Client Catches – Sense or Sight? (Darkness)

Client Catches – Sense or Sight? (Darkness)

Following on from my previous post Sense or Sight (Daylight) in which I considered whether a bass has ‘visual’ with its meal even in the murkiest of water, I thought I would balance the discussion with a couple of prime examples of when it appears the vibration and movement of the lure(s) may have influenced the catches my clients achieved…

Ironic

The inspiration behind this post, and more so the irony of it, is that the batch of bass landed (including the lovely 60cm/5lb fish captured and released by my client Ben in the featured image) over two nights were achieved in the session(s) immediately following the capture of the 68cm/7lb bass (depicted in my previous post) on the bright green ‘Tree Frog’ Samawura One-Up Shad. But where I have a strong suspicion that it was purely the lure’s colour that proved instrumental in that capture, there are a few clues to suggest it wasn’t necessarily the colour that assisted on the occasions I will describe later in this post.

More thoughts…

Before I get into the meat of this one however I just want to explore some more thoughts that have been buzzing through my brain of late! Firstly, the use a dark or even pure black lure (especially soft plastics such as the Wave Worm Bamboo Stick) have proven to be very effective when fished at dusk, with the wonderful outline and silhouette of the lure standing out brilliantly against the sky if you can imagine the bass are beneath the lure and looking up. Moreover, a black Needlefish lure fished over pure sand on a bright, moonlit night has been another winning method time and again (see gallery below):

But what about jet-black lures fished in very murky water in daylight? This is definitely something I am eager to investigate, as there are many very accomplished lure anglers out there, both freshwater and salt, who have informed me about their splendid catches on a dark lure in sometimes exceedingly dirty water – with again, the outline of the lure being what they believe either draws the bass in through sight, or, if a vibrating or pulsing lure is being used, the fish in question is still eventually spotting the profile of the dark lure just prior to walloping it…

Then there are ‘two-tone-coloured’ lures – both hard and soft, with or without any vibration. Could the additional or amplified levels of visual magnetism be something that can be the difference between a blank and a bass at night or in grotty daylight conditions? Below are some examples of the bass that my clients and I have landed on lures with this configuration, within the total gloom in this case:

Bonkers?

Before I move on to two other bass senses – such as their ability to hear and sense movement (note that I am not mentioning smell here as that could really complicate things!) my final deliberation on the subject of ‘sight’ and what the bass may or may not be able to see (remember I’m purely speculating here as no-one really knows) is can a ‘glowing or illuminated’ lure be worth a try? Could it make a lure stand out a little too much though? I have no idea, but is it so bonkers to suggest that a soft glow to a lure being retrieved in the dead of night (or in dirty daylight water?) might act as attractant rather than a repellent…? Hmmmm.

A bass on a ‘glow in the dark’ lure? Surely not… But then why not?

What I can tell you is that the 4lb bass above (and two of the fish below) attached themselves to a hard, diving minnow (an IMA Hound Glide in Lime Back Pearl Glow) that glowed a soft fluorescent green after we placed it under the headtorch beam! Although one swallow doesn’t make a summer, at least two very decent fish couldn’t resist the ‘glow lure’ (above) before Ash unfortunately snagged and lost it – a pit really, as it would have been a great experiment to continue with it alongside the seemingly more conventional ‘white’ lures…

Too obvious?

Stepping away from the visual aspect further – vibrating, shaking, wriggling, throbbing and noisy ‘knocking’ hard, diving minnows aren’t something I use all that often in the dark (daylight absolutely in more turbulent, aerated conditions) – the main reason being that 80-90% of my lure fishing for bass at night is conducted within generally tranquil conditions which I can nearly always find such is the varied orientation of the coastline here in south Devon. But could I be missing a trick here….?

As mentioned numerous times – confidence (a word and a feeling that is so important to any angler) is what I have in a lure that is doing very little underwater, at night, and when there are nominal amounts current, wave action or indeed if the water is clear and shallow. Within this environment I have found, over thousands of hours now, that a lure that is ghosting in an ethereal state will often (not always!) out-fish a more conspicuously acting lure that is perhaps, as I touched on earlier, a little too obvious – the caveat being that if bass are still whacking stuff off the top well into darkness, then a small surface popping or sliding lure has done the opposite, and out-fished the far more subtle, soft lures.

A fine bass that took a Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire top-water lure in total darkness on a night when I could physically hear the fish gulping down the bait fish off of the surface layers – an occurrence in which you need serene conditions to hear it!

Difficult

There have of course been occasions when I have been forced to fish or guide in fairly tumultuous sea or rather annoying cross or onshore wind conditions in the dark. When this occurs, the use of the more ‘ethereal-acting lures’ is something (with the exception of a needlefish if you retrieve it with care) that can prove exceptionally tricky to pull off as the lures gets dragged up onto the surface. This is when either a weighted soft plastic or a hard, diving minnow lure will come to the fore.

Both can be ‘fished’ deeper in the water column if required, courtesy of the additional weight to tether it in the case of the SPs, or by the lip or vane design of the hard plastic (I won’t go into suspending or sinking lures here but they are another option). Below are some catches achieved by my clients and I on the hard minnows, in darkness remember, during some difficult sea and weather conditions:

Movement and Noise

So, tapping into a bass’s ability to perceive the movement (by utilising their lateral line) or noise (through tiny earstones or otoliths inside their head) of a lure, could it simply be a case that when there is more water movement, and therefore more background noise as it were, that a bass is utilising these senses first and foremost to hunt – but then its sight in, as discussed, that defining moment immediately prior to attacking its prey? I think definitely this is more than plausible I’m sure you’ll agree.

Furthermore, something I can say with a very high degree of certainty is that the ‘splash’ that a lure emits when it enters the water can definitely be used to the anglers advantage – both in terms of vision, noise and the overall motion and commotion this creates. Indeed, the anglers ability to tap into that predatory instinct and garner an immediate and instantaneous reaction from a bass is something that I place a great deal of emphasis on during those hours of darkness, with soft plastic, and on occasion top water lures, often ‘whacked’ within a second of two of ‘plopping’ gently on the surface, before either sinking or floating of course. Further, a lure impacting on a within a turbulent, frothing melee has very often been grabbed without compromise on many, many occasions on many an open coast mark in daylight…

The fact that 30-40% of the hits my clients and I receive when a soft plastic enters the water and descends through the water column on, importantly, a tight line during those calmer nights cannot be ignored. Clearly the bass are reacting to the splash, as you’re never going to place a lure on their head this often, even if you owned an aquarium full of them!

Night One

Linking all of my scrambled bassy moments and memories together then (I do think far too much about this stuff!), as I mentioned in the second paragraph of this post, it was in fact two separate night sessions with the same clients that piqued my interest, and that have ultimately manifested into my inspiration for these ‘Sense or Sight’ posts. What makes the night time occurrences I am about to describe all the more noteworthy is that they were achieved from precisely the same venue…

What a few hours Ash had enjoyed! Not only had he just smashed his lure-caught PB bass earlier that afternoon with his 68cm brute, but within an hour of commencing Night Session Number One he’d landed the bass from above in the post of 4lb, 3lb+ and 3lb respectively. There were a number of potentially significant aspects to these captures though – which were:

  • The three bass were hooked from the same gully/shingle section, set between two rock fingers in an area covering a 3m2 section of seabed – pretty intricate I’d say.
  • Some decent water movement was present in conjunction with a 3-5ft swell that was continually rolling up the shingle.
  • The water had a definite tinge to it with around 20-30cm of visibility – a legacy of the heavy rain and strong, if brief, onshore wind conditions we’d experience over the two preceding nights.
  • All three bass hit the lure in the undertow/trough section of the beach and within 1-2m of the shoreline.
Ash’s third 3lb+ bass of Night Session Number One – the fact that all three fish took the lure practically on the beach itself is revealing in itself…

Considering the points above, I have to say that apart from a gently radiating fluorescent lure there isn’t anything out of the ordinary about the excellent captures achieved, in the sense that it is what I would ‘expect’ to certain degree in the conditions we faced. Moreover, there certainly isn’t anything unusual about bass hitting a lure in the backwash only centimetres from your feet – especially at night. But what I would say is that, in the dark in particular, considering the intricate surroundings (the two rock fingers), in does suggest that the bass perhaps followed the lure for some distance into that arena before deciding ‘Yep – I’m having that before it escapes’ – a clear example of where the fish have sensed and picked up on the noise, vibration and movement of the lure long before it came into view perhaps?

Night Two

After the fabulous success that the guys had enjoyed overall from the shingle on that first night, they of course pestered the life out of me with a view to returning to the same venue for Night Session Number Two! I had my reservations though, as the wind had swung around since Ash’s haul serving to flatten out and clear the sea… Hmmm, at least we knew there were bass in the vicinity of that stretch of coastline, but I did certainly consider that the the previous evening’s onshore sea conditions and levels of bait fish in the area at the time had, at the very least, influenced or augmented the levels of bass activity…

Relenting to their request, there was no way I could place Ash in ‘Bass Alley’ as we’d named it! Therefore, after winning the flip of a coin (a contest between Ben and Andrew), it was Ben who was successful and would soon be eagerly setting about casting his brand-new White/Pearl Ghost Savage Gear Manic Prey 90 into the ‘hot spot’ as soon as dusk and then darkness encroached on our magical slice of south Devon.

Note how the Savage Gear Manic Prey 90 isn’t inside the bass’s mouth – is this a clue to how the bass were feeding over the two night sessions I wonder?

As I’d expected, the sea conditions were very different to the previous evening in that the sea was very calm and very clear. Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when Ash, Ben and Andrew only encountered a swirl next to Andrew’s surface lure at distance – and even this was most probably a garfish I surmised at the time. But literally to the minute that it became properly dark (the stars appeared above our head) Ben shouted loudly (as briefed) that he was into a fish (the one above and below) – they were back!

A great way to christen a lure that Ben had tracked down and purchased in a local tackle store (Ashby’s of Kingsbridge) following on from the success of the pure white and glowing hard lures the previous night.

For sure, it could easily have been the preciseness of the venue, and this was undoubtedly a factor during these two sessions, although a number of smaller bass were caught only 30-50m or so along the shingle on the hard minnows by Andrew over these two sessions. But no, the movement, noise and vibration of the hard lures – this, I believe, was the determining factor to these catches, and almost conclusively so when I recall how I asked the guys to utilise various other lures that second night in particular given the far more tranquil conditions.

This one was larger than I released at first glance! Again, it is interesting where the lure is in relation to the fishes mouth…

The inconspicuous by comparison Wave Worms, Albie Snax, Needlefish and Pulse Tailed Gravity Sticks were all launched into the pitch black on the second night’s far more serene and transparent sea conditions in which these lure types would normally come out on top – but they didn’t in this occasion… And to cap it all off, before I could place Andrew into ‘Bass Alley’ Ben went and pulled out the gorgeous 5 pounder below!

What a fantastic bass – one that I know Ben enjoyed catching immensely as the night fishing aspect was something previously alien to him based on his love of fishing the Cornish surf beaches in daylight only – very wise I say!

Summary

In an attempt to summarise what is a post based on the excellent catches achieved by my clients and the subsequent thoughts swirling around in my bass addicted mind, firstly, I can completely understand why a bass would be utilising its senses outside of ‘sight only’ in the stirred up, cloudy, mucky(ish) water we endured during that initial session in darkness. But to still be hitting the same lure type in the clear, calm water conditions we encountered the second session causes me to think… A lot!

That the bass appeared to be slashing at the lures (which is classic ‘bait fish hunting’ behaviour when they attempt to stun or injure their prey with their gill plates) judging by the way the fish were becoming hooked leads me to believe it is perhaps possible that the bass were ‘locked’ into the frantic, reverberating movement of bait fish scattering? Was it a case that this was just the ‘mood’ they were in, and they were intent on hunting in this specific manner over that period? We’ll never know…

Finally, that the bass clearly present over those two wonderful evenings (but especially the second calmer night when nothing happened until it was dark remember) refused the subtle soft plastics and similar, less obvious lures, fished during the same session (albeit not in the special gully I have to admit) speaks volumes for just how fickle these majestic fish can be. One thing’s for sure though – I won’t be quite so quick to discount or dismiss a noisy, knocking, wriggling, shaking and vibrating hard diving minnow in the placid conditions I love to fish and guide for bass in darkness in the future…

Something special

And… Guess what…? I have something very, very special to share with you in my next blog post (if you haven’t seen it already on social media that is!)

I cannot wait to tell you about this one!!!

My Books

My most recent book Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective and my first release ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here) are IN STOCK and are available to reserve. If you would like to purchase 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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