My first double-figure bass and a new PB!

My first double-figure bass and a new PB!

“I’ve done it – 83cm!”, was my delirious declaration… Followed by a pause, in which I hazily recall either gasping for air or holding my breath in outright excitement and disbelief, before my hastily exhaled utterance of “What a fish… Oh my God!” These were the words I blurted out in the joyful, if almost disbelieving state I found myself in as I videoed by far and away the largest bass I have ever seen, let alone caught!

Another time…

Please believe me when I say that I do feel ‘bad’ about not simply writing precisely how this spectacularly memorable and downright ‘special’ personal capture came about. However, I feel that the specifics – such as how I researched the venue, planned the session, decided on the tactics/methods and just the overall build up to the event and ultimately how it all unfolded should be reserved for another time – within a third book perhaps: Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 2

Instead, and as a consolation prize of sorts, as of course I want to tell everyone about this magical moment, I want to try and describe the sheer, unmitigated emotion that I felt, not only in that moment, but since that incredible mid-November night as well.

I knew someone was going to catch a ‘double’ soon, although the law of averages dictated that it was most probably going to be a client rather than me…

Thank you.

Before I move on, I would like to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to all of the people, most of whom I have never met, who took the time to congratulate me when I initially posted up this ‘monster bass’, and one that absolutely obliterated my personal best, onto my Facebook Page. Honestly, the response was positively overwhelming – although it would have taken me hours to have responded (as I generally do my outmost to do between my guiding, fishing and other commitments) to every single one of you. Moreover, to read numerous comments along the lines of “thoroughly deserved” really was sincerely heart-warming, so thank you for that also (I’m becoming hugely impassioned again here sorry!).

What took us so long to find each other!

Surprised

“Really? I’m surprised at that Marc” has been the standard response when one of my clients or a fellow bass lure angler has asked me if I’ve ever landed a ‘double’ on a lure (I haven’t had one on bait I must add). More often than not the questioning has ceased in this respect pretty much there and then, but occasionally, somebody quizzes me further following on from the initial question of “What’s your biggest then Marc?”

If I’d said that not catching or assisting a client to catch a double-figure bass didn’t bother me I’d be lying in all honesty, although I hasten to add that it has only really started to play on my mind a little (and no more than that) this year. I’d never been hung up on it before, but I think it’s a combination of things that have brought these thoughts and feelings about…

Addiction

The fact that I have been plying my trade as a full-time, professional bass lure fishing guide for the past 4 years, that I’ve written many articles for numerous publications not to mention written and released two self-published books mean that maybe I should have one on my resume/CV as it were? Then there’s the overall timescale in which I have been chasing these mesmerising fish on a lure (nearly 30 years at this juncture) – I mean surely I would have caught one in that period right? It’s not that easy of course as these are wary, intelligent beasts who do not give themselves up easily…

Furthermore, I think the consistent success that my clients have enjoyed over the past 5 years (I was doing this part-time in my first year) is part of it too, in that ten of them have landed bass of 70cm/8lb or above with me now (the 10th and most recent of which I will cover in my next blog post). What’s more, when someone tells you that the bass they’re holding and happily releases is their new PB, or their first ever on a lure, on a specific lure type, a first in darkness or perhaps from a certain type of venue it’s like a addiction in the sense that you just want more!

Expectant

I had an inkling that a very, very special, and hopefully, a double-figure specimen was imminent for someone, be it for one of my remarkably receptive clients (which was more likely given that I only get to fish myself between 5-10 sessions a month between mid-April and early-December nowadays) or perhaps lucky old me if everything aligned on one of the marks I had earmarked as having the potential to throw up an absolute whopper! In the back of mind throughout my guiding and personal fishing endeavours though has been the notion that we are seriously up against it. What doesn’t help is when my diver friends tell me that they just don’t ‘see’ 10lb+ bass swimming in the waters around south Devon either!

I think even with the amount of hard-earned knowledge and overall experience I’ve accumulated, added to a skillset that has taken me years to hone (and that will always require to be augmented and improved upon such are the challenges associated to catching a bass on a lure), at the end of the day you still require a dollop of luck – not only to track down such a majestic creature, but to then have the tenacity and ability to actually catch and then land it – which can be the most difficult aspect of all as I’ve most certainly found out to my previous despair and disappointment…

As you would have read via this blog or within my first book ‘The Lure of The Bass‘, the years leading up to taking the plunge to become a ‘Bass Guide’ were dedicated to essentially finding marks, so that I had dozens and dozens of proven venues at my disposal no matter what the sea state was, and whatever the weather threw at me (within reason!). Indeed, I knew right from the outset that I wouldn’t last very long in my new occupation if I relied on catching bass from rocky shorelines only, within the quintessential conditions of a rising or flooding spring tide, when the sea is aerated and has a tinge to it – I think my credibility would’ve lasted about a month at best if this is all I relied on…

Can I attribute not previously landing the ‘Holy Grail’ of bass lure fishing to being selfless and thinking about my future clients over personal glory and satisfaction? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, as anyone who has been guided by me would most probably agree (hopefully!) that I genuinely experience a monumental amount of satisfaction from teaching, assisting and then witnessing a client land a beautiful bass (arguably more satisfaction than I do when I achieve it myself -even though I clear love hunting, catching and releasing them!).

Culmination

I hope that my deliberations above place into context just what it meant as I caught sight of this absolutely huge ‘slab of silver’ glistening on the foreshore under that high n’ huge, if somewhat crazy and hazy Moon. Even though I hadn’t seen it in the water (there was no way I could switch on the head-torch within the battle itself) I knew it was an immense fish from the weight I had felt through the fabulous Limited Edition Major Craft Seabass Custom 88M rod and the strain it had placed on the faltering drag system of my long-serving Shimano Vanquish C3000MHG!

Such was the zeal to whip out the manky old BASS measuring tape from the front pocket of my waders, in that moment the lightning sharp realisation that this was something entirely different in the ‘bass stakes’ sparked me up so much that this stunningly light set up was practically tossed onto the sandy/pebbly/wrack-ridden ground surrounding me in the gloom! It’s only a rod and reel after all!

Unreal! What a lump of a bass and one that absolutely dwarfs the rod and especially the 3000 size reel!

Stretching out the BASS tape next to this behemoth, I was absolutely astounded to see the ’70cm mark’ sitting around the fish’s gill flap, but then my maddening eyeballs followed the increments to the tip of its snout – 83cm!!!!!!! Holly S***!!!! I began to physically shake as I’m sure you can imagine!

There and then, I knew that a lifetime goal had been achieved. Running the few metres (slithering actually) back up to the location of my dry bag I grabbed my camera off of the lure box (both of which were still in prime photo opportunity position, and handily balancing on a rock courtesy of the 57cm bass I’d photographed myself with almost an hour ago) before returning to my prize – who’d bucked and bounced all over the bottom section of my lure rod whilst I’d been very briefly absent.

Laying out the tape again as swiftly as I could I pressed the ‘record’ button on the side of the camera (this is the video at the start of this post) as I just had to capture this on film! Following this, after initially forgetting the camera was still on the 10 second timer (doh!) after slinging the tape god-knows where in the darkness (I did find it eventually after returning the fish!) I snapped the two photographs above – both of which, as you see, have the lure still well inside its gigantic mouth!

Which lure? I hear you shouting at the screen! In case you haven’t already read elsewhere (Henry Gilbey’s extremely kind post here perhaps?) or guessed from the glimpses you have of it in the images above, the successful lure was the supreme Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail (in pure white) rigged onto the SG 6/0 3g belly-weighted hook, with the addition of the 1.8g tungsten spike weight shoved up its rear end – a combination that has accounted for many, many stunning bass during 2021.

Moment of truth

As you’ll read in my next blog post about a clients’ 70cm bass that I weighed at 8lb 4oz, in readiness (and very much hopeful expectancy!) I recently purchase, and have been carrying around a Rapala fish weighing sling (here) and a set of electronic Berkley scales (here) whilst guiding and fishing just in case… Well, this really was the moment of truth as I again scampered back to my bag and ripped everything out of it until I found the mesh bag containing said items!

Shoving my camera into my pocket, the clock was ticking loudly in my head in relation to how long this ‘aged beauty’ had already been out of the water (the battle had been spectacularly short as you’ll discover when I come to write the full story at some stage in the future therefore, the fish was full of energy), but this is when I had another stroke of luck as this almost unbelievable bass essentially ‘spat’ the mangled soft plastic out of it’s cavernous gob as I approached her again – just in time for me to slide her into the sling.

Even though I strongly suspected she was over 10lb, I had to know for sure! 13lb 2oz! which having weighed the sling separately at 1lb whilst ‘practicing’ for this momentous moment meant that the precious commodity now inside it weighed 12lb 2oz – I’d completely and utterly smashed it out of the park as they say! Woooooohoooooooo!

Well drilled

Tick, tick, tick, tick – all you can think about is getting the fish back in the water, which is precisely what I did at this point for around fifteen seconds just to make sure she was OK. Don’t let go Marc! I can tell you here and now that I gripped that staggeringly beautiful bass for all my life was worth, and it did the same in return – crunching, and I mean literally clamping its powerful jaws and the exceedingly rough pad inside the top of its mouth onto my thumb (I showed the mark it made to a client two days later as it was still clearly visible!).

Sensing the immense, muscular power pulsing along the length of the body, its pectoral and pelvic fins waving at me like the wrack swaying in the swift current lit within my magical world, I decided the time was right to ‘make her famous’ with what has become a rehearsed and a well-drilled manoeuvre.

That’s the monkey off my back!

Fishing alone has its benefits and its drawbacks – with attaining a decent photograph clearly one of the major considerations. However, I am well versed in this scenario nowadays, and as the lure box was already (luckily) in position all I needed to do was gently lay my ultimate prize back down on the wet weed, flick the camera back onto the 10 second timer setting, press the button, pick her up (heave more like as she was bloody heavy!) and wait as the red light flashed and the beeps ran down with increased rapidity until ‘Click’. One more for luck – press, beep, beep, beep etc. ‘Click’.

After a lot of practice I’ve got the correct angle and distance from the camera down to a tee. Another trick in darkness is to try and ensure you’re being almost surrounded within some kind of structure (not always possible granted) so that the flash envelopes you somewhat.

The release

With my fishy fingers fumbling for the triangular ‘view image button’ my luck continued even further, as the photographs I had captured were about as good as I could have possibly wished for. Right, job done, time to get her back in the water pronto!

I think she knew she heading back into the sea for good this time, because as I lowered her down and into the ankle deep, yet quickly flowing water, she gave her head and body a right old shake as if to say “let me go you git!” Even though I was cradling her belly and overall bulk with my other hand, this motion really wrenched my right wrist – but did I care – not one jot!

Positioning her gigantic head and shoulders so that the water could naturally flow through her mouth, out through her gills and along her flanks, almost immediately I could see those gorgeously blue-tinged fins flapping again, and with that formidable dorsal fin as erect as it had been since I’d laid eyes on her, with one further headshake I released my grip on her lower jaw and her body in one concurrent action.

She paused briefly under the beam (as they often do) and with two S-shaped swishes of that mermaid-like tail she began to ‘kite and meander’ out across the flow, into the deeper water and finally out of view – my luck, and her luck had prevailed.

Bombed out!

The intensity and vehemence to my actions whilst attempting to think clearly throughout those moments, coupled with the adrenaline involved had left me in a bit of mess! But then a smile takes over your face, and you start to talk to yourself excitedly as the jubilation and euphoria takes control of your body, and the satisfaction and realisation of what you’ve just achieved takes precedence.

I was totally bombed out though… And even though I made a half-arsed attempt to unravel my tangled braid and straighten out the ‘mullered’ lure I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue. My concentration was gone – I just couldn’t fish! Packing up, via a few more views of what is a ‘fish of a lifetime’ on the camera I just wanted to get home so that I could tell my wife all about it before she fell asleep!

The climb and subsequent walk back to the car didn’t exactly calm me down all that much either, and as I drove back through the lanes and my signal returned I heard my phone ping. Pulling over, after reading the message of “How did you get on?” from Mark, a friend of mine in Jersey, I couldn’t help but tell him my news! Whether he managed to get any sense out of me is another story, although I do recall him telling me that when he’d landed a 79cm lure-caught bass earlier this year (his first double incidentally) he didn’t sleep a wink that night – something that alongside loving everything about these incredible fish, we also now have in common – although I don’t think I slept properly again for about three or four nights!!!

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 available to reserve. If you would like to purchase a copy of either publication, please contact me via the Contact Form below 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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