MAKE THE MOST OF SUMMER FISH
Catch bigger bass with our expert’s advice…
Recently, I had a bit of a gettogether with a few fishing pals to chat about our forthcoming sessions. We sat in a corner of a local pub and used my laptop to look through some pictures of bass fishing over the past 50 years or so.
First thing that became apparent was that I don’t catch as many fish as before. It’s not just me, of course, as rarely, if ever these days, do I hear of anyone regularly catching tens of big (5lb-plus) bass in a short session from the shore on lures. As always, one decent fish can still make the difference between a good trip and a poor one, but now we are often satisfied if we’ve landed a couple of two or three-pounders.
So it started me thinking – what’s the difference? There’s no doubt that tackle has changed, mostly for the better. Spinning rods are lighter and cast further and more effectively, reels are more reliable, lines are thinner, more flexible, much stronger, and have less builtin stretch. Above all, the available lures have multiplied beyond belief. In the 1970s and 80s we had already shifted from the use of spoons and crude rubber eels, and almost everyone spun with buoyant, shallow-diving plugs or waggy-tailed, plastic, unweighted artificial eels.
There was a limited choice of buoyant plugs, from the basic Abu Killer type made from hollow, tapered lengths of hard plastic, to the more sophisticated, balsa-bodied Rapalas, either unjointed or with a hinge that made their wriggling progress much more sinuous.
Using only this small selection of lures, my pals and me frequently made wonderful catches of bass. All you needed to do was venture to the shore on a suitable tide, cast them out as far as you could (usually not all that far) and steadily wind them back.
Of course, the primitive plugs had drawbacks other than poor castability. In the presence of drifting weed fragments, the hooks would clog up in seconds, rendering them useless.
As time went by, the plugs that you could purchase diversified, firstly with imported plastic Rebels and the like, and more recently with a huge variety of creations that were made in the Far East. Many of these incorporated moving ball-bearings to assist casting. The original Rapalas and plastic Red Gill-type eels still caught fish, of course, but the problem of weed on the hooks remained.
The first effective solution came with the introduction of surface poppers and sliders, although these gadgets had been used for tropical predators for years.
Some members of BASS, who were fishing in Wales, experimented with surface lures, and their effectiveness for catching bass was a revelation. Not only were they very exciting to fish with but, unless there was a solid mat of surface-weed, poppers would catch fish almost anywhere.
The next significant step forward was the introduction of truly weedless lures. As I’ve suggested, soft plastic eels with paddle tails had been in use for a long time and were fairly effective, but really squidgy siliconebased material allowed an explosion of forms, including all sorts of flaps and twists in the tails to impart the appearance of swimming.
In the USA, where fishing in freshwater for large-mouth black bass is almost a religion, the need to pitch lures into heavy snags had spawned the idea of burying the hook into the soft material of such lures. It is even possible to ‘skin’ the point of the hook into the body of a suitable soft bait, which makes it almost totally weedless.
An example of a basic type is the Slug-Go, consisting of an eel-like length of silicone plastic with a dorsal groove to conceal the hook point. Used with one of the tailor-made, cranked-shank, wide-gape hooks designed for the purpose, these are excellent tempters of bass and, indeed, many other predators.
It’s only a small step to add a wriggling or flapping tail, and you have a device that really can be fished under almost any conditions, rough or calm, day or night – rocky, weedy or sandy seabeds notwithstanding.
The down side to all this is that, despite these innovations, the size and numbers of bass being caught by anglers has undoubtedly diminished over the years. Much of this decline is certainly due to the fact that there are fewer big bass about then there used to be. Heavy commercial overfishing has caused this.