Article By Iain Sellors
Another fruitless trip. The light has now faded; your eyes adjust to the dim haze, the welcoming sounds of day birds replaced by the more sinister hoot of the nocturnal hunter. The mile or so walk back through the winding, wooded cliff path leaves you wet with sweat, the pungent smell rises up from your waders.
The screech of a fox now accompanies the sound of the owl. Back at the car park you notice another car that was not there earlier in the evening. Loud music and laughter penetrate the still air and welcomes you back to civilization.
A black cat scurries out from under your car as you open the boot; the predators are all doing their work tonight. Your drive home is pre occupied with thoughts as you ponder and try and come up with a rational solution to your empty fish bag. Maybe the sea was too coloured, maybe not coloured enough. But you were confident tonight; everything seemed to be right, after all it was very similar when you caught that four-pounder last year, or was it, maybe the tide was smaller, or the recent heavy spell of rain affected the fish?
Not all bass trips end like this, many though do, but as your experience and skills grow they will hopefully become less and far between. To consistently catch bass with lures you have to serve a long and hard apprenticeship, and you will forever be questioning your approach.
This though is one of the many appeals of fishing for them; large bass dont resign their territory easily. There has been a recent explosion in the numbers of bass around the North East coast, and consequently many anglers are waking up to this new and very exiting method of fishing.
If you are prepared to put in the time, and endure the many comments from your loved ones as to your seemingly perpetual failure, fortune will eventually radiate from you, and perhaps once, perhaps twice a season, when the fishing gods are smiling upon you, you will strike into and land a lunker bass.
There is no doubt Dicentrachus Labrax is a beautiful fish, that is the master of its environment. Everything about its appearance echoes all that is magnificent and mysterious about the marine environment. It is representative of any great design that is instantly pleasing on the eye where the form and purpose merge into one; creating a sublime work of art.
Ask a five year old to draw a fish and I would guess nine times out of ten it would resemble something similar to the bass; streamlined, grey above with a glorious silver on its flanks, tough armoured plated scales, profound fins, and large intense eyes. It is not named the â€œsea wolfâ€ through chance or mere decoration; it is the ultimate predator within its habitat, that carries terror and destruction wherever they appear.
An opportunistic hunter, capable of fantastic speeds, that often chooses the easiest and most vulnerable meal available. An expert ambusher that will hunt solitary as well as in groups. I have witnessed a pack of big bass working like you would expect its Canidae namesake.
I had hooked a good bass on the kayak, the sea was crystal clear with a smooth surface, the type where you could gaze down with amazement and view the watery world below. The hooked bass was near the surface, my eyes focused on its good size, and my mind absorbed in defeating her, when suddenly several grey torpedo shapes appeared underneath my kayak distracted me.
Its that brief moment in time when your brain questions what your eyes are registering. I couldnt believe what I was seeing; there must have been at least ten big bass coming to see what all the fuss was, like a pack of wolfs in for the kill, they were not going to be left out of the party.
Its that attraction to commotion, the ingrained instinct that is inherent in all predators; curiosity and the smell of the kill. This is typical bass fishing, often very visual, allowing the fisherman a chance to enter physically and abstractly into the marine world.
Similar to the above episode, my first good plug caught bass gave me a unique glimpse into the bass stunning physical attributes and sheer destructive power. My lure had just about reached the end of its retrieve when the bass came out of nowhere to intercept the lure. At the point of impact the bass flared its gill plates and raised it dorsal, as it went into full attack mode. I can close my eyes and picture both episodes now as clear as yesterday, these are magical visual moments that make bass angling so unique and precious.
When bass attack your lure they have every intention of killing it, it is no wonder then that the take is heart stopping. There is no better form of sea angling where your senses are stimulated and employed more.
When a bass crashes into your lure, not only do you feel the rod being wrenched from your hands, you often see the swirl and hear the water break similar to dry fly fishing. It is a full attack on your senses; you can become drunk with this and soon addicted.
When using a surface lure or popper the bass often becomes airborne, literally flying out of the water, often close to where you are standing. This amazing take is not the only aspect of bass fishing that separates it from pollock fishing. It is often said that pollock fight harder than bass, I disagree, yes the strong lunges from pollock are beyond comparison, but once the lunges are over, the pollock is beaten and comes to the surface as tame as a lamb.
Bass will go on strong sideways runs, tearing line from the reel, employing stamina similar to the barbel and salmon. With an act of defiant displeasure a hooked bass will shake its head till the last moments trying to shake the lure out of its tough mouth, you will hear the lure rattle making the anglers heart skip many beats.
Only after a Herculean battle, and the bass lies defeated on its flank, will you be confident in sliding the prize onto the rocks, or bladderwack so abundant on our shallow shores. Small pollock can be caught in the inter-tidal zone, but the larger fish stay well out in deeper water; big bass nose up right to your feet in the flooding tide.
A good cod angler will have all the attributes to make a good bass angler, often fishing the same shallow scaurs, however bitter winds and darkness, are traded for warm breezes and an exceptionally visible scene; there is no better way to spend a summers evening or morn.
Water has always attracted people throughout the ages, as described in Moby Dick â€œthey come from lanes alleys, streets and avenues â€“ north, east, south and westâ€, as the author knows too well â€œthere is magic in itâ€. The bass anglers magic is a vintage magic, away from concrete and an increasingly pixelated world, it is a great example of the ragged and ecstatic joy of a youthful like exploration.
An upwardly mobile form of angling you will be putting rubber against rock combing out likely looking areas, often this is dictated by the ebb or flood of the tide. I have often gone to fish an area and soon found myself covering a much wider patch, after all deadlines are forbidden in this environment.
Using plugs on this coast is in its infancy, there a many anglers who are paving the way, putting in time and effort. What is apparent is bass are falling to a variety of lures and a variety of sea conditions. For this reason there are no hard and fast rules to success
. I prefer water depth of around three to six foot, with some movement, either by tidal currents as water moves in and out of gullies, or eddies and whirlpools created by waves. Have a few casts in a certain area then move to the next, often a fish will strike on your first cast, and often this will be at the very end of the retrieve.
Headlands will provide deeper water with a stronger current, well worth some exploration, as are large boulders that get submerged at high tide. Cover ground by fanning your casts, and look for any structure that may hide a fish.
I dont profess to be knowledgeable enough about modern tackle technology, or to dictate what, and whatnot to use; a science that hardly concerns me. I know what works for me, and like most angling equipment, simple is the way; a rod capable of casting light plugs and a small fixed spool with a good drag.
Humans have been using fishing plugs as far back as 2000 bc, where they were made from wood and bones, modern day plugs have changed, and are increasingly varied in their design, the fish however, and their primitive instincts, have not changed. It is up to the angler to impart the movement of a fish, which will entice the bass to strike.
Choose a few plugs that work the different water levels that you will encounter, the ideal would be to have shallow divers to a foot and a half, medium divers to around six foot, and deeper divers to around ten or twelve feet. Most of the fishing around the North East coast will be around shallow, snaggy ground, therefore shallow plugs are very popular.
To witness those explosive airborne takes a surface lure is also a must in your armoury. Replicating an injured fish, the lure works on the surface, spitting and twitching around, therefore enacting a poor specimen that candidly knows its hours are numbered; perfect, easy game for the prowling bass.
A small bag, enough to carry your plugs, spare line, fluids and food, a camera and scales are all thats required for a session. There is no pressure on your winter bait stock; relatively speaking your lures are cheap in this respect. Braided lines are the way to go, they work the plug well and you instantly feel action at the business end. Braid imparts life to your lure like mono is incapable of, providing a mystical vibration through your line, rod and through your whole body, that is until the lure is stopped in its tracks.
Catching your first bass on a lure is simply a profound moving experience. You will instantly feel a sense of achievement, surrounded in a domain that our maker and ancestors intended us to be, and relish.
There is a common relationship between humans and bass that I dont think another fish can portray. The predatory bass possess a sense of adventure and mischief inherent within us all, pike certainly dont have these qualities; they are often described as the pure deliverers of death, â€œmalevolent aged grinâ€ and â€œmurderous patriarchâ€.
Cod and Pollock provide sport and bag weights along a wide spectrum of our coast, from a varied array of grounds and methods, but when it comes to roguishness and cunning, like the owl, fox and cat, the bass takes centre stage.
Dont wait till the autumn winds blow until you start fishing our rugged shores, as you may well miss this exiting and new method of angling. To catch bass on lures my thoughts always used to look to Cornwall, Wales and Ireland, where the shores are lapped with the warm water of the Gulf Stream.
Having bass in good numbers on our doorstep is a wonderful asset. Expect good fishing from June until October, depending on the weather. I know one very large fish that fell to a plug as late as November. All fishing days begin in dreams, some end in nightmares, however try those grounds that turn out cod with pieces of plastic and you may well be rewarded with a fine bar of silver that no money or wealth could buy.
This article was kindly written for the Whitby Sea Anglers site by local angler Iain Sellors. Iain is always on hand and willing to answer any questions you may have over at our Fishing Forum. Another of Iains articles that may be of interest to you is entitled UK Kayak Fishing and you can click here to read it. If you would like to read more information on bass fishing then please use the menu at the top of the right hand side bar on this page.
Photography By Glenn Kilpatrick, Garry Watson And Dave Adamson