Catch big­ger bass with our ex­pert’s ad­vice…

Sea Angler (UK) - - Front Page - Words by Mike La­dle Pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike La­dle and Mike Dobson

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.

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