To most bass anglers autumn is a golden time, and not just because of the colour of the falling leaves which are everywhere as we make our way to our chosen spot. The ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ brings with it the chance of big bass, and is a favourite time for most bass anglers.
Meteorologically speaking, autumn began on the September 1. Astronomically speaking, it began on the 23rd, at the time of the autumn equinox, which is considered to be the peak time for bass fishing.
My own fishing has been somewhat limited this month, but from what I can tell the fishing has been a bit stop-start anyway, so hopefully I haven’t missed out too much. There I was thinking we were set for a good autumn’s bass fishing when things seemed to go quiet. When Keith Towsey and I fished a rock mark, a lack of action forced a premature return to the car. “Might be worth a cast or two on the beach on the way back” I said.
The natural tendency is to wade out and cast as far as you can, but it’s important to try to resist this. As I walked along the shore in the small surf, perhaps 10 yards out, I spooked what was obviously a very large fish; it could only have been in inches of water. I immediately came out of the water and cast short, as I moved along the beach, but there was to be no lunker on my line that night.
Then to totally confuse things, Keith goes and catches a 70cm beauty a few nights later! Nice one Keith. As they say with bass fishing – here today, gone tomorrow (or vice versa).
I’m all for increasing diversity in any walk of life, including fishing. Women seem to be underrepresented in fishing, so when Keith sent me a photo of his wife Donna with a cracking bass she’d caught while they were on holiday in Jersey this week, I just had to include it. The featured image of this blog shows Donna with her 55cm beauty, caught on a Gunfish popper. Well done Donna!
A few nights later I was out with Tony Welch. This was our first trip, and we opted to fish somewhere that was new to both of us. This was a little beach I had checked out earlier in the year which looked promising. I was just waiting for the fish to be in before trying it, and with two of us fishing there was more chance of picking up any fish which might be there.
Let’s just say the action wasn’t exactly frenetic! In fact, if it hadn’t been for Tony landing a 58cm cracker, I would probably have written the mark off. Although Tony hasn’t been lure fishing for bass long, he ably demonstrates that skills acquired from other branches of the sport, in his case carp fishing, are readily transferrable. I have a feeling he’ll catch many more fish like this, and bigger.
Bass fishing with mates can often be one-sided, with all the spoils going to one angler or the other, rarely both. Never has this been more amply demonstrated than during a session with Ben Harris.
It started fairly unremarkably, with both of us getting follows on our surface lures. In fact I landed a 41cm fish on an Asturie 110 – but that was it! Meanwhile Ben was into fish regularly, but whatever lure I put on, and however I worked it, I couldn’t get more than the odd half-hearted follow. And it continued! Fair play to Ben – whatever he was doing it was working, whereas whatever I was, wasn’t. This was something of a masterclass in surface lure fishing, and I lost count of how many bass he caught that day – not big fish, but good sport all the same.
Ben was very gracious in his response though, and to spare my blushes we put this down to the lure he was using – an Espetit 110 in Flashy Shad. Needless to say I have since acquired one, and just to show I haven’t totally lost it, I caught this nice bass on it, having changed the hooks to singles (Mustad size 1 Kaiju).
A helping hand
Jason Collins had never caught a bass on lures, and asked if I took people out on the shore to catch bass. I explained that I don’t do guiding, but always try to help people if I can. These days there is so much info on line, but it can be daunting ploughing through all this, and there is no substitute for learning from experienced anglers demonstrating the basics and sharing their knowledge.
Jason had bought a new rod and reel, and needed some advice on setting this up. He had filled his reel with 20lb braid and had tipped this off with a fluorocarbon leader ( I use 20lb for the coast but will go lower for estuary fishing). I like to use a short rubbing leader, about the length of the drop I normally use (~2ft), so Jason shortened his, to stop the leader knot catching on the tip ring on the cast. Jason had brought some great lures along, but these were not ideally suited to the mark we were fishing. I loaned him a Rapala Skitterwalk surface lure, while I put on a Patchinko 100. We ran through a couple of retrieve styles, with Jason opting for my favourite turn-stop-turn, imparting his own twist on this.
As luck would have it, a 48cm bass latched onto my lure. Satisfying as this was, especially at a mark I have never fished before, I really wanted Jason to catch one. As the Patch was working, I gave him the one I was using.
We were working along the mark, when I heard ‘I’m in’, and looked up to see Jason’s rod well bent into a fish. He patiently brought it in, and couldn’t believe the size of his prize – a lovely fish of 50cm. He was absolutely buzzing! (I was quite enjoying the moment too!).
After a few tips about correctly handling and holding the fish, I managed to get this photo (with thanks to Mike Harwood for editing the background). Well done Jason, and may this be the first of many!
We’ve just completed this year’s programme of juvenile bass surveys in Cornwall. The first part of the programme (May & June) is about checking our conclusions about last year’s spawning, and whether there has been major losses over the winter. This is unlikely, given the absence of any prolonged very cold spells last winter. We only had one good catch of last year’s fish (so-called ‘1’ groups), so the best we can say is that the 2021 class is fair.
The second part of the programme (August and September) is about seeing how many fish from this year’s spawning (so-called ‘0’ groups) we can find – very few this year as it happens. So our initial conclusions are that the 2022 year class is a poor one. This is surprising and disturbing in equal measures, given the prevailing weather conditions during the spring and summer, which should have been favourable to the baby bass coming in and settling in our estuaries. But our results are not definitive, being subject to various limitations, and it remains to be seen whether our conclusions will be borne out over time – in other surveys and in future catches. But in any event, with recruitment being so crucial to bass stocks, this demonstrates that great caution must be exercised when considering whether existing controls on fishing can be reduced.
I must thank our great team of people who give up their time and effort to make this work possible. If you’d like to get involved just message me via the Contact facility on this website.
New research on bass
As Science lead for BASS, I’m regularly asked how anglers can get involved in scientific research on bass. BASS has a long history of involvement in research, and we’re delighted to be partnering Essex University on an exciting and important groundbreaking project. It’s great to know that anglers will be at the forefront of developing our knowledge of this iconic species. You can read all about the project in this excellent blog produced by the University, and distributed by BASS. Please pass the link on to anyone you think might be interested.
Tightlines, and thanks for reading. Hope you catch that big one!