I’ve long had a passion for bass angling. I’ve also had a lifelong interest in marine biology. My role as Science Lead for the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society brings these two things together, and I’m delighted that BASS has been asked by Essex University to partner them on this very important research project.
This is a great opportunity for anglers to get involved in research which will fill some of the gaps in our knowledge of the life history of bass, thereby helping to restore stocks and maintain them in the future.
You can find more information here. Please support this project, either by keeping bass heads or forwarding the link to this blog to friends and contacts, or both.
It was with some trepidation that I published my book about bass fishing, A Bass Angler’s Life, in 2019. Would it be well received ? Would anybody buy it? Would I cover my costs? It was very much a labour of love, and whatever happened I had thoroughly enjoyed writing it – a lifelong ambition.
Well, four years, over 300 sales and numerous reviews later I’m glad I took the plunge. The latest of these reviews, from Cornwall Adventures, just blew me away when I read it. The author captures exactly what I hoped to convey in the book.
Is anybody else getting that special feeling when summer arrives, and the bass fishing starts really picking up? Late nights and sunny afternoons – they’re part and parcel of my fishing at this time of year, evoking many happy memories of sessions in years gone by.
With the sea temperature nudging 14°C and rising around Cornwall, things are also warming up on the fishing front. My own fishing has seen a definite upturn this week, and I’m hearing regular reports of bass being caught by others, so it’s a good time to get the gear out if you haven’t already started. Right on cue too – just look at the foxgloves coming out.
Hope for the future?
I’m also hearing reports of big shoals of bass around the 30cm mark. These are probably from the good 2019 year class; when I say good, it bears no comparison to some of the great classes of the past (1959, 1976, 1989). These four year-olds will be leaving their native nursery areas to begin the free-ranging adolescent phase, when they adopt the area they will return to every summer for feeding.
The other night there were plenty of little bass taking surface lures. From the length (25cm) I guessed they were either two or three year-olds, and some scales I took appeared to show they were just starting their third year, so spawned in 2021 – a reasonable class according to our surveys. They may not have been the bigger fish we are after, but at least it gives us hope for the future. Let’s hope that lots of these survive both natural predation and man-made activities; at this size they should escape the nets and any caught on rod and line can be returned.
Favourite surface lure
It was great to catch these fish on surface lures, the little (9cm) Arms Pencil (about 1/3 of their length!) doing the business. This is my all-time favourite surface lure. Like all good things, they’ve stopped making them – although you might be lucky if you search online under Silver Dog 90. Mind you, there are lots of similar ones now available, like this IMA Pugachev Cobra.
With all my plugs I replace the trebles with singles. In this case I was using barbed size 1 VMC 7237’s, with my usual ‘walk the frog’ technique (see this earlier blog). Even though the size 1 hook is small, it looks quite big in the mouth of a two year-old bass, and I was having a bit of trouble extracting it from some of the fish. I don’t like damaging fish any more than necessary, so the barbs have now been flattened on these.
Check out this great short video giving tips on handling striped bass for catch and release; I’m sure this relates just as much to the bass we catch in the UK. I am indebted to my BASS colleagues for posting this on the online members forum.
A recent session with fellow veteran angler/old scrote Steve Ainsworth saw us scaling the cliffs in a very age-inappropriate way. We were returning to an old favourite haunt that has been good to both of us in the past. ‘Must be over thirty years since we first fished this mark’ said Steve. I’m not one to accept limitations, but the fact remains that we’re not getting any younger. The tricky rope descent, and sketchy walk across the slippery reef seemed harder since the last time we did it; sadly I think this may have been our last visit to this special place. At least we have some wonderful memories of bass fishing at its finest to treasure. Don’t bring the Zimmer frame out just yet though!
As to the fishing on the night – they hadn’t read the script. Just one fish between us – to me as luck would have it – a rather nice, but not exceptional for this mark, 60cm bass on crab (alas no photo).
Soft plastic success
Another session produced some success on soft plastics. I was using a 5″ Easy Shiner and before long felt a pluck on the line, then another. Next instant – wallop! as a 54cm bass took off with the lure. This was followed by another of 41cm ( I measure all my fish for the BASS Catch Recording scheme). Curiously the next contact, a good bang which nearly took the rod out of my hands, didn’t connect. It was only when I checked the lure for weed a few casts later, that I realised the paddle tail had been bitten off!
With my only Easy Shiner out of action it was time to try that one that the nice folks at Bass Lures UK had given me to try – two bass to 48cm later I was convinced!
A return to the same venue the next night was oddly quiet. Apart from a slightly brighter moon, everything was similar. I cycled through a range of different soft plastic lure types and colours, including the Easy Shiner, to no avail. It was only when I put on the T – Tail from Bass Lures UK, which worked the previous night, that I had any action. The 50cm bass you can see in the featured image (and another of 49cm) were the result. Was it the speckles picking up the moonlight? Matt from Bass Lures UK certainly thinks so. Another interesting observation was the ‘mayweed’ clinging to the line and clip. It was only a small bit, but I had always thought than any weed on the line or lure killed its action. Scales I took from this first fish showed that it was just starting its 9th growth year – so from the good 2014 year class, which dominated catches last year.
Juvenile bass surveys
Speaking of year-classes, 2022 doesn’t look great. We found very few of last year’s fish (this year’s won’t have arrived yet) in our juvenile bass surveys on the Fal and Helford recently. This supports our initial assessment of ‘poor’ for the 2022 class. That’s the problem with bass recruitment – good years can be offset with bad.
That’s it for this month folks – thanks for reading.