It’s going to be a busy summer!

Greetings folks! Apologies for the radio silence over the winter.  Although I haven’t done much actual fishing, I have been busy with various fishing-related projects (more about these later) and activities, and getting some domestic chores out of the way.

Fishing not much to write home about

Last year’s fishing wasn’t much to write home about. I’d better not mention how many trips I made (too many!), but only 36% of these produced fish, and the number of fish I caught per hour was just 0.36. The  average size was 42.3cm. The longest fish I caught was 60cm; I  had 3 of this size (one of which is the featured image to this post).

As always, I expect this was partly down to me messing about too much (although I did try to focus more last year!), but it doesn’t paint a particularly good picture about the state of the bass stocks at the moment. There are signs that numbers may be on the increase, perhaps boosted by recent good year classes (e.g. 2016), but few would argue that the size just isn’t there –  just 2% of my fish were 60cm or over, and this is fairly typical of anglers’ catches.

New challenges

As for this year, I’m hoping to catch a bass on ‘creature baits’, like these from Bass Lures UK. Mind you, I’m not the only one – it seems like most anglers who fish with lures in estuaries, are going to try them! That’s what’s great about bass fishing – it keeps throwing up new challenges, so even if the fishing is not what it might be, there’s still something new to keep our interest up. I’m going to try them both weighted and unweighted, worked slowly along the bottom with occasional pauses and twitches.

With the blackthorn in bloom, the bass will be making their way to their summer feeding grounds, so it’s time to start thinking about testing the water.

Catch recording scheme

One of the fishing-related activities I’ve been busy with over the winter is preparing the annual report of the BASS Catch Recording Scheme. This scheme is in its third year now, and producing some interesting data. Hopefully this is of value to anglers with regard to their fishing, and in helping to bring about improvements in the management of bass stocks. If you’d like to take part in the scheme, you can find more information here,  but please note that you’ll need to be a BASS member to do so (or see the report); you can join for the modest sum of £25 here.

Talking to students

In February I was asked to talk to undergraduates at Plymouth University as part of their final year module on fish and fisheries. I thoroughly enjoyed talking about the various roles and projects I’m involved in (including my fishing!), and it was a privilege to help the marine biologists and policymakers of the future appreciate some of the issues affecting the bass fishery from a recreational anglers perspective.

All about the bass

As a follow-on from the Supper4science project I’ve been helping with the organisation of a one-day symposium at Essex University dedicated to bass.

This is very much a first for me, and not something I envisaged doing in my seventies! It’s such a privilege to be involved in what will be a very interesting and useful day. You can find more information about the symposium, and register your interest, here.

Juvenile bass surveys

I’ve also been busy preparing for the start of this year’s juvenile bass surveys, which we’re hoping to start early next month. You can find out all about these via our website, and if you’d like to help with the surveys, just leave a comment, or get in touch via the contact page on my website.

As part of this year’s surveys, we’ll be helping scientists from Plymouth University, both in collecting samples for research, and in deploying underwater cameras as part of the ‘Finvision’ project.

Looks like it’s going to be a busy summer!

All the best,

Stick it out!

Bah, humbug! I’m not feeling much Christmas cheer at the moment! I haven’t caught a single bass since early November. Whether it’s just a series of unhappy coincidences, or something else, I’m not sure. Boat anglers seem to be catching a few here (Cornwall) – no great size though, but whether I try the coast or estuary, all I get is blanks. The netters seem to be making hay, and there seems to be plenty of bait fish (anchovies/pilchards etc) around, so I don’t know why it’s not happening for me. The other night Ian Ingram and I were treated to quite a spectacle of loads of garfish thrashing about in the water, seemingly oblivious to our lights – no bass though.

This isn’t a totally unique situation though. Take 2014 for example. Just when I was expecting the season to go out with a whimper, the (shore) fishing really took off around the time of the full moon. The photo in the featured image of this blog is from that year.

Plan B

It was December the 15th to be precise. Arriving at a favourite mark, I was greeted by the sight of  a boat laying a net right across the front of it. I won’t go into the politics of this, but I’ll just say that I was totally gutted! Not only would I have been wasting my time on the day in question, but the fishing would be that bit poorer afterwards – and not just in Cornwall either.

I traipsed back to the car. To say I was cheesed off was putting it mildly (and diplomatically!) , but I didn’t want to miss out on my fishing fix. After running through a mental map of the area, taking into account the tide and conditions, plan B was hatched.

Conditions looked good, and there was no sign of nets. Things started well, with a couple of bass to 50cm on a Z Claw surface lure. At that time I hadn’t even started using soft plastics at night – it was all plugs. One in particular which produced well was the Duel Hardcore Minnow 130F in rainbow colours – aka the ‘Joker’. He certainly wasn’t having a laugh that night, when he produced this nice 60cm bass.

60cm December bass taken on the ‘Joker’.

It’s the same fish that appears in the featured image (you can also just make out the eyes of my then golden retriever Toby!).

That same period produced this cracking bass for fishing pal Paul Wallace on squid when we were out together, so I’m not giving up just yet!

Paul’s 8lb2oz December bass.


As part of my role as Science Lead for BASS, and also as organiser of juvenile bass surveys in Cornwall   I’m involved with the ‘FinVision’ project. This is a great opportunity to get involved in bass research by viewing and commenting on images of juvenile fish from the comfort of your own home. These are collected by novel underwater cameras being developed by Plymouth University. You can do this, and find out more about the project,  via this ‘Zooniverse’ web portal.

Bass Fisheries Management Plan

The Bass FMP has now been published. I’m still digesting this, so won’t comment yet, but feel free to share your own thoughts if you’d like to.

Devon and Severn IFCA netting consultation

D&SIFCA are consulting on the possible reintroduction of netting in the Salcombe Estuary.  If you care about bass fishing I would urge you to respond. I have made a personal submission, and ones on behalf of the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers and the Cornwall Bass Investigations Group.

That’s about it for this month folks. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Thanks for reading the blog; it’s great to see the number of subscribers going up steadily.  If you don’t hear from me for a bit it’ll just be because I’ve run out go things to write about over the winter – but I will be back!

Herm revisited

When good fishing friend Simon De La Mare invited Angela and I to spend a weekend with him and Michaela on Herm, I jumped at the chance. It was great to visit this wonderful place again in all its stormy autumn splendour. Bad weather delayed our Ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Guernsey, meaning we lost the first day of our holiday.

Sunday morning saw us catching the Trident ferry over to Herm. Angela is not the best sailor in the world, but good egg that she is, she happily (?) boarded a  second boat in 24 hours! Fortunately things weren’t too rough at that stage.

Angela and Archie on the Herm ferry.

Back on Herm

As we landed on Herm we were met by Simon, and staff on the island who transported our bags up to our cottage, ‘Sea Holly’, on the back of quad bikes – the only vehicles, apart from tractors, which are allowed on the island.

A quick plugging session over dusk, after a nice lunch and cake at the Mermaid Tavern, produced several bass to the Herm meister (diddly squat for the Herm novice!).

Simon with a 56cm, 3lb 7oz plug-caught Herm bass. One of three he caught on that session. Archie looks impressed!

Big bass?

Later that evening I was retrieving a white Swimsenko in the pitch-dark of the new moon, and pouring rain, when I thought I saw a large white shape approaching the rock I was standing on. Dismissing this as a figment of my imagination/less than 20/20 vision, I carried on winding. Suddenly there was a great splash practically at my feet. Big bass? Interestingly Simon had a similar experience.  Alas, that was to be my only fishy experience on the island, although Simon did catch a couple more.

Return to Guernsey

After a rough, and wet, ferry ride back to Guernsey on Tuesday morning, we returned to Simon’s excellent self-catering accommodation   which he kindly let us use for for the remainder of the week. Michaela and Simon were the perfect hosts, both on Herm and Guernsey; spending time with them really was the highlight of the holiday. Simon even gave Archie a complimentary wash, blow dry and trim in his dog grooming parlour.

Archie having the full Dandy Dog treatment.

It was good to be back on Guernsey, with the fond memories this brought. I couldn’t pass up the chance of meeting up with good friend and GBASS President Bryn Le Poidevin while I was there. Wednesday afternoon saw us down on the beach for a bit of bait fishing in the surf, followed by a nice ‘brew’ at his place while we mulled over fishing politics .


Bryn waiting for a bite in the Guernsey surf.

Thursday saw Simon and I out on the rocks fishing with plugs on a beautiful afternoon. Simon’s expert local knowledge paid off this time, with us both catching fish. I managed a couple, the best being this one.

A 48cm Guernsey bass taken on a Megabass X140 plug.

Our return trip was delayed slightly by some weather complications. I’m looking forward to the late run of bass, which should see some good fishing in Cornwall until the new year – that’s if any get past the nets!

Recent catches – in Cornwall

Things have been pretty quiet for me lately – a combination of bad weather and being away. I did manage this one on a freelined mackerel fillet at the end of October in an estuary. I just love this technique – sitting/standing there, bail arm open, with the line running through your fingers. I’m beginning to appreciate the difference between the hesitant, short runs of huss, and the definite, quicker runs that bass make.

A fat 55cm bass taken on a freelined mackerel fillet.

Well Hooked Sea Angling UK

I’ve been having some interesting correspondence with Simon Attley (aka slosh). You can read about some amazing sessions he’s had , and how big bass come very close in here.

Simon and I have both been influenced by Mike Ladle, who has extolled the value of pilchards/sardines for catching bass. As soon as I can, I’ll be trying these on a beach somewhere.

That’s all for this month folks, thanks for reading.

October bassing

Always a favourite time of year, the bassing seems to have gone up a notch of late. Mind you, it’s looking like Storm Babet might put the mockers on things for a bit! I suppose we should expect this bad weather at this time of year, but it is a little frustrating when the fishing can be at its best. At least some of us can usually find a sheltered  corner in an estuary somewhere.

Last minute call

The month started with a last-minute call from John Tisdale, asking if I wanted to go out in his boat tomorrow. I’ve had some enjoyable boat trips this year with Dave Jones, so this sounded appealing, especially fishing with an old friend of many years.

I tried to push the odd mishap we’ve had over the years to the back of my mind, and was soon reassured by excellent John’s boat handling skills. As we made our way along the coast, memories of great fishing nights from the shore in awe-inspiring places came flooding back. That in itself would have made the day, but then the fishing got underway……..

Putting Dave’s tips into action soon saw me landing my first bass of the day. I was using weighted soft plastics (Storm GT 360 Biscay Shad 12cm, 28g in a browny colour). One of Dave’s tips was to avoid the weedless version, or if you can only get these try supergluing the hook so that it stands proud of the top of the lure. It’s funny how I use weedless hooks all the time from the shore, without incident, but they definitely seem to result in missed/lost fish in this situation.

I ended up with 7 bass for the day (4 hours), up to 59cm – a very enjoyable trip. I even managed to get a couple more bass heads for the Supper4science   project. John did OK too – as you can see from the featured image.

A 53cm bass which, as you can see, I enjoyed catching!

Albie feast

After catching my first fish on an Albie Snax recently, I’ve been using them quite a bit.  I’d been having trouble getting hold of the pearl ones at the time, so invested in a pack of chartreuse and pearl ones, hoping they would work. I’d also bought some 5″ Cornish Handmade Senkos from Bass Lures UK, which look very similar to Albies. Armed with a selection of these, I headed off for the coast, the night after our boat trip.

First to try was the pearl Albie . A fish of 43cm showed that there were fish about, so time for some experimenting. On went the BLUK one – bang! a 50cm bass, followed by another of 47cm. I can’t believe how hard bass hit these Albie-type lures – perhaps they think they’re small squid?

Next up was the chartreuse and pearl Albie, which quickly produced another bass of 48cm. A change back to the BLUK lure produced a 41cm bass. By this time the lure was looking a bit worse for wear. Matt responded to my feedback by saying that he’ll modify the plastic mix to make it more robust, but 3 fish on a lure that costs around £1.50 ain’t bad value in my book. Back on with the Albie, which produced a 40cm bass.

Things seemed to go quiet, so I decided to call it a day. I couldn’t resist a few chucks on the way back though – just as well or I would have missed the best one of the night!

A 55cm bass taken on a pearl Albie Snax

Neap tides do produce

A few nights later I returned to a spot where I had done well earlier in the year. It’s a mark which I only used to bait fish (with crab) before; lure fishing has led to me learning more about how to fish it.

I was a little doubtful about the very small tide, but previous results encouraged me to give it a go anyway. A 41cm bass on an Albie Snax early on suggested that my fears about the tide may have been unfounded, but alas that was to be the only one.  I would normally fish this mark until an hour after High Water, but the lack of action pointed to an early finish – and yet I felt I wasn’t done yet.

I decided to keep the rod up, and have a few casts at a spot on the way back to the car. I’ve never fished this spot, but wondered if the very small tide might not be so critical here. Faced with a flat sea over clean sand, I decided to concentrate my efforts on an area where there was some structure.

On went the BLUK 5″ Senko. I wasn’t very optimistic, but a bump on the lure got my interest up, and a couple of casts later, the lure was hit hard by what was obviously a good fish.

As the fish came in she looked a good size and was thrashing about a bit. As I got her to the edge of the rocks I was standing on, she somehow threw the lure and snapped the line at the same time. Desperate not to let it escape, I grabbed the fish and moved it to safety.

As I measured the fish I couldn’t work out why my fingers felt wet and the tape was a funny colour – in the red light of my torch I hadn’t realised this was blood, my blood! The fish must have caught me with her gill cover, taking a slice out of my thumb, but it was worth it. Recounting the story to the staff at the minor injuries unit the next morning caused much hilarity!

A neap tide 60cm bass, caught on a Bass Lures UK 5″ Senko. The blood is mine!

Tintagel bass competition

The weekend just gone saw Tintagel Sea Angling Club hosting their annual bass competition. Of the three club bass comps in Cornwall, this is the only one which is run on a C&R basis. As chairman Richard Coad says, C&R is the way forward.

Nowadays I can’t bring myself to kill a fish, especially a big one, just to win a trophy. So I was keen to support this one and paid the modest £10 entry fee (which included a free hot meal at the presentation do) and started thinking about where & when to fish.

This is a bait and lure comp, and as luck would have it the conditions came good for a spot of bait fishing at a favourite beach mark on the Friday night over low water. My chosen bait was frozen mackerel, specifically a smallish one with head and tail fin removed; I don’t seem to do that well on the heads (but yes, I know others do). A 6/0 Viking passed through the root of the tail, out the other side, and then embedded in the flesh towards the lower end of the bait with hook bend and point sticking out.

First cast was biteless after 20 minutes. I had bought a packet of anchovies from the local tackle dealer (Lowen Chy Angling), who recommended giving them a try. “They’re a bit like blueys, only they’re caught locally” said Dom. Having caught bass to 8lb on bluey, I was eager to try them. First cast produced a bass of 55cm, and I had two more later – on just one packet of six – I’ll definitely be using these again!

Try some of these anchovies said Dom from Lowen Chy Angling. Glad he did!

Next cast produced a small (42cm) bass on mackerel, with another one of 55cm falling to it right at the end of the session (right before a bloody great bull huss signalled it was time to head for the hills and a welcome bed).

One of two 55cm bass caught during the Tintagel SAC Open Bass Competition. This one got me 7th prize.

Long-time fishing buddy Steve Ainsworth joined me for an early evening session on Saturday evening , but the fishing was slow. A few hours over midday on the Sunday produced a couple of smaller bass on lures.

An estuary 45cm bass, caught on a Patchinko 125 (single hooks, crushed barbs) during the Tintagel bass Comp.

I must compliment the Tintagel SAC Committee for all their work in organising the event, and for giving anglers like me the option of fishing a C&R competition. It was great to catch up with the other competitors at the presentation do, and to see my name up on the winners board.

Juvenile bass surveys

Thanks to all our great volunteers for supporting a busy programme of surveys, which have just come to an end for this year (start again next May). Some very encouraging results for ‘0’ groups (this year’s spawning), suggesting 2023 may be a good year class – at least in our survey area. These seemed to come in earlier than usual (mid -June). It was also noticeable that we were finding very small ones in September – indicative of May/June spawning, and evidence of the need to extend the closed period to protect spawning bass.

The smaller of these two September ‘0’ groups is the size we usually see in early July, having probably spawned in March/April.

That’s all for this month folks, thanks for reading.

Indian summer

A perfect day out

As I write this, we’re coming to the end of  an Indian summer. Boat fishing is more weather dependent than shore fishing, so the recent settled weather made for a a very pleasant day out with Dave Jones . Seeing the Cornish coastline in all its glory, from a different perspective, would have been rewarding enough  in itself. Throw in some fishing and good company, and you have the ingredients for a perfect day out.

I don’t mind admitting that my boat fishing experience is limited, but I’m always up for a bit of a change from shore fishing and learning new things. Dave is an excellent mentor, and shared his considerable experience of lure fishing for bass from the boat. We managed about a dozen bass (plus pollack and wrasse) between us (with a predictable master:apprentice ratio of course). I think it’s a reflection of the state and size/age profile of the bass stocks that we didn’t get more bass, or anything over about mid-fifty cm. Having said that, I’m still getting flashbacks about losing what was potentially a very large bass on a previous trip with Dave, which snapped my leader like so much cotton!


The featured image (Credit Dave Jones) of this blog shows me holding a 53cm bass which I kept for the Super4science project. There’s still time to keep a bass head (or two) for this, but please hurry as they can’t take anything after the end of this month. If you can help, please email Essex Uni on

A night to remember

My fishing trips have been limited of late due to the juvenile bass survey programme being in full swing at the moment. When a gap in the schedule presented itself I was keen to get the rods out again.

I always think that if the choice of mark is obvious you stand a much better chance of doing well. Dithering about with a range of possible venues usually (for me anyway) means the opposite, and you end up wishing you’d gone somewhere else. After a brief check of the tide table and wind direction, I knew exactly where I was going, and it turned out to be a night to remember.


To be honest, I had thought about fishing an estuary mark, but the coast seems to be firing better than the estuary marks I fish, and a report from Ben Harris that there was a lot of bioluminescence in the water put me off. With little wave action in estuaries there isn’t a lot of background bioluminescence to mask any which your lure makes. I’m not sure that a canny bass is going to be fooled into attacking what looks like a shooting star coming past it, but who knows for sure?

First out of the bag

So, decision made, I headed out to the coast to find the mark flat calm, as expected. The first lure out of the bag was my favourite Soft Plastic, a 6″ DoLive Stick (Wagasaki colour).  I cast around for a few minutes as the light was going, gradually getting closer to a low rock sticking out of the water.

I could just about see the fish rise as it took the lure. I could instantly tell it was a decent one. It took me on a merry dance, but  she was well hooked (as they usually are with SPs), and it wasn’t long before a 60cm bass, only my second of the year, was sliding up the shore. Not bad after just five minutes fishing.

A 60cm bass taken on a 6″ Wagasaki-coloured DoLive Stick.

Fifteen minutes later, a switch to a black-speckled DoLive produced a 50cm bass. As this met my personal slot size (50-60cm), I decided to keep it for the supper4science project.

More to come

Things went quiet then for an hour or so, but years of experience here told me that there was more to come. Since there were obviously fish around, I decided to try one of the new Supersoft paddletails that Matt at Bass Lures UK had sent me to try. Bingo! This nice 56cm bass obviously approved of Matt’s lure.

A 56cm bass taken on a 5″ Supersoft Shine Paddletail lure from Bass Lures UK.

On a roll

On a roll now, I couldn’t resist trying an Albie Snax. Although I first learned of this lure back in 2015/16, while fishing in Ireland, success on it had so far eluded me. I’ve had knocks on it, but no hook-ups. I had convinced myself that this was because the plastic was too rigid, and couldn’t collapse around the hook properly,  as the fish hit it. However, I must have read about somebody catching on them recently, so my interest in them was reignited.

As I wound in with my usual slow,  steady relieve, I felt a definite bump. My senses were now on full alert, and when I started winding again the lure was hit hard – no hooking problem this time! After a short, but feisty, scrap a real beauty lay at my feet. I quickly measured it with the BASS tape. As much as I wanted it to, it wouldn’t quite make 60cm, but at 59 it wasn’t a bad first fish on the Albie. I’m pleased to say I’ve had several others since, and the Albie is now a regular in my lure bag (shame you can’t get hold of the pearl ones now!).

A 59cm bass taken on an Albie Snax – my first on this lure.


A recent trip with Ben Harris illustrated the power of confidence. Ben is ‘top dog’ with the surface lures, with many good bass catches to his credit. Like this nice 51cm bass he caught on a Patchinko.

Ben Harris with his 51cm surface-lure caught bass.

I remember Ben trouncing me once on surface lures, but he has much less confidence when it comes to soft plastics.

As darkness fell I clipped on a dark green-coloured DoLive Stick. First cast produced a 54cm bass. I gave Ben a ring straightway (we used to dream of doing this in the old days – using walkie-talkies!) and suggested he get back over here.  Just as Ben arrived I had another hit – this time from a 53cm bass.

Ben swapped his surface lure for a DoLive Stick, but I could feel his hesitancy and lack of confidence coming through. And me landing another fish soon after (42cm), while he hadn’t had a touch didn’t help things much. I recounted to Ben how I fished with DoLives for several months before I found my rhythm with them and caught my first bass. I’m sure once it clicks Ben will be catching shedloads of bass on SPs!


Juvenile bass surveys

Going by our results so far, things are looking more encouraging for the 2023 class than the 2022 one. I’ll update on our final conclusions when we’ve concluded our surveys for the year.

One highlight was a successful  first survey on the Gannel estuary. We’ve been looking for a site(s) on the North Coast which works for us for a couple of years now. In time this may allow us to compare spawning and settlement success on both sides of the Cornwall peninsula.

Rob Hillman during our first survey on the Gannel.

Time to stand up and be counted

If there was ever a time for anglers to stand up and be counted it’s now. It’s absolutely vital that as many of us respond to the Bass Fisheries Management Plan consultation as possible. To help you, BASS have produced a useful blog.  You’ll need to get your response in by Oct 1st.

If you don’t have time to use the consultation tool, you can always just email your thoughts to

For me the key points are:

  • Netting controls – mesh size, length set, restrictions on where and when they can be used e.g. to avoid pre-spawning bass aggregations;
  • Boost recruitment – increase closed period duration to avoid spawning bass, more nursery areas to protect juveniles, higher MCRS (minimum size) to allow more bass to spawn before being harvested;
  • Restore the stock size to levels seen before the crash in 2010. Restore a natural age/size profile to stock.

That’s it for this month folks – thanks for reading.


Summertime……..and the fish are jumpin’

Summertime – who said that! Just when we thought we were set for a long hot one, things have gone seriously downhill. But if the weather forecasts are to be believed things should improve soon.

The fish are jumping though – especially in the estuaries, with fish spraying all over the place around dusk as they chase their hapless prey. Not exactly sure what they are though – the only fish I’ve managed to catch when this was happening was a small scad.

Recent catches

My recent catches show a mixed picture of good sessions and poor ones/blanks, on both coast and estuary. Things are becoming a bit more consistent as we move into August though. I’m seeing fish around the 30cm and 50cm+ mark, but not much in between. Shows the effect that year classes can have; the 50cm+ fish are probably from the best class we’ve had in recent years – 2014 (but nothing like the really good classes of the past e.g. 1989). As this class grows, we should see more 60cm fish in our catches next year or the one after, although the numbers will fall as a result of natural predation and commercial (and to a much lesser extent recreational) exploitation. I’ve still only had one 60cm fish this year. Hopefully the chances of something bigger will improve as we go towards Autumn, but I’m not holding my breath!


Despite telling myself I was going to focus on proven marks more, I have been doing some exploring – to good effect I might add. My increasing experience of shore fishing in estuaries, and the fact that fish seem to behave more predictably in them than on the open coast, has helped – not to mention the fact that the resident fish seem to be in properly now.

One new mark I tried was particularly memorable. After an hour or so of fruitless casting my attention was waning, and I was beginning to think I should have gone to somewhere I’ve caught fish before. About 10 yards out, just at the edge of a bank of weed, there was a fishy-looking boil. My piscatorial reflexes took over, and made me stop winding and pause for a second. As I started winding again, a dark shape came out from the weed and snaffled the lure. It was like a slow-motion movie, the image now burned in my brain. Seeing a bass (46cm) actually taking a lure is not something that happens every day, and this memory has made this a special place for me.

Perseverance pays off

Buoyed up by my success at a new mark, I decided to try another. I was coming to the end of the session, with nothing to show for my efforts other than a few knocks from what I assumed were small fish. My enthusiasm was waning, and an earlier-than-planned finish looked on the cards. But this was a good tide, and I decided to persevere, and rotate through the various lures I had brought.

The solunar effect was definitely working on me, let alone the fish, as the moon poked in and out of the clouds. But nothing seemed to be working – that was until a 58cm beauty latched onto a 125mm Soft J Shad in Black Neon Sprat   from Bass Lures UK. They usefully describe the best conditions to use each lure colour, and they were spot on this time! “I think it’s the combination of being a black lure with the added neon strip in the belly” says Matt.

This 58cm bass took a black soft plastic paddle tail, with added neon strip in the belly, in the moonlight.

If you’re thinking of buying some lures from this company, now’s a good time as they’e offering a 10% discount in August on their already very competitive prices. Just quote the code BLUK10 when you order.

Stuffed with whitebait

This year I have been keeping the odd fish for the table, to help with the Supper4science project (see later).  I always like to look at the stomach contents of any bass I keep. This is fascinating in itself, and can be useful from a fishing perspective. For example, both the fish I caught on separate sessions at the same mark on the coast were full of fish. In June these were mini-sand eels; in July these were whitebait, suggesting that lures would be an effective way to catch fish at these times – as was the case. In fact, I don’t know where the second fish thought it was going to put the 6″ DoLive Stick that it took – its stomach was full to bursting!

The stomach of a 51cm bass, absolutely stuffed with whitebait.

Hungry bass

This 51cm bass must have been hungry, by the way it smashed the little surface lure I was using. There was no messing about, or repeated slashes at the lure – one second it was ‘walking the frog’, the next it was gone!

This 51cm bass took a Yozuri Arms Pencil surface lure.

As with all my plugs, this one was fitted with single hooks – in this case  size 1 VMC 7237 Light inlines.

Whenever I’m using plugs in estuaries, where catches of multiple small fish are possible, I make sure to crush the barbs, or use barbless. Even a small hook can look big in the mouth of a 25cm bass and make extracting it difficult with barbed hooks (especially trebles) – no sense in damaging the potential ten-pounders of the future.

Juvenile bass surveys

Our juvenile bass survey group now has its own name – Cornwall Bass Investigations Group. We also have our own website. We’ve tried to make this a central point for sharing reports, photos, news and general information. Many thanks to fellow volunteer Peter Maddern for building the site. We are commencing surveys again as I write this, so if you live in the area and would like to get involved, or just passing through and fancy an interesting  afternoon, do get in touch.

Bass FMP consultation

Perhaps the most important development in bass fishing and management ever is the development of a new Bass Fisheries Management Plan. Defra have produced a draft for consultation  (along with some other interesting documents) which can be found here.

Definitely worth responding to this. BASS and the Angling Trust will be producing some guidance if you need help.


This important project is an opportunity for anglers to get involved in research which will help to restore and maintain bass stocks in the future. Essex University need bass heads from around the English coast, so if you are keeping one for the table they would love to have the head. Just pop it in the freezer and await further instructions. You’ll need to let them know you’re interested by emailing

JHaM Cam

Another of the FISP (Fisheries Industry Science Partnership) projects that BASS (and Cornwall Bass Investigations Group) are involved in is looking at how juvenile fish use estuaries using a novel camera developed by Plymouth University. Read all about it here. Exciting times ahead!

That’s it for this month folks. Tight lines and thanks for reading,

Thanks to Ben Harris for the featured image photo.

The richness of a bass angler’s life

I love bass fishing, whether from an estuary, or from the open coast. But a bass angler’s life is about so much more than just fishing.

Take the BASS Fish-in last weekend. The fishing was tough, but these get-togethers are as much about socialising, and sharing experiences and methods,  as actually catching. Just setting up camp was a challenge to someone who hasn’t set up a tent since my youth, and brought a modicum of satisfaction in itself. With thanks to Richard Brandon for the loan of his tent.

Tent erected and still standing after the wind and rain of the night before. Rob Hillman looking on.

While in the area, I took the opportunity to look up Matt Burgoyne from Bass Lures UK.  It was great to finally get together after numerous exchanges on Twitter, and a nicer guy you couldn’t wish to meet. His business is going from strength to strength, and it’s so good to see a local entrepreneur, who provides an excellent service and products, doing well.

Matt Burgoyne from Bass Lures UK.

Recent catches

The fishing has been patchy, but is slowly improving. I managed a couple of fish on a lure session earlier in June, including this muscular 55cm fish which put up quite a battle, falling for a 5″ T-Tail in purple flash from Bass Lures UK.

A 55cm bass which fell to a 5″ T-Tail soft plastic in purple flash.

When bass maestro Steve Ainsworth suggested a north coast beach trip with live sandeel, I jumped at the chance to take a trip down memory lane. This was my favourite bait back in the nineties – I even had my own live eel tank in the garage.

As I threaded the hook through the eel’s mouth and out from its gill cover before nicking the hook in the belly, thoughts of memorable nights standing in the Cornish surf came flooding back.

Live sandeel on a running leger rig on 30lb braid, with a 3 foot trace in 25lb mono and 4/0 Aberdeen.

I was soon jolted from my daydreams though, when a feisty bass of 48cm signalled its presence with a hefty bite. I know that lure fishing is so much more convenient than bait fishing, but doing both really adds to the complete experience of bass angling.

The best session of the month came right at the death. On this occasion lures did the business, producing 5 fish to 55cm in a little over two hours. Once again Matt’s lures featured prominently, with the largest fish taking one of his 4.5″ Soft J Shads in black neon sprat, the fish almost completely engulfing it.

55cm bass taken on a 4.5″ Soft J Shad in black neon sprat. Only the very end of the lure is visible in the fish’s mouth.


One of the projects I’m involved with, on behalf of BASS, is Supper4science. You can read more about this in this BASS blog.  We need as many anglers, from as many different areas as possible to get involved, so if you can help, please let the folks at Essex Uni know by emailing

I have my own personal slot size of 50-60cm, but each person can decide for themselves what size to keep (as long as it’s over 42cm). Here’s the head and fillets from a 54cm fish I caught last month on a Pulse Tail Gravity Stick. The head is now residing in my freezer;  the fillets were delicious!

Juvenile bass surveys

We’ve reached the midpoint in our programme of juvenile bass surveys on the Fal and Helford (and now Camel).  Alas our fears that 2022 was a poor year in our survey area were realised, with few 1 year-olds being seen.

At this point we pause, to allow the incoming post larvae, or ‘0’ groups as they’re known, from this year’s spawning to grow a bit, so that they can better withstand the rigours of netting. Some have already reached our shores, and this is the earliest we’ve ever seen them. This is possibly linked to the marine heatwave we’ve recently experienced, and having the hottest June on record. We’re looking forward to  resuming surveys at the beginning of August; let’s hope this early arrival of ‘0’ groups is the sign of a good spawning year.

A ‘1’ group bass, probably spawned in Feb/March of 2022, with an ‘0’ group below, probably spawned about the same time this year.

If you are interested in helping with the surveys please let me know by commenting on this blog, or via the contact page on this website.

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


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.


A book about bass fishing

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.

The review can be seen here.

Summer’s here!

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.

When the foxgloves come out it’s time to go bass fishing.

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.

Yozuri Arms Pencil – with single hooks fitted and barbs now crushed.

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!

Keitech 5″ Easy Shiner (Wagasaki colour) minus paddle tail, with new one below for comparison.

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.

A one-year old bass or ‘1’ group. We’ve found very few of these in our surveys so far this year.

That’s it for this month folks – thanks for reading.