Client Catches – How shallow is shallow…?

Client Catches – How shallow is shallow…?

What an absolute ‘animal’ of a bass eh! The magnificent creature (that was successfully released) in the featured image is, at the time of writing, the largest (at 72cm) that a client has landed with me during the 2021 season and does, as I’m sure you would have guessed, blow the personal best of the thoroughly amiable client who landed it completely and utterly out of the water! Honestly, the riveting and equally hilarious story of how this splendid capture came to be is a tale worthy of being slotted into another book I aim write in the future (yep, Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 2!). Therefore, as much as I would love to blurt out the whole rapturous event, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait for that one…

The animal! The joint-second largest bass (at 72cm and close to if not over 9lb) that a client has landed with me. Its captor (Simon) was using a fantastic lure that I have a lot of confidence in – the 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner.

Covering their back…

What I will reveal is that this ‘breeze-block of a bass’ isn’t the only one to have been tempted, hooked and ultimately landed in water that is between knee and ankle-deep… Moreover, as I intimated in my previous blog post (here) the memorable apprehension of each of the three ‘client catches’ you’ll read about were achieved not only in staggeringly shallow water, but also each under a bright sunny sky…

You and I would have heard and read the pronouncement that bass, much like mullet, will feed in water that is barely, if indeed at all, covering their backs – actually catching them is, of course, an entirely different proposition! So how have my clients and I gone about achieving such feats!? Essentially there are five ingredients that have undoubtedly come into play, with each flowing into one another on occasion – these are:

  • Stealth
  • Coloured-up water
  • Water movement
  • Garnering an instant reaction
  • Use of cover and structure

Taking each ingredient at a time then with stealth first of all. I firmly believe that in the vast majority of cases, that unless the water is murky or frothing/hissing/boiling (aerated), or you are concealed in some way (not silhouetted against the skyline, hidden from view and/or wearing drab colours for instance) that if you spot a mature bass (that will be wily courtesy of having been on this planet for 5-7 years) then there is a high probability that it will quickly notice, or would have already spotted you.

Linking into the above, the lure angler can massively increase their chances of latching into a bass by either seeking out venues where there is generally only a modicum of water clarity (estuaries and tidal lagoons as an example) or by fishing within situations and conditions that will conceal you – with fishing around rocks, heavy weed, and into gullies when the water is turbulent immediately springing to mind (please, please consider your safety though!).

Another one (at 58cm and landed by my client Dave) that took a shine to the 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner – this time after being gently lobbed and very quickly retrieved into a very shallow and narrow gully, in which the water was being swirled and funnelled.

Water movement. Whether this is in the form of a fast flowing tide or even turning waves, either way, a bass will have to make up its mind in double-quick time to chase/eat the lure or let it get away, especially if the bass itself (or its meal) are being naturally manoeuvred by the momentum of a sweeping current or it is swimming/hunting in the undertow. In both instances there is a good chance that one or more of these sublime predators will be switched into ‘hunter mode’ – meaning that even in exceedingly clear water they will potentially be extremely positive in the attack.

Again, linking into the above paragraph, there is no doubt in my mind that the ‘right kind’ of splash, either in daylight or more especially in darkness can act as an attractant – garnering that instant reaction. When I say the ‘right kind’ what I am getting at is a 140mm, 26g Patchinko II being smashed into less than 12″ of water probably isn’t going to do you any favours, yet the same impact in 20ft of water moving quickly around a headland would most definitely appeal! Therefore, think about 3-5″ soft plastics with the least amount of added weight you can get away with depending on the wind, tide and sea conditions, or a small 80-100mm surface lure instead.

Clearly, where you actually cast and then retrieve the lure will have a bearing on whether it is snatched by a bass… Taking all of the above factors into consideration, if you can place a lure either along a trajectory that a bass is more likely to be swimming and hunting along, or within close proximity or at the very least within the vicinity of a precise location where it is waiting ready to pounce (such as those mentioned in Part 2 of this short series ‘How precise is precise…?) then you will be adding yet another layer of bass catching likelihood, narrowing yet more odds, and overall, increasing the chances of catching one of these esteemed and quite remarkable species of fish.

In a nutshell, as I often comment to my clients – the ‘best’ bass marks are often those that allow a bass to travel with the tide, whilst enabling them the capability to hold within some kind of cover but still within or very close to that flow – ready, should the mood or opportunity present itself, to strike… Whether that is in 6″ of water or 60ft+ of water I don’t think it really matters…

Note the lack of a belly-weight on the 6/0 hook that the Savage Gear Gravity Stick (Paddle Tail) was rigged onto, and that my client (Scott) was using when he hit into this beautiful 57cm bass in a depth of water that I would have once considered as ‘ridiculous’ – the aim being to present an attractive splash on the surface, and not one that could potential repel a bass.

PBs all-round!

There have been many examples of lure-caught bass being caught and landed by my clients and I (I will be writing some ‘My Recent Catches’ reports soon!) in very, very shallow water this season – some of which have already been covered in previous ‘Client Catches’ posts. But the ones that stand out, and that I believe can be directly attributed to the aforementioned ingredients are those achieved by Simon, Dave and Scott – bass that all happily smashed their respective PBs too!

The clarity of the water behind Simon can best be described as turbid (such as the examples I provide in Part 1 of this series ‘How murky is murky…?‘ in relation to catching bass on lures). In the situation and environment in which I was guiding him (and his equally affable brother Richard) the attachment of a white/glittery, soft, paddle-tailed plastic lure (the Keitech 5″ Easy Shiner in Sight Flash) for maximum vibration and visual presence that could be easily ‘picked up on’ by a bass within what was a slackening, but still quite a fierce current, proved pivotal.

Further, if the water had been clear I doubt such a fantastic specimen (at around 9lb) would have been foolish enough to have ventured (and ultimately snaffled his lure) within a rod length of his stance, in 18″ (at best) of water, while the sun was so high in the sky – although you never really know with these amazing fish!

Smile for the camera! The 58cm bass from the second image in this post with its happy captor Dave.

Two weeks prior to guiding Dave (and the two other ‘top blokes’ Dave R and Andrew making up this 3 Day Package party) I’d caught a 60cm bass from precisely the same gully, at almost the same state of tide, and in very similar water conditions: stupidly shallow (8″) and with gin-like transparent, yet with enough ‘cover and temptation’ (the swirling and redirected nature of the water, in addition to the presence of bait fish swished into the mix) to make the effort of slinking into it worth the effort for what is another new personal best, lure-caught bass for one of my clients. Incidentally, my bass and Dave’s both hit the lure within two turns of the handle…

I could sense that my client (Scott) was a little unsure as I asked him to continually aim his lure at a particular patch of weed in the sub-8″ of water, under a completely cloudless sky!

Another brilliant example of just how tenacious these wonderful fish are time, after time, after time… The hot, sunny and extremely bright overhead conditions did not deter the awesome-looking 57cm fish (above) from sticking (arguably) to its predetermined route along a muddy and gravelly foreshore littered with clumps of weed. It was, in water that really was only just covering its back, a matter of consistently and continually whacking the lure (the brilliant, paddle-tailed version of Savage Gear Gravity Stick in green/white) into the vicinity of a particular patch of weed, situated along a path that I have witnessed numerous bass taking, and that I know they love to spend a bit of time sitting within.

Of huge significance, is that if you give a bass too good a look at a lure they will smell a rat in clear water, yet because the water was so shallow, alongside the lure being retrieved as soon as it gently splashed on the surface, meant that Scott’s bass had no time to decipher and decide – it simply hit it out of instinct. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he very nearly connected with another good bass not long after releasing the cracker above.

My Books

My most recent book Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective is currently IN STOCK, with my first release ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here) available to reserve or pre-order as I will be commissioning another batch that will be available around mid-November. If you would like to purchase/reserve a copy of either publication, 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

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