Client Catches – Back on the hard stuff…

Client Catches – Back on the hard stuff…

No, I haven’t been boozing! In my previous blog post I covered a particular set of circumstances in which I would consider utilising a soft plastic of the paddle tailed variety – with the most notable occasion being when the water is murky or discoloured, in a fair run of current, and where casting distance isn’t necessarily a factor all being examples. Could I have utilised a diving, rattling, wobbling, wriggling and vibrating buoyant, suspending or sinking hard minnow type lure within some or maybe all these settings? Possibly yes, although in the environments I was targeting bass with my clients (namely muddy estuary creeks with copious amounts of wrack adorning the margins) it would have been a risky strategy should a even a modest-sized bass managed to get its head down into the weed – and you know how much I hate losing fish!

Step out

When we’re talking about such venues (some of which are more attractive than others it has to be said), although you may have water clarity dilemmas it is rare to have a long term problem with weed, except maybe for the flotsam that has accumulated on the higher shoreline and is then dragged into the current for a relatively short period in the tide on the very largest springs perhaps. Further goods news on this front is that you certainly won’t have any problematic waves or swell to deal with when lure fishing miles from the sea…

Step out onto the open coast however and there is the potential for all three of the dreaded bass lure fishing ‘death knells’ to be rung to the tune of ‘iffy’ water clarity, large seas and weed on or in the water. So in regards to the latter of these three I would suggest that a weedless (although it is never entirely the case of course, as weed can accumulate on the line before ending up on the lure itself) and possibly weightless soft plastic lure, with the hook point sitting snugly within the groove on the upper side (back) of most of these patterns being quite possible the only way forward if you’re determined to remain on a specific venue or stance.

If however, the floating or suspending weed still allows a hard diving minnow, a surface lure, or indeed a needlefish to ‘swim’ effectively for say 60-70% of the overall retrieve then I will ‘take it’, especially if in that moment I feel the casting prowess (distance with wind in your face), accuracy and control, plus stability within the turbulence, not to mention the conspicuous presence either underwater or on the surface that these lure types provide (particularly in the case of the first two examples) offers an increased chance of fooling my/our quarry…

A blissfully calm scenario with one of my recent clients – a situation when a hard diving minnow simply swimming along a level and straight trajectory may not be the ‘best’ lure choice in my opinion…

A time and a place

Before I delve into some of the catches my clients have achieved on a selection on hard lures of late, I would like to highlight two conversations that crop up fairly regularly when I am out guiding clients. Many, many times I have been told, heard or read that Dawn and Dusk is the ‘best time’ for bass lure fishing or I’ve been asked “isn’t a hard minnow lure the best thing to use first of all Marc?” But do you know what – as I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not entirely convinced by either of these two suppositions…

Please do not think that I am being contemptuous in any shape or form here, but I do believe there is a possibility that this still widely accepted standpoint is derived from a period when bass lure anglers didn’t have the ‘options’ that we have today. For example, wind back 15-20 years ago and I suspect that many of us (I include myself here) were casting out and retrieving a hard diving minnow such as a Rapala J11 or J13, Maria Angel Kiss or Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow 70-90% of the time actually spent fishing. In contrast, nowadays I doubt the majority will utilise such a lure for perhaps 20-30% of their fishing, and will regularly turn to soft plastics of numerous varieties (both unweighted and weighted with jig heads or belly-weighted hooks) or small, medium or large surface lures and even metals instead – an almost complete role reversal then.

As good as these lures where and still are, the one thing they have in common with even the modern hard diving minnows (such as my favourites the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner, IMA Komomo or iBorn or Hound Glide) is that they all swim on a straight and level trajectory, which in bright sunshine (or even the daylight hours for that matter) in addition to clear to moderately clear water, within the average depth we may find ourselves fishing (lets say 4-10ft of water) I firmly believe that such a lure is likely to be ‘followed’ dozens and dozens of times without the angler ever knowing about it. Indeed, I have stated before that I reckon we only physically ‘see’ perhaps 1 in 100 bass that might follow our lure and I stand by that.

Now, retrieve the same lure on the same mark with a modicum of bubbling, crashing, aerated and/or slightly coloured water, or potentially way more effective, when the sea is calm and clear, but now within the twilight hours (or in the dark for that matter) and your chances of connecting with a bass will be greatly enhanced admittedly. My point however is that the introduction of exceedingly realistic soft plastic lures over the past 10-15 years, coupled with the increasingly common use of surface lures (that will garner a more spontaneous and predatory ‘attack’ from a bass during any time of the day encompassing even mirror-like sea conditions)mean you can most definitely even-up the odds so to speak by not necessarily relying on the previously considered ‘quintessential’ conditions and/or periods in which to fish them.

At the end of the day, I think there is a time, a place and set of circumstances that will ‘suit’ each lure type over another – it’s sussing out what works best for you and your marks within the context of each series of or within varying sets of circumstances, situations and conditions, in conjunction with understanding the mood the bass could be in, together with what they may be feeding upon – a complex and yet enjoyable element that I continually love learning about, and then ultimately teaching others.

Distance, accuracy and control

Onto some recent and real-life events, and if there are three attributes that I had in mind when designing my ‘Marc Cowling Magnetic Weight Shifting ‘Surf’ Needlefish (that you read how to use here and purchase here) then distance, accuracy and control were at the forefront of my thinking. Alongside being incredibly responsive and highly manoeuvrable (it’s a hard bait that reacts like a soft plastic underwater essentially, but that can be cast greater distances in adverse weather conditions and remain stable underwater in rougher conditions) if you’re going to be casting out a £25 lure out into the gloom, within an area the size of small courtyard at a range of 50m, before retrieving it in over rocks in only a few feet of water at best and with a fair surf present, you need to extremely confident in not only the lure’s performance, but in your own abilities also.

A ‘gutsy move’ as I don’t really like to stand clients on the rocks in the dark even when the water is only knee-waist deep, but with Jud’s overall experience and dexterity in mind he and I were very happy with the end result – and without a Needlefish lure I doubt this bass would have ended up in his grasp. – top work Jud!

Combining all the capabilities of the aforementioned needlefish lure with the qualities my client Jud (a very, very capable and experienced all-round angler) had to offer I did ‘push the boat out’ somewhat by asking if he wouldn’t mind standing on a series of rocks that were becoming exposed on the ebbing tide. “No problem at all Marc” came the response, and after giving him the full brief in relation to precisely ‘where’ to cast the needlefish and ‘how’ to retrieve it (something that he was very keen to learn after a few tentative attempts at using this lure type on his own patch) within a short space of time he’d landed a couple of small bass and the much better one in the image above.

The Marc Cowling MWS Surf Needlefish in the Green/White configuration – the recipe for success on this particular night for my client Jud.


With a 3ft swell washing onto the easterly facing mark that I’d place my clients (Aaron and Phil) onto for this ebbing tide session, the term ‘delicious’ definitely left my lips as we clambered into position. The aim was to target the extremities of the beach here, as this was where the waves were riding up and over the extended platforms of rock, whilst the laterally flowing tide was forced up and over the same structure – a lovely mix that was causing some beautifully confused water conditions in which I was confident any bass in the area would move into ready to pounce.

Bingo! Within minutes of casting at a 10 o’clock angle to the beach to take into account the tide that was running left-to-right here, Aaron’s rod walloped over as the modest and very light-backed bass (below) snaffled his IMA Hound Glide 125F (in Sexy Mackerel) within the wave that was turning up the pebbles.

This bass was hooked very early into the session and meant an awful lot to Aaron. I’d warned him that the fish could literally take the lure within the waves washing up the beach – which is precisely what happened to his delight.

A very happy Man, it was his mate Phil (featured image and below) who nailed the largest of the session at a slender 54cm on the equally effective IMA Saskue 120 (in Bora). The bass (picture of the lure in its mouth on the slideshow above) absolutely hammered the lure, again, only a few metres from his stance – the fish were clearly hunting in the ‘white’ turbid and more ‘frothed up’ water very close in due to the sunny and bright overhead conditions.

A spectacularly gorgeous specimen and an example of a prime sand-dwelling bass courtesy of that remarkably greeny/gold-tinged back and transparent fins.

Not to be outdone, Aaron added two further fish to his tally from the opposite end of the beach, but what was interesting is that despite trying a surface lure (the Patchinko 125) and a metal (the Savage Gear Seeker) the only ‘hits’ were within a very specific distance/zone from the water’s edge (in which the two excellent IMA hard lures were griping and digging into the undertow) that the bass would seemingly take within…

A bigger bass and a bigger grin to go with it – another one falls to the IMA Hound Glide in Sexy Mackerel!


“There! Look! See those cormorants – that’s got mean sand eels, and that means bass!” were my vocal sentiments as my three clients and I stood above the seascape some 200m below us – a precipitous selection of rocks and mini-islands that gave way to pure sand covered by deep (by bass shore fishing standards) and extraordinarily clear water.

So if the first series of client catches involved ‘stability in the water’ then I can say with a great deal of certainty that it was the splashing, thrashing and highly noticeable action and motion of the large 140mm Patchinko II that attracted the attentions of the 3.5lb bass for my client (Andrew) below.

Another fighting fit bass, this time taken on a large surface lure within a few metres of the anglers’ stance. if it had seen him, I doubt it would have been quite as positive – or perhaps it had already made up its mind it was going to ‘eat it’ from the second it first noticed the lure?

Despite the moderately bright conditions that you see in the photograph above, and the exceedingly clear water (we did witness hoards of sand eels in the gully behind my client) I believe it is highly probable that this lovely bass followed the lure for some distance from out behind a jutting promontory that was deflecting the current (again, you can just make it out behind Andrew’s head) before smashing the lure only a few metres in front of him – a fantastic example that once a bass has made up its mind to strike and decided to commit, providing it does see you or ‘smell a rat’ there is only one outcome – a huge explosion on the surface and a shout of ‘fish on!’

How, When and Where?

As an aside, for a detailed insight into precisely how, when and where I tend to utilise hard diving minnows and surface lures or all shapes and sizes, in addition to the needlefish lures, then you can find a host of blog posts that I wrote some 18 months-to-2 years ago now for the online tackle store Lure Fishing For Bass here.

Twilight along the splendid south Devon coastline – what lure would you choose to attach in this situation?

My two books are both ‘Back in Stock’

Both my first release ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (the review written by the Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society can be found here) and my second offering ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective‘ are currently in stock. To find out more about The Lure of The Bass I wrote this post upon its release back in October 2018 here. Similarly, to find out what is encompassed within the 300+ pages of Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective you can follow the link here.

To purchase a copy of The Lure of The Bass please follow the link below. Please note that the price quoted is for a UK Mainland/IOM/Channel Island address – please contact me via the form at the bottom of the page for a quote to a European/Eire or Worldwide address.

The Lure of The Bass by Marc Cowling

The Lure of The Bass


To purchase a copy of Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective please follow the link below. Please note that the price quoted is for a UK Mainland/IOM/Channel Island address – please contact me via the form at the bottom of the page for a quote to a European/Eire or Worldwide address.


Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective


Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Marc Cowling

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