SOME THOUGHTS ON BIG BASS
Submitted by Leakyboots 05/3/2016
As I write, I’m trying to fix my gammy leg, so fishing is on hold. No terrible loss as far as I’m concerned: February and March aren’t my favourite months. And being stuck at home has given me the chance to play around with my catch records.
Over the last three years I’ve had:
41 bass between 6lbs and 9lbs
5 between 9lbs and 10 lbs
2 double-figure fish
So I thought it might be interesting to find and share the common threads that seem to link these catches.
8lbs 3oz, autumn, whole squid, 12 inches of water, the end of a blow.
Fishing methods, tides, time of day, time of year
Only two of my larger fish have been on lures, one on the fly. What’s more, I’d class all three of these bass as almost unrepeatable strokes of luck. They all were fish I saw holding station, in flat calm conditions, and within six feet of the shore-line. It’s very exciting to cast a plug or a fly to a seen fish, but it’s not likely to happen often. The other forty-five good bass all were on big baits.
About 80% of my larger bass have been on tides in excess of 5.0 metres.
I almost always fish early mornings, so no surprise that all my best fish have been in the hours coming up to the dawn.
Early summer and late autumn have been most productive. April and May, then November through January. Mostly, I think, this is because these tend to be stormy months.
9lbs 8oz, May, whole squid, the middle of a vicious gale.
Where they’ve come from, what weather conditions work best
I’m not going to draw a map, but all my good bass have been from south coast beaches. However, I don’t think this means much. I live in Mount’s Bay, so my close-to-home fishing spots are on this side of the peninsula. I only head up to the north coast when there’s not enough surf on the south side. A flat calm at Praa Sands often translates into a three foot wave at Gwithian or Sennen. But I don’t rate three foot of surf as big bass conditions, so I tend to go up north in school-bass weather.
The whoppers seem to come in the storms. As long as I can stand up on the sand, the rougher the better, with winds between about 25 and 45 knots being ideal. (I had a nine-pounder in a 55 knot gale, but it was pretty hard going.) My theory is that really wild seas drive the schoolies out into the deeper, calmer water; but the big fish have enough mass and power to feed in a crazy wave. In a normal surf I catch normal-sized bass, which often seem to be quicker to take than the big ones. (If you see bass cruising in calm water, in the Hayle River or the Helford, I reckon the ones that leave the shoal and take your bait almost always are the nippers.) I have never caught schoolies and big bass together. Big bass days produce nothing but monsters, schoolie days produce nothing but schoolies.
11lbs 5oz, razor clam, December, 18 inches of water in a gale.
Tactics and bait
Almost all my better fish have come from very flat beaches and very shallow water. Twelve to twenty-four inches is plenty deep enough. Any deeper than that and the sea tends to be less churned up – and that means tiddlers. Flat beaches also are easier to fish in wild weather than the steeper ones: less wave-dump, more frothy water. I have never caught a bass over six pounds at a range in excess of twenty yards from shore. Once I fished beside another chap who was casting 80-odd yards while I was lobbing about 15 yards. He had twelve fish, best 50 cm. I had three fish, 65cm, 67cm, and 11lbs 5oz. (I put the smaller ones back, so I’m not sure what they weighed, as I don’t carry a balance.)
I always use the same rig: a flapper, but with no hardware, just a blood-knot. Hooks on the longer tail of the blood-knot, weight on the shorter tail. In a heavy surf I use a hook-length of 12 or 18 inches, to cut down on tangles; and I make my rig from 40lb mono, which is stiff enough not to tie itself in knots too often. Generally I use bomb weights, so my gear can move in the wave; but in a storm I go to a 4oz wired lead – it’s the only way to keep the bait in the water.
As far as bait goes, it has to be something big and juicy in a wild surf. I’ve had a few good bass on mackerel (the head and guts); quite a few on razor (two or three, tied to a pair of 4/0s); most on whole unwashed squid, ideally nine or ten inches long, again mounted on a couple of big hooks.
Even when it’s blowing a hoolie and the water is like cocoa, I still find that big bass are leery. I’ve seen them scared away by a dog in the shallows, so I reckon wading and headlamps on the water are to be avoided.
12lbs 0oz, November, whole squid, 15 yards out.