Why you should wait, watch and work out what is in front of you to im­prove your catches

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEA ANGLER | CONTENTS - For more in­for­ma­tion on Marc Cowl­ing’s guided bass fish­ing op­er­a­tion, visit southde­von­bass­ ■

Lure fish­ing ad­vice from Marc Cowl­ing.

We’re all guilty of it. In our haste to cast a lure we over­look a po­ten­tially vi­tal com­po­nent to be­com­ing a con­sis­tently suc­cess­ful bass lure an­gler – ob­ser­va­tion. Sup­press that urge to at­tach the lure that worked last time, or your cur­rent favourite and in­stead sim­ply wait, watch and, im­por­tantly, as­sess what is in front of you.

This ap­proach can of­fer an en­light­en­ing in­sight into what the bass are ac­tu­ally feed­ing on. Armed with this in­for­ma­tion, you can then adapt your lure se­lec­tion and ap­proach ac­cord­ingly in or­der to ac­com­plish the ob­jec­tive – to catch one or two of th­ese mar­vel­lous sport­ing crea­tures.

Bass are renowned for be­ing both preda­tory and ex­tremely op­por­tunis­tic. Fur­ther­more, they will quickly switch on to a food source to the ex­tent of be­com­ing fix­ated on it.

As an an­gler, if you’ve been un­able to as­cer­tain what that food item is, then it could end up be­ing a frus­trat­ing day out. Thank­fully, more of­ten than not the signs are fairly ob­vi­ous, and from that point only sub­tle tweaks to your line of at­tack may be re­quired (adapt­ing) to keep catch­ing.


“The bait fish have ap­par­ently ar­rived,” I re­ported via a text to my client. As his guide, the first el­e­ment I had to de­cide on was the stretch of coast­line to tar­get. Seem­ingly, the head­lands and the as­so­ci­ated stronger cur­rent were where the ma­jor­ity of the bait balls were form­ing. There­fore, I hatched a plan that would en­able us to move along the coast­line quickly (with the fish if re­quired) and fish a num­ber of penin­su­las that ex­tended into the tide, in ad­di­tion to a mul­ti­tude of ad­ja­cent coves, the like of which this fod­der are of­ten hounded into.

Within 30 min­utes of meet­ing we had driven, walked and ar­rived on the first mark – an out­crop that would en­able my client to work the lure just in­side the fiercest cur­rent, and that also hap­pened to flank a tiny bay (15 me­tres across) where items nat­u­rally col­lect on a flood­ing tide.

With the flow run­ning par­al­lel to us and from right to left, the slight off­shore breeze herald­ing the dusk pe­riod was gen­tly rip­pling the sur­face. At that mo­ment I saw the first swirl on the sur­face as a fish (a bass?) at­tempted to grab some­thing 40 yards out, in 10ft of wa­ter cov­er­ing a rel­a­tively flat ex­panse of reef with half-a-dozen boul­ders present – some of which were pro­trud­ing and some re­cently sub­merged.


With preda­tors (mack­erel, garfish or bass) vis­i­bly ris­ing and will­ing to take items off the top, at­tach­ing a sur­face lure was ev­i­dently my first thought. How­ever, I was re­ally in­trigued to find out ex­actly what it was they were feed­ing on.

Peer­ing over a ledge, through the crys­tal­clear wa­ter over a patch of sand, I could make out lit­er­ally thou­sands of sprats/white­bait hud­dled to­gether, pre­sum­ably tak­ing

sanc­tu­ary. Mea­sur­ing ap­prox­i­mately 8-10cm, their dark backs and glim­mer­ing flanks had me scur­ry­ing back to the lure box to find a lure as close to the real thing as pos­si­ble.

I picked a diminu­tive sur­face slider called a Bear King Slim Skim­mer. De­spite weigh­ing only 13g, they cast bril­liantly, but it’s their ac­tion on the wa­ter - a skit­tish, zig-zag­ging mo­tion eas­ily per­formed by rhyth­mi­cally twitch­ing the rod tip (with the rod held up or down) while re­triev­ing slowly – that matches the scat­ter­ing ef­fect of the sprats flee­ing from the dan­ger be­low.


First cast, and out the lure flew, land­ing on the sur­face just on the edge of the main rip. I was just open­ing up the net when I saw a splash, and the rod pulled over. At 2lb it wasn’t a mon­ster, but it was both a su­perb start to the ses­sion and con­fir­ma­tion that we’d placed some­thing above the bass that they were tuned into, and this one clearly thought our small fish was the real thing. It looked like we were in for a red-let­ter day.

When you re­ceive a bite or catch a fish on the first cast, it of­ten turns out to be the only ac­tion of the en­tire ses­sion. Yet within min­utes of cast­ing out again my client was into an­other bass that had re­ally whacked the lure from just be­hind a car-sized rock only inches un­der the wa­ter. At 3lb, it gave a very good ac­count of it­self. There is noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary about the chain of events so far, but fol­low­ing this cap­ture the pat­tern of events be­gan to change.

For the next 30 min­utes, nearly ev­ery cast re­sulted in a mack­erel at­tack­ing and be­com­ing foul-hooked on the sur­face lure. How­ever, on one re­trieve a very nice bass was ob­served fol­low­ing be­neath the lure right to the base of our plat­form – and so it was time for us to as­sess and adapt again.

We were on the verge of twi­light and, with the mack­erel seem­ingly mak­ing hay be­fore dark­ness, I made the de­ci­sion to change over to a sub-sur­face lure – a Ry­obi Trap­per Min­now 125F. The ac­tion and fin­ish on th­ese fan­tas­tic lures be­lies their in­ex­pen­sive price tag. With a div­ing depth of around 2ft, the plan was to seek out the wa­ter col­umn (go­ing deeper with each lure type and chang­ing con­tin­u­ally if re­quired) un­til my client re­con­nected with a bass.

Around a dozen casts in with the new lure and only three me­tres out, the rod was prac­ti­cally ripped from his hands. This def­i­nitely wasn’t a mack­erel. It at­tempted to head out in the di­rec­tion of the main flow of cur­rent, tak­ing line in the process. After the reel drag was tight­ened the fish stayed re­mark­ably deep, which made me think it was ei­ther a large pol­lack or a wrasse.

It then swam to­wards us, which was when I man­aged to catch a glimpse in the spec­tac­u­larly clear wa­ter. It was a de­cent bass. Turn­ing, it ran to our left and ex­tremely close to a very jagged sec­tion of the rocks, but with se­vere side strain ap­plied the bass came up to the sur­face, where I slid my wait­ing net un­der it. At well over 4lb, this was a fight­ing-fit beauty with a big belly, pre­sum­ably crammed with white­bait.


With dark­ness now upon us and the tide at its peak, I de­cided on a move to a nearby shin­gle beach that would al­low my client a chance of a bass in dark­ness. The 2-3ft of wa­ter cov­er­ing the ex­panse of reef be­fore us was like a millpond. When the con­di­tions are this still (by day or night) I will gen­er­ally at­tach a weed­less, weight­less soft plas­tic in or­der to achieve a sub­tle ap­proach. I set­tled on a 6in white Senko.

With only one tiny tap on the Senko fol­low­ing 30 min­utes of fish­ing, I be­gan to con­sider a change of tac­tics. Could the bass still be tuned into small sil­very fish, even in the shal­lows? A quick rum­mage through my night-time lure box pro­vided me with the ideal lure – the very shal­low-div­ing (down to 18in) 10g chrome sil­ver Maria Squash F95.

“Just re­trieve it fast enough so that you can just feel the rod tip vi­brate,” I said, be­fore turn­ing my back to take a drink. I heard a call from out in the gloom. I made my way over the 15 me­tres of shin­gle to be greeted by his rod bent well over and line, yet again, be­ing pulled pow­er­fully from the Daiwa reel.

We made out the bass crash­ing around on the sur­face some 20 me­tres out. How­ever, from that point the fish be­haved it­self im­pec­ca­ble and was soon on the shin­gle.

This bass mea­sured 60cm (around 5lb) and was clearly the ic­ing on the cake of an un­for­get­table ses­sion, one in which we had ac­com­plished a great deal. First, it goes to show that un­der­stand­ing pre­cisely what bass are feed­ing on can some­times of­fer the lure an­gler a cru­cial ad­van­tage. Sec­ond, you may need to adapt your ap­proach dur­ing the ses­sion it­self to keep catch­ing.

First cast pro­duced this 2lb beauty

A 5lb night bass caught on the Maria Squash F95

The Maria Squash F95

A Bear King Slim Skim­mer

Ry­obi Trap­per Min­now 125F

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