Client Catches – Houdini The Bass!

Client Catches – Houdini The Bass!

“Oh no, she’s escaped! What the **** has happened…!?

There’s no ‘Grip n’ Grin or ‘Trophy Shot’ here unfortunately as, you guessed it, the huge bass in the featured image managed to slither out of the massive Advanta net that I carry (check out its dimensions and where you can purchase it here) perhaps after its spines, gill-plates or sheer bulk (she was bloody heavy I can tell you!) damaged the rubber mesh…? Or was it already damaged from clambering around the rocks etc. and I just hadn’t noticed…?

Thank goodness I took a couple of shots of this gorgeously dark bass in the net just after I’d measured her at 73cm.

I was gutted for my client, a very nice bloke and a very good angler called Garry who’d joined me with his two friends (Dave and Ray) for one of my 3 Day Packages (details at the bottom of this post) as I would have loved to have captured what was a truly, truly memorable moment in the best way possible.

Blimey!

Yep, if you’ve checked out the dimensions of the net on the link above, or if you’re one of the many clients who has been guided by me and have commented on the size of the net (“Blimey Marc, that’s a big net – you’re confident aren’t you being the most common!”) then you would have realised that it is very special bass… Indeed, at 73cm in length she is the joint-largest bass that a client has landed with me, and is officially the largest bass caught in daytime by one of my clients (we’ve had a two at 72cm as you may recall here + here). Moreover, she is also the 11th over that ‘fish of a lifetime size’ of 70cm.

“What a fish!!!!”, something that all of us kept muttering long after this splendid bass completed her party trick.

The No.1 Natural Trigger?

Something that proved to be highly significant during the 6x 4 hour sessions that I routinely complete with my clients on these packages (that include the BB accommodation at the excellent Chillington House BB Hotel just down the lane from where I live) is that it was the turn of the tide that seemingly made the difference time and again.

Now, in conjunction with all of these sessions, I had planned for them to fish over this natural occurrence alongside a few others – such as the Sun setting and dusk entering into darkness. But what is ironic is that on our way to the first venue (which is when and where the 73cm brute was hauled out) Ray, who has recently re-read my second book Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Volume 1) in which I cover Natural Trigger Points or NTPs in great detail, asked me: “what do you think is the most significant NTP Marc?”.

My answer, after initially saying dusk into darkness, was quickly switched to “the turn of tide actually Ray” as I recalled many a special fish being hooked either as the ebb commenced or the tide had started to flood. What’s more, it was the latter that proved to be consequential when, only 15 minutes into the new tide, and just after my trio began to ‘feel’ their soft plastic lures being influenced by the current, did she strike the white 5″ Megabass Spindleworm on Garry’s line.

Respect

So you may be asking why on earth was the fish placed back into the net? Well, a couple of reasons out of care and respect for these amazing creatures essentially. Firstly, although his drag was set to ‘tight’ (and I mean my tight, which is very tight!) after the gentlest of ‘taps’ Garry said that everything went solid, before the fish stripped 10m of line from him!!! The fish therefore would have been very tired, and with big females like this one still potentially spawning at this time of year I wasn’t taking any chances with her health – just in case. Secondly, my first reaction when seeing her and then feeling her weight in the net was that she was well over 9lb, and potentially close to that magic 10lb…

After measuring her and then taking the two photographs above, I placed her back into the water whilst Dave went to grab my electronic scales from my bag and I talked Garry though how and where we were going to capture the image so not to ‘give away’ the location – the angle of the shot being imperative. Neither became reality of course, but as we all mentioned over the subsequent sessions – at least we witnessed this magnificent specimen swimming off relatively unharmed which is, without a doubt, the ultimate outcome, and who knows, she might just pay me a visit again when she is well and truly over the 10lb mark!

The remaining 5 sessions…

To start a 3 Day Package on the first session with such a magnificent fish meant that everyone was ‘buzzing’ with excitement and anticipation every time we headed out (myself included), but of course, what it also does is set the bar exceedingly high! Furthermore, with Garry’s new personal best (that smashed his previous PB by about 6lb) the only fish we encountered on what was a cold and thoroughly miserable day for late-June courtesy of a howling NE wind, I knew I had my work cut out with the weather forecast remaining windy, but also exceedingly sunny by day.

The first evening session saw us out on the rocks initially, before we decamped to a nearby beach to fish into darkness over the sand and the more broken ground at the opposite extremities of it. A mixture of lures were utilised, with the pearl Albie Snax and a white Savage Gear Gravity Stick Pulse Tail fished in the opposite corners of the beach, with a white 125mm,19g Savage Gear SG Pencil utilised more centrally over the cleanest ground.

The ‘SG Pencil’ is a lure that intrigues me in regards to its potential usage in darkness, hence why I asked Garry to attach it after spotting it in his lure box. It did very well over the two night sessions we completed too, as it accounted for 6 of the 20 bass they landed in total over the 6 sessions.

Much to Ray’s playful jesting, it was Garry who ‘slayed’ the bass on that first night by landing three and dropping a few more in the process. It goes without saying that the very next day Dave and Ray set about purchasing the successful lure from a store local to me (a little gem it is too) called Ashby’s of Kingsbridge (here).

The best of three bass that Garry tempted on the SG Pencil – a long casting and relatively subtle lure with its slaloming action. As expected, another Natural Trigger Point or NTP proved to be influential on this second session which was the dusk sinking into darkness (which takes a long time in June). Indeed, it was like flicking a switch.

Tricky

25-30 years ago, when I was reading everything I could get my hands on regarding fishing and bass lure fishing in particular, three components that stood out in relation to when most fish species (except wrasse perhaps) are more difficult to catch was/is when:

  • The wind is in the east/north east.
  • The weather is very bright and sunny.
  • The water is clear and calm.

Well, bar a specific section of the south Devon coastline, all of the above is precisely what we faced over the next two days and four sessions. Therefore, my planned tactics in the conditions we faced were to either:

  • Fish within the estuaries where, once bass are within them, they have to eat/feed.
  • Seek out the shallowiest, snaggiest, rockiest and weediest territory possible – places where the bass will seek food, cover and concealment essentially.
  • Concentrate my/our efforts in areas where there is lots of natural tide – such as estuary mouths, creeks or headlands.
  • To fish exclusively in the dark from a variety of venues, but that are sheltered from the wind.
  • In day time at least, utilise lures that either appear extremely natural (weightless soft plastics) or that emit a great deal of ‘flash and splash’ (surface lures).
A cracking 3lb+ bass for Ray (aka George Clooney), taken on a surface lure (the brilliant Xorus Patchinko 125) under very bright overhead conditions, in calm, clear water, and when a very gusty north-easterly wind was blowing – not exactly the quintessential bass conditions that I was once ‘programmed’ to fish within.

See for me, it’s about finding a way around a set of problems or rather the dilemmas, which in the case of the third session was (as you can see from the beauty above) a combination of clear and calm water, plus an extremely bright and sunny sky. But with the help of the delicately worked Patchinko 125, a gently zig-zagging, flashing and splashing retrieve and yep, you guessed it, the turn of the tide, Ray pulled out a good one – and most satisfying it was for all us too.

The Xorus Patchinko 125 – the most versatile pattern of the family of 5 lures in my opinion due to the variety of ways in which you can fish or retrieve it.

Head scratcher

I won’t lie, Session 4 had me scratching my head a bit as we really struggled on what has been one of my most consistent marks this season, in what were very nice overhead and water conditions. So with that gusty east/north-east wind extremely reluctant to relent, alongside one the of guys (Dave) yet to catch, I decided we should visit very sheltered (from this particular wind direction) estuarine environment in order to work the surface lures which they’d all found to their taste.

Hailing from the North East of England, catching bass by this method had (surprisingly perhaps) not really been a serious consideration for them. However, once I explained my belief that once the sea temperature reaches around 12oC that the bass present have less of a problem exerting the amount of energy required to chase and smash a surface lure in decent depths of water, they were fully ‘onboard’.

It was a real success this 5th session, as not only did Dave land a number of bass with me by his side in order to perfect his technique (many of which where just as the tide began to flood) but it also set us very nicely for what would a ‘night assault’ back out onto an open coast pebble beach that leads out onto a food-rich section of reef and gullies.

Perfect ending

With a pint and a pub dinner in our bellies, we waddled down the country lane, out onto the coastal path and down onto the beach just as the Sun set below the horizon. It was a beautiful evening, and with Dave continuing his ‘hot streak’ with two further bass landed right on the edge of the reef on the larger Patchinko 140, I was mightily encouraged and enthused about their chances heading into darkness.

Now, for whatever reason (the bass hunting for small cuttlefish or squid perhaps?) the Albie Snax has proven to be a deadly lure to use from this specific venue. But with Garry keen to continue with the ‘bass magnet’ that had been the white Savage Gear SG Pencil it was Dave and Ray who clipped on ‘The Snax’ as the stars began to twinkle.

Bass number one of Session 6 landed on the Abie Snax – a great lure to utilise over the reefs in darkness, when very little tidal influence is in play especially.

Shoal inbound

Boom! With full-on darkness coinciding with the middle section of the tide (a period when the velocity speeds up significantly and another proven Natural Trigger Point) it was immediately after I’d rigged up the Abie Snax and proceeded to explain to Dave how to use it that (and I’m not kidding) he got absolutely nailed, at around 5m from his feet, on the very first retrieve! Get in!!!

Did someone order a bass Sir…? One of the ultimate types of ‘day out’ guiding is when a client lands bass on a surface lure in daylight and then on a soft plastic in darkness – the two most contrasting methods possible and something I just absolutely love facilitating!

They were on the feed, and sure enough, about 100m down the beach I heard a shout as the shoal seemingly moved across the reef, missing out Ray altogether (much to his jovial displeasure that I enjoyed ribbing him about!) to within the sights of Garry who’d been hit, again, very close to the beach, on the SG Pencil.

Another nice bass for Garry and part of he same shoal of 48-50cm bass that arrived right on cue…

One a-piece

After giving Ray a ‘pep talk’ I closed the conversation with a genuine pronouncement that “the next time I head down to see you mate, you’ll be shouting that you’ve hooked one”. Sure enough, just as it often happens in the dark when bass just appear as quickly as they disappear, about 10 minutes later and just as I was crunching along the pebbles mid-way between Garry and Ray I heard Ray shout “Yeah, fish!”

Well done Ray – nicely done, and just reward for your perseverance.

With 20 bass landed in total during the 6 sessions (including that monster 73cm/9lb bass of course) it was the perfect way to end what had been a perfect day, evening and night spent fishing hard, having a laugh and taking in some magnificent surroundings (and grub). It’ll be a real pleasure to guide them again on the 2023 3 Day Package they subsequently booked with me within hours of returning home. In the meantime, I will look forward to seeing the photographs of their ‘top water-caught bass’ I am positive they will hook and land a long way up on the North Sea coastline. Good luck guys!

My 3 Day Packages in 2023

I am completing 26 of my 3 Day Packages in 2023, and although I haven’t formally advertised the dates anywhere, a high percentage of the places are already taken up by my previous and therefore returning clients who have asked me directly for the dates. The price is £499 per person which, as I’ve mentioned within this post encompasses:

  • 6x 4 hour sessions from what will be a variety of venue types (creeks, rocks, headland, reefs, beaches) both within daylight and darkness.
  • 3 Nights BB accommodation at the superb Chillington House BB Hotel (reviews can be found here and here).
  • Use of my equipment (rods. reels, lures, waders) if required.

If you would like to enquire or book your place onto one of these packages which are for 3 anglers (you can come alone as many anglers do, whereby they invariably meet a fishing friend or two for life, or as a pair, or as a 3 angler party) then please do contact me via the Contact Form below:

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for a brill bit of reading good to see how well treated it was there are still a few of us left. Look forward to hearing from you soon

    Like

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