Catch bass on bait

If you want to catch big ones con­sis­tently, bait, ei­ther live or dead, is still the thing to use

Sea Angler (UK) - - Con­tents - Words by Dr MikeLa­dle

Why it is the key to con­sis­tent catches.

When I first started fish­ing for bass from the shore, most of them used to be caught on baits of var­i­ous kinds. Since the 1980s, there has been a huge growth in lure and fly-fish­ing by spe­cial­ist bass an­glers that tra­di­tional bait fish­ing for this pop­u­lar species has taken a bit of a back seat.

De­spite this shift in ap­proach by those spe­cial­ist bass an­glers, there is no doubt, in my mind, that if you want to catch big fish con­sis­tently, bait, ei­ther live or dead, is still the thing to use.

As I see it, the big ques­tion for any bass an­gler in­tent on us­ing ‘the nat­u­ral’ for tempt­ing his or her quarry is…“How should I of­fer my bait to the fish?” What’s ap­par­ent, is that it all de­pends where you are fish­ing and what the con­di­tions are like. Let me give you a few ex­am­ples...

Down in Devon, Kevin Legge and his mates catch lots of very good fish, in­clud­ing some crack­ing big bass, by beach­cast­ing with large fish baits. When fish­ing ex­posed beaches pounded by heavy At­lantic surf, they need lead weights up to 7oz to pin down the size 6/0 Pennell (pic­tured be­low) and pul­ley rigs ap­pro­pri­ate to the con­di­tions, the dis­tances they have to cast, and species present. This is prob­a­bly one ex­treme of the bait fish­ing for bass spec­trum.

My pal Alan Vaughan, who has caught many large fish, used to fish the rough ground, kelp forests and roar­ing tidal cur­rents of North Wales. He of­ten re­quired lead weights up to 5oz or 6oz teth­er­ing a 5ft trace. He says the only worth­while bait where he fished was a big chunk of crab.

In the same part of the coun­try, when Alan fished dif­fer­ent con­di­tions from a beach of muddy sand near the mouth of a river, he used a much lighter ap­proach – a light leger to cast his large crab baits 70 yards. His baits were gen­er­ally bound to size 5/0 hooks, opened out a bit to ex­pose more of the point.

Later he moved to the Isle of Wight, where he fished a mark that he called the ‘Shel­tered Ledge’. His pub­lished de­scrip­tion and pic­tures show a snaggy ledge sur­rounded by kelp. He fished here at low wa­ter, when it was very shal­low and, in this case, cast only about 25 yards, with a lead weight of 1oz on a spin­ning rod. Fish­ing in the dark, crab was again a good bait, but large squid baits were also ef­fec­tive in day­light.

In ‘BASS and B.A.S.S.’, a book pub­lished by the Bass An­glers’ Sport­fish­ing So­ci­ety, Martin Waller, fish­ing with his pal Dave Ded­man, de­scribes how they used large baits from shin­gle beaches giv­ing way to sand. Af­ter years of ex­per­i­ment­ing (at one stage Dave ap­par­ently had seven months with­out catch­ing a bass) they came to the con­clu­sion that state of tide and cast­ing dis­tance were the key fac­tors there.

Most of their good fish were taken only two rodlengths out in a shal­low gully just be­yond the low-wa­ter mark. Cast­ing even a lit­tle fur­ther out was of­ten fu­tile.

Even this close in, the fish hugged struc­ture (beach groynes), and it was es­sen­tial for baits to be placed close to it – oth­er­wise there were no bites.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar bass lore, these an­glers pre­fer calm con­di­tions for fish­ing such spots.

Here in South Dorset, bait fish­ing tac­tics can be just as var­ied. Mike Chan­non, who caught many big bass from the Purbecks, used big cala­mari or mack­erel baits (be­low).

He of­ten fished in the dark from re­mote beaches us­ing run­ning leger tackle and a Pennell rig of size 4/0 hooks on 30lb Am­ne­sia. He said that the tak­ing fish ran with the bait. His best fish­ing was early and late in the sea­son, but less good from June to Septem­ber. He some­times used cir­cle hooks and fished with two rods on rests and set up as bolt rigs.

My own ap­proach to bait fish­ing is quite sim­i­lar, al­though I gen­er­ally free­line, and al­ways use size 4/0 to 8/0 cir­cle hooks (pic­tured) de­pend­ing on the size of the large bait.

In the case of dead­baits (mack­erel fil­lets or head and shoul­ders from my freezer), these can be fished very close in (a me­tre or two). As Mike Chan­non says, the fish in­vari­ably make long runs af­ter pick­ing up the bait.

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