Client Catches – Creatures of the night…
It’s been an odd start to the season that’s for sure. From surpassing my personal best (here) in late-March (which is something I didn’t think was possible at such an early stage of the year on a lure) to scratching around large swathes of the coastline just looking for any signs of the fish, I believe we about to turn the corner in relation to an increase in the numbers of bass close inshore – providing it warms up a bit that is!
Judging by the gradual appearance of the tiny ‘pin’ sand eels along the open coast here in south Devon (when the water has been clear enough to actually see them just recently that is) in addition to a definite upsurge in the amount of mackerel we’ve caught close to the shingle shorelines on metal lures, surely it is only a matter of days, if not hours, before they arrive in earnest…
But then Mother Nature has had other ideas so far this spring, in that the below average air and subsequent sea temperatures, courtesy of the many frosts we’ve experienced (yes, even here close to the coast), have tempered the inward migration or influx of what I would describe as the bulk of the ‘shoaling bass’ – large shoals that will swarm into an area before gradually spreading out and filtering into the neighbouring beaches, reefs, estuaries and lagoons.
Then there are the recent Gales – surely this latest deep Atlantic Depression will be the last before a great big area of High Pressure builds in to lift not only the fishing potential, but also the spirits of bass lure anglers up and down the Country… Fingers crossed, as I know it’s been a very, very tough start to the season for many after a pretty crap start to the year on so many levels…
Some more thoughts on our friend the bass whilst really interrogating their behaviour then… Yes, I’ve got an exceedingly happy client holding a 70cm/8lb cracker that was landed this week during my inaugural 3 Day Package of the 2021 season as my featured image (more on that later in the post), but I can tell you here and now that to place my clients onto bass consistently since the second week of April (when a client nailed what was a rather incandescent 67cm/7lb beauty here) has not been easy during the sessions I’ve completed since.
We’ve had some lovely sessions granted – with lots learnt and between 3-6 fish landed alongside a few blanks (which I don’t mind admitting at all), but they’ve been mostly small bass, and by that I mean 1-2lb fish at best. This size has been the standard by day, both from the open coast beaches and rocks, the mouths of estuaries and indeed a long way up some of the many tidal waterways, whereby the majority of these captures have had two things in common: they’ve taken a surface lure, and in very shallow (18″) to shallow (less than 6ft) of water…
Generally speaking, if my clients have been targeting bass in an estuarine environment then the ‘splashing, writhing, rolling’ top-water patterns have been taken with gusto in water of less than 6ft deep – and only when that awfully cold easterly wind that just persisted and persisted decreased during the late evenings. Moreover, the fish caught in this manner from my rock, reef and beach venues have only been willing to grudgingly ‘rise’ (presumably from off of the bottom where they are feeding) in water no greater than this seemingly critical depth, with most other lure types being largely ignored.
One session stands out in particular when recalling the above. I remember rocking up on the cliff top under a gloomy and grey sky, and standing over a stunningly clear and flat calm sea late last month literally drooling at the conditions. “This looks very, very ‘bassy’ to me from a surface lure perspective” I muttered, although I knew my client (Brian) would have his work cut out in tempting a fish ‘up’ in the cold water within what would soon be a brisk tidal flow covering primarily sand.
They (the bass) were ‘on it’ though – at least while the water was only a few feet deep, as he landed a succession of bass on his Patchinko 125 until, as the sea level crept up and the depth increased, their vivacity and eagerness to grab the skipping and fleeing object gradually waned as the energy required to ‘chase’ it seemingly became too much of an effort… So why was this? One reason: a necessity to eat whatever is easily or readily available, as I wouldn’t ordinarily be unhooking this many fish caught off the top on the open coast with the sea temperature hovering at between 10.1 and 10.7oC for what seems like an eternity – but then I don’t believe there has been much around for them to eat this spring!
But there is another theme here which I am sure you’d have noted from this and my previous two blog posts – the big ones are there, but they appear to only be venturing out at night – at least that’s when they’ve become more ‘catchable’ anyhow.
It is well documented and indeed well known that crabs form a significant part of a bass’s diet, and based on my own experiences that encapsulate the hour upon hour of standing and wandering the shoreline at night I can say, categorically, that crabs are far, far more mobile once the Sun has disappeared. Ultimately, it is food that influences a bass to hunt within a particular, or even a very specific area. Add into the equation the territorial and habitual nature (both from a migration and spawning perspective) of the bass and you begin to formulate a picture of why the cover of darkness is the time to conduct a bit of hunting of your own…
If you think about it logically – why would a big bass waste its energy in what is currently cold water, when their metabolism is operating at low levels, chasing the fry of mullet (which have been prominent), other bass, pollack and sea trout, in addition to those ‘pin’ sand eels and medium-sized mackerel, all of which are more active in daylight, when instead, they can leave their lairs and slink into and over the weed and rocks in search of crabs, (and peelers most likely too) when they too are more active? Of course, add a few more degrees to the sea temp and this will change.
Overall though, it isn’t a coincidence that the three large bass landed in the past 8 weeks (in addition to what was surely a whopper that hit a DAM Kick-S Weedless Minnow that I’d handed to a client that took some serious line before succeeding in shaking the hook) have been landed at night, during a period when we’ve experienced unseasonably low sea and air temperatures. Add in the fact that only minutes prior to my client (Den) latching into the stunning bass (below) one of the other members of the 3 Day Package party commented that there were numerous crabs scuttling around his feet…
“He’s got one Marc, and he says it feels decent”, these were the words my client (Chris) spoke as I stood and encouraged him to commence casting his own Wave Worm lure at an angle now commensurate with the change in tidal flow. Grabbing the net that was resting on my Dry Bag as I made my way 30m across the shingle, I was exceptionally surprised to be greeted by the sight of far and away the largest bass hooked from this particular venue angrily thrashing on the surface.
In my eagerness to enter the water I snagged the rubber mesh under my boots and onto one of the studs – not good! Despite attempting to unhook it my efforts were proving futile, and with the potentially harrowing prospect of this fantastic fish escaping I effectively had to balance on one leg and net the fish for Den with my foot still attached to the other – the things I do! It all ended well of course, although she was a bugger to lay flat on the tape that Den had whipped out, and was an exceptionally muscular in the flesh.
Although my clients landed 23 bass and 11 mackerel (plus one sand eel!) over the course of the three days/nights with me this fish was undoubtedly the highlight. There were a few other small bass landed in the dark during this session (to the Marc Cowling MWS Needlefish and the Wave Worm respectively) with all of the bass falling in daylight on each of the other sessions in the depth of water mentioned earlier in the post to top-water lures such as the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire and Patchinko 100 and 125, plus a few to a ‘classic’ hard-diving minnow that appeared out of Richard’s lure box – a Maria Chase BW.
Upon posting Den’s bass up on social media I received a number of queries asking precisely how I/we retrieve the ‘deadly’ Wave Worm Bamboo Stick therefore, although I’ve covered this in previous blog posts I thought I would break it down again as follows:
- Position yourself in a manner so that you can cast, and most importantly, retrieve the lure so that it travels in the same direction as any laterally running flow/tide/current – not against or across it. If there isn’t any tidal influence to speak of then I would target very specific features on the seabed that you may have noticed over the low water period.
- Cast the lure out and pre-empt it hitting the surface/entering the water so that you are in instant contact with it (not with slack line bellowing out) as it sinks/descends. 20-30% of the hits and fish occur as the lure is sinking and I am positive that bass are attracted to the soft splash these lures create – the 74cm fish I landed in March (here) being a great example of this.
- If things are quiet I like to alternate between commencing the retrieve straight away or allowing the lure to touch the seabed, and everything in between.
- At the very start of the retrieve itself I find that 3-10 quicker turns of the handle (approximately two full turns per second) can often garner an immediate attack – a tactic that, on average, yields a further 30-40% of the ‘hits and fish’ over the course of a season.
- Following the initial ‘splash, sink and burst’ to the whole process of casting and then retrieving the lure (which as you can see equates to between 50-70% of the total bass hooked) I then settle into a much slower, deliberate and very smooth turn of the handle (not fast/slow, fast/slow) of around one full turn per two seconds.
- If I were to describe what I believe is the optimum depth/trajectory in which to make this lure ‘swim’ (although all it does is travel in a straight line unless you administer twitches or jerks to the lure which I currently do not undertake in the darkness) then I would say that mid-water level is the aim – whatever the depth of water you’re fishing in.
- Something that has consistently resulted in a hook-up for my clients and I is to stop retrieving the lure at some stage in the retrieve (around midway, although this can be varied of course) and allowing it to sink either for only a second or two, or indeed, back down to the seabed again, before picking the pace up again either with those 3-10 quicker turns or that more steady one full turn per two seconds.
- Ensure that you retrieve the lure all the way to the back to your stance as it is remarkable how my bass will follow and then make a last-ditch attempt to ‘snatch’ the lure – something that did indeed happen to Den a few casts prior to latching into his 70cm fish.
I hope that the information above helps!
My 3 Day Packages
My 3 Day Package encompasses:
- 6x 4 hour guided bass/lure fishing sessions.
- Day and Night fishing.
- Quiet shingle coves and surf beaches, remote rock/reef marks under the cliffs, imposing headlands, wood-backed estuaries and blissfully tranquil creeks – south Devon has the lot!
- 3 Nights B+B accommodation at the Chillington House BB Hotel (just down the lane from me).
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Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 1 (In Stock)
I have recently released my second book titled ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Volume 1)’. If you would like to discover more about this title and what is encompassed within the pages then you can follow the link to the blog post I wrote upon its release last month here. Furthermore, Henry Gilbey’s review of this title can be found here.
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Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective – Volume 1
The Lure of The Bass (Reserve a copy)
I will be commissioning another print run of my first self-published book ‘The Lure of The Bass’ within the next 2-3 weeks with delivery from the printers expected towards the end of June. 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 in which they described it as ‘the Haynes Manual of bass lure angling!’
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Thanks for reading.