Client Catches – Topsy Turvy…

Client Catches – Topsy Turvy…

“Do you know what Marc, I would be willing to do a December trip”, was Scott’s cheery reply after informing him earlier this summer that I was booked up until the end of the season. And fair dues, because not only would he be dragging two of his fishing buddies along for the ride, but they would also be making the journey all the way down from Sussex to be with me.

In the lead up to this two day event, and what would be my final ‘group booking’ of the 2021 season, both Scott and I had been watching the forecast charts (I tend to use the GFS 850pha temp & SLP charts here) with initial trepidation, followed by genuine excitement, then hope, and then back to thinking they had a very good chance of catching as a normally ‘bass conducive’ a north-westerly airstream looked set to be covering the South West of England for the few days before, during and after their visit – one that I, and Scott, Paul and Ryan had been really looking forward to.

A beautiful smiling bass! But would Lady Luck smile on my final batch of bass lure anglers for what has been a fantastic 2021 season…?

A blessing…

Although these three cheeky chappies were all very conversant with the bass hanging around the shingle and reef systems of Sussex, it was the overall variety, in regards to marks that south Devon has to offer, alongside the opportunity to hone their use of soft plastic lures that had brought them in my direction.

It was a funny couple of days though looking back now, with that sort of ‘on the boat, off the boat’ and ‘will it, won’t it?’ feeling in regards to the weather and sea conditions, mirroring and complementing what would eventually transpire…

Indeed, the first two occurrences could not have summed up these enjoyable two days any better – as following a botched attempt at meeting up (after Scott’s incorrect entry into the SATNAV) it actually ended up being a blessing in disguise, as not only did I end up meeting the guys about a minute from where I had intended to park, but Scott subsequently goes and pulls out his new personal best bass of 63cm on the very first cast!!

You couldn’t have written it really! Sometimes something is just meant to be, in the sense that if we’d been on the mark either slightly earlier or slightly later would this gorgeous ‘December bass’ have been lying in wait for us?

A fantastic way to be rewarded for the effort of heading all this way to cast a few lures in winter, after listening intently to the brief and attaching a white (‘Cow Juice’ is the official colour I believe) Sunslicker Swimish, Scott went and placed his lure precisely where I’d surmised there could a fish sitting – amongst a collection of rocks and weed just on the edge of the muddy channel ready to pounce on anything moving through on the fresh flooding tide.

What a way to start! But if we’d expected the fishing to be ‘red- hot’ from that moment then we were to be disappointed, as this is when the first of many ‘Topsy Turvy’ occurrences began… A bite for Paul, that goodness knows how it failed to hook up, before the activity dying off completely saw me implementing Plan B earlier than I’d expected.

Off the ‘Topsy’

With Ryan and Scott searching out two separate zones of tide with the Swimish and a Savage Gear Gravity Stick respectively, I took the opportunity to venture along a quieter, weedier shoreline with Paul with a view to enhancing his ability to ‘work’ a surface lure. To be completely honest, this particular estuary mark hadn’t really ‘fired’ in relation to the top water lures for some time therefore, I couldn’t really say that I was ‘expecting’ him to catch on the Patchinko 125 he’d attached, but I felt that he had a ‘fair chance’ shall we say.

“I’m going to try this pattern if that’s OK Marc” said Paul, as he held up the Patch 125 in the Ayu configuration, “I remember you saying earlier that you like a surface lure with a bit of ‘flash’ in it and I bought this one last week for that reason”, he added.

These are the moments that really ‘do it’ for me… “Just bring that rod slightly lower and further to your left as you retrieve the lure Paul, so to increase the tension through the line”, “OK, now just add the odd pause to the lure in that area, the ‘slick’ as it were, where the current is pushing through, as that’s the area I reckon something could hit it” were a couple of instructions and observations I’d made.

Paul was absolutely chuffed to bits with this one, as it brought about an almost immediate reward for the tweaking he’d receptively and gratefully administered to his surface lure technique.

It wasn’t the largest bass either of us have ever seen, but it didn’t matter one bit – as not only was it a first ever ‘winter bass’ (as was Scott’s I think?) for Paul, but it was also one that he personally felt he’d really had to ‘coax’ into taking the lure by not only listening to the instructions I’d given him, but that he’d then brilliantly performed to put that little 2lb beauty on the deck. He followed it up with another slightly smaller bass soon after too!

The ‘Turvy’

I had a Plan C up my sleeve just in case this stretch of estuary also wasn’t firing, but with three lovely bass in the bag so to speak (they were all safely returned don’t worry!) I decided that as the wind had all but dropped out (as predicted too) that we should remain in situ, ready for darkness to set in – not before Scott attempted to ‘save’ Paul’s favourite new lure (when the leader inexplicably gave way) and took a step too far and ended up neck-deep that was!

I was excited – as we were stood on a mark that has produced some fabulous bass throughout the entire year, in the exact conditions we were about to enjoy and experience – clear, ice-rink-like water, and with a clear starlit sky once that captivating crescent Moon had set. Typically however, just when I was ‘expecting’ things to switch on the ‘turvy’ occurred, and all that happened was that my clients became progressively cold – especially Scott of course who I took pity on and lent him my brand-new balaclava, before we set off back to our warm baths and beds!

Where’s the wind then…?

I’d checked the weather forecast a number of times leading up to these sessions, and the first thing I did when I woke up at 0630 the following morning was to check it again. Heavy rain incoming at 1600-1700, and with a fresh to strong westerly wind developing from mid-morning. Right, decision made – we’re heading to another river system, and a mark that is very well sheltered in this kind of weather scenario, in order to fish the final two hours of the ebb (usually an excellent time on this venue) before shifting along the shoreline in order to fish various marks as the tide floods.

Based on all of my experiences on this mark over the past three seasons, I felt that with these three gentlemen fishing like demons with the various different lure types I would ask them to start with (my usual trick to see what the bass fancy) I felt we were essentially ‘nailed on’ to catch a bass within the final hours of the ebb… Did we catch? No, we didn’t get a touch…! Furthermore, a further two hours into the flood and via multiple rock. gravel and muddy marks, I wasn’t particularly happy with the Met Office – as the forecast 25mph wind hadn’t materialised either…


To be fair, following a freezing cold April and a rather soggy May, the weather has actually been exceptionally good for us bass lure anglers in 2021 overall therefore, I couldn’t really complain – not that it would have done much good anyway. With an overcast sky and clear, millpond sea conditions on this estuary mouth mark, although there were dozens of other places I would have loved to have guided these really amiable guys on if I’d known the wind was going to be this light, instead of upping sticks and driving somewhere else, I took the decision to stick it out and return to where we’d originally commenced the session, as it did feel decidedly ‘fishy’ here…

With Paul targeting the most powerful section of the current with a white Sunslicker Swimish, Ryan close by and utilising a slightly more subtle and naturally coloured Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail, plus Scott working the weedy margins with a Patchinko 100 I felt like I/we had all bases covered.

There was a strong sense of belief in the camp for the next couple of hours too, but as the cloud base gradually lowered to produce the first spots of rain, even a few more lure changes and alterations in positioning (just to see if the bass were holding within a different part of the underwater reef we were peppering) couldn’t negate the nagging feeling that maybe we’d used up all our luck on Day 1, and that this wasn’t going to our/their day…


Despite it now being officially winter, on the type of mark my clients were lined up on, they would have been exceptionally unlucky not to catch a bass in these conditions. Sometimes you receive some luck, but more often than not, such is life, you make your own luck via a touch of tenacity or a ‘hunch’ – which is precisely what happened when Ryan decided to attach a lure that he has a great deal of confidence in – a ‘Red head’, White-Bodied Fiiish Black Minnow (here).

A nicely engulfed Red Head/White-bodied Fiiish Black Minnow – not a lure I use an awful lot if I’m honest, but hey, when a client believes in them based on previous catches, when all else has failed who am I to argue. Fair play Ryan I say for a brilliant and tenacious piece of angling.

At around the 3lb mark, it placed another beautiful bass in the arms of an angler who’d worked his socks off for getting on for ten hours of winter lure fishing. Yes, I’d asked him to keep retrieving a lure through a specific region, but the change of lure was entirely his idea and just goes to show that when someone has utter conviction in their favourite lure, that magic can occur.

He’s a cheerful bloke honestly! A former cage fighter, I was really, really, really glad he caught a bass though!

Opportunity calls

With the bass clearly on the feed, it was actually Ryan’s initial request when I got out of the car to meet them that morning that I should “bring the rod along so that you can demonstrate how to ‘work’ the new ‘Marc Cowling/TC Lures ZIPP WAKE surface lure” (here) that saw me do just that! Without a breath of wind (damn you Met Office!) and the smooth top layer of water now moving quickly from right to left, I have to admit that the conditions in front of us presently were simply ‘made’ for the ZIPP WAKE. Therefore, I duly attached it for a little play…

The opportunity had called, and the ZIPP WAKE delivered as, fourth cast, a plump 2lb bass, that wriggled off the hook as I was about to slide her up onto the gravel took a shine to it. “What lure?, asked Scott. “The ZIPP WAKE mate” came my reply. “Right, I’m attaching mine”, he announced.

It’s uncanny how often the bass that have taken the ZIPP WAKE seem to grab it from behind, rather than side-swiping it as they so often do.

There’s been many, many satisfying ‘guiding moments’ that have occurred this season, but to be able to talk through exactly how to retrieve a lure, whose conception I am very proud of, to a client, and then to witness him and it get absolutely nailed on the edge of the weed right in front of us as he zig-zagged his new acquisition back towards him was right up there I can tell you!

We both enjoyed this one! Apologies for the slightly blurry photograph, but it gives you a taste of how dull the late-afternoon sky had become. The rain was imminent too, but did we care? No way!

Final score

So there you go, in a season when surface lures have paled into significance, eclipsed by the soft plastic paddle tails almost continuously, and even within the brackish environments in which they were ‘golden’ last year, the final score for my very satisfied trio of ‘geezers’ was 3 v 2 in favour of the surface lures.

All in all this was not too shabby for a couple of days lure fishing in December. We’d had a blast frankly, and I was especially chuffed that the long drive, the Air B n’ B they’d booked, and the fishing had all worked out for them. There were some moments when it looked like it wouldn’t happen, even after catching a near 6lb bass on the first cast! But in the end, it all came good – so good in fact that I’m almost tempted to facilitate either a 3 Day Package in December next year, or indeed, some guiding well into the New Year… Na, never! The winter and early-spring is my time to go fishing!

Merry Christmas!

This will be my last post prior to Christmas Day itself, therefore, I would like to thank all of my readers, all of my clients, and everyone who has supported me and my South Devon Bass Guide business in 2021, alongside wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!!!! My next two posts will encompass my Year in Review, and will be published over the New Year period.

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 purchase or 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 Bank Transfer.

Thanks for reading

Marc Cowling

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