Estuaries can make for a superb Bass fishing session if you just know where to fish and how to fish for them – and with so many estiaries dotted along our Devon and Cornwall coastline, you will never be that far from one. Split into sections, this guide will get you on your way to catching more Bass from our estuaries. Good luck!
Rod – A carp rods or medium weight spinning rods are ideal for Bass fishing in estuaries. They provide the necessary sensitivity and will have power enough to cope with a hard running Bass. Not only will the fish generally be working close in around features, negating the need for distance casting, the water will normally be calm and its usually possible to find a sheltered area along one or tother bank, so pumping lead through a headwind is rarely an issue.
Reel – Again, keep it light and match the rod. A smaller baitcaster or fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb nylon is more than enough to successfully play and land many of the fish you will catch. If you’re feeling lucky, punk, drop it down to 10lb braid – but keep that clutch loose…
Rod Rest – For estuary Bass fishing, it’s a ‘nice to have’ for when you opt to bottom fish.
Mobile Phone – Not necessarily fishing gear, but on occasion you may want to venture onto the flats. Some of these areas can be like bloody quicksand so, like when bait digging in estuaries, carrying a phone is never a bad idea (so long as it’s charged!)
Estuary Fishing Rigs
Lure fishing – Depending on the type lure, there is an option to clip it directly onto an American snap swivel at the end of the main line (for Dexters, Tobys etc), or if small Redgills/Eddystone lures are being used, an ounce or so of weight will be required to flick it out a bit further. In this case, a 1 or 2oz in-line ball weight followed by a 4- 5 ft flowing trace (10lb Amnesia with lure on the end) will see good results.
Livebaiting – Simply free lining a Sand Eel or any mini-species will get a Bass going, and there’s no doubt about it. Keep the clutch loose, though, as they WILL hit hard.
Float fishing – Stealth is the key, so a small bubble float will 10lb trace is the way ahead. Trace length with depend on where you are flicking the float.
Bottom fishing – Running ledger or Pulley rig for the bigger Bass (don’t be afraid of using up to a 4/0 hook – the Sakuma range, especially the 545 ME is strong enough to deal with a hefty Bass and is as sharp as you like.) Sometimes a small floating bead or small piece of polystyrene is needed to keep your bait just off the bottom if the shore crabs are out in force (this does, however, detract from bait presentation somewhat). And for the schoolies, you’ll find using a 2 hook flapper will bring excellent results.
Gripper leads maybe needed to hold your tackle fast on springs or in a bottleneck, but sometimes allowing a rolling lead to be taken with the tide and thus find a deeper channel, a natural food holder, can be worth a shot.
Baits For Estuary Bass Fishing in Devon and Cornwall
Peeler Crab – In our opinion, a big fat juicy Peeler crab is the hands down king of the bait box when it comes to estuary Bass fishing (at least for the better ones.) They may be expensive but by god, they’re worth it. If you can’t get hold of any, softies are the next best thing…and bait elastic is essential for good presentation and preservation of those pricey peelers!
Ragworm – Being a local resident to most estuaries in the Southwest, ragworm are also a great bait for Bass fishing. Head hooking a few Harbour Ragworm, or ‘maddies’, could well hook you a school Bass, at least. A large King Ragworm can also be free lined or bottom fished when head hooked, the natural wriggling movement being the main draw card here.
Lugworm – Lug works extremely well in the estuaries. Don’t leave home without it!
Prawn – Live prawn also has many merits, hooking 2 back to back so the tails still flick can be deadly. Blast frozen prawns can also sometimes do the business, but the hit rate is nowhere near as good – and shore crabs and rays love them too…
Mackerel and squid – Use these as big baits on big hooks for big fish. Enough said.
Live baits – particularly in the mouths of estuaries, Sand Eels can be devastating. Elsewhere, a little time scratching around catching mini-species to use as bait can prove worthwhile.
Artificial Bait – Plugs, spinners and lures are always worth a try when targeting Bass, wherever you are.
General Bassing Tips for Devon and Cornish Estuaries
Scout your proposed mark during spring low tides to locate the main channels and sandbars. Deeper, protected creeks just off the main channel are likely to hold food and/or small fish and will be prime hunting grounds for Bass. And while you are down there, why not dig some Ragworm or hunt for some peelers?
What features should you be looking for? Look for deeper gulleys, the route that the main channel takes, smaller (and normally submerged) offshoots from it, bottlenecks, rocks, boulders, shopping trolleys (!?) and basically any other area that looks different from the norm.
Bass will patrol the slopes of sandbars and shoals also, hoping to ambush prey pushed over the top a strong flood or ebb. They will also hunt for food in smaller, protected creeks.
Bottlenecks are also prime fishing areas, the tidal flow will be stronger here (gripper alert) but it also means a greater concentration of fish in the proximity of your bait. For the same reasons, these bottlenecks are also a great place to flick a lure or two.
The main channels themselves are the fishy equivalent of the M1 – and Bass are renown for patrolling the sides of channels where they have a better chance of finding food such as crabs and small fish etc – consequently, fishing them can prove more fruitful than wellying a lead right into the deepest bit.
Despite estuaries such as, say, The Tamar in south Devon, being known mainly for School Bass, there are some pretty big specimens in there, too. Even if your local estuary generally produces a constant string of Schoolies, you must try that big bait every now and then – it may get you into a double figure fish. It’s not unheard of.
Neaps or springs, it doesn’t matter. The volume of water running through the narrow channel will be strong enough to dislodge food and encourage Bass will work estuaries in all tides.
Generally speaking, a soft muddy or sandy estuary will be much lighter on your tackle that when you are rock hopping, which may encourage anglers to break out their most expensive and fancy rigs with all the bells, buzzers and whistles on. Our advice is not to bother – go with the standard, battle proven rigs and focus more on obtaining the best bait you can lay your hands on.