Client Catches – Bang on trend…!

Client Catches – Bang on trend…!

As I intimated within my previous blog post (here), during the same session in which a young client of mine (Tiger) landed a ‘skinny’ 60cm bass (the day after he’d landed a remarkable 70cm!) his fishing companion and mentor, Pro Fly Fishing Guide John Tyzack ended up obliterating his personal best bass with the monster in the featured image! When I think back to this memorable capture though (one that occurred almost a month ago now), and indeed the fish that my clients and I have landed since, I cannot help but reflect on how ‘different’ things have been in comparison to last season…

A wild day out on a remote stretch of the south Devon coastline, during a session in which large surface lures such as the 140mm Patchinko II ruled over the hard-diving minnows – somewhat surprisingly perhaps?

Behaviour

Alongside the techniques, the lure types and the methods, what I am talking about is ‘bass behaviour’ here, and the way that I, as a professional guide, have had to adjust and/or alter my overall approach in the same way that I had to calibrate or re-calibrate it when I commenced my personal fishing, and later (due to the pandemic) my guiding operation at the start of what was a delayed and fragmented season in 2020.

Wind back to late-May and into June 2020, and then again during what was one of the finest spells of bass lure fishing I’ve experienced during last November (a period when I was again prohibited from guiding due to the second national lockdown) and it was all about the ‘bait fish’ such as the sand eels earlier in the year, and then the sprat/whitebait from early-July, all the way through to their final dispersal (or did they just get gobbled up!) in early-December. Did I also mention the quite unbelievable numbers of mackerel, scad (or horse mackerel) and garfish – it was insane the amount of silvery fish present around my local, and I believe, seemingly the entire UK coastline last year!

I have created a gallery below to commemorate the catches I achieved on only the Xorus Patchinko 100, 125 and 140 during these two separate 4 week windows such was their effectiveness – the largest of which went over 70cm:

Pre-occupied

In an attempt to reiterate the importance of the bait fish phenomena, in addition to their significance in relation to how last season and this have panned out in such a contrasting manner, the arrival and the prolonged prevalence (of the sprat/whitebait in particular) cannot be underestimated. For example, within my records I have noted that the first time I witnessed these silvery, mackerel and bass ‘snacks’ being hoarded up the shingle last year was on the 3rd July, yet this year, what is an annual occurrence didn’t materialise until the 9th September.

Moreover, the greater the numbers of bait fish, the greater the chance they will form shoals (especially in settled weather) then the greater the likelihood that both the mackerel, plus the following ‘transitional bass’ in addition to the more ‘local’ and therefore territorial fish (I cover how to potentially ascertain the difference in my most recent book: Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective) will become fixated upon, before gorging on them – to the extent of being completely pre-occupied on occasion. And when this occurs, as soon as they (the bait fish) become routinely ‘driven’ up onto the surface, all the action suddenly becomes confined to the water above the head of the bass – with only an unsettled spell of weather dispersing these shoals and this kind of activity.

You may also recall that I commented on a number occasions last year how the night fishing just wasn’t really firing – the only possible explanation (in my mind anyhow) being that the bass were simply full to the brim with these readily and easily accessible food sources. And guess what? As I write this I have just returned from an evening session following three separate guided sessions over the past few days, and on each occasion the bass have been ravenous while there has been natural light, high volumes and concentrations of sprat/whitebait, and unusually for this time of year in south Devon, sand eels, yet as soon as it has become dark the bass have just disappeared… Or are they there, but they just ain’t hungry!

A nice near 3lb bass from late yesterday evening (just as the light was about to completely fade) that grabbed a prototype floating surface lure, and one that is my latest conception – all will be revealed soon…!

Season’s change

Look closely at the slideshow above, and what you’ll also notice is that the ‘bass captures’ commence on the open coast rock marks earlier in the year, during May through to July, before the remaining ‘Patchinko-caught’ personal bass were found within numerous estuaries. So why could this be the case? Admittedly, I was spending more time in these environments at the back end of last year, but what it actually all boils down to is that I was attempting to target areas where the remnants of the large bait fish shoals/balls, that had infiltrated the rivers during the summer, were becoming trapped and gradually concentrated within these systems, whereby they were being picked off almost one by one by the resident bass population.

From my perspective, the overriding theme or trend this season has been for bait fish to be in attendance, but not in anywhere near the same quantity to be of significant interest to the bass…? Instead, for whatever reason, the main one being that the bass just haven’t had the opportunity to properly ‘tune in’ to items splashing, panicking and frolicking on the surface, the sub-surface paddle tail lures have instead reigned supreme. I’m not saying my clients or I haven’t caught numerous bass on surface lures over the past few months, just that the bass haven’t quite been ‘on it’ like they were 12 months or so ago.

In summary of this behaviour then, I believe the bass have more or less remained in ‘head down’ mode around my patch, and by virtue of this I really do think it has been a case of just giving them what they want – something swimming relatively slowly, and closer to the seabed than to the surface… We don’t really know though do we and that’s what makes part of chasing these wonderful predators so special.

The 5″ Megabass Spindleworm – not a new soft plastic lure by any stretch of the imagination, but one that has accounted for many a fine bass so this season, including the brute in the featured image and below for John Tyzack during one of my 3 Day Packages.

Culmination

I mention all of the above, not only because it provides an insight into how the bass lure angler must potentially react, adapt and adjust to what it is on the bass menu and how they want it presented, but also because it ultimately culminated in what is a fantastic capture for John. As you’d expect for a fellow guide, John is an extremely experienced and skilful all-round angler, who alongside being relatively new to chasing bass on lures, loves nothing more than witnessing them ‘smash’ a top-water hard plastic!

And this is the thing – arriving onto the estuary mark I was as keen as ever for my three clients to commence the session by utilising three different lure types. However, once Tiger had landed his 60cm fish on the Savage Gear Gravity Stick, despite small smelt, sand eels and sprat occasionally skittering on the calm layer of the water, and indeed, a couple of decent-sized bass seen cruising through the weed, the fish present just were not interested in taking John’s expertly worked Patchinko 100 or Spittin’ Wire.

Succumbing to the realisation that, yet again, perhaps only a weedless soft plastic paddle tailed lure would yield the type of bass that John had really wanted during his three day visit down from the North West (he’s a fierce competitor who loves nothing more than accepting a challenge) I attached a lure that had been kindly given to me by a lady angler (who has enjoyed a number of my previous 3 Day Packages) named Becky – a 5″ Megabass Spindleworm.

It’s difficult to quantify a fish’s size when you don’t really want to lay £350 of rod and reel onto this type of foreshore, but I can confirm that this brilliant bass measured 68cm on the nose – congratulations John!

With the tide moving quickly through the area, serving to ‘murk’ the water up ever-so-slightly (which was an advantage to the angler under the very bright and sunny sky) I’d literally just commented to John that “now’s the time mate – keep at it and concentrate fully on every cast and retrieve” when no sooner had the words left my lips that the rod was jolted forwards and a gigantic splash erupted on the surface. Wooohoo!!

A trophy fish at well over 7lb I’d guess! Quite simply, this guy LOVES catching big fish, whether it’s trout, barbel, pike or bass – and I know for sure that this new personal best is right up there with his finest achievements.

I don’t often make this kind of statement as you can never really say for certain, but considering I’d fished this venue myself with surface lures earlier that week for a good few hours, before switching to a paddle tail lure and subsequently catching six, albeit much smaller bass, suggests that we probably wouldn’t have attracted and landed what was (when I commenced writing this post) the second largest ‘daylight bass’ for a client of mine. I say ‘was’ as another very recent client has matched the largest landed in daylight and the second biggest ever with me at 72cm!

That is another marvellous story I cannot wait to tell…

My Books

Both of my books ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here) and my most recent release ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective‘ are currently available in limited numbers. If you would like to purchase a copy please contact me via the Contact Form at the bottom of this page and I will send you the payment details – I can accept PayPal or a Bank Transfer.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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