The future of bass fishing is in our hands

As I’m sure many will know, Defra are working on a Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for bass. As part of this, they have commissioned Policy Lab to collect people’s views about what’s wrong with the status quo, and how this can be improved.

This is a chance, perhaps our only chance for years to come, to achieve a bass fishery which reflects the needs and aspirations of anglers, and recognises the huge socioeconomic contribution recreational sea angling makes to society.

There are lots of ways in which things could potentially be improved if anglers have the will to ask for them. The Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society and the Angling Trust  have worked very hard to come up with some serious proposals in this regard. But it’s also vital that as many anglers as possible engage in the process of developing the  FMP via Policy Lab. It doesn’t need to get complicated – at the end of the day it’s about being able to regularly catch bass when you go fishing, and having a realistic chance of catching a few decent-sized ones each season.

I recently attended one of Policy Lab’s drop-in sessions – at Newlyn. It was good to see other anglers keen to share their views and experiences. I found the Policy Lab staff easy to talk to, and they were genuinely interested in my comments.

Yours truly, with fellow BASS members Tim Coe, Malcolm Gilbert, Brian Collick and Peter Maddern waiting to share their views about bass management with the Policy Lab team.

Although these sessions have finished now, you can still have your say by taking part in the collective intelligence debate starting on 15th August – click on the link for details:  Bass FMP Collective Intelligence Debate, hosted by Policy Lab (1).  And you can always email your thoughts to Policy Lab via

As part of my ‘lived experiences’ of bass fishing, I submitted  a report on the standard of bass angling in Cornwall, on behalf of the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers, to Policy Lab. You’ll find this on the CFSA website here. If you fish in Cornwall, and aren’t already a member of the CFSA, why not think about joining – either as a member of an affiliated club, or a personal member?


Fishing-wise, things are pretty quiet at the moment. I did manage a couple of bass in the mid-fifties while estuary fishing earlier this month, including my first half-decent one on a surface plug.

I was using my all-time favourite Yozuri Arms Pencil, worked with my usual turn-stop-turn of the reel handle retrieve, when the fish slammed into it. The size 1 VMC barbless single hooks held well, and made for a quick (and painless – for the fish and me!) return to the water. Sadly, these lures are no longer available as such, but you should be able to find them, albeit in a different colour range, by searching under ‘Duel or Yozuri Silver Dog 90’.

A 56cm estuary bass caught with a Yozuri Arms Pencil surface plug.

There seems to be a few bass around the 26cm size in or near estuaries at the moment. Like this one, which was my first bass on an IMA ‘Chappy’ lure.

A feisty 26cm bass taken on an IMA ‘Chappy’ surface lure.

I was interested in what year class it was. From its length I estimated this to be a 3 year old fish, so from the 2019 class. Hopefully you can make out 3 rings on some of the scales I took in the photo below. 

Bass scales – from a 3 year old (2019 class). Note the replacement scale at the bottom in the middle, with the amorphous centre, contrasting with the 3 rings which can be seen on some of the other scales.

Our juvenile bass surveys suggested this class was reasonably good (but nothing compared to the great classes in the past).

In the last few years, I’ve found that the fishing hasn’t really become consistent in Cornwall until August. As this is just around the corner, I’m hopeful that things are about to take off (we’ll see!).

Handsome boy

Readers of my book A Bass Angler’s Life  may recall that our late golden retriever, Toby, was awarded 2nd prize in the ‘Most Handsome’ category in the fun dog show at  the Classic Cars and Country Show at Trewithen Gardens near my home. Despite our current dog Archie’s somewhat (very!) excitable nature, I couldn’t resist entering him for this year’s event.

To his credit, he was a very good boy. As we waited for the judge to take in all the other ‘competitors’ I whispered  “no pressure” to him, reminding him of his predecessor’s achievement. But he is a handsome boy, and I was half expecting it when the judge turned towards us with the second prize rosette.

Archie – not to be outdone by Toby.

Light show

A recent Facebook post from the Kernow Weather Team  talked about bioluminescence in the sea at night. This is something I see quite regularly during the summer. I always think what an awesome sight it is, lighting up the waves, and even giving a momentary trace as your lure or bait comes through the water.

The other night I thought I was seeing things when the weed on the beach literally sparkled – like some early Christmas light show, as I put my rucksack down on it. Just to check I wasn’t seeing things, I walked heavily across it. Sure enough, every step lit up the weed. Amazing!

That’s it for this month. Thanks for reading.


I wasn’t expecting that! – update

Please note this is an update of my last blog, containing revised information regarding sea trout reporting.

You can say that again! Having never caught a sea trout in all the years (nearly 40) I’ve been sea fishing in Cornwall, that was the last thing I expected to see as I landed my first fish of the session. As I got closer to the water’s edge I thought “that’s a funny-looking bass!”, and then recognised the fish from photos I’ve seen as a sea trout.

I was lure fishing at night on a beach, when the SF125 (courtesy of Danny Watson at High Street Tackle and the UKBLF raffle) I was using was hit hard  – not far out. This was its first outing after receiving it and  changing the treble hooks for size 1 VMC barbless singles. I’ve caught lots of bass on this plug fitted with singles. I love that ‘Joker’ colour, which previous experience suggested would catch fish in the dark.

IMA SF125 fitted with size 1 barbless VMC single hooks

I did a Facebook post, to see if anybody else had caught a sea trout on the Cornish coast. Apart from the responses to my question – it turns out quite a few people have – one responder mentioned that sea trout are not as robust as bass. After measuring (53cm) and photographing my fish, it seemed to go back just fine – maybe this had something to do with the fact that I had switched to single hooks, causing less damage to the fish?

One of the responders to my Facebook post suggested I also report the catch to the SAMARCH project, which I duly did. I find the science aspects of fish, especially their movements and spawning,  fascinating and salmonids are a good example of this. Dylan Roberts contacted me and explained:

“Sea trout are like salmon they spawn in rivers, the juveniles spend 2-3 years in the river then migrate to sea to feed and grow. They go to sea in March – May and then spend a year or two at sea before migrating back into the river between May and September to spawn in Nov & Dec. Your fish was probably feeding near shore with the view of finding its natal river to return and spawn this year as I say probably in Nov.”

Dylan adds:

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust are looking for scale samples from any sea trout caught at sea to help with a study to investigate the movements of sea trout at sea from their natal river. If you catch sea trout at sea and want to help, please contact Dylan Roberts, Head of Fisheries at and he will send you a scale collection kit and what details need recording.

It should be noted that the Environment Agency needs to know about any captures of sea trout and are keen to receive scales if accompanied by information on location of capture (email:  Please note that anyone wishing to target or retain  sea trout needs an EA licence. Any fish caught accidentally must be returned unharmed with minimum delay.

Not just sea trout

I had brought a selection of lures – various plugs, weighted and unweighted soft plastics, to try. One of these was a Fish Arrow Flash J Shad in a bright greeny – yellow colour, which I’m pleased to say produced the goods, in the shape of a 40cm bass. This was looking good – not just sea trout, but bass as well.

My daydreaming about catching my first sea trout was interrupted when the lure I was retrieving felt like it had taken off in a different direction. I had switched to a DoLive Stick (white), as it seemed rude to neglect my all-time favourite soft plastic. “This is interesting” I thought, especially when the fish, which by now had realised its fate, started banging.

“Could be a nice one” I thought , as I brought her through the waves. “You beauty!” I called out, as a 65cm beauty of a bass slid ashore.

A 65cm Cornish bass – definitely not a sea trout!

This is turning into quite a session I thought. Sticking with the DoLive for a few more casts, just before closing time another bass, this time of 44cm, decided to join the party.  Time to head for the hills.

A Cornish Fish-in

The weekend of 10th – 12th June saw me attending the BASS Cornwall Fish-in, based at Maker Heights campsite on the Rame Peninsula. The fishing wasn’t the best, but the ‘craic’ was awesome.  It’s always good to fish new ground, and if you throw in some friendly banter, the odd tipple and a decent curry and barbecue, what’s not to like? It can be a dilemma, deciding whether to fish or socialise, especially when the company is so good, but you find the balance that suits you best (and you can always join the lads when you get back!).

Fish-ins are a key benefit of BASS membership. Meeting people and fishing with them gives so much more than can be gained by simply interacting online.

Some of the BASS members who enjoyed the 2022 BASS Cornwall Fish-in

Something’s afoot

A couple of weeks back I was out fishing with Archie (can you believe the size of him at nearly 15 months!). I looked round to see blood all over the rocks! Somehow he had punctured one of his paws – between the pads. By applying pressure with an assortment of tissues and rags, eventually the bleeding stopped. But he needed this looking at, and antibiotics as a minimum. So there was nothing for it but to cut the session short, and head back while there was still time to catch the vet.

Archie – with leopard skin dressing covering poorly paw

He’s fully recovered now, but it took a week or so to fully heal.

Juvenile bass surveys

We’ve reached the halfway point in our juvenile bass survey programme. As always I extremely grateful for all the help we get from our amazing volunteers – especially Jon Williams for helping out with his boat. If you’d like to help with the surveys, even on an occasional basis, do get in touch. If you have a boat and are prepared to use it on the Fal, even better.

During May and June, we are looking for last year’s bass (so-called ‘1’ groups), as a check on our findings on the previous year, when these fish were first spawned, and to see if many have been lost over their first winter due to prolonged very cold spells.

Our results this year have been poor, apart from one good result on the Helford. Taking these results, and our findings from last year, into account, it seems likely that the 2021 class can only be described as fair. There is some uncertainty over this, given the pattern of results observed, so it will be interesting to see if our conclusions are confirmed in other surveys and future catches.

A 1 year-old bass netted (and safely returned) in the Fal estuary on 27.6.22.

That’s all for this month; thanks for reading.