Overall, I have to report that it’s been a very good start to the season, both on a personal and professional level. Yet, although not to the extremes of last spring when I had to utilise every ounce of my knowhow and ability on a daily basis to ‘lure’ the bass in the colder than average seas, for me, there has still been an element of inconsistency about the catches we’ve achieved – something that is being replicated across the county judging by the many reports I’ve seen and the anglers I’ve chatted to.
Is it going to be a season where surface lures reign supreme from the open coast like in 2020? Will the needlefish lures and the beaches and shallow reefs prove to be ‘golden’ like they were in 2017 + 2018? A real variety of marks and lure types much like 2019, or will it be ‘paddle tail city’ and the estuaries like 2021…? Only time will tell as, at the moment, it could be any of the precis above, all of them (I would LOVE that to occur!), or something entirely different in regards to a venue type that comes to the fore and/or a new lure (or type) that takes centre stage in 2022…
Something that has been predictable given the time of year however is that the types of location on which I’ve found bass have been extremely varied, ranging from open coast headlands and their associated tide races to practically into freshwater – the latter confirmed via a couple of lovely bass up to 60cm that I managed just recently and that I’ll cover in separate post.
Depending on your location in the UK, there is a lot happening in the subterranean world between late-April and late-May: the ragworm spawn, the crabs moult in earnest, the sand eels arrive en masse. Plus, the sea begins to warm by, on average, around 0.1oC every couple of days, all of which can have a massive impact on bass behaviour – and that’s even if they are in residence, which is debatable along some pretty extensive swathes of my local coastline as I write this…
Essentially, to locate the fish and keep catching, what I’ve had to do is select environments where I think numbers of fish are more likely to be located as, if I try to be too specific by placing the lures precisely into features set within the reefs for example I am risking a blank – much like the one I endured yesterday evening whilst fishing an intricate little cove into darkness.
They simply weren’t there (or they weren’t interested!), which is why I have been covering the road miles, pounding the shore and bouncing around all over the place in my quest to figure out where they are, what they want and how they want it – my standard approach until the fish really turn up to the tune of the ‘staple’ 1.5-2.5lb fish we generally encounter (with a generous smattering of lunkers of course!) throughout the summer and early-autumn months.
Again, saving the capture of another superb ‘client PB’ at approximately 7lb for my next post, what I want to cover here is to describe three very contrasting scenarios or circumstances in which I have concentrated my personal efforts and subsequently caught when I had the following day’s guided session in mind – scoping out the ground and testing ‘the form’ in essence. In addition to describing my tactics alongside the lure I selected at the time, the scenarios, bearing in mind what I said at the beginning about fishing places/venues where numbers of fish are more likely to be, are:
- A headland jutting into the tide (incorporating deep water).
- An estuarine creek where a multitude of features are present.
- A sandy beach fished in gentle surf conditions, in darkness.
Scenario 1 – Smash!
Sand eels/launce and potentially mackerel – that’s the dream synopsis alongside some warm and settled weather for a bash at the bass from a headland or large rocky promontory that is serving to divert the relentless power of the current. Experiencing a 4lb+ bass SMASH a surface lure off the top at distance is up there as one the finest ways you can catch them – something I mentioned when I posted up the recent capture (below) onto my Facebook account to an agreeing audience.
With the sheer volume of water in front of you a venue like this can be a daunting prospect, but think about it logically (well, like a bass anyhow!) and what you’re basically trying to do is ‘intercept’ schools of bass utilising the velocity of the tide as they seek to follow the sand eel shoals (and possibly the mackerel also) that have been coerced close to the shoreline more generally on the larger evening tides, but not yet into the bays, coves and beaches.
Scenario 2 – Night surfing!
If you’d said to me ten years ago that I would be regularly fishing in knee-deep water in the dark, knowing that sand eels where active over the sand in front of me I would have never believed you! But that is just the scenario, in conjunction with a bit of gentle surf just to stir things up a little (not too much, otherwise weed becomes a problem in my neck of the woods) that I massively enjoy fishing and guiding within, especially early in the season if these fish are proving difficult to track down.
Now, up until the beginning of last season my ‘go to’ lure in this situation would have been a needlefish such as the Marc Cowling/TC Lures Magnetic Weight–Shifting (MWS) Needlefish, or indeed, a 5″ Wave Worm Bamboo Stick rigged onto a 6/0 weed-less twistlock hook if weed fragments were present. However, such is the casting capabilities and bass-catching prowess of the Savage Gear Gravity Sticks that if the ‘salad’ in the water is problematic then the use this lure is a definite mitigating factor, whilst also being something I clearly have optimum levels of confidence in – a very important factor in itself…
Scenario 3 – Creeks and critters
To say that a sheltered, brackish and idyllic creek or saltwater lagoon-type setting is a haven for bass food is equivalent to saying that a toy shop is attractive to a child! Crabs are top of the menu where weedy margins and moveable rocks exist, but the added ‘special on the menu’ from early-spring onwards into early-summer will be the noticeable presence of fry (you can read my account of the 63cm ‘March bass’ I landed when fry were abundant here), be it sea trout, smelt, sprat, sand eels or even miniature bass.
Tide, and lots of it will magnify the likelihood of these helpless critters being swished into areas they really don’t want to be, and this is where the bass will be at that their predatory best, and where you need to be also. Subtle surface lures – mimicking bait fish or fry scattering or being pulled, panicking high in the water column and beyond are the obvious choice, even if the water temperature in the shallow water generally found in these inter tidal environments is still hovering within the 10 or 11oC mark.
If you are having a tough start to your own bass lure fishing season, or indeed, if you’re just struggling to ascertain some kind of pattern or consistency, then I hope that the examples above provide you with some ideas or motivation as one thing is for certain – these fish will always keep us guessing!
Thanks for reading