Client Catches – Gutters & Gravity Sticks

Client Catches – Gutters & Gravity Sticks

I’m not sure how the titles of some of these posts come to me, but there’s usually a glass or two of wine involved…! But then when a successful tactic comes to the fore in tandem with a particular pattern of lure, what else could I call this one?

The Gravity Sticks speak for themselves of course, especially in this case as they were directly utilised alongside various other lure types (to less success on these occasions it has to be reported) to mimic a specific action that I’ll talk about later. But the ‘gutter’ reference? Read on…

No bait fish = no bass quite often at this time of the year when the water is very warm and the bass are happy to travel long distances in pursuit of the mackerel and whitebait…

The second wave…

What a summer that was – with the school holidays being the finale in which I found the balance between guiding hard and being able to relax with my family. Through late-July and into the early August though, whilst enjoying a few ‘beach days’ I was keeping a very close eye on when the sprat/whitebait would begin bouncing up the shore as they’re ruthlessly pursued by the marauding mackerel – thus attracting a seasonal second wave of ‘transitional bass’ in the process…

So with reports trickling in that the above had indeed commenced, it was with three very eager clients (one of which I’d guided previously) that we arrived on a section of shingle beach as the ebbing tide flowed wonderfully over the submerged reef on the first mark I had chosen.

A few cormorants were immediately spotted working the tide line (a smoother and more noticeable slick of water only 30m out) which all pointed to the bait fish being in residence. Moreover, as soon as the lures I’d initially chosen for my clients hit the water they were seized upon by a squadron swarming gulls – a further sign that everything in the area was ‘switched on’ to items splashing on the surface layers.

Context

To add some further context, it is often the case when I am guiding more than one client that, allowing for the weather and overall sea state conditions, I tend to choose contrasting lure types in case the bass have a particular preference for something – which of course they often do! From there, should say a metal lure (such as the Savage Gear Surf Seekers) prove to be fruitful, then I will consider placing each of my clients onto the same lure if it’s the only thing that is catching.

As suspected however, following the capture of a number of large launce that were also keen to get in on the act, it was the surface lures (the larger Patchinko 140) that were attracting the bass and mackerel at range with the small diving minnows (the old favourite that is the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner 97S in particular) being walloped right under the rod tip by smaller bass as they sneaked into the ‘trough’ of the beach – no doubt using the swell and the more confused white water of the waves turning as cover for their own operation…

Although appearing relatively benign, the tide flows laterally at quite a pace on this mark – something that naturally brings the bait and the bass closer and closer to the shore and into the trough or gutter.

The ‘Trough or Gutter’

The ‘Trough and/or Gutter’ then. In case you aren’t aware, it is my understanding that the trough is the steepest zone of a beach (the submerged section) essentially right at your feet if you’re stood at the water’s edge before the seabed levels off, with the gutter(s) being any deeper areas (holes, depressions etc.) that are often highlighted by a smoother section of water if the sea is turbulent.

Either of these components will see food (bait fish, worms, molluscs, etc.) being naturally channelled into them by the wind, waves and current (or a combination of all of these) with the added bonus during the glutinous ‘bait fish bashing season’ being that the sprat/whitebait are herded up the trough/gutter and up onto the beach itself during the evening periods in particular by the scad, mackerel, pollack, wrasse (yep, I’ve witnessed this on occasion) and the number one fishy predator that will eat all of them that is the bass…

The main event

It was great fun witnessing some vicious attacks at the surface lures and helping my clients to unhook numerous mackerel and small bass, both of which were coughing up the sprat as I did so. But in the back of my mind was: how am I going to place a ‘better one’ onto their line…? Dusk leading into darkness is a predator’s dream in reality, and it was this Natural Trigger Point (as I describe them amongst many, many others that can make the difference in my second book Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 1) that I knew would provide us with the best opportunity, in addition to full on darkness itself to place a slab on the deck (the shingle!) as it were…

This was it – the main event! Many, many times I have heard and read that the larger bass will position themselves under the mayhem caused by the smaller predators above their heads, waiting for bits ‘n’ pieces of food to waft their way, or indeed to remain ready to strike at the mackerel, mini-bass, scad etc. should one of them appear more vulnerable perhaps.

So, it was with this in mind, in conjunction with another proven theory that the big ones will routinely move in to ‘mop up’ as the light fades, that I asked my client Steve (who’d kindly arranged this session for him and his work colleagues) to attach one of the new, smaller 120mm, 13g Savage Gear Gravity Sticks in the white paddle tail pattern (here) rigged onto a heavier than usual weighted (at 7g), 5/0 weedless hook (the Berkley Fusion 19 Swimbait here) so to ensure the lure swam and remained deep.

Why the Gravity Stick and not a diving hard plastic minnow or soft lure attached to a jig head? Well, two reasons: firstly the weedless properties of the Gravity Stick via that little fin on its back to shroud the hook point would combat the weed fragments close in, and secondly, that throbbing/wriggling action that these lures perform would, in my mind anyhow, imitate the panic stricken motion a mackerel’s tail makes when they are being unhooked by us anglers or when harassing or being harassed underwater.

No messing! After landing a modest 2lb bass on one of these smaller Gravity Sticks recently I surmised that its smaller profile, in conjunction with its clever design and the added weight of the 7g hook would keep the lure ‘clean of salad’ and down where I’d hoped the a bigger bass would be hunting.

“He’s got a proper one Marc!” came the call from behind me by Steve’s friend James as I took a break from being by his side to swig some of my water (typical). And a proper one it most certainly was at bang on 60cm/5lb – my first glimpse of it being in the very low light (it wasn’t quite dark despite the camera giving that impression) as I struggled to get the net under her in the soft swell and the associated constantly moving shingle.

A real cracker! Before landing this special bass at 60cm/5lb (which constitutes as a red-letter day in my opinion) and the others landed within this session Steve had only ever landed three bass in total on a lure.

With his fellow anglers switched onto these ‘magic’ soft plastics it appeared that Steve was stood in the ‘sweet spot’ as he landed another fine bass of just over 50cm/3lb twenty minutes or so after releasing his new personal best (that will take a bit of beating) – with once again, the 120mm Gravity Stick being ‘tapped’ by the masses of mackerel still present into the darkness on the retrieve, before being positively smashed as the lure entered that delightfully named ‘kill-zone’ of the trough/gutter.

Steve’s 5th bass (and his first in full on darkness) of a memorable session at just over 3lb. To catch them on a surface lure in daylight and then on a soft plastic in darkness is something I really do try to facilitate for my clients as it breeds so much confidence for them going back to their own marks/venues.

Part 2 – Business Meeting Bass!

Although I was officially taking a week off from my guiding operation at the time, when a former client of mine (Dave) and I got talking about various business propositions he had (some consultancy work as it happens) I suggested that we should meet up for a couple of hours at a venue similar to the one my clients from the session above had caught from – the difference being that it is orientated in a direction that was currently exposed to a gentle breeze as the neap tide rose.

With a lot of bait fish activity within the region in question I suggested to Dave that the way to go was none other than the larger 140mm Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail in white (here) this time… My thinking: Bigger Lure = Bigger Fish! Of significance, is that rather than casting the lure straight out in front of him, I asked Dave to continually cast and retrieve the ‘wriggling worm’ along the shingle bank and essentially parallel to the shoreline within that deeper, ‘bass grub collecting gutter’ where I hoped a lazy old bruiser would saunter in, under the cover of a particularly dark night, to ‘hoover up’ the remains of mangled mackerel and whitebait… We weren’t disappointed!

What a splendid bass at 70cm and well over 8lb I would imagine – she wasn’t weighed as it was quite a battle with this girl and I was obviously keen to get her back where she belongs.

What a scrap this was! With this belting bass gently taking the Gravity Stick (as the big ones generally do) only 4m from Dave’s feet, its discontent at being hooked was breathtakingly obvious as it pulled right and then powerfully left some 10m as it attempted to make the only rocky outcrop within a 100 radius with bouts of a ‘singing drag’ interrupting our exclamations that “this had to be a good fish…!” Woohoo!

The 12th lure-caught bass over 70cm that a client has landed with me and the second of the 2022 season. Will there be more to follow this autumn I wonder…?

As is often the case when you hook and land a ‘Big un’, Dave fished on for a further hour-and-a-half without a sniff – but it didn’t matter one jot. An ad-hoc session had turned into a remarkable one, made all the more pleasurable by capturing some fantastic images of a special bass being released and by guiding someone who is trying his utmost to learn what it takes to consistently catch these wonderful creatures – something I clearly have an affinity for.

Dave captured this photograph on the Google Pixel 6 that I am now using following a disaster with my Sony camera (don’t ask!). I can tell you that this beasty really enjoyed clenching and munching on my thumb as I allowed her to recover – the perils of being a pro-guide I guess, but something I am most definitely not complaining about!

To conclude, if there’s carnage occurring in relation to mackerel and bait fish, then maybe consider waiting until early darkness before retrieving something along that ‘gutter’ – it was the Gravity Sticks that did the business on these occasions, but it could quite easily be something either highly detectable such as a rattling, knocking hard plastic, whereas on another tide it could be the subtle characteristics of a weightless soft plastic being delicately drifted in the breaking swell that ‘finds’ a monster…

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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