Client Catches – The ‘Art’ of Watercraft
In Chapter 6 of my first book ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ I relay my definition of watercraft – which in case you haven’t read it is “The art of perceiving and acquiring the capability to exploit the naturally occurring elements, in order to enhance your prospects of catching a fish.” I can’t remember where I read it now, but it did make me smile when someone commented that it read more like a mission statement! Brilliant!
Almost 5 years on from when I first typed that sentence onto my keyboard I stand by it wholeheartedly. As not only does as it take serious time out on the coastline (via numerous and varied experiences) to be able to perceive what is happening within the fishy environment, but it also takes time to learn the skills required to enable you to capitalise on certain events that will, in turn, assist you to catch more, and perhaps bigger bass.
Obvious, or not?
Some occurrences are more obvious than others of course, and some have the affect that they make you react to something: examples being the sea becoming too rough, too coloured or maybe very calm and clear, all of which could see you either moving location or maybe changing the lure type for another. Examples of more subtle changes, events or something that the bass lure angler has noticed and can therefore look to take advantage of could be:
- The appearance of bait fish – either scattering or even just sheltering in the weedy margins.
- Circling or diving gulls – especially gannets.
- Diving cormorants.
- Aerated water being created by the waves/swell interacting with the rocks/foreshore/seabed.
- A shadow being created on the water by the setting Sun.
- A defined line of more turbid water adjacent to clearer water etc, etc…
- Twilight, darkness or even a periodic changes in the light levels.
- The tide increasing or decreasing in velocity.
Onto a higher level entirely and getting into the real ‘nitty gritty’, attempting to hoodwink a wily bass from out of it’s rocky lair, comfortable gully or weedy veil can involve:
- Retrieving the lure along an varied trajectory or depth.
- Altering the way you are working the lure (pauses, jerks, twitches, faster, slower etc.).
- A change of lure to something more natural (think colour) or maybe more noticeable (think surface lures or flash/colour).
- Letting the area ‘rest’ for a period, before returning to it.
- Casting into the vicinity of numerous fish attracting features from one stance.
- Matching the hatch so to speak in relation to what prey items live or frequent there.
- Are you intercepting the fish and waiting for them to come to you, or are you casting, retrieving and moving, in what I like to term as ‘hunter mode’.
- Considering at all times how you’re going to make a bass ‘react’ to the lure by tapping into their instinctively predatory nature… THINK – the less time I give this fish to make up its mind, the more positive it is going to be…
In writing this post then, not only did I want to highlight the capture of what is the largest ‘client bass’ so far this season at 66cm (and certainly nearing 7lb judging by its density and bulkiness when I briefly held it), but more so the fact that it was the successful anglers’ overall alertness and subsequent reaction that evidently assisted him to snare this wonderful fish (that was quickly and safely returned as always).
It very was much the classic scenario, whereby I’d spaced my three clients (who were enjoying one of my 3 Day Packages) along a stretch of foreshore abundant in food and littered with ambush points – bass heaven essentially! Now, with sand eels and sporadic pockets of fry (smelt or immature mullet, bass, sea trout) present alongside each other at some locations I’ve fishd or guided on recently, I had instructed my clients to ‘let me know’ should they spot significant numbers of them in the shallows, as it could well be significant (as it already has been on a number of occasions since early-April when I commenced my guiding for the year).
Law of averages
So the story goes… With one client (the youngest, fittest, most experienced, and definitely the most eager!) some 200m further up the shoreline and the other two fishing within 20m of each other, after ensuring they were all comfortable, happy and fishing the lures (soft plastic paddle tails such as a white, lemon-backed and grey/silvery 140mm Savage Gear Gravity Sticks, 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner and 5″Megabass Spindle Worm, rigged onto belly-weighted weed-less hooks) how and where I reasoned the bass would find them, after almost an hour of fishing I decided to rock hop and then slip n’ slide over to the gentleman fishing the furthest away to see how he was getting on.
“I’ll leave the net here with you guys, as it’s more likely that one of you will hook into something as soon as I walk away” – it’s the law of averages right or more like sods law!”, I added. Upon arriving with angler number three I asked, “Anything yet?”, “Nothing yet Marc”, came the reply. But it was as I suggested a slightly quicker retrieve now that the zone of water in front of him was beginning to decrease in depth that I spotted the other guys waving frantically over his left shoulder! “They’ve got one mate!”, I said, before running excitedly back to their stance.
I am probably the fittest I’ve been for 5 years or so having singlehandedly landscaped my garden over the late-winter and early-spring period, plus the initial two months of guiding and fishing has seen me covering the miles (both on foot and in the car!). But I was seriously ‘blowing’ as I tried to sprint back around to the where I could gradually make out the successful captor with the fish in the net, and the net in the sea – and some fish it was too!
As I got closer I could see immediately that it was an extremely dark-backed bass nestling in the mesh – black in fact! And upon lifting her out ready to measure (still with the white SG Gravity Stick Paddle Tail in her mouth and the 6/0 hook poking out the side of the scissors) I must say that I was expecting her to go close to 70cm in length, especially given that she felt like a real lump!
66cm – really? But after checking again that was indeed her length – still a new personal best for my client who had smashed his previous best that he’d also landed with me almost 3 years ago now by 6cm, Further, it is officially the largest landed by one of my clients during the first 7 weeks (this fish was landed in late-May) of my 2022 guiding season.
Clearly, I wasn’t able to net this fantastic specimen, but I’d assumed that the other guy had come to the rescue! However, what actually transpired is that as the captor is a keen coarse angler used to netting fish himself, he’d actually taken it upon himself to complete the action of this crucial segment of the battle. Thank goodness he hadn’t lost it otherwise I would have been mortified!
Once we’d unhooked her, taken a couple of photos and then admired and enjoyed the exceedingly happy and shared moments that are witnessing these amazing fish swim away relatively unscathed, after the obligatory handshake and a ‘man hug’ (I think we’re allowed to now!) ensued I proceeded to ask him how it all came about?
“Scattering bait fish Marc” he quipped. which, considering the water had become decidedly murky as the water level dropped wasn’t something you expect to see, and is what heralded my clients instinctively clever response to cast the lure just behind the actively and BANG, he said everything just locked up within a second of the lure entering the water.
Now, whether this beauty was actively chasing the bait fish, or whether it simply swam through them is uncertain. But either way, it highlighted its presence to the angler, whereby he reacted appropriately and brilliantly from that moment and all the way through the magical process that culminated in her ending up in the net – just brilliant.
To those more experienced amongst you this account probably isn’t all that remarkable – and I get that. But to those less initiated in the art of seeking out and catching a bass on a lure I hope that some of the information contained here is useful to you.
Going back to the first few paragraphs in this post, in what was probably only a few vital seconds during what had been a quiet session (no other bites were received during this 4 hour session), an anglers’ concentration and observance, in tandem with his quick thinking under pressure (as it’s easy to make a ‘duff’ cast, wind the leader knot through the tip ring or, annoyingly, loop the braid around the rod tip in your hast to get the lure back in and straight back out again), in conjunction with a beautiful bass instinctively hitting that lure out of an innate, inherent, or inbuilt ability to do so, is what made another very special memory.
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