My Recent Catches – Retrieve to achieve – Part 1 of 2

My Recent Catches – Retrieve to achieve – Part 1 of 2.

Autumn can be a hugely challenging time to be out on the coastline, and if there is ever a stage when you or I may leave the shoreline well and truly ‘downbeat and beaten’ by the elements, the final months of the year are it! On the plus side, is that Autumn also represents a fantastic time of year to be out searching for a big bass on a lure, with the possibility of a better than average sized fish or even a PB most definitely enhanced. Indeed, the 20-30cm bass around my stretch just seem to disappear altogether in November, leaving behind their larger counterparts, that were always present perhaps, but that didn’t want or need to compete with their smaller and more hasty rivals.

With the inevitable periods of unsettled weather and the associated difficult sea conditions (rough and/or murky), comes the additional dilemmas that are choosing the ‘right’ venue and the ‘right’ lure – but can the way you retrieve or work the lure also be a vital component? I think so. Therefore, it is my hope that this post (and the second part that I will release in the coming days) may assist the less experienced out there by shedding some light on the ‘bass catching decisions’ I’ve made over the course of the past six weeks (around my guiding duties) when a change of retrieve style, rather than changing the lure itself, has resulted in holding and releasing one of these wonderful predators.

A photograph taken by Henry Gilbey of me fishing just after Lock Down 1 ended – hence the dodgy mullet! Note the lifejacket that I wear when guiding and fishing from the rocks and deeper water.

Hard Minnow time

Open coast fishing in rough seas, when I’m balancing on rocky ledges and keeping one eye on the horizon for that larger swell, whilst revelling in the salty spray hitting me and the invigorating wind buffeting me is something I seem to be doing far less nowadays – spending a greater percentage of my time snooping around in the darkness, or slithering around muddy estuaries instead!

But as much as I love being stood under a starry sky on a tranquil evening, anticipating that thunderbolt that is a bass ‘destroying’ a lure in the dead of night, there is still something about the white, hissing water as it crashes around the rocks, and the rod-bending satisfaction that is smashing a hard lure out into at teething gale within this environment that still does it for me.

Precision casting, between protruding rocks and into likely-looking eddies and frothed-up gullies, then cranking down on the lure as the rod tip quivers to the excitable, wobbling and wriggling movement of the lure, knowing a bass could smash it at any second! It is under such circumstances that the use of a designated diving, hard minnow is and probably always will be my first choice with (no surprise) the IMA Hound Glide 125F still my number one – until something ‘better’ comes along.

The IMA Hound Glide 125F – one of the finest buoyant, hard diving minnows of the past 10 years? A resounding ‘yes’ in my opinion.

Pause + Pounce

The beautiful 61cm bass in the featured image of this post did indeed take ‘The Hound’, but rather interestingly (and this is a tactic I could/should probably employ more often) it absolutely walloped the lure after I momentarily (3 or 4 seconds) allowed the lure to hover, suspend and actually begin to ascend/float, before cranking down on it quite rapidly again.

Life jacket conditions (I am wearing the lightweight and extremely comfortable Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport Automatic lifejacket) with some sporty waves approaching the rocks at times meant this bass was hunting very close to the rocks, bordering some deep water and a tide race.

Whether the bass had been positioned close to the submerged rock (to which I was aiming the lure in and around) for some time, and I’d been retrieving the lure past its nose and then my amended actions triggered it to attack, or whether the bass was just patrolling through in the tide at that moment I’ll never know. Either way, I will be trying it again when the conditions are about as sexy (in bass fishing terms!) as they get, yet nothing is happening, as maybe just mixing things up a little did provoke the response? On this occasion, the pause caused the bass to most certainly pounce!

One more cast…

Like all fisherman, I cannot resist having one more cast! The truth of the matter here though is that during this particular session I had very kindly been given permission (by the land owner) to fish what is effectively a ‘private beach’ and I really wanted to make the most of the opportunity! The session had started well, with a decent bass almost ‘sucking’ the Tackle House Feed Popper off of the surface as I ‘popped’ it along in the fierce tide, under what was a hot Sun on this mid-October day.

From the moment I returned this angry bass without taking a photo (as I was expecting something better – big mistake!) I didn’t get another touch all the way through to high tide, the start of the ebb and as dusk slinked (almost unnoticed my eyes were so well adjusted) into darkness. What to do then? I’d never fished here before, but from the laterally-running tide reminiscent of many locations I fish and guide upon, in conjunction with the topography of the seabed (a standalone section of flat reef surrounded by sand, incorporating numerous clefts that I reasoned the bass would slot into and under ready to strike as the current washed over their heads) I was confident a bass would snatch my weightless, OSP DoLive Stick at some point…

Instant

“Come on… I know you’re out there”, I muttered, as I constantly cast, let the lure sink to the seabed some 10ft below the surface, before commencing the retrieve all the way back to the rod tip – just in case! It was following one of these retrieves that I noticed the Wave Worm had swung around and was now exciting the water to my left, signalling that the expected ‘middle hours push’ had begun.

I’d been out fishing for around six hours by now and my shoulder blades and back were beginning to ache, so I decided a few swigs of coffee and a chocolate bar was required (I’d already eaten the pasty a few hours ago!). Right, sorted. With the flow now having increased significantly, I re-rigged the white OSP DoLive Stick I’d been using onto a 3g belly-weighted 6/0 hook so to I essentially ‘tether’ the lure as it sank with the flow of the current, together with turning the handle very slowly until I reckoned the lure had reached the seabed.

Twenty more minutes passed, and by now I was counting down the casts I made – my back wrecking me by now! “Just ten more and then that’s it”, were my thoughts as I flicked the lure out to my right, with the intention of making a concerted effort to really mix-up the retrieve speed, in addition to when (in regards to how long I would allow the DoLive to descend in the water column) to commence it.

Bang on 55cm and therefore around the 4lb mark – you can just make out the DoLive Stick protruding from it’s mouth…

First cast, let it sink for one second – commence the retrieve… Nothing. Second cast, let it sink for two seconds – commence the retrieve… Nothing. Third cast, let the lure sink for three seconds commence the retrieve… BANG! Yes!, At last! The bass rose to the surface in double-quick time and splashed wildly as the drag gave around 20cm of braid. I knew it wasn’t small, and by the ‘feel’ of the battle through the Yamaga Blanks rod I immediate estimated it to be a bass in the 4lb range – now to get her in!

Nod, nod, a bit of head-shaking and then the obligatory parallel run, but with the pressure applied and the rod tip held very low, around 45 seconds after initial contact I managed to beach her. Looks about 4lb were my thoughts – good guess Marc! With the 6/0 hook and a freshly ‘mangled’ DoLive Stick clearly having been ‘wolfed’ down I worked quickly to gain the quick shot above, before delicately unhooking her ready for an equally quick ‘grip and grin’.

I was really pleased with this one, as I could have easily walked away an hour or so earlier – apologies for the sand-covered body but I obviously wanted to get this back in the water.

Wonder?

Again, you have to wonder whether the fish (or a shoal or small group) just happened to pass by in that instant, or indeed, whether that particular fish was sat on the reef, and had been for some time – the ‘alteration’ I administered being enough to ‘trigger’ a response. The other question of course (and that I think this is also highly probable) is that the bass may have been resting and digesting, but then that ‘quickening’ in the velocity of the tide switched that particular bass back into ‘feed mode’ – none of us will ever know the answer of course…

In Part 2, I will describe three further sessions in which a number of bass up to 4lb were caught – some of which were on a prototype lure I’ve developed and that I continue to test, in addition to one other occasion when, conversely, a change of lure no doubt assisted me to get a bass (or two as it happens!) on to the bank!

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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