How To Catch Bass

How To Catch Bass
With the Bass fishing season fast approaching, and in the light of regulations banning the retention of the species in 2018, this article will look at all the necessary tackle, tactics and tips to ensure a safe encounter for both yourself and the Bass.

Bass return from their wintering grounds in March, April and May to their regular summer haunts. Experience suggests that once the inshore sea temperature starts creeping up the Bass won’t be far behind.

Tagging studies have indicated that Bass may return year after year to the stretch of coast where they reached maturity. So, in theory, you could encounter the same fish or shoal within a bay or reef every season.

It is good practice to keep detailed notes of your blanks and catches as it can greatly assist you to land that well-earned, first Bass of the year.

After migration and spawning, Bass are hungry and are looking to locate themselves in familiar surroundings. Furthermore, because the water is cold, they will be somewhat lethargic, so they will also be looking to conserve energy.

What this habitual behaviour means to the Bass angler is a couple of things. Bass are most likely to be switched on to the easiest available food source and they won’t be particularly mobile, in comparison to the warmer months.

The Bass will be in very localised pockets early in the season. This all points towards the notion that, if you can find where they are holding up, or feeding on a tide, then you have an excellent chance of experiencing that unmistakable smack on the rod.

Tide is the key to the best fishing, with the early tide generally the top time to avoid large expanses of beach and the headlands in early season as the Bass will be thin on the ground. Alternatively, look to target specific features such as large underwater rock pools, scours in the seabed carved into a flat(ish) reef systems, patches of sand among rocks and gullies between large rocky outcrops. It is these areas where crustaceans and other prey items feel safest from predators.

Whether you know your patch intimately, or are just starting out, you may well find places encompassed within a stretch of coastline where you can fish all the marks mentioned above during a flooding tide.

Weather and sea conditions permitting, start your session over the first two hours of the flood within the quiet, sheltered bay, before moving to fish the mid-tide period from the rocky extremity, adjacent to a beach, or even an estuary. You’ll have an increased chance of locating a Bass here that is moving with the tide and using the rougher ground to navigate the coastline.

Don’t be afraid to put in the legwork and get off the beaten track when it comes to Bass fishing. Sometimes the ideal place to start is those remote, hard to reach, quiet, weedy, rocky bays. Inlets can be an excellent mark. This is a gully that runs in from the open sea surrounded by walls of rocks, meaning that prey trying to escape will find themselves at a dead end.

Fishing for Bass means fishing with well-balanced tackle. While ultra-light tackle fishing is great fun, it isn’t wise for Bass fishing.

Using a responsive, yet powerful sea rod averaging between 8-9ft, with a mid-sized reel, spooled with 20lb mainline and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader will do the trick. This calibre of tackle gives you an excellent amount of sport but also means you can land the fish in a controlled manner, reducing stress and ultimately leading to a better fish release.

Many anglers take a different approach when fishing for Bass and focus on using specialist Bass rods which allow them to feel the initial bites of the Bass while also giving them the power and reach to cast into the surf. These rods are lighter than your standard beach caster meaning they can be held comfortably for a long period of time.

So, what are the Bass likely to be eating? If Sandeels are around the Bass will be feasting on them, likewise with Peeler Crabs. Shrimps, Ragworm and Lugorm plus the small fish that are found all-year-round will mainly be on the menu.

There are several types of these small fish extremely common to shallow, weedy, rocky intertidal zones that Bass will seek out with enthusiasm. They are small Pollack and Wrasse, in addition to Rockling, Blennies and Gobies.

When the water is cold and, rather than swimming in midwater chasing fry, Mackerel or Sandeels, a post-spawning Bass is more likely to be feeding close to the seabed. In these conditions, weightless soft plastics, medium-size very shallow diving hard lures, and small articulated paddle tails are the way ahead. When it comes to colours, early in the season (or at least until you start to see silvery Sandeels and fry in the rock pools) fish with green, brown, sandy-backed lures with orange, cream or white bellies mimicking the prey items.
Martin Donald with his 15lb 2oz bass
Bass on a Savage Gear Soft Sandeel Lure
Retrieve the lures as close to the seabed and any structure as you dare and retrieve the lures slightly slower than you would later in the bass season.

Rocket Popper
Schoolie Caught off the Surface
In warmer water don’t discount surface lures, but the slower and more naturally a lure moves and behaves, the more likely a Bass will investigate it.

Working surface poppers over the top of some rough ground popping just behind the incoming breakers can get superb results  It  is superb fun to see Bass thrashing the water as they attack the plug.

With the current Bass fishing climate and fish stocks, it is good practice to alter your hooks. The potential for damage to a fish when lure fishing is the position and depth of the hook set. Many lures have three treble hooks, which is seen as overkill by many anglers, so try various hook options to reduce potentially unnecessary damage to your fish. Look at other anglers around the world and it becomes clear that fishing with barbless or single hooks is very common. If we look at the world of soft plastic fishing, we know that one single hook does not put you at a disadvantage.

Crushing the barbs on your lures by using pliers or a fine metal file, makes the lure more fish-friendly and safer for unhooking. You could also replace the trebles for single plugging hooks. These singles produce an excellent hook set, as the force exerted during the strike is focused on one single point rather than spread over three. It leads to a more positive set.

Landing a fish still full of energy requires you to be prepared. Always check the integrity of your braid before you go fishing and ensure you have a suitable landing place chosen before bringing the fish too close to the edge. If you intend to use any tools, such as a rubber mesh net or a grip, then ensure they are to hand and used in the correct way.

A rubber-meshed landing net can be ideal for landing fish, especially in rough or rocky environments, where getting into the water with the fish is not ideal. Be sure to wet your hands before handling the fish and ensure that you have an  area of well-oxygenated water for releasing Bass. These are often in at the edge, where waves crash into rocks, or along the surf on a beach. If you are lucky to have a strong current, then face the Bass into the flow to make it easier for it to process the oxygen from the moving water.

Hold on to the fish until you feel energy is coursing through its body – perhaps even let it kick a few times before pointing it in the right direction and releasing.

The key to treating these fish with maximum respect boils down to preparation, taking some small steps, and adding them together into what should result in a memorable and enjoyable experience for the angler.
Image result for savage gear bass UK
Catch & Release to save these stunning fish
And remember when it comes to Bass fishing trust your instinct – if a gully or cove looks good, have a cast.

If you would like more information on the rules, regulations and methods regarding Bass fishing visit us in store at either the Glasgow Angling Centre or the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Or call us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert staff will be happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler magazine.