Client Catches – ‘Firsts’ with fortitude?

Client Catches – ‘Firsts’ with fortitude?

Father and son combos or siblings – I just love guiding them! I mean, over the past five years of guiding, these family affairs have often been exceptionally rewarding, both from mine and their perspective on a social level (I hope!), whilst providing many, many memorable moments courtesy of the catches they have achieved. Indeed, I can think of some monsters just off the top of my head so I thought I’d place a gallery below:

Good start

A brief insight into April’s fishy escapades then before I describe a recent guided session involving two Pauls: little Paul (the son) and big Paul (the dad), I can report that it has been a very good start to the season for my clients, with 36 bass landed in the 12 guided sessions I have completed so far this month, with a number over 3lb, in addition to the near 7lb smasher (the fish in the featured image) that I’ll depict within this post, plus another 60cm bass that I’ll describe in a follow up post next week.

One of three bass landed by my clients during my first guided session of the 2022 season very early into April. This one took the awesome Sunslicker Swimish in Cow Juice (White) and was the first on a soft plastic for this client (Tom). He followed it up later in the session with his first ever lure-caught bass at night.

Pleasingly, the bass have been landed from a variety of marks, both within estuaries and the open coast – more so in darkness in regards to the latter thus far it has to be said, but with the sand eels now visibly in attendance I expect this to shift very soon. What’s more, the bass hooked have been exceedingly happy to ‘nail’ the surface lures, with none other than the Marc Cowling/TC Lures ZIPP WAKE (here) accounting for a 50% of the bass that have snaffled their lures.

Another first! This time a first lure-caught bass in darkness and on a soft plastic (also the Sunslicker Swimish) too for Stuart – a real gentleman whom I guided over two days/nights.

From scratch

Onto the ‘Two Pauls’ then, and with Big Paul’s assertion that he’d never held a ‘spinning rod’ before (a fly rod, yes) I held onto my cap and ears as I coached him from scratch in essence through the basics of casting, both with a designated lure or bass rod (with one of the highly responsive 9ft 9-35g Savage Gear SGS8 rods incidentally) and with the braided line. Further, I began very gently in regards to lure choice (I’m a nice guide aren’t I!) as all I asked him to do was essentially retrieve the Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail at a pace just quick enough that he could ‘feel’ the lure swimming and vibrating as it moved through with the tide – we’d soon be moving onto ‘A Level’ standard however!

He was doing a marvellous job while Little Paul (who is the 30 years old son) worked his Patchinko 100 through the weedy foreshore on this mark – one that I intended to remain on for the entire session (which is very rare for me) due to the sheer volume of water that would transit through our location on what was a very big spring tide. Why the small surface lure you may ask? Because this estuary mouth mark had been one of the many places in which I’d witnessed masses of what I believe were sand smelt or fry of some description (this lure mimics fry scattering or being harassed beautifully) – and when I’d seen them, the bass had seemingly been not far behind, as you may have read in my previous post ‘My Recent Catches – Follow The Fry’ here.

Off the mark

As per the majority of the dozen sessions I’d completed with my clients up until this juncture, everything looked decidedly ‘bassy’ to me, and when Big Paul shouted further along the shoreline as I was about to take a second bite out of my pasty (someone is almost guaranteed to catch when I get to scoff one of my favourite snacks!) I wasn’t overly surprised that he’d latched into one – fantastic!

I was over the Moon for him, not only because this was his first shore-caught bass I believe, but also because it was a pleasure to witness the confidence growing and growing in his approach following an interlude where he’d also mastered working a surface lure in double-quick time under my tuition – a ‘life skill’ as far as I’m concerned! It was the Sunslicker Swimish (these are ace lures when matched with a 7-10g belly-weighted hook (here) to combat powerful tides) that had done the business for him though, but now I could just tell that he was itching to unleash his arsenal of ZIPP WAKE surface lures that his family had kindly purchased him for Christmas – patience my friend, patience…


The way that the coastline is orientated here I’d planned on the bright afternoon Sun setting more or less behind us. This would enable a distinct shadow to form on the water and through the water column as the evening drifted into the early part of dusk. It had been a very, very enjoyable session up until this point, but for me, something was missing: the bass! Although I’d admittedly planned this session with the high tide, dusk, that shadow and then darkness in mind, I felt we needed some luck or good fortune as well if the fry, bait fish and the following bass were to materialise – it was still only April after all…

It was an hour prior to the Sun setting completely now, during a period when I was seriously considering moving to a nearby bay some 20 minutes walk away that Big Paul announced that he was heading back to the car (which was a fair old trek) in order to “grab another layer”. “No worries, we’ll remain here until you return” was my reply, conscious that if we moved he might not be able to find us such is the number of nooks and crannies here – something that is wonderfully typical about the south Devon coastline.

With Little Paul currently retrieving the Megabass Spindle Worm in a very natural-coloured pattern (Wakasagi?) that I’d spotted in his lure box and taken a shine to, I decided to attach an almost forgotten surface lure that I had with me (a 500g pattern or Lieu Xorus Frosty that replaced the 500g/Lieu Patchinko 125 I gave to a teenager that I guided with his Dad from my ‘client lure box’) to Big Paul’s set up, with a view to blasting it out and seeing if anything fancied having a go ‘off the top’ as it were…


A boil and a thrash at the lure but no positive take, then again on the next cast and then again on the next – but the blighters wouldn’t commit wholeheartedly… Picture the scene, the Sun is now very low in the sky and the quiet bay before us is now a shaded, tranquil haven with bait fish (fry) rippling occasionally on what had become an oily-calm, yet fast moving surface – conditions that were at the forefront of my thinking when the ZIPP WAKE surface lure was conceived.

First cast. Out she arrows and ‘plop…’ The lure starts to meander in a very subtle, waking fashion on a ‘walk-the-dog’ retrieve and immediately a bass sidles right up behind it in a spectacularly predatory manner – BOOOOOSH Fish on! “Paul, get your ZIPP WAKE on!!!!!” This session had just been transformed!

This lovely bass was hooked on the middle treble – an unusual occurrence as most of the bass taken on this lure tend to sneak up and swipe it from behind – could its very subtle action/movement and lack of comparative drag on the surface influence this behaviour I wonder?

Bliss (but where’s the old man!?)

Two or three casts in, Paul junior nailed one! “Yep, these lures work Marc!” Just like on the overhead footage that was captured (by a friend of Tom Cooper/TC Lures) last year during testing and that you can watch below, the bass seemingly appear to really ‘stalk’ these lures before (generally) launching themselves at it from behind.

“He’ll never believe this” was younger Paul’s delightfully timed pronouncement as his father slipped back into view. “I’ve landed three Dad!” he said, “Yeah right!”, came the reply. But my nodding, grinning and smiling gave the game away as I handed over the SGS8 rod still with my ZIPP WAKE attached whereby I proceeded to ask him to cast it as far as he could (which is very long way with a lure that only weighs 15g!) out into the ice rink-like water.

This was bliss! I’m not joking, the lure hit the water and a bass came up and grabbed it before Paul senior even had a chance to move it! Clearly they were in a feeding frenzy now, however, after that initial onslaught, and as the light levels were now dropping, it took some expert ‘working’ of the lures, especially either very early or crucially very late into the retrieve, to ‘make’ the bass hit the ZIPP WAKE hard enough to gain a hook up.

Paul senior with his largest bass at close to 3lb of what was a frantic hour! If he hadn’t of dashed off for his jacket he might have caught more, but then if he’d remained I may well of moved venues, and we might have missed these fish altogether! I did say we it was a tad fortuitous!

With the scorecard now reading 4 (Dad) vs 3 (Son) following a much quieter 15 minutes when I mentioned that the larger bass might just slink in, early into dusk it happened: a crocodile of a bass absolutely destroyed the Green Back Flash ZIPP WAKE! It was like a paving slab being heaved into the water! SPLASSSSSSSSHHHHHH!

The Marc Cowling/TC Lures ZIPP WAKE accounts for its largest bass to date at a hastily measured 64/65cm whilst inside the net (there was no beach or rock to lay her on due to the high tide) – not an easy measurement to achieve to do I can assure you with an angry and writhing bass!

I always set the drag for my clients before they make the first cast of any session, with the intent to allow a 3lb bass to ‘take’ a small amount (a few centimetres of line) should they attempt to ‘run’ – which many will do initially. What this kind of drag setting achieves is to provide the angler/client with a element of leeway, whilst enabling them to shout “taking line!” – a call which ultimately tells me its worth grabbing the net and scrambling to their assistance if I’m not already in close proximity of course.

Another client PB! A long trip down from Sussex made worth it in every way imaginable if you love learning how to catch bass on lures – which this guy does more than most!

Oh yes!

Another part of the brief I give my clients is that if they do hook into something tasty to ‘encourage’ it up onto the surface and to keep it there – as if a big bass gets its head down, or they’re allowed to run either away or parallel to you they could gain the upper hand. But I needn’t have worried as Little Paul gave it the correct amount of grunt, whilst the very nice Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD 7-35g 90ML (that Ben at Art of Fishing has very kindly allowed me to retain for this season) bucked away until a large slab of silver came close enough for me to net, now waist-deep in my patched-up Orvis waders. Oh yes, what a beauty Sir!

“It looks a lot bigger than 64/65cm Marc” was Paul’s reaction on seeing this photo, but either way, it is his new personal best bass by some margin! Hmmm, I think you might be right mate! Although his arms are outstretched and I’m stood above him she does look close to 7lb to me and is a positively ‘chunky’ one

The cherry on top

“If me or Dad can catch one in darkness that will be every box ticked Marc” was the target he set me as their guide, “I’ll do my best Paul”, was my response, and I reckoned they had an excellent chance too as we shifted some 50m along the foreshore in order to access a little bay exposed to the now ebbing tide. Would the cherry be added to the cake?

With my current ‘favourite lure’ for this situation (a slight amount of lateral tide) rigged up and ready to roll, the white Savage Gear Gravity Stick Pulse Tail skewered onto a SG 3g belly-weighted weedless hook and with the SG Spike weight shoved into the tail section to aid the deadly level-sinking capabilities was, within minutes, garnering some very pronounced ‘taps’ on the drop.

“Here you are Marc, try and hook one”, came a plea from the gloom as an exasperated Paul junior handed me the rod… “Stay there Paul”, I said, “and watch how high I keep the tip and the lure on a very tight line as it sinks” I added. Fifth cast I think it was, and a positive hit saw a small 1lb bass bouncing up the shore under the light. “There you go Paul, that’s one for the guide!”

Move in

But again, and is so often the case, as a now tired Paul senior continued to retrieve the Swimish within the fastest section of tide and the bites dried up that my thoughts wandered towards the possibility that it was time the ‘kids’ moved out of the region to allow the ‘parents’ to move in. Sure enough, after 10 minutes of non-action and with only 30 minutes of the session remaining, young Paul received a bolt of the blue, only to find himself attached to something that was trying to pull back that transpired to be a bass in the 3lb+ range. He’d done it – his first bass on a lure at night to go alongside smashing his personal best earlier in the session – and what a session it was!

A great way to end a great session – well done to both of them!

My Books

My most recent title Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here and Henry Gilbey’s review here) will be back in stock within the next 7-10 days and can be reserved by contacting me directly (details below). Or to purchase my first release ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (BASS review here) then 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.

Booking Enquiries

If you would like to enquire about my South Devon Bass Guide guiding services in 2022 and 2023 (including my 3 Day Packages that include BB accommodation) then please email me directly at Alternatively, you can complete the Contact Form at the bottom of the page and I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as I possibly can.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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