My Recent Catches – Scratching The Surface…
Don’t you just love it when a plan, an inkling, a theory or a suspicion is realised – even more so when you feel that it has enhanced your appreciation and/or understanding of these unique predators. And I do mean unique, as in regards to fish that can be caught in UK waters, what other species is attracted to lures in disgustingly coloured up water to crystal clear, from rough as rats sea conditions to oily calm, on an exceptionally wide range of lures in daylight and in darkness, and from a spectacularly diverse and varied type of terrain ranging from deep water wrecks to brackish water and beyond into freshwater…?
And this where I’ll start this post in earnest, as one of the things I contemplated over the winter and early-spring period was just how far up the estuaries I could routinely seek and ultimately catch bass on lures. Honestly, some of the stories I’ve been told by my clients, most notably those from a coarse and freshwater lure specialisation seriously blew my mind!
Clearly, I won’t divulge who said what and where they caught them, but when someone tells you that they’ve landed a 4lb bass whilst lure fishing for perch and pike, from a location situated miles from the sea and actually beyond two sluice gates you tend to take notice – even more so if you’re a ‘bass nut’ like me!
We know that bass can be caught in freshwater, but the burning questions in my mind are:
- Are the bass caught in freshwater purely there by ‘accident…?’
- As bonkers as it appears – are these resident fish?
- Where there is still a clear tidal influence, just how far will a bass travel within each tidal cycle – the flood and ebb…?
So after scrutinising Google Earth for many an hour, I finally decided on a dozen venues across a multitude of river systems (I am very lucky to be within 1 hour’s drive of 9 separate estuaries here in south Devon) in which to dedicate some time. Exploration is the name of this game, as I cannot help but be intrigued by what the fishing may be like within the next quiet bay, that muddy pool even further up the river, or the wild n’ weedy rock mark that is a bugger to get to!
I’ll cover the ‘wild rock marks’ later in this post, as what I have recently discovered in respect of this (in just one highly enlightening session I must add!) has not only got my attention, but it has also captured my imagination in regards to the possibilities – and yes, I do think about this fish an awful lot!
But first the stinking mud, fallen trees, nettles and secret footpaths bordering the passageways winding down from the moorlands of this beautiful county, and some of the major considerations when I was combing the images before me whilst deciding where to cast a line were/are:
- That the mark was still needs to be tidal, as I doubt I’ll be joining the barbel or chub fraternity any time soon!
- That there is some cover for the fry and the bass to hide within (even if this was only a dozen or so clumps of weed to target).
- That there are clear undulations in the seabed, such as those found on gravel spits and mud banks.
- That the mark is within close proximity to where narrow channels or culverts converge with the main river/channel/creek.
- Somewhere were mullet routinely gather in huge numbers.
It was the ‘weed formula’ that worked a treat on one of my initial outings: one in which it was either the top of the tide that made the difference, or my subsequent cast, retrieve, move strategy (a tactic I generally employ once the velocity of the tide/current/flow has ceased to a stagnant state and the bass often mirror this by remaining in one position) that tricked the large-tailed 60cm bass (below) into smashing the Patchinko 125 being tantalisingly teased through the margins literally centimetres off the rod tip – oh what a hit!
I also added the 53cm bass (below) that had plucked the lure from under the noses of the seemingly dozens of micro-bass present on this venue (hence why I was using a larger lure so to mitigate hooking them), and despite slicing my finger on it’s gill plate I returned home rather chuffed following this session – I can’t wait to return here I can tell you!
A wander and a wonder
My second quest to capture a lure-caught bass from as far up a river system as I currently dare fishing without being arrested for poaching salmon or some other rare creature, saw the two fish below (at 52 and 53cm) within a haul of eight that I landed during a marvellous morning spent, initially at least, wandering along a bridleway for what seemed hours searching for safe access. But once I was on the spot, what is a brilliant, brilliant little lure (the Xorus Patchinko 100) proved absolutely irresistible to the bass in residence during this tide at least.
What’s more, I could and should have landed many more bass than I did, such was the manner in which they ’rounded’ on the lure before eventually pouncing on it with a savage ferociousness of a creature that has never seen anything like it before – which is very likely to be the case…
This session surprised me I must say, and it provided me that all important confidence to continue exploring. Interestingly, as it was obvious there were fish in front of me, I decided to clip on an OSP DoLive Stick (see here how I utilise them) first of all, followed by a 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner. However, neither could rouse any form of attack, yet as soon as I whacked out the ‘Patch 100’ again – BANG – they were on it in a flash as you can see from the gallery below:
Arriving onto the next venue that I’d earmarked, I was really pleased to find a great deal of shelter from the wind (something I’d planned for) that was really blowing for the time of year. The conditions were good – overcast, with an occasional ripple across the surface courtesy of the wind swirling around whenever a more powerful gust blew through and with decent water clarity that was encouraging the fry into the weed around my feet. But as the tide dropped away so did my levels of belief…
Hmmm… About 40m my left, where a cluster of rocks and weed gave way to a mud bank that was becoming more and more exposed, I could see dozens and dozens of mullet ploughing their snouts through the sediment – the odd rapid splash raising my heart rate in the hope that it might be bass snatching at fry.
I couldn’t resist, as what enters my mind when I see behaviour like this are all of those occurrences over the past three seasons in particular when a delicately lobbed DoLive Stick, Savage Gear Gravity Stick or small surface lure pitched right into the disturbance has resulted in a savage take from a bass ‘mingling with the mullet’ as it were…
So rather than walk directly up to the fish, what I did was scramble as far up the bank as I could so not to disturb them. Then, closer to the water’s edge now, I picked a stance a good 15m or so down-tide of them before chucking the diminutive Patchinko 100 up-tide, over the circling crowd of fish and parallel to the water’s edge so that it actually landed only 2m off of the dry gravel/mud.
With the lure zig-zagging in only 18″ of water I was almost expecting what happened next to occur – which was a bow wave coming up directly behind the lure like a submarine ready to surface! Tap, tap, tap with the rod – closer, closer, closer, closer – BOOOOSH! The bass (below) sought and certainly went about destroying it’s prey, and at 55cm (around 4lb) put up a pretty decent scrap in the shallows.
On the rocks
As I intimated at the start of the post, I have been splitting my time between those more brackish environments and the open coast headlands and tide races just to get a real ‘feel’ for how the season ahead may be shaping up. I talked about this in my previous post ‘My Recent Catches – Bouncing For Bass‘ whereby early in the season I tend to fish as many differing (although still very much proven) types of venues as possible in an attempt to ascertain what the bass may be feeding on, and how they are reacting to certain lure types.
So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I scrambled down and out onto a wonderfully secluded headland during one of those warm, humid and blissfully calm evenings – the kind you dream about when you’re stood out fishing on a dark and freezing February evening! First chuck – BANG = BASS, Third chuck BANG = BASS. But thereafter, it didn’t really live up to the billing until late into the dusk period when the fish just suddenly ‘turned up or woke up’ to the tune of the gorgeous 54cm fish below.
Of note, is that during most of the sessions I’ve completed on marks like this a bass has made an attempt or has utterly annihilated the surface lure on either the first or second cast – which tells me the fish are positioning on or within the underwater features that I’m aiming for waiting for their prey to come to them. Sometimes there’s more than one bass waiting to strike, and sometimes you need to let it rest and target another section of the headland before returning to it again, whereby if your luck’s in, another group of bass would have sneaked into position…
On to what has got me really excited then! Imagine the roughest, rockiest, weediest, most difficult to get to and snag-ridden territory you could possibly dream of (which sounds like bass heaven admittedly). But rather than fishing it mid-tide, on a cloudy day, in fizzed up sea conditions with a modicum of clarity, I instead decided to fish it on the brightest and sunniest conditions possible, on a day when the water was as clear and as turquoise as it gets – oh, and I decided to fish it over low water (for access reasons) when the fronds of weed were resting on the surface layers and the prawns, wrasse and miniature pollack could be seen wallowing over the numerous sandy patches between the rocks.
As a 10-14 year old, I would routinely fish for wrasse with large crab baits within such ground and in the conditions described – places that were rich in what I now understand are natural bass prey ‘larders’ set amongst the sheltered, narrow gullies and underwater clefts. But a haven for bass in such conditions…? Well, a bit of inside knowledge from a very accomplished diver friend of mine gave me the inspiration, alongside the shove I needed as he’s mentioned a few times how he’s seen bass, and large ones too, sat right where I was currently heading on what was a blisteringly sunny and hot morning.
Armed with 30 years experience of tracking and catching what was once, and definitely still is to a certain extent, the ‘magical and mysterious’ bass from venues and in conditions that even up until a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought they could be caught from has taught me one thing: there’s only one way to find out – and that’s to give it a go… So, considering the outrageously difficult terrain and the 30 minutes of climbing required to access this region, with the assistance of a fishing friend of mine (Steve) we set off for a bit of a ‘Look See’ as they say.
Well… Although nothing like the bass that my diver friend has routinely spotted here were landed, I can report that the session was a huge success! Seven bass landed between us with the largest at 51cm, which considering all we were doing was basically skipping our surface lures (Patchinko 100 and 125) over the partially submerged rock formations littering this area and that were aligned parallel to our stance was just reward for our sweat dripping efforts!
Adorned with the thickest kelp imaginable and interspersed with those inviting sandy patches covered by between 4-8ft of water, I have to tell you that I was left somewhat gobsmacked by the regularity and the savagery of the ‘hits’ (of which there were many more that somehow didn’t hook up) from within sections of reef that I really didn’t think bass would be ‘holed up’ in such conditions. Honestly, it was staggering to be hooking bass from gullies and large pools that as a teenager I would be wading and paddling in with a net looking to snare prawns for bait – unreal fishing.
So there you go! I have been exploring and experimenting quite a bit recently! Of course, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface (with the surface lures too incidentally!) in regards to searching for and catching bass both from marks miles and miles inland, and from extreme low tide venues, but I have made a start – and a good start it is too. Who knows what the future holds…
Thanks for reading.