which has since been overcome) with utilising the belly-weighted version of the designated twistlock weedless hooks was whether I/we would achieve a consistent ‘hook-up’ – as I do not like them escaping once they’re hooked!

Draw and Flutter – Practice makes perfect as they say! Therefore, whenever you find yourself in a position whereby you can actually track the lure under the surface whilst simultaneously causing it to react to your actions with the rod and reel, then make the most of this opportunity. Recognising the virtues of each and every lure in your collection via ‘playing around with them’ in a calm and clear sea (or a pond, pool, lake or bath tub!) and understanding how each one will react when retrieved slowly, quickly, abruptly, softly, etc. will, if you can make that piece of plastic look as realistic as possible, result in more fish (bass) caught.

I discovered what I’ve come to term as the ‘draw and flutter’ technique during a quieter moment between sessions when chucking the lure into a massive rock pool. Fundamentally, this is a version of the sink (the fluttering/wobbling affect of the Dolive as it descends in the water column) and draw if you like, except you ‘draw’ the lure horizontally instead of vertically so that is imitates a fish ‘fleeing’. What I do (or ask my clients to do) is make a gently sideways sweeping movement to the rod tip of anything from 6″ to 18″, before almost stopping the lure dead in the water and left to fall/sink. As an aside, this has proved to be a productive method when fishing from more or less featureless shingle beaches, both in daylight and darkness.

An early season bass that jumped on the Dolive after it was left to drift within a vortex causes by the waves interacting with series of ledges and submerged boulders.

Quicker, Twitch, Twitch – Linking nicely into a more fettered and authentic appearance, when the DoLive is being carried by the force of the current (a common occurrence on some of the estuarine venues I’ve frequented this season) if the lure is already moving quickly in the flow it stands to reason that you’re going to have to retrieve it fairly quickly in order to maintain contact with it.

This is where that delightful ‘lobe’ on the tail of the tail of the lure, quivering as you flick your wrist and twitch the rod tip can and undoubtedly has made all the difference. Administering a constant and almost rhythmic series of flicks to the wrist, whilst softly connected to one of these stick baits on a moderately fast retrieve has produced the two largest ‘client bass’ of the season thus far, in the form of the 72cm beast here and a 67cm stunner, the story of which I will now tell…

Owed

On a previous occasion, whilst guiding Ian (an extremely focussed and talented course and freshwater predator angler) on a steep shingle beach in the middle of the night, he lost what I estimated at the time to be a 6lb+ bass just as I touched the leader – and if you haven’t guessed, I do feel that I was partly to blame for this unfortunate event… Ian and his ‘fishing mate’ Les returned the following year (last summer) and between them, over the course of two days/nights we lost count of the amount of mostly small to modest-sized bass they landed – with the largest falling to Les at close to 4lb. I was therefore, extremely pleased when they booked up with me again for this year.

So with the pandemic restrictions affecting their initial booking in June to the arguably more volatile period (from a weather perspective) of mid-October, my assurance that they’d have a better chance of hooking a ‘special bass’ rather than lots of small ones was based on a supposition that I rather ‘owed’ Ian a quality fish.

Expectant

I’d long since earmarked this particular set of tides as a potential period when a ‘whopper’ might put in an appearance, and on the first day of their two day visit from London Town I was bristling with expectation and enthusiasm when we met up. With the weather and sea state ideal, if maybe a touch bright, sunny and clear, when Les latched into a sporty little bass very close to his stance, within minutes of working his surface lure, it looked like we were in for another red-letter day. But it wasn’t to be – even after the added march to one of my most secluded and reliable marks to fish it well into darkness.

As experienced all-round anglers they fully appreciated that there are no guarantees in fishing, but as I left them late that first evening with the comment that “tomorrow is another day entirely”, as I drove back through the now deserted lanes my mind was whirring to the thoughts of where I should guide them the following day – the ‘promise’ of a big one adding to the pressure…

Sunset at the end of Day 1 – a day in which none of our efforts were rewarded.

Fringes

With swathes of the open coast still proving to be too ‘hit and miss’ for my liking, I decided to place my eggs in the basket of an entrance to one of the many glorious estuaries that south Devon has to offer. Here, a formation of rocks with weedy fringes juts out into what is an exceptionally fierce tide at the best of times. However, as the tides were some the largest of the year (equinox tides I believe they are called) the overall flow was accentuated even further, in addition to allowing me/us to venture around to a little cove that is rarely accessible – my kind of mark!

With the sea temperature still in the region of 15o C, during the conditions in which we found ourselves in (bright, with only a light southerly breeze rippling the surface) I was expecting the small to medium-sized surface lures to do the business over the soft plastics on this occasion – be it the ‘popping’ version (a Tackle House Feed Popper) I asked Ian to try, or indeed, the slithering IMA Salt Skimmer that Les commenced the session with.

With the tide now ebbing powerfully and with no joy ‘off the top’ I decided to change tact by swapping Les over to a ‘deftly trundled’ Keitech Easy Shiner mounted onto a 6/0 belly-weighted weedless hook along the sand/shingle seabed. A further fifty metres along the foreshore, and just inside the most intense levels of current, but importantly, where the weedy margins were at their thickest, I asked Ian to cast a weightless DoLive in the Wakasagi pattern up tide and to complete the ‘Quicker, Twitch, Twitch style of retrieve into water that was around only waist-deep.

A sandeel or ragworm-looking imitation, or just the fact that possibly more anglers have confidence and therefore use this colour? Whatever the reason, the Wakasagi pattern accounts for a lot of bass…

Swirl

More and more time passed, and more and more water flowed past us – but where were the bass? Was it worth moving to another venue or changing the lure type again? ‘Nope’, I thought, this is a time to ask my clients to dig in (which they were very happy to do so) and just keep working those lures, as surely the bass would move through as they had time and again on this mark. Just then, as I was discussing the decision with Ian (who by now was working a zone of water less than knee-deep) an almighty swirl developed out of nowhere, no more than one metre off the rod tip, with the culprit enveloping and engulfing his DoLive in the process! Yesssssssssss!

It wasn’t happy either! A wild, slow, thunderous splash erupted on the surface, and then what I knew instantly was a bass in the bracket I was praying Ian would latch into dragged the tip section of his rod over and it was ‘game on!’ Having screwed Ian’s drag down to what I would consider as ‘tight to very tight’ within the first fifteen seconds of the battle the fish more less ‘hugged’ the seabed, attempting (as I’d anticipated) to reach the far slicker run of the tide about six metres from where she’d snatched the lure.

67cm of brawn and beauty, culminating in what is a seriously spade-like tail – what a gorgeous creature!

Depending on where they’re hooked, like many of the larger bass I’ve caught and witnessed being caught, quite often they won’t do a great deal in those first exchanges. However, once they sense that either they have the upper hand, or that they are going to be removed from the water they do tend to ‘wake up!’ Wow! As I waded in to join Ian, what I could now see was a ‘log’ of a bass spotted me and the giant net hovering close by, whereby it dragged a few metres off of the spool – zip, zip – she was a good-un alright!

‘Please don’t throw the hook, please don’t throw the hook…’, these were my thoughts as flashes of ‘that night’ entered my head, as each time Ian brought her within touching distance of the rubber mesh she would shred a couple of metres of line against the tension of the drag. But just then, we had a bit of luck…

Admiration and respect.

The bass decided to swim upstream as it were, and against the tide, which meant that as I was now positioned downstream from her, all we had to do was effectively wait for her to be overpowered by the rod, reel and the current, before picking the right moment to allow her to be carried towards and into the net – well, that was the theory anyway! The communication between Ian and I needed to be clear and precise, as because of the murkiness to the shallow, silty water neither of us had an idea or had been able to spot the hook hold (which was precarious as it turned out!) and they were nervous moments I can tell you…

It obviously ended well on this occasion! And as you can see in the photographs (that I hope capture the moment) although Ian has landed some magnificent fish in his time, this personal best bass (at 7lb) meant a hell of a lot to him. It was a real pity that the COVID restrictions we are all having to adhere to wouldn’t allow the obligatory handshake or man-hug – hopefully next year Ian, when I hope you and Les return to pull out ‘the double…’

I hope this post has given you an idea of the way in which I/we are fishing with the DoLive Sticks. As always, I welcome any feedback and would especially love to hear about any other methods or techniques that you’ve used.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

2 Comments

  1. Another great read Marc thanks 😊 I love the way you don’t just sit back having worked out a lure, and are constantly updating methods, learning new ones and filtering all of that gold nugget information back to your readers !
    All topped off with a fantastic account of your guiding which when read “puts you there “ with the lads being guided!
    Great stuff all round !

    Like

    1. Thank you for the kind comments Dave. The truth is, the Dolive is just such a versatile lure I reckon there are a dozen more ways, situations and conditions in which angler shave caught on them.
      Have a great remainder of the season.

      Best wishes
      Marc

      Like

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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