Boat Fish­ing with Barham

Lure and live­bait fish­ing for sum­mer bass.

Sea Angler (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Dave Barham

Many an­glers are gripped by the magic of sum­mer fish­ing for bass and it is a spell that sim­ply can­not be bro­ken. I’m no dif­fer­ent and if I’m fish­ing for bass I’m happy.

I could eas­ily write this en­tire piece about fish­ing with bait, such as crabs, squid and worms, but in­stead I’ll dis­cuss my real pas­sions of lures and live­baits.


My favourite method of tar­get­ing sum­mer bass is with top­wa­ter lures. There re­ally is noth­ing like the sensation of watch­ing a big bass smash your lure right in front of you.

Gen­er­ally thought of as pro­duc­ing best re­sults in warm, calm, shal­low water on over­cast days or dur­ing the low-light pe­ri­ods of dawn and dusk, in re­al­ity bass will hit top­wa­ters at any time of day and un­der many di­verse con­di­tions. Don’t put them out of your mind when con­di­tions don’t meet the tra­di­tional ex­pec­ta­tions be­cause I’ve caught off the top at 1pm on a blaz­ing hot day with­out a cloud in the sky.

When choos­ing to fish a top­wa­ter lure the first fac­tor to con­sider is water clar­ity. All preda­tory fish are sight feed­ers. In clear water the look and ac­tion of the lure, not the sound, will be the fi­nal de­ter­min­ing fac­tor if a bass strikes or not.

Clear water is a very good place for fish­ing stick and pen­cil baits, like my favourite Lucky Craft Sammy or Hed­don Su­per Spook. In coloured water you should reach for the noisy top­wa­ter lures, the true pop­per styles, such as the Maria Pop Queen, Tronix­pro Bass Pop­per or Tackle House Feed Pop­per.

Top­wa­ter fish­ing is im­pacted by the abil­ity of a bass to see the lure, no small con­sid­er­a­tion when you’re fish­ing for sight feed­ers. Too much sur­face dis­tur­bance lim­its this abil­ity and re­duces the ef­fec­tive­ness of your pre­sen­ta­tion. While a small amount of sur­face move­ment is good, too much can be a bad thing. You will catch more bass, or at least have more ac­tiv­ity, when the water has a lit­tle sur­face move­ment to it, es­pe­cially in clear-water sit­u­a­tions. Ideally you want the bass to see your lure, but not so well that the fish re­jects it as un­nat­u­ral.


The mar­ket is swamped by thou­sands upon thou­sands of min­now-shaped lures, in ev­ery pos­si­ble colour and size. It can be a daunt­ing place for the new lure an­gler to ven­ture.

The main prin­ci­ple to ap­ply is match the hatch (size, colour, ac­tion, speed of the typ­i­cal prey fish) and then present the lure at the right depth in the water col­umn. Two pre­sen­ta­tions or re­trieves that con­sis­tently work for me are the ‘crank and twitch’ and the ‘crank and rise’.

For the ‘crank and twitch’ you need a lure that sus­pends in the water or has a very slow sink rate, like the Sav­age Gear Prey. Cast it out and crank it down hard and fast, caus­ing it to send out mas­sive noise, vi­bra­tion and rat­tle, and then stop it dead. Take up the slack line, but do not move the lure.

Bass will in­ves­ti­gate the heavy com­mo­tion just made, so be pa­tient and al­low the lure to sit there for the bass to find, which could take 20 sec­onds or more. At this stage twitch the rod tip once or twice as a bass may be watch­ing or even suck­ing it into its mouth. Re­trieve some more, then re­peat the process of stop­ping and twitch­ing. Al­ways be pre­pared for the strike as soon as you twitch the lure.

For the ‘crank and rise’ re­trieves, you need a div­ing lure that floats, like the SG Prey, DUO Tide Min­now or Daiwa Shore­line Shiner. The way to fish these types of lures is by crank­ing hard to pull the lure down quickly in short, sharp, two to five sec­ond bursts and then al­low it to rise slowly up through the water col­umn. This pull and rise tech­nique is a deadly tac­tic.


The term soft plas­tics cov­ers a colos­sal ar­ray of lures, from Sav­age Gear Sandeels to Red Gills, Ed­dy­s­tone Eels, Fi­i­ish Black Min­nows, HTO Sea Min­nows, Grau­vell Kona Se­lect Kiddy Sidewinders, Lunker City Slug-Go and a load more – I’ve just listed some of the SPs that I like to use.

The tac­tics and tricks em­ployed when us­ing SPs also war­rant a full fea­ture in their own right, so I’ll just touch on the ba­sic tech­niques that I use.

I love drift­ing over wrecks, reefs and deep­wa­ter off­shore sand­banks for bass with the new breed of weighted shad-type lures. I’m talk­ing about the likes of Fi­i­ish Black Min­nows, De­la­lande Shadka II, Kiddy Sidewinders.

I only re­ally use one rig, apart from the oc­ca­sional use of a Port­land rig (shown in last month’s Sea An­gler), and that is a fixed lead set-up. Quite of­ten the weight of these lures is not enough to get them down to the feed­ing bass in 100ft of water, so you need a lit­tle ex­tra help, be it 2oz or 10oz of lead.

By far the eas­i­est ap­proach is to tie the top end of a link swivel to the end of your main­line, and then tie a 4-5ft length of 25lb fluoro­car­bon hook­length to the bot­tom eye of the link swivel. To the end of this, I add a Break­away mini link clip, which al­lows me to change my lure quickly. Then it’s just a case of clip­ping the re­quired lead weight to the link clip of the link swivel.

Once I’ve dropped my lure to the seabed, depend­ing on the run of tide I do one of two things. If the tide is belt­ing along, I sim­ply bounce my lure along the bot­tom. To do this, slowly lift the rod tip and lower it, feel­ing for the lead bounc­ing on the bot­tom be­fore lift­ing the rod slowly again.

If the tide is slacker, drop down and then wind the lure in slowly for say 20 turns of the reel han­dle, be­fore let­ting it all back down and re­peat­ing the process. Both tac­tics have their place, and both are equally ef­fec­tive.

When it comes to the worm-type soft plas­tics, my favourite type are those that are ex­tremely soft and sup­ple – my all time favourite be­ing the Grau­vell Kona Se­lect (pic­tured left),. I like to fish these in shal­low water, up to 20ft, and use a small jig­head to mount and present the lures.

My most suc­cess­ful ap­proach is to cast the lure across the tide and al­low the flow to work the lure for me over a sand­bank. I’ve caught loads of bass do­ing this. The other tac­tic is to cast and re­trieve the lure, and this gives more con­trol over the area cov­ered, which is why I tend to adopt this tac­tic when there isn’t much tide and the boat re­mains fairly static.


Us­ing live­baits can be a very ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing ap­proach to bass fish­ing. If you use bal­anced tackle, such as a spin­ning rod and fixed-spool reel loaded with 20lb braid, you can ac­tu­ally feel your live mack­erel, launce or sandeel panic as a bass gets close.

The aim of the game when tar­get­ing bass with live­baits is to find the fish first. Most bass caught in this man­ner are ei­ther over reefs, wrecks of sand­banks, and in some ar­eas the banks are vast, so lo­cat­ing a shoal of bass is the key to a good day.


When fish­ing live­baits there are a num­ber of rigs you can try, but I have two that I swear by and they are both pretty sim­ple. The first is the Port­land rig (shown in my ar­ti­cle in the pre­vi­ous is­sue), which I tie us­ing 3ft of 30lb fluoro­car­bon for the rig body, and 5ft of 20lb fluoro­car­bon for the hook­length. On the busi­ness end I usu­ally go for a small tre­ble hook when us­ing mack­erel live­baits, or a sin­gle size 4/0 for launce or sandeel.

The other rig you can use is a sim­ple run­ning leger. Just thread a link swivel on your line, fol­lowed by a bead, Then tie on a de­cent swivel and a 5ft hook­length as be­fore. This rig works best when you have to use more lead weight, like 6oz and above; the main rea­son be­ing that you need the weight to tow the mack­erel down through some­times 100ft of water. If the weight is too light, the mack­erel can swim off and leave your sinker half­way up your main­line.

If you be­gin to miss bites, use a fixed Pen­nell rig set-up on the busi­ness end, and pass one hook through the top lip of the launce/mack­erel, with the other through the back. That will give you two strike points and a much bet­ter hook-up ra­tio. How­ever, on days when the fish are just scoff­ing any­thing you throw at them, a sin­gle hook is all that is re­quired.


The other tac­tic for fish­ing live­baits is in rel­a­tively shal­low water un­der a float. This rig is best fished on the drift when tar­get­ing bass, and you can use ei­ther a tre­ble, cir­cle or J hook.

To set it up, you need to find out the depth that you are fish­ing and tie a stop knot on your main­line about 2ft short of the ac­tual depth. If you’re fish­ing in a strong tide, then you may need to fish the rig a cou­ple of feet over depth, to al­low for drag in the water lift­ing up the bait.

The best tac­tic when drift­ing is to mo­tor up­tide of your mark and then let the float and bait out im­me­di­ately af­ter cut­ting the en­gine, with­out stick­ing the boat into re­verse to stop it. This way the boat will still be mov­ing for­wards for a few yards, putting some dis­tance be­tween the boat and the float.

There are things you can do to make the rig more ef­fec­tive, and one tip is to use a bomb-type lead weight in­stead of the tra­di­tional drilled bul­let. By sim­ply slid­ing on a link swivel where you would nor­mally put the drilled bul­let, you can in­stantly change your lead weight’s size up or down to co­in­cide with the rise and fall of the tide, which gives far more ef­fec­tive bait pre­sen­ta­tion.

Of course, you don’t just have to use a mack­erel or sandeel un­der a float. Live prawns, rag­worms, pout­ing and most other small fish will catch you plenty of hun­gry bass.

This dou­ble-fig­ure fish fell to a launce live­bait fished in 100ft of water.

Mount your soft plas­tic lure on a suit­able lead­head

An­other chunky bass caught in over 80ft of water on a Fi­i­ish Black Min­now

This bass took a Lucky Craft Sammy

You’ll need a 12/20lb out­fit for big bass in deep water

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