My Year in Review 2022 – Part 1 of 2 (Client Catches)

My Year in Review 2022 – Part 1 of 2

(Client Catches)

Even though I am confident and comfortable in my abilities as a professional guide, when I am leading up to the start of a new season there are always a few moments where I wonder what kind of a year it’s going to be… Lots of questions bounce around inside my mind… Have they been swept up in a net whilst breeding and spawning? Are the rock and reef marks going to fire? Will the estuary fishing be as good as previous years? Will the sandy beaches be ‘on form’ in the dark? Have they all been eaten by Tuna or seals!?

Joking aside, at the end of the day, we are obviously dealing with an utterly wild creature that remains under severe pressure naturally, commercially and also recreationally, which is why the highly anticipated introduction of The Bass Fisheries Management Plan (BFMP) here provides hope, that the necessary measures are finally going to be put in place, to ensure adequately protected and enduring stock levels, alongside excellent social-economic opportunities for all. 2023 will be a pivotal year.

All bass landed at ‘South Devon Bass Guide’ are returned.

I have purposely commenced this post, one that I love to write (as it gets me fired up and wanting to head out fishing right now!) with a reminder that, although it’s been another excellent year for my clients and I, I really don’t want to give anyone the impression that it is ‘easy’, and there are bass climbing up the line every time we head out. These are critical times for our stocks – and as someone who clearly spends a lot of time out on the coastline observing everything ‘bass related’, what happens in the next 12-18 months will shape the future for this truly wonderful and unique species.

Welcome

Welcome to the first instalment of ‘My Year in Review 2022’ – one that is dedicated to the captures that my clients have achieved this year, with Part 2 set aside for my personal endeavours… This year saw the largest bass that a client has landed matched at 73cm (easily 9lb+ given its overall bulk), countless client ‘PBs’ smashed and numerous ‘First Ever’ bass hooked, landed and, as always at South Devon Bass Guide, successfully released. It’s been brilliant, so lets get into it…!

April

Top form – off the top too!

First session out with three absolute nutters (only joking guys) who’d decided to drive all the way down from London Town to be with me for 8 hours, whereby upon completing the session, they’d then drive all the way back ready to buy stocks and shares the next morning or whatever you lot do up there in the smoke! I’m sure one of them was on Made in Chelsea too, But I’ll tell you what – they fished their b******s off, and ended up catching three lovely bass, which on the 2nd April is pretty good going. Furthermore, the ‘full-set’ was achieved, as they landed the bass in bright sunshine, at dusk, and then in darkness with a variety of soft plastics (the white Sunslicker Swimish, Black Wave Worm Bamboo Stick and a white Savage Gear Gravity Stick Pulse Tail) as expected, setting the early-season form.

My client Tom (who organised the trip for his friends) with a bass which had recently escaped the attentions of a seal. I do wonder how much their presence affects bass behaviour…

With lots of small bass chomping on the copious levels of fry (mullet, sea trout, bass, or smelt?) present, it really was a case of getting through the tiddlers in order to land something worthy of a photo. Enter the frame a very nice bloke called Stuart, who I had a very enjoyable time guiding over two days, and who managed to land the lovely fish below just as we entered darkness – his first ever in the dark on a lure I believe.

One happy angler! A common sight and achievement in 2022 – a clients’ first ever lure-caught bass on a particular lure or type of venue, both of which I thoroughly enjoy facilitating.

As I do each April, I tend to visit as many differing types of venues, scattered over the whole of south Devon (and the South Hams in particular) so to try and ascertain what they’re feeding on, what sort of lures they’re taking a fancy to and how localised they are, but above, I am looking for clues as to what ‘kind’ of season it may be…

Early clues…

With the air and sea temperatures rising at precisely the rate you’d expect towards mid-April, with all of those fry being shifted higher up in the water column is was only a matter of time before the bass started whacking them intently – Oh Yes! Indeed, it was during one devastatingly good session that the ‘top waters’ came to the fore – with a certain subtle surface slider (the Marc Cowling/TC Lures ZIPP WAKE) accounting for some marvellous captures for my clients (a lovely father and son combo), including a bass at close to 7lb (below) for Paul Jr – an excellent achievement ‘off the top’ in April.

Dusk, fry, high tide, and the ZIPP WAKE were the ingredients required over the following sessions during latter stages of April, in which a lot of bass were caught (42 in 16 sessions to be precise). Indeed, a regular client of mine (Pirate Lures owner Dave Major) landed his usual ‘haul’ with me, with largest at bang on 60cm – the Blue/Flash ZIPP WAKE on this occasion being engulfed.

At this stage of the spring, all the early-signs were pointing towards it being a ‘Surface Lure Season’ with my late-April/early-May blog posts ‘Firsts with Fortitude‘ and ‘The Twilight Zone‘ depicting all of the events I have merely touched upon here, in addition to the what I believe are the virtues of the ZIPP WAKE.

May

Fixated

I was rubbing my hands together with anticipation every single time I headed out either fishing or guiding into early-May, but for me (and us) anyhow, it definitely seemed to be a lot harder than it should have been… Everything was right: the weather, the sea temperature and the sea conditions, however, without the presence of those fry (and to lesser extent at this stage the sand eels) the bass were conspicuous by their absence on occasion.

A hilarious highlight occurred during the final session of the first 3 Day Package that I completed during the first few days of the month when, after one of the guys (Barry) had allowed me to untangle the mess that his once fabled spinning reel had presented him (for the second time), upon getting yet another ‘birds-nest’ he told me to “chuck it the bloody water Marc – it’s bloody rubbish!”. But with darkness just about to set in, and the tide about to speed up into the second hour of the ebb, I knew that this was the time…

Allowing me to unravel the mess, after I’d squared away another new leader knot etc. I proceeded to teach him the clever trick that is to ensure you keep a very tight line on the Gravity Stick Pulse Tail he was using from the second it entered the water – the amount of hits on the drop being the driver for this. First cast by me to demonstrate and BANG! Thankfully it didn’t hook up on this occasion (I really didn’t want to catch a fish as Barry and the guys had worked damn hard) but it got his juices flowing to the extent that within five minutes he was almost dragging me into the water with the cuddle he gave me – yes, he’d nailed one, and a very good one at that too (see below).

Suffice to say that his reel didn’t end up in the drink after all! Well done Barry!

There were bass about for sure, as I landed quite a few good ones myself in May and my clients were still catching – albeit small stuff. And even though I suspected the bass were currently fixated on either spawning ragworm or peeling crabs, I knew that with a bit of luck, a lunker would come… “If you spot any bait fish activity – cast at it” were my instructions during the majority of the sessions I completed in May, so when I heard a ‘good shout’ of “Yeah, bass – good one!” barked down the shoreline, its was with a hop, skip, a few jumps, and a couple of stumbles that I ran towards Mike’s stance.

A cracker at 66cm – although when I saw it in the net (that he’d expertly manoeuvred under the fish himself before I could get to him) I reckoned it was an easy 8 pounder!

Very basically, but brilliantly, Mike had witnessed a pod of baitfish being harassed in the flow, and had done precisely what I’d asked – he’d stuck to the brief and cast straight at it. SOLID! The harassing culprit (or one of them) sensed the splash had jumped on the white Savage Gear Gravity Stick in a split-second within, as you can see behind him, was some exceedingly turbid water. A brilliant moment captured in the blog post I wrote titled: ‘The ‘Art’ of Watercraft‘.

Mixing it up

As I touched on earlier, it’s always a case of trying a bit of everything in relation to methods, tactics, tide, marks and times of day/night within the first two months of my guiding season due, primarily, to the fact that conditions can still be changeable and what the bass are feeding on can also change from one day to the next. If there was an onshore blow, I would be eager to clip on the hard diving minnows and guide from the rocks/reefs or even the steeply shelving shingle beaches we have here, whereas if it was flat calm, I’d be tempted out onto the headlands and tide races – the estuaries being somewhat quiet at the time.

June

Open Coast vs Estuary

Ah…. the dilemma that is having such a wonderful and varied coastline in which to guide on is that you have too many choices on occasion (I know your hearts are bleeding for me!). But in all honesty, at this stage of the year, the major decisions I need to make are: do I guide on the open coast or within the confines of an estuary, and/or do I guide during the day or into darkness – the latter occurring very late of course in mid-summer. But I’ve been doing this for a while now (6 years) so there are a few pointers I take heed of when deciding what to do and where to go.

Form. Is there a certain area: a bay, a beach, a reef, a creek or an estuary that is ‘on form’ based on my personal fishing adventures between sessions being an influence. Indeed, it was this facet that led me to an open coast, sandy beach mark, adjacent to a wicked bit of tide, that enabled my client (Dave) to place the very near 70cm bass on the deck (below) – the Patchinko 125 doing what it does yet again here. You can read the full story of this capture in my post titled ‘Expect the Unexpected‘.

The sound and sight of this stunning 69.8cm bass ‘smashing’ that Patchinko 125 was something to behold. A great moment for Dave and his father and brother who’d joined him for this COVID-delayed session of 2 years. Was it worth the wait? Hell yeah!

Triggers. I talk about them a lot, and I cover them extensively in my second book ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 1‘, but building a session around significant Natural Trigger Points (NTPs) such as the turn of the tide are fundamental to my planning. Indeed, it was just this type of trigger that my clients Ray, Gary and Dave were quizzing me about as we made our way to the first venue during another one of my 3 Day Packages – one that would go down in South Devon Bass Guide history for producing the joint largest ‘client bass’ at 73cm, and the largest anyone has caught with me in daylight – Houdini the Bass (below) was the beast who’d ripped a hole in the net unbeknown to us, and managed to escape before the trophy shot could be taken… I wrote a blog post covering the event here.

I was gutted at the time that I wasn’t able to capture a photograph of Gary holding this monumental bass, but fish welfare was at the forefront of our minds following an intense battle with her, and she was resting within the net, in knee-deep water as one of the guys went to my bag to get my scales/sling so that could weigh her when she made good her escape. Clearly, it was better that she ‘got away’ after this photograph, rather than struggling should we have been able to get the ‘money shot’ and confirmed weight. What a beauty!

Daylight, Dull, Dusk + Darkness – If it’s bright and sunny in June, then it’s highly probable that it’ll be hot too! But by choosing my daylight marks very wisely, and with dedicated ‘short sessions’ built around the two components I’ve mentioned above in mind, my clients did very well in the sunshine as you can see in the slideshow below:

I do love dull, daylight conditions in June through as they broaden the number of my marks in which the bass will be more inclined to take a lure – with the creeks being especially productive, in addition to open coast rock marks in very calm conditions as you can see in the slideshow below – the difficult decision being whether to attach a surface lure or a soft plastic in the brackish environments:

It is in the ‘short June darkness’ that many of the largest bass have been landed by my clients in previous years, but much like 2020, when there is so much to munch on during the daylight hours (courtesy of it being such a warm and settled spring and early-summer in 2022), then the night-time bass lure fishing can sometimes be less productive. Below is a gallery of the bass that did attach themselves to the lures though – a period when the beaches and reefs faired better for us:

July

Good, but it could have been AMAZING…

A lot of mixed emotions surrounded my guiding in July. There were loads of bass landed by my clients, and many of them were their maiden fish (a nod to Neil here) but when you witness three very, very good bass being lost in the same week it does, briefly, knock the stuffing out of me as a guide. So much effort goes into tracking down and hooking these fish that, for a short time at least, you feel desperately sad for the clients. Personally, I console myself with the realisation that, a bit like the weather over a long period, our luck tends to average out over the season to the extent that bass do end up in the net that we really had no right to land!

One of the better mid-summer bass. A dark-backed beauty (I love writing that!) that my client and friend Joe landed during a muggy July evening, from one of the remotest coves I know!

With the water temperature now around the 16oC range, the bass fishing was entering the stage in the season in which my main focus is attempting to ‘work out’ where they’re most likely to be. This isn’t easy, and is based on the wind, weather, tides, and most importantly of all, where the sand eels, mackerel and imminent sprat shoals are likely to be located. This is when the form book goes out the window, as quite often the bass are there on one tide and gone the next, with feeding cormorants often the key indicator.

One of the first images captured with my new camera in July – the Google Pixel 6 phone as it happens following a wave crashing straight into my ‘open’ dry bag… What an idiot!

The estuaries were just as likely to produce as the rock marks in July depending on whether the ‘baitfish’ had entered (or were been chased) into the river systems. Therefore, even though we didn’t land the big girls in July, there were again, a lot of bass caught by my clients from a variety of marks (see below). Things were ticking over nicely, although I was really looking forward to the sprat arriving…

Of note, was a session I completed with another father and son combination, whereby they worked a favoured tide race (in which we’d landed a fair few fish in the preceding weeks) for some time without a hint of a bass. Everything seemed ‘right’ though – the gulls were swooping every so often and the cormorants were working the area too. Hmmm, my inkling that the bass may have hoarded ‘the bait’ into the very next cove (a move of only 50m as the gull flies) paid off handsomely, as they were literally taking the surface lures at their feet once we located them!

August

The season hots up!

With my wife and daughter off school for the holidays I only guided on 14 days during August with ‘family time’ taking precedence. But with a number of 3 Day Packages lined up for when I suspected the ‘mackerel and sprat blitz’ would begin the month started superbly – my client Aaron absolutely smashing it on the first evening out as you can see below (and yes, he is a cheeky chappy!

Not to be outdone, his friend Paul (another very accomplished coarse angler) well and truly caught the ‘bass bug’ over the three days – landing some beauties (below):

As you would have realised immediately I’m sure, with the shortening days it seemed that the bass were suddenly, as if by magic, completing the majority of their feeding in the gloom, and more especially as soon as it became dark, despite the numbers of sprat increasing by the day… My client Mark (below) also enjoyed a dazzling session in which he landed a couple of good bass after they quickly came on the feed just as dusk drifted into darkness:

They are mesmerising fish aren’t they.

Hot streak

I was a little bit ‘jammy’ with the next couple of client captures though, as the first one was, in essence, my final session prior to my second week of none fishing (yeah right!) during August. They’d landed some small bass earlier in the session, and very close in where the gentle swell was washing up the shingle bank. These fish had grabbed the hard diving minnows such as the IMA Hound Glide and the like, but as the evening drew in I really fancied a move to an adjacent beach where the flooding tide would be pushing all the silvery stuff (joey mackerel and sprat) into a specific zone…

Once again, as soon as the light started to really fade away the bass were on it ‘big time’ , with my client Steve (above) latching into two quality fish of just over 50cm and by far and away his new PB at 60cm. These fish walloped a white Gravity Stuck Paddle Tail rigged onto a 6g weighted/weedless hook so to keep the lure wriggling and vibrating within the ‘trough’ of the beach, and where the mackerel had been hoarding the baitfish.

Two evening’s later, and with a business meeting to conduct with a really nice bloke called Dave, I asked him if he wanted to complete it over a short guided session close to where Steve had landed his fish – the only caveat being that it would be a very, very early morning start so to be in position during the most optimum period in the tide. He didn’t flinch at this, but he definitely flinched upon becoming attached to the 70cm bass below (the 12th above this size that a client has landed with me). This was a fantastic capture, and one that made his summer I believe. You can read the full story and the reasons behind the tactics in my blog post ‘Gutters & Gravity Sticks‘.

If you knew this ‘animal’ at 70cm/8lb+ was lurking in the water only a few feet off the shingle you might not be so keen to go skinny dipping in the dark – as the youngsters along the beach had been doing only minutes prior to Dave’s shout of “Got one Marc – I don’t think it’s massive though….” He’s a funny guy!

Bright white

I did get a bit of ear-ache for waking the missus up as I got in that night (so I showed her the photos to cheer her up…!!) and for being a zombie the next day, but it was worth it… So after another lovely week of chilling, swimming, eating and drinking on the beach I was more than ready to hit the guiding trail again with my next batch of 3 Day Clients: Andy, Ben and Stefan. The bass weren’t really on it due to the heat perhaps, but Ben did land a lovely bass (below) from a very tricky region to fish over (a strong current that flows over a reef situated at the extremity of the beach) over low water on the first night, and added another soon after.

One of my favourite photos of 2022, for the reason that I was beginning to get to grips with how get a decent shot with the Pixel 6 in the dark.

Ben’s bass had, not surprisingly perhaps taken the white Gravity Stick Paddle Tail on a very dark night. But the inspiration behind a Two Part series of posts I wrote ‘If It’s Bright or Night… Go for White!’ (Part 1 here and Part 2 here) started after Stefan (below) landed a smashing 64cm bass on, as you can see, a very bright, hot and sunny day – and there were lots more to come though the warm, sunny autumn as well!

A scorcher! The bass at 64cm/6lb+ and the morning it was landed on. I love it when very good anglers in their own right, but with very little experience of casting lures for bass, latch into fish like this.

August can be a strange month on the bass, as if the sprat, mackerel and scad that often join them move offshore, then the bass tend to move with them – which is what I think occurred over the final days of the month and early into September… A good-looking fella called Ronnie still managed to give us the ‘Blue Steel’ while holding the ragged-finned bass below mind…

Not a bad photograph that Marc!

September

Extended summer

With what can be the business end of the season upon me there was most definitely a pattern emerging along certain beaches, within certain estuaries, and across certain reefs. The massive positive from my perspective was that with the weather remaining essentially settled, the bass reacted by becoming fairly widespread and relatively predictable. If I was guiding at night, then I didn’t deviate too much from the white Gravity Sticks, with the only alteration being a Pulse Tail in low levels of current, and a Paddle Tail if it was more powerful or my clients were faced with some swell on the beaches. Below is a gallery of some of the more noteworthy catches (up to close to 5lb) my clients achieved, in darkness, whilst using these unbelievably reliable lures in early-September:

Darkness

But I have to report that the daylight fishing, with both surface lures (such as the Whiplash Factory Live Wire and Spittin Wire, and the Patchinko 100 and 125), in addition to the soft plastic paddle tails (the Gravity Sticks, Keitech Easy Shiners and the Megabass Spindleworms) were devastatingly effective within the estuaries and creeks. First up is a gallery of some of the better-sized bass caught off the top, many of which were in exceedingly shallow (18″) of water – and yes, that guy Dave Major from Pirate Lures landed a lot of bass during one very manic session!

Surface Lures

Soft plastics

My word were the soft plastic paddle tails I mentioned just brilliant in September with, ‘The Young Legend’ that is Tiger Stamp returning to south Devon to kick things off in style! After witnessing a good fish ploughing into some stranded sprat a long, long way up a river system, a gentle lob into its path was all it took for this absolutely superb 68cm bass to destroy the lure (a white Gravity Stick sorry!).

If there’s a fish within 10m of this guy, he will catch it! Yet another marvellous bass for Mr Stamp. You taught him well JT!

I think the highlight of September was the 3 Day Package that I completed during the final days of the month though. It was such a pleasure to be out guiding three very good anglers (Andy, Dave and Steve), two of which were good mates and the third was the kind of bloke who anybody would get along well with, in fantastic conditions, on great tides and where the bass absolutely played ball! Below is a montage of the catches they achieved on the soft plastic lures, and no, they weren’t the same fish!

October

Make hay!

Honestly, until the third week of October, unless you knew the date you wouldn’t have been able to differentiate between summer and autumn – it was that warm and that sunny! Once again, the month was brought into life early on via another 3 Day Package involving two good friends (Rob and Matt) and someone (Dave) who was a brilliant client from way back in August 2017 – the month I decided to go full-time as it happens. Although Dave couldn’t join us that first morning, Day 1 started brilliantly for Rob and Matt as they landed 14 bass, all on the hard minnows, from a gorgeous cove in some equally gorgeous sea conditions (see below):

The second day of the 3 Day Package coincided with my Grandma’s funeral therefore, I was extremely grateful to my clients for their understanding in allowing me to complete the full 8 hours in one hit – which I rarely do on these packages as 3 days of hard fishing takes it out of everyone, hence why I usually split the sessions into 2x 4 hours). And with a late start time, it meant we would be out deep into the night for this one. But sometimes things are just meant to be, as from precisely the same spot (to the square metre) that Rob had landed a near 5lb bass (his previous PB) from on the very last cast of a session in 2021, by a few centimetres he bettered it by pulling out the majestic 63cm stunner (below and his new PB!) during the final 20 minutes of this session! Thanks Nan x

Would you believe it! In case I haven’t mentioned it, the successful lure was the white Gravity Stick Paddle Tail again…!

I didn’t manage to place anything worthy of a photo onto Dave’s line, but the very next morning Matt did land his new PB also at 55cm (below) – this time on one of my favourite soft plastics outside of the Gravity Sticks – a 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner in the Sight Flash colour (rigged onto 3g Savage Gear weedless hook of course!)

This one took the lure in water that was as shallow and as clear as it gets, under the brightest, sunniest overhead conditions you could imagine – there are ways to achieve this as I’ll cover in my next book…

Skill

Are some anglers luckier than others, or are they just very good anglers? Well, we all need a bit of luck sometimes, and if Dave’s 70cm bass from August was a tad fortunate (by virtue of me guiding him on what was an ad-hoc session) then what he achieved in effectively ‘sight fishing’ the 65cm belter (below) took a great deal of tenacity and skill. Top work mate!

Sight Fishing – more on that in Part 2… This crunching bass, at close to 7lb I would imagine snatched the same 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner that accounted for Matt’s 55cm bass – I think I got my money’s worth with that lure!

As you can see from the photographs above, it really was ‘sun tan’ weather well into October and I certainly had ‘Made Hay’ while the Sun had shone, and as luck would have it, I’d actually planned in a one week sabbatical into my programme during the very week it turned a bit nasty. But when large rainfall totals and daily Gales are battering us, this is when I really, really earn my corn – as it means I have to lean on all of the local knowledge that I have built up and the marks that I have accumulated, for what was ‘normal weather’ for the time of year in reality.

Dirty, rough and/or clouded-up water, be it from wind, rainfall or run off is something I have learnt how to overcome over the years in my quest to keep on catching bass. They are there – you just need to think laterally. I will reveal many of ,my secrets in Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 2.

Special moments

I recall the weather forecast was looking decidedly ‘scary’ leading up to my final guided session of October on Halloween, but as per usual with the BBC forecast, the impending Armageddon transpired into little more than a 30mph south-westerly and a few hours worth of rain later that evening… So with a lovely little gap in the weather that morning, a session looked like being tricky turned out rather well for the Plumber who did a fantastic job on my new bathroom (cheers Graham) and his brother Martin. BOOM! What a stupendous noise a bass makes when it decides to smash a surface lure (the Patchinko 125) into next week only a few metres off the rod tip, and with the lure falling out as the net went under her, the near 5lb bass that Martin is gleefully holding really did make their day and mine.

Not bad for your first ever lure-caught bass from the shore! The only hick-up to this session being the one that slipped the hooks just as I was about to net her on Graham’s rod. Did he care though – nope, they loved this session and so did I, as teaching anglers who have never done this before is, as I’ve said many times, immensely satisfying.

November

Looking for windows

November brings excitement and the genuine possibility of a ‘bass behemoth’ however, this is sometimes tempered with a a hint of trepidation in relation to the weather. If high pressure is sitting over us, then the possibilities are endless, but if the Jetstream is pumping one low pressure system after another into our shores then I have to start thinking outside of the box to keep my clients catching, or indeed, I tend to target very specific windows of opportunity (regardless of the time of day or night) in which I can maximise a lull in the wind and rain, within periods in the tide that are more likely to produce.

“It ain’t looking great guys, but let’s make the best of it – you know I’ll do everything I can” was how I greeted Dave Major (again!) his brother Rob, and fellow bass junkie Scott for a 3 Day Package that was due to encompass the worst that autumn had thrown at us thus far. But did us stop us – no it didn’t, and with a new lure (for me anyhow) coming to the fore (the 12cm Pirate Lures Teaser) despite the severe Gales and heavy rain, the boys (Dave in particular) were ‘on em’ over both of the first two night sessions (see below):

Could I place a bass into the arms of birthday boy Rob though – that was the question…? So with a plan hatched for the following morning whilst being practically blown along the foreshore that night, it was a fantastic moment to witness him hit into a very special (and plump) bass at around 57cm on the very first cast of the morning! I won’t mention the lure type as you’ll be getting bored by now!

Relentless

A couple of days after these successes I welcomed Carl, Dave and Simon over from the Channel Islands for my final 3 Day Package of the year – a period in which the gales relented, and overall, the weather improved dramatically to open up a raft of venues for me. Yet, oddly perhaps, the fishing didn’t really fire. Had they gone deep? Had they followed the last dregs of the bait fish out of the various bays in which they’d been almost resident since August? Had I/we just got our tactics wrong…?

We worked very hard, and I have to say that the boys put in a huge amount of graft for their rewards – with Carl and Simon landing a couple of decent ones, although not quite large enough to make famous, before Dave, who I’d encouraged back into the water with the words “have your fag in a bit mate, this is the best 15 minutes of the tide” latched into the beauty below. This was his first Devon bass (below) at 58cm, and his best of the season I believe, which considering the quality of the fishing in Guernsey made my week. Incidentally, the successful lure was the 12cm Pirate Lures Teaser again – a lure I was taking a real shine to…

Pockets

I was happy with how November had gone on the guiding front so far (plus I’d landed some good fish myself as you’ll see in Part 2), and now it was time to welcome David (a relative novice in comparison to the my previous clients in the month) for a session that couldn’t have gone any better. I started by tweaking and perfecting his casting, and then followed this up by teaching him how to utilise a surface lure (the Patchinko 125), before placing him onto a stretch of foreshore just about sheltered from the vicious wind.

Honestly, the sight of the same bass effectively ‘mouthing’ the lure each time it was brought along a particular trajectory will remain in my head for a long time. “Go on, go on, go no” , ahhhhhh, go on, have a another cast into that area” On the third attempt she nailed it good and proper, and even though she swam through my legs as I attempted to net her, eventually we did it! David had landed his first ever bass on a lure from the shore (see below):

A really nice bloke, who did everything I could have possibly asked in testing conditions, with a lure he’d never used before – I absolutely love my job!

All of the bass landed (and released) above had taken a bit of finding – which is what you need to do the later into the year you go as, very often, they are sat in very localised pockets. The good news is that the average size is most certainly larger when you do locate them tough – where the much smaller 1-2lb bass disappear to around mid-October is anyone’s guess!

What was very interesting during the 3rd week of November, was that the surface lures where making a comeback. Now, I recall catching and assisting clients to catch quite a few bass in November/December last year on these deadly lures, so when Colin arrived in Devon for his sessions (that he’d built around his holiday from Lancashire) eager to ‘perfect’ their use I was raring to go!

In a similar fashion to David’s sessions – if I am able to teach and guide a client onto bass via the use a surface lure in daylight, and then a soft plastic in the darkness (which was his first ever and something he was keen to experience) then I am always chuffed to bits, and dancing around the beach normally!

Summer again?

Up until this point in my guiding season the weather hadn’t ‘gone cold’ (not even at night), which meant that the sea temperature was still a bonkers 13-14oC coming into the final days of November. And with some glorious weather forecast for the two day visit of Phil and his cousin Chris, all of the critical components were aligning beautifully… It felt like summer again!

What a session!! Four bass for Phil in total, the first of which snatched a black/gold-speckled 5″ Megabass Spindleworm in some dirty water on the second cast of the day. But it got a lot better once the darkness set in as, with a black Savage Gear Gravity Stick Paddle Tail attached due to the high and bright Moon (that was intermittently being shrouded by the clouds) he received four hits and landed three superb bass at between 3.5 and 4.5lb. The fourth bite, typically, involved the lure ‘stopping’, the rod flattening out and the fish taking line at an alarming rate before ‘ping’ his session on the rocks the previous week had come back to haunt him as a suspected nick in braid saw what was probably the biggest fish escape…

The following day dawned with a crisp feel to it, and within minutes of meeting up I asked Phil and Chris to embark on a bit ‘cast n’ move’ action – searching for bass laying up close in to the weedy margins. But it took until midway through the session, just as the tide really ‘sped up’ in the middle hours of the ebb for something to happen. That sound, like a softer version of a shot gun going off as, at range, a good bass blitzed what is a cheaper, yet an excellent Patchinko copy – a Seadra Spitta 125. Get in there!

Shades on, and surface lures out – what a way to catch a late-November bass! I was really pleased for Chris – a great guy, and a very good angler who is holding his new shore-caught PB here.

December

Time for one more

I can sense the reticence when I suggest December as a viable date in which to conduct a guided session to a client. But the truth of the matter is that they have a better chance of catching in December than in April due, primarily, to the fact that the sea temperature is higher in early-winter than it often is in late-spring. So, despite the air temperature being sub-zero as the session entered darkness with my clients David and his friend Keith, and the full-Moon beaming down like a giant floodlight, I felt confident that one or both of them would feel that ‘electric shock’ that is a bass taking the lure at night.

I’d said to David that a hit will just come out of nowhere, and most probably when I am stood next to him yapping the evening away about families, the news or more likely, all things bass… And then it happened, only moments after I’d left Keith and had wandered down the beach, net in hand in my expectant state, that as we began to chat his rod thumped over. The black Gravity Stick Pulse Tail had assisted me to place a 4lb winter lure-caught bass onto a clients line – what a great lure these things are.

My Thanks

I say it every year I know, but without the receptiveness of my clients, and above all, their determination and overall effort to stick to the task in hand, I wouldn’t be in a position to showcase so many memorable moments, and so many beautiful bass. ‘Thank you’ to my clients and ‘Thank you’ to my readers, followers and everyone who has purchased either or both of books in 2022. Have a very Merry Christmas – I shall release My Year in Review 2022 Part 2 (My Catches) between Xmas and New Year – with a 10 Items of Equipment I Recommend 2022 post soon after.

Booking Enquiries

If you would like to book or enquiry about booking a guided bass/lure fishing session then please do not hesitate to contact me either via the Contact Form below or via my Contact Me Page. My prices for 2023 can be found here:

My Books

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

Volume 2 of Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (which will be my 3rd book) will be released in March 23 – I will contact everyone who has previously purchased either of my titles once my new book is at the printers. But for now, I recently commissioned another print run of ‘The Lure of The Bass’ + ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 1’ and I have them IN STOCK.

To reserve my second book (March 2021) 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.

Have a good one!

Marc Cowling

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