Client Catches – Time for one more!

Client Catches – Time for one more!

A brief depiction of a significant (and a very substantial) winter bass for a recent client of mine, and a piece that I just couldn’t resist writing even though I’ve got a few ‘on the boil’ just now – including another ‘My Recent Catches’ post, ‘My Year in Review’ and of course, a ’10 Items I’d recommend from 2020′ post.

My plan is to release all of them in the next 10 days, so that I can completely switch off from the business and writing side of things for Christmas. I hope that we all get to experience a few of those bright, crisp wintery days over the festive season, as it’ll be lovely to be able to walk stretches of this wonderful coastline with my family during the day, and to then sneak out, with a mince pie or two, to do a spot of bass lure fishing at night!

Grateful! A winter’s day out guiding my clients out on the open coast – I didn’t think I’d be able to say that again in 2020.

Induce and Conduce

As you’ll recall in the post I released on the 10th November (here), after cancelling or rescheduling all of the guided sessions within the second English Lock Down period between the 5th November to the 2nd December, I doubted whether I would indeed guide again in 2020. As I said at the time, if the catches my clients had achieved in the lead up to those restrictions marked the end of my guiding season, then I would have walked away a happy man…

It was ironic in some ways though that the second half of November saw many glorious days of ‘bass conducive weather’, all of which ‘induced’ me to get out there and really search out some venues that I’d been itching to fish for yonks. The results I achieved surpassed all of my expectations even though I always say to my fishing friends, companions, prospective or former clients, that November is one of the best times to catch a good-sized bass on a lure, providing the weather is on your side…

Invite

So with numerous 60cm+ bass under my belt during the second half of November, the final few days of the month saw see me studying the weather charts avidly, in the hope that I could invite one or two ‘rescheduled clients’ down to south Devon to complete their sessions, not only once we were released from the lock down, but while the Sun and the bass fishing was still hot! Top of my list was Pete, the man with the beaming smile and tears forming in his eyes on the featured image (following the capture of the bass below) of my late September post ‘Coming out of the doldrums‘.

The adjustments made to his casting style, the purchase of a ‘hard to get hold of lure, the decision made to venture along the shoreline (which was his incidentally) in order to seek out any bass moving out of a particular area – just some of the positive components that made the capture of this 4lb+ bass special for him.

Chocolate Box

With those excitable butterflies forming, as they do just prior to any guided session (especially those clients who I have only corresponded with over e-mail or Messenger and never met in person) it felt fantastic to be whistling through the lanes to meet up with a client who has become a good friend. Parking just outside of a proper ‘chocolate box village’ so typical of the South Hams, as I peered up the lane I could see Pete had already arrived and was pretty much good to go.

The now obligatory ‘elbow bump’ rather than a firm and welcoming handshake completed, numerous jovial exchanges and impassioned ‘putting the world to rights’ exchanges (mostly relating to COVID!) ensued before, halfway through the long walk to the area I’d chosen today, everything shifted to ‘fishing talk’ – or to be more precise, ‘bass talk!’

Chances

“You’ve had some amazing catches recently Marc, what do reckon our chances are now that it’s officially winter?”, Peter asked. “I’d say very good, in fact a 70-80% chance I reckon, I replied. “Do you know, I never thought in a million years that I’d be out lure fishing for bass in December – this is something else!”, came the response, as we traipsed rapidly over the sand, gravel, weed, rocks and mud – blimey, if I am as fit as this guy and able to cover this type of ground when I’m 60 I will be chuffed to bits!

With the Sun beaming down from a clear blue sky on this gloriously crisp morning, and with the equally clear water filtering out of a wood-backed section of the estuary I’d chosen for the session, considering the catches I’d enjoyed during the previous weeks in these types of environments and in these very conditions, I was actually very confident he’d catch.

Go on then…

“Right mate, Patch 100, and work it quite quickly close into the margins, almost parallel to the water’s edge, oh, and pause it briefly for a second or two, once or twice in on the retrieve”, were my initial instructions as the tide began to ease into the final hour of the ebb. “OK Marc, came the eager reply from an angler I could see was seriously ‘giddy’ about the prospects of latching into his first ever December bass.

The gorgeously ‘space age’ Shimano Exsence Infinity that Pete was using is, without a doubt, a real Rolls Royce of a lure rod. But at 9ft, it’s not quite my thing (the 803MH/R maybe…) as I feel the Medium Light or ML versions of this series are a little to ‘bouncy’ for my liking, and I could sense that Pete wasn’t really enjoying or more importantly feeling confident about the lure. “What’d you reckon Marc – Spittin Wire?” Go on then!

With what can only be described as a rather ugly, transparent ‘Perch-like’ pattern with stripes running vertically along the flanks (I believe the official colour is called Dead Minnow) of the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire now attached, Pete set about alternating between working the lure at a slow-medium, but not a ‘splashy’ pace, so to create a belly-rolling ‘waking’ motion on the surface, and his favourite, the pop, wait, pop, wait, pop retrieve style.

Hand or Arm!

Time was flying (I was having fun too even though I wasn’t fishing for a change!) and within a 20 minutes of the commencement of the flood, the water in front of us began to really motor along. This hasn’t occurred very much season as maybe I’m keeping a closer eye on my clients, but no sooner had I turned my back and trudged along the very muddy foreshore to my bag, in order to grab my ham and tomato sandwich, when I heard Pete shout “Yeah, Marc, Fish! At just under 2lb it was actually a strange size for the time of year – what I mean is that most late season bass tend to be either the size of you hand or the size of you arm!

Once again, confidence oozed out of Pete’s every action now. The casting, that popping motion followed by allowing the lure to drift exceedingly naturally, like a wounded creature being carried by the current, perfected on every single cast and recovery – which isn’t easy with the tiny dish-shaped snout on this hybrid surface lure. It was only a matter of time really, but when it happened I think were both quite shocked!

Heave!

What a take! Just an out and out, instinctively predatory and animalistic attempt to utterly destroy whatever this bass thought the Spittin Wire was! When they are in this kind of mood, which was presumably feeding up for the imminent colder spell and eating first and asking questions later, bass are just completely savage, silver, eating machines – what an explosion on the surface too though when it realised its mistake!

Pete likes to fish with a loose drag – far lighter than I’ve set mine recently shall we say, and sure enough, the fish went haywire, dragging a lot of line off of the Shimano Twin Power XD C3000XG that I’ve witnessed him dunk numerous times yet is still running smoothly! Surfacing about twenty metres away from where it was initially hooked, after a series of vexed, powerful, heavy splashes Pete was eventually allowed to crank down on a fish that I thought for a few seconds could be absolutely huge until I remembered his dragging setting!

As Pete edged the bass to within a few metres of the bank it made one more searing run to his right, again sending the flat calm water into a frothing and muddy mess now that it was into inches of water. I knew then that it was at least 6lb – nowhere near the double I was praying for, but a fish that would have given us both nightmares had we cocked up the next stage of the battle.

This is when the elastic qualities of the Shimano Infinity actually come in very handy, as it enabled Pete to apply enough pressure on this bulky bass to effectively heave it out onto the thick mud, whereby I nipped down (sinking rapidly in the process) and grabbed the leader to slid her up onto the weed. Success! Measured at 66cm (which, alongside her breadth would have sent her well over 6lb) I worked quickly to unpick the hooks and wipe her down with my new Savage Gear jacket ready for a very rapid grip n’ grin in the sparkling sunlight. Turn her slightly Pete, that’s it – click.

The coolest bloke and fisherman that you’ll ever meet! Congratulations on your new personal best bass Sir!

Within seconds of being removed from the water, Pete’s new personal best bass was resting within a little culvert, with it’s beautifully blue-tinged pelvic fins (above) happily flapping as she realised the danger would soon be over, before lazily entering the now vicious flow and disappearing out of sight.

Although not officially the final ‘client bass’ of my guiding season, as two further clients landed much smaller fish, one lost a fish in the undertow as the waves retreated off the steep shingle beach, and another client unfortunately blanked on what was a very cold night (when I really expected him to catch) it was most definitely a very special one.

But with my guided now all ‘wrapped up’ for 2020, I am thoroughly contented to have been able to publish one more ‘Client Catches’ post, in addition to being very satisfied with how the season panned out given the circumstances. I’ve met, made friends with and guided some very nice people onto some very nice bass – all of which where released to fight another day.

Finally, I’ll leave you with Pete’s response to witnessing his fantastic winter bass swimming away… “I don’t care if I never catch another bass again in my life! That was just the most amazing experience ever!” A statement he later retracted, but that beautifully demonstrates the affect these wonderful fish have on all of us!

Bring on 2021!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Marc Cowling

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