If anybody asks you why we anglers love to go fishing, just show them this photo. Ben Harris’ face is a picture of joy, and my photobombing dog Archie looks pretty pleased too!
On a crisp November morning, good friend and fellow bass researcher Ben caught this beautiful 58cm bass on his favourite Espetit surface plug. I heard the ‘slap’ as the fish launched itself at Ben’s plug.
It wasn’t the only fish that Ben caught that morning. We had arranged to meet at 0645, for what would be one of my few early morning sessions of the year. When Ben turned up he casually dropped into the conversation that he had caught a 65cm fish already! He woke up earlier than planned, and decided to have a try before we met. Great fishing Ben!
That bright, sunny morning seemed a rare event in an otherwise wet and windy November. I had intended to focus on estuaries, after some good results there last November, but still make the odd trip to the coast during the first part of the month, when I’ve traditionally caught my best fish of the year.
I’m afraid my days of battling eight foot waves are behind me, so the rough seas meant that I didn’t make a single trip to the coast. At least I was able to fish in the relative peace and tranquility of estuaries. And with the flexibility of retirement allowing me to fish around the worst of the rain (I’ve become a right fair-weather fisherman), I was able to get out most days.
Despite all this effort, I can’t say that my results have been spectacular though. Most lure sessions produced the odd fish or two. This 58cm fish was the best of the bunch, the rest being made up of fish around the 50cm (2014 class?), or late 30’s (2016 class?) mark.
Earlier in the month I caught this (rather slim) 54cm fish on a Dark Sleeper lure. This was at a spot where I have previously only landed smaller bass using float-fished live prawn, so encouraging for future fishing there.
Bass Lures UK
I don’t have commercial links with anyone, but I do like to promote businesses, especially ones based in Cornwall, who provide a top quality product and good value for money.
One such business is Bass Lures UK . Their 120mm Shads have become a firm favourite of mine, having accounted for many of the bass I caught in estuaries during the day this year, including the one below. The very reasonable price of £8.48 for five lures made from a very supple, yet resilient, plastic includes two hooks and free postage.
The 58cm bass pictured above was also taken on one of their Shads in black neon sprat. These lures have smaller paddle tails than others I have used, and I must admit to being a little disappointed when I first opened the packet. But it’s become clear to me that sometimes less is more, and there are occasions, for example when the water is gin clear and smooth as silk, when a slightly more subtle approach works best.
Having got a taste for free-lining with mackerel, I’ve continued to try it as often as I can. Most times I’m mixing things up with both lure and bait fishing in the same session. This does require a bit of extra gear, but by using the same rod for both, simply clipping the mackerel trace on and off the lure clip as required, this really only comes down to a couple of swivels and hooks, line (20lb Amnesia), bait and knife.
I’ve now had several bass doing this, like this 49cm fish. Not huge I know, but I think this is more a reflection of what’s around than the method.
Runs can vary. With this fish I felt a bump, then line going out. When the line stopped I looked down at the water too see a small seabird popping up, and assumed this had nudged the line. As the bird moved away, the line started moving again, then stopped. After giving it a couple of minutes, I wound in to find a nice bass attached. This was in complete contrast to the other day, when the fish took off like an express train. I (somehow) managed to maintain my composure, and timed putting the bail arm over to what I thought was perfection. Wrong! There was a momentary resistance before all went slack. Apparently bass dropping the bait like this happens quite regularly.
I’m doing this partly because I’ve always liked the idea of free-lining big baits, and because I’m hoping it will improve my chances of getting a really big bass. The simplicity of this very natural approach really appeals to me, and it’s clear from Simon Willey’s catches that the average size of bass caught by this method is significantly higher than on lures. I’m not saying that you can’t catch big bass on lures, but Simon’s average size of 4.5 – 5lb shows that the chances of getting a big one are higher on big baits. Further evidence of this comes from Mike Ladle’s online fishing diary, where he describes a recent session where he caught bass of around 4lb and 9lb using this method – in twenty minutes!
That’s it for this month folks. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and if you’re stuck for present ideas, why not buy a copy of my book? Don’t leave it too long though, with all these postal strikes.