FISH OF A LIFE­TIME

Henry Gil­bey is de­lighted with his first dou­ble-fig­ure bass

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEAANGLER CONTENTS - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by HENRY GIL­BEY

Henry Gil­bey tells the story of his 10lb bass.

There are cer­tain mile­stones or goals in fish­ing, and whether they are num­bers or size of fish, or per­haps trav­el­ling some­where new and re­mote, what I so love about fish­ing is how there is room for all of us and what we want to get out of it.

When I was heav­ily into bait fish­ing, I classed my­self as a spec­i­men hunter be­cause I was ac­tively chas­ing the big­gest fish I could find of a par­tic­u­lar species. This could be a cod, ray, con­ger or bull huss for ex­am­ple, but try­ing to bet­ter my heav­i­est fish was a big part of the drug for me at that time.

Then along came bass fish­ing, and with it an ad­dic­tion to lure fish­ing. For many years I had caught the oc­ca­sional bass, es­sen­tially by mis­take when I was out bait fish­ing for some­thing else. In my ig­no­rance, I never imag­ined how much there could be to chas­ing these fine fish. It didn’t take long un­til lure fish­ing for bass took over my fish­ing life, and it has been that way for a num­ber of years.

REV­ER­ENCE

I defy any­body who salt­wa­ter fishes in the UK or Ire­land not to know that the ul­ti­mate bass for any an­gler is the mag­i­cal dou­ble­fig­ure fish. Bass weigh­ing more than 10lb are talked of with rev­er­ence, and es­pe­cially when caught from the shore where I would ar­gue the chal­lenge is al­ways greater than on a boat, and to me, ul­ti­mately more sat­is­fy­ing for any num­ber of rea­sons.

Over a num­ber of years now I have wit­nessed and pho­tographed a fair few 10lb­plus bass from the shore that were caught on lure fish­ing tackle, and, so far, all but one of those mag­i­cal dou­ble-fig­ure fish have come from var­i­ous parts of Ire­land. I reckon I have hooked and lost two bass over the 10lb mark, but un­til re­cently I had never landed that dou­ble-fig­ure fish my­self, from the shore, and on lure gear.

But I have now, or rather we mea­sured my fish at 79cm, and con­sid­er­ing that this bass was in amaz­ing late sum­mer con­di­tion and the BASS mea­sur­ing tape gives a fish of over that size at well over the 10lb mark, I am of­fi­cially award­ing my­self my first dou­ble­fig­ure bass. So how do I feel?

Be­lieve it or not, my ad­dic­tion to bass fish­ing has changed my out­look on fish­ing and what floats my boat the most. While a truly big bass would al­ways be more than wel­come, never for one sec­ond did chas­ing an elu­sive 10lb-plus bass con­sume me like I used to ob­sess, for ex­am­ple, with try­ing to land a 40lb-plus con­ger or a 20lb-plus cod from the shore.

I have been lucky enough to have caught plenty of good bass on lures, and I have been around a good num­ber of dou­ble-fig­ure bass, but catch­ing one my­self hasn’t been my only goal within lure fish­ing.

But then it went and hap­pened. In some re­spects, I am now in some kind of myth­i­cal club of UK and Ir­ish an­glers who have man­aged the same feat. It’s ob­vi­ously not an easy thing to do, oth­er­wise we’d all be land­ing dou­bles ev­ery time we went out.

While I am de­lighted with what has hap­pened, it changes noth­ing for me.

I have come across some an­glers who, once they reach their tar­get weight of a cer­tain species, give up fish­ing for them, but this has never made an ounce of sense to me. I love bass fish­ing, I love lure fish­ing and I have been lucky enough to have landed the bass of a life­time, but all this does is make me want to chase bass even more. I want to get bet­ter at do­ing it. Of course I need to tell you how I landed this dou­ble-fig­ure bass though.

ES­TU­ARY BASS

If there has been one thing bug­ging me over the last few years, it’s how when I fish, pho­to­graph and in­deed guide in Ire­land, we lure fish a lot in es­tu­ar­ies.

The ma­jor­ity of the dou­ble-fig­ure bass I have seen have come from a few Ir­ish es­tu­ar­ies, yet I have not trans­lated what we do al­most so nor­mally over there to my home wa­ters and all those won­der­ful es­tu­ar­ies in Devon and Corn­wall.

I have fished a fair bit in es­tu­ar­ies for bass in the UK, but I can’t pre­tend that my suc­cess lev­els have been any­where like on the open coasts of Corn­wall for ex­am­ple. I had been de­ter­mined to change that this year. I would imag­ine that many an­glers think of es­tu­ar­ies as home to shoals of school bass, but this is wrong. Think about how es­tu­ar­ies are so of­ten havens for small fish, and then think about what big­ger fish are eat­ing. Es­tu­ar­ies hold big bass. Some an­glers know this, but far too many don’t.

Bass like cur­rent. They can of­ten be found in ar­eas where the cur­rent is bro­ken up for some rea­son (sand­banks, reefs and chan­nels) and a lot of the time over in Ire­land we con­cen­trate on the last few hours of the ebb tide. This is what I started to look for and in­deed do right here in the UK. I pre­fer the big­ger neaps or smaller springs in most es­tu­ar­ies I have fished, and it is fas­ci­nat­ing to see how much life there can some­times be when you spend time in these tidal wa­ter­ways.

BIG SWIRL

I was fish­ing with my friend Mark Quin­ton at a lo­ca­tion in an es­tu­ary in Corn­wall where we have been do­ing well re­cently. Yes, it was a bit of a drive, a good walk, and very ex­posed to the el­e­ments.

Again, it was those last few hours of the ebb when we were do­ing the best, and most bass were caught on sur­face lures and soft plas­tics like the six-inch OSP DoLive Stick, drifted and twitched in the cur­rent.

We were hav­ing a fairly quiet ses­sion and the first bass I landed was lit­tle big­ger than my sur­face lure. As the ses­sion con­tin­ued, I got one of those big, al­most lazy swirls on my Whiplash Fac­tory Spit­tin’ Wire sur­face lure; I like those hits. The day be­fore I had missed a good hit off the top be­cause I had been that bit too ea­ger to strike, so when I got this big swirl I made sure to wait un­til my rod banged over hard and then I set the hooks hard.

I can’t tell you that I knew im­me­di­ately that this par­tic­u­lar bass was the fish of a life­time, but, from the solid re­sis­tance I felt, I knew it was a re­ally good fish. Many peo­ple know I fight my fish hard and on a tight drag, and although this bass was hooked in a fair bit of cur­rent, it took no line and I bul­lied it hard to pull it away from some struc­ture.

It was ac­tu­ally Mark who first spot­ted the bass in the wa­ter and said that it was re­ally big, but I didn’t quite ap­pre­ci­ate the size un­til I had pulled it into the shal­lows and at­tached my fish-grip to its bot­tom jaw. Wow! Per­haps be­cause it was ac­tu­ally my fish I was in a slight state of de­nial.

When I’ve seen 10lb-plus bass caught from the shore I have said “that’s a dou­ble” al­most straight away, but with mine now rest­ing calmly in the wa­ter while we mea­sured her, it didn’t quite sink in un­til Mark told me that at 79cm long and in se­ri­ously good con­di­tion I was now a bass an­gler who has been lucky enough to have landed a fish of a life­time.

TRULY SPE­CIAL

Of course, I am more than pleased, and it took a while for my achieve­ment to re­ally sink in, to be hon­est. Watch­ing it kick its big tail as it swam away is go­ing to live with me for­ever. A lot of peo­ple have asked me why I didn’t get any pho­tos of me with my dou­ble­fig­ure bass, but it just isn’t why I go fish­ing, and I am the bloke shoot­ing pho­tographs, I know my cam­era gear, and I like to con­trol what I shoot.

I was so pleased to have been fish­ing with a good friend when this bass de­cided to hit my sur­face lure, and Mark has my eter­nal thanks for hold­ing my bass so I could shoot some pho­tos. I was lucky enough to have had one hell of an ex­pe­ri­ence, and, while I have ac­tu­ally landed a truly spe­cial fish, in re­al­ity what it does is make me want to go lure fish­ing for bass even more.

I want to keep learn­ing, I want to fish in cool places with good friends, I want to shoot pho­tographs of this sport we love, and I want to en­joy any bass that I am lucky enough to catch.

Caught at last... the dou­ble-fig­ure bass of my dreams

Cor­nish es­tu­ar­ies, like this one, are good for bass

Mark Quin­ton ad­mires Henry’s bass

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