A supreme predator
Apart from being so majestic to look at, the bass is a real predator that relies on its inbuilt senses to home in on available food sources; the shore angler may have visions of a large solitary bass moving up a gully to search for crustaceans, whereas a boat angler perhaps chases the shoals of bass that rip into the launce (greater sandeel) shoals with an aggressive kind of relish! Whatever your discipline, look upon catching bass as a real privilege and accord them due respect; by all means take the odd good fish for the table, but please do your bit and release the greater percentage. I know many anglers who spend many lonely nights off the beaten track and return home empty handed; they have caught fish and released them. The memories are enough.
Bassing from the boat
I can only really talk about the fishing that I have been involved in and it would not be right of me to expound upon other areas and techniques; maybe the methods I have used will bear fruit in your neck of the woods and maybe they will not. Localised ways of fishing often work all over the place.
I have done a little bass fishing aboard the Padstow based charter boat the "Blue Fox", run by a couple of friends of mine, Phil Britts and Mike Turner. They are passionate anglers and are fortunate enough to be able to turn their boat out of the picturesque harbour and be on the bass grounds in less than 20 minutes; the first job is to feather up enough live launce and transfer them to the on-board live tank. Very small mackerel-type feathers are used and jigged up and down in the normal fashion; the secret is to then get this precious cargo on aboard and in the tank as quickly as possible and with minimum handling of the actual eels. Then it's on to the bass grounds but a very short steam away.
Ten foot flowing traces off wire booms are the norm. Phil and Mike like to use two small 2/0 hooks, rig the launce up "Pennel" style and then get the light shore plugging rods out with 6000 sized multipliers. Relatively shallow water and light 12lb mainline means they can use light leads and really maximise the fight from the bass. I always refer to their kind of bassing as a real "feel" method; not for them the powerful thump and easy strike. Off Padstow you really have to gauge what the bass is doing with your bait and then wait to strike; often they will seemingly pluck at the bait and tease the angler into missing them. Believe me, it is very easy to do!
May, June and July are the times for this bassing; talk to Mike and Phil and see what they can do for you. Just beware though, for a couple of times recently Phil has been playing a decent bass, only to have it shredded by a hungry porbeagle shark; some wake up call!
The Eddystone reef
Most of you will have heard about the famous bass run this extensive reef system receives, but in reality it does not happen every year and each boat has their own favourite lumps of rock over which they like to drift. Live launce again is the bait that can usually be feathered up in sufficient quantities, and late April often sees the first of the bass. Although the Eddystone does have this famous reputation, there are actually many other places that the boats can choose to go; its a question of knowing which reef will fish on which tide and at what time of the year. As you can most likely gather, the successful boats are the ones that work the hardest with the best skippers and crew.
I have actually had a lot of fun drifting specific bits of rock not one mile from the Mew Stone with carp rods and tiny multipliers. Now, I am not saying that every angler should routinely carry a 12 carp rod on board a crowded charter boat, but I am lucky and have a few friends with private boats. Drifting in no more than 50 of water and catching bass just off the bottom puts the carp rods into some quite alarming contortions. As another fish crash dives, the tip slams under the water and refuses to come up; line peels from the reel, but steady pressure will usually win the day. The smaller live sandeels instead of the massive launce will sometimes work better and you always have the chance of a cracking pollack. I know I will probably now incur the wrath of those bass fanatics, but I will stick my neck out and readily say, in most cases a pollack will outfight a bass, pound for pound of course. Come in, come in, my lynching is due!
Where does one begin when shore fishing? At times you cannot find a bass for love nor money and at other times you would think they were everywhere; many is the time I have seen a very good bass come when targeting a different species.
Throwing plugs into onshore conditions on the North coast of Cornwall is growing in popularity and deserves its cult status; I have watched countless anglers armed only with a rod, reel and small backpack search around the many gullies and pieces of broken ground with their plugs and spinners. We have all heard of Rapalas and the famous Toby lures, but many others of those fantastic creations will produce the goods on their day. Try the Bridun 50g Launce lure, it's also very good for pollack and casts like a bullet. This is not a kind of fishing I do much of at all, but it is easy to see the attraction of moving around and really searching for the fish. What I do know is that it truly is something to behold when a bass smashes into the plug with the force of a bullet from a gun. Often you will whack the lure out and find nothing out in front of you, only to be on the verge of finishing a retrieve when a bass hits.
Surf beaches are mainly where all this bassing began; Atlantic facing beaches are subjected to onshore conditions that serve to rip any food from the seabed and create a prefect environment for hungry predators. Cornish, Welsh and Irish beaches all have their moments, but anglers all over the country find bass on their stretches of coastline, whether it be a shallow East Anglian beach or a chalk strewn rock mark in the south east.
One great form of fishing is to ledger big baits at very close range, whether that be the edge of a calm beach at night, in the quiet waters of an estuary, or in the middle of an inviting looking gully where you hope the bass come looking for food. Forget all about distance casting and complex rigs and instead put your mind and efforts to the best quality bait that you can lay your hands on. Lots of people like fresh or frozen mackerel, but it is essential that it be of optimum freshness where there is still blood and those all important juices ready to create that irresistible scent trail in the water. The head and guts of a mackerel is perfect for a big single hook rig.
Whole calamari squid receives some favour in certain areas, but, as for bull huss, it does benefit from being bound on tightly to a pennel rig; a pair of 4/0 Mustad Vikings does the trick and will hold most fish we are likely to catch.
Big soft and peeler crab baits are the preferred bait in loads of places, whether they be shore, edible, spider, or velvet swimming crab offerings. Shore peelers are often obtainable from tackle shops, but as for the rest, it's called getting down there on the shoreline and collecting your own! Do not be afraid to use big 6/0 hooks and really load them up for a bait that quite literally drips with scent. Crab really does benefit from being bound on, for not only does it help when casting but it also helps in squeezing out all that is attractive to the fish. Never forget the power of livebaits as well, such as sandeel, small pouting and joey mackerel.
Blue Fox contact details (Padstow)
Skipper Phil Britts, tel: 01841 533293, mobile: 07977 563807
Co-owner/crew Mike Turner, tel : 01841 521325
Shore fishing contact
Ed "The Bass" Schliffke, tel: 01841 521157
For all the lures you could possibly need!!
The Harris Angling Company, tel: 01692 581208