Client Catches – Varied and Variable…

Client Catches – Varied and Variable…

I think it was almost inevitable that we would experience a very wet, windy and essentially ‘wild’ period of weather coming into this autumn. “The weather always averages itself out” is something my friends in The Met Office would continually remind me of when I worked alongside them in my previous career. Therefore, after what has been a protracted spell of very, very good weather overall since July 2021, I can hardly complain…

We all knew this run of ‘iffy’ weather was coming… What next? A Beast from the East… most probably looking at the long-range weather models (here).

Options

I cannot recall when I last had to reschedule a guided session due to the weather or sea state – testament to how settled the weather has been here in the South-West. Furthermore, since the weather did make that expected turn for the worse (late-October here) I am exceedingly happy to report that all of the research that I conducted prior to becoming a professional bass lure fishing guide (just over 6 years ago now would you believe!) and the ‘reccying’ that I continually complete has been put to good use in relation to mark selection during what has been a difficult period.

Having a multitude of realistic options to fall back on when the Gales are pummelling in from all directions, the sea on the open coast is dangerously rough, and when the river systems are flooded with rainwater and the subsequent run off from the surrounding landscape is something I have worked extremely hard on to accomplish. I am very fortunate of course that the south Devon coastline is so diverse, in the sense that it is orientated in various directions and there are so many estuaries to fish within. Morover, that I’ve been required to physically ‘visit’ all of these places over the years in order to ascertain whether they are ‘fishable’ or not has clearly taken a lot time and effort.

All of the above makes it all the more satisfying when my clients and I are able to catch and release these beautiful fish during, or immediately after, adverse weather conditions – and in this post I will highlight some of the more significant catches we’ve achieved of late. As a couple of asides, if you don’t ‘do’ Facebook (where I tend to post the catches up initially) then I do keep the Gallery on the front page of my website updated with both the Client Catches (here) and that of my own (My Catches here) if ever you want to see how we’ve been getting on until I get the opportunity to write about them.

My third book (Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 2) is taking up a lot of my spare time between fishing, family time and guiding as you can imagine (hence the lack of regular posts which I sincerely apologise for), but it is most definitely my intention to write a ’10 Items of Equipment that I’d recommend from 2022′ post (something I kind of incorporated into my Two-Part yearly review last year here and here), in addition to splitting my forthcoming 2022 Yearly Review Blog Posts into separate and/or designated ‘My Catches and Client Catches’ reports – primarily because I’ve hardly written about my own captures since the spring (it’s been a great personal season too).

Choices…

Choosing the ‘right’ lure goes hand-in-hand with deciding on the most suitable venue. That might appear to be a predictable statement to some readers, but to the less experienced bass lure angler, when to attach a soft plastic paddle-tail over a hard diving minnow or a surface lure may be utterly bemusing. Therefore, as it is always my intention to assist people eager to learn how to catch these marvellous creatures, within the following descriptions, as per some of my previous posts this year, I will shed some light on why I/we ended up on certain types of mark, as well as why I decided to utilise a certain lure type, and in what way I decided to ask my clients to utilise them.

Paddle Tails

The best birthday present ever! His words, and mine!

The striking and rather portly 56cm bass that my client (Rob) is holding above was actually hooked on the very first cast of the session – a day that happened to be his birthday! What’s more, I recall ‘hurrying’ him and his brother (Pirate Lures owner David Major) along the coastal path to the sandy foreshore I’d chosen, as I knew there would only be a short window of opportunity in the tide in which I felt the bass would be there, and more importantly, catchable given the terrible cross wind and rough sea conditions we faced on that and on the previous day.

The weedless virtues of a weedless, soft plastic lure, with the 6/0 hook buried in the slot situated along the back of the excellent Savage Gear Gravity Stick (and many other similar lures it has to be said) came up trumps yet again!

With a fair bit of ‘crap’ in the water, alongside the fact that it had approximately 18″ of visibility, a wriggling, throbbing and highly visible white paddle-tailed lure seemed like a prudent lure choice – especially as distance wasn’t a concern on this sandy beach mark. The underwater target was a collection of weed-covered rocks that sit just on the exposed edge of the tide here, as I knew from previous experiences that the bass like to sit here and wait for perhaps only 30 minutes within the flooding tide, before you need to move off of the venue for safety reasons anyhow.

I said at the time, that given the atrocious weather conditions that night, that this 4lb bass was in the Top 10 of fish that I have guided a client onto, and I stand by it.

As you can see from the image above, it was a glorious night to be out fishing… Not! It was bloody awful, but the plan that I hatched involved only being exposed to the elements for the 2 hours during the ebbing tide in which I had routinely caught and guided previous clients onto bass on this estuary mouth mark. Sheltered from the vicious westerly Severe Gale (I’m not joking) Dave landed two bass in quick succession on a lure that he loves (which you’d expect given that he builds them!) and that I have taken a real shine to – the 12cm Pirate Lures Teaser.

That shout of ‘Fish on!’ came as the heavens opened – nobody likes standing in the dark and in the rain do they…?

Once again, the use of a paddle-tailed lure was required due to the powerful and laterally running flow of the tide, with a 6g belly-weighted added so to keep the lure moving at, or as close to the same speed as the tide as possible. Importantly, the angle of the cast and the subsequent retrieve, so to ensure that the lure remained as close to the ‘ridge or drop off’ into the deeper channel (that was running essentially parallel to his stance on this mark) here proved to be the winning formula. That hot cup of tea, plus the slices of toast and butter I scoffed went down a treat when I got home later that night I can tell you!

‘Portrait Mode’ on the phone/camera at its best! A few people have commented (via social media) regarding the mud or sand present on the fish recently. Truth is, it’s about getting the fish back into the water, rather than ensuring it looks ‘pristine’ within the photograph that is far, far more important, followed by capturing the moment and the memory for my clients, before witnessing them swim away.

“I’d definitely recommend fishing for another 15 minutes, and then have your fag” were my words to another Dave, who joined me with his friends Carl and Simon during my final 3 Day Package of the year earlier in November (they’d travelled over from Guernsey which was nice). Again, via keeping meticulous records in relation to each of the 182 separate marks that I guide on, I knew that the stage of the tide they were about to enter was the period in which a bass or two might swim through…

If they’re swimming – they’re hunting, is a concept that I base a lot of my fishing and guiding on, especially when you’re stood in the same spot waiting for the fish to come to you as it were. Indeed, interception is the name of the game when any bass present will need to exit a particular area or become grounded by the lack of water covering their backs – so being stood where you’re most likely to encounter them is the name of the game.

Add some mullet fry into the equation (that, unfortunately for them, the bass love to hoover up within the creeks at this time of the year) and attaching a small, lightly weighted (via the use of a 2 or 3g belly-weighted hook) quivering paddle-tail lure makes a lot of sense. Indeed, it was the 12cm Lemon Back Pirate Lures Teaser, with that enticing little tail section, that accounted for the only bass of this session – the fat one at around 57cm (nearing 5lb) above.

Not the greatest water clarity, but there’s nearly always a way!

Very sunny – tick. Fast moving water – tick. Very murky – also tick, all of which points to one lure type which is, you guessed it, a paddle-tail! However, although the water behind my client (Simon) was disgustingly dirty, a slightly clearer ribbon of water that highlighted the faster running section of tide as it was deflected off of a mini-headland was the target on this occasion. This one struck early in the session during what was as a kind of experiment… I decided to attach the darker, green and sparkling Savage Gear Gravity Stick (here) from my box of tricks, with the darker silhouette in the turbid water, added to the Sun catching the glimmering flank of the lure influencing my thinking. Black or dark lures in very murky water… Hmmmm…. my mind is whirring…

Surface Lures

All of the short stories in this post so far have involved soft plastic paddle tail lures, with the bass being landed (and successfully released) from a variety of marks (beaches, estuary mouths and creeks) and varying conditions (sunny, wet, windy and in sunny daylight conditions and also in darkness), but what may surprise some readers is the avidness of the bass to still hit a surface lure even well into November… Although when you consider that the sea around here was warmer throughout November than it was in June it certainly isn’t unusual…

What joy! This is what bass lure fishing does to you!

Casting along the weedy and rocky margins, essentially parallel to the foreshore at times, is something that I’ve gradually incorporated into my personal fishing and guiding a lot more this season as, depending on the overall topography of the seabed and the way the current is interacting with it, means that the bass are very often right under your feet! So, with the water much clearer than I expected on this shallow, sheltered and rocky cove, I decided to attach differing surface lures initially to both Graham and Martin’s clips – lures that neither of them had ever ‘operated’ before incidentally.

Martin’s near 5 pounder – landed on the Savage Gear SGS5 that was kindly sent to me. A great rod for around the £150 mark.

It is so, so satisfying teaching people how to lure fish for bass, and to witness them enjoying the learning process, and even better, witnessing them receive almost immediate confirmation that what they are doing is correct, courtesy of a bass nailing the lure is off the scale! And this is what happened when, after a good bass became unstuck from Graham’s IMA Chappy 100, that a blistering attack on Martin’s Patchinko 125 resulted in the this near 5lb bass (above) nestling in the net. They were absolutely blown away with the thought processes, the technique and the methods involved. But above all, they were struck by the attack, the battle, and the sheer beauty of these fish – their first on a lure from the shore. Just brilliant.

Another ‘first ever’ bass landed on a lure for my client David.

In a similar way to Martin and Simon’s bass above, it was during a brief lull in the strength of the wind and the speed of the current, that enabled me to find some clearer water bordering a section of rocks and weed exposed to the tide. It just smelt of bass here, but again, with my client very new to casting and retrieving lures, it was following some dedicated and hastily condensed tuition that David found himself not only casting into the wind, but also utilising the still very quick tide to his advantage, in order to place the Patchinko 125 (a great lure choice in the choppy water he faced) right into the delightfully named ‘kill-zone’.

All of the bass my clients and I catch are returned as efficiently as possible.

After watching what was probably the same bass swirl, ‘mouth’ and boil at the lure over two successive retrieves, I doubted whether it was daft enough or hungry enough to attempt to eat it again! But David’s luck was in, as on the third cast and retrieve into this prime region, his first ever bass on a lure (at well over 3lb) made an alarming bend in the rod as it tried to get into the main slick of current. David did brilliantly though, and the sight and feel of his hand physically and visibly shaking as I shook it before returning his prize was a lovely moment.

Low Flow

I talk and write a lot about the flow, tide or current and its virtues, but there definitely occasions when the decreasing strength or pace of the tide can very much work in your favour – with another dollop of ‘watercraft’ in the offing here! Cormorants… I covered their presence and the positive affect it can have on the bass fishing (as it tends to signal the presence of bait fish) in some of my earlier posts this year. And on the mark I guided my client (Colin) on during this session, it was there inward movement or migration, towards us and very close, if not actually within the wrack that borders this venue, that influenced my tactics, Ultimately, this led to the capture of the first two bass of the session (above) – both of which were in the 3lb bracket – which is in fact the average-size in late-November here south Devon happily.

Lure choice was again key here, as although Colin had been ploughing the soft plastics through the fastest zone of the flow (that word again!) during the fiercest period of the tide (hours 2-5 of the flood and ebb), if there were any bass present then they just weren’t interested. But once we neared the final hour of the flood on this occasion, in conjunction with the Sun setting, the light levels changing, the wind dropping and the tide coming to more or less a stop, following some shocking weather the night before, during which the bass around this area tend to go deep, I believe they were lining up to move back into the shallows to chase the fry now that everything had become ‘still’ – something the cormorants had also identified in those moments.

Again, experience has told me that the bass are more likely to hit a surface lure over the quieter interludes here, especially as the light fades, perhaps because they are ‘expecting’ the fry to scatter as the competition attacks them also? Either way, the Patchinko 125 attracted three vicious takes – two of which resulted in Colin holding and returning his largest bass of the season, with a third (the first that struck) managing to escape. Further, to back up the theory that the bass were waiting out in the very adjacent deeper water here and waiting for a signal to strike, upon the minute it became officially dark, Colin’s white, Gravity Stick Paddle Tail was nailed by a plump 45cm fish (below) only centimetres from his rod tip, and right on the edge of the weed.

Colin’s first ever lure-caught bass in darkness – a very, very significant moment I can assure you due to the confidence going forward it evokes.

Insight

It has been a brilliant autumn of fishing and guiding adventures, and in all honesty, I could have written about many more of the bass catches my clients have achieved. However, some of them deserve a separate blog post of their own due to their complexity, or indeed, they may form part of an idea, thesis or supposition I have, therefore, they could crop up within my next book! Either way, I hope that what is contained within this post assists you in your quest to catch what will be, officially from tomorrow, a ‘winter bass’. Let’s hope winter isn’t about to bite too hard!

What will this winter bring…

My Books

The Lure of The Bass & Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Volume 1)

I have commissioned another print run of each of my self-published titles and now have them both IN STOCK.

To reserve my most recent (March 2021) release Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective – Volume 1 (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here and Henry Gilbey’s review here) or my first release (October 2018) ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (BASS review here) please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this post. Alternatively, you can email me directly at southdevonbassguide@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Cowling

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