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The boat season has begun

I love fishing, rivers, lakes, estuaries, streams, surf beaches, rocky shores, harbours, piers, rock pools and puddles - if there's a fish to be caught I will try to trick it with an artificial lure, over the last 3-4 years I've really got into saltwater boat fishing and I'm pleased to say the 2022 season is underway.

I started my season with a wreck fishing trip with Ryan Casey of Meerkat out of Weymouth, it was a great day and we had plenty of pollock including a very nice one for my friend John, I also managed a nice fish and managed to fill the freezer of pollock to keep my family going for a while.

We'll talk more about wreck fishing another time though, today I want to get stuck into the first couple of boat sessions for bass, now if you're a specimen hunter with big fish ego you can save yourself a few minutes by not reading on, if you're a casual angler who loves lure fishing then stick with it.

I'm going to start by talking about what lures are in the box and why before looking at a little bit of technique and finishing off with the catch report(s)

The Lures

My first couple of sessions have been with Mike the MD of TackleWave (distributor of Ima, Keitech and Major Craft brands) as it's Mikes boat and with him being the gaffer I've towed the line and use lures which Mike distributes. My favourite bass lure for inshore bass fishing up to now has been the Westin Sandy Andy, I've had a lot of fish on this lure and it's best in class for an off the shelf sand eel lure in my opinion.

A photo of the Westin Sandy Andy
Westin Sandy Andy

TackleWave distribute Keitech, a Japanese brand that for 10+ years have been a staple in my lure box, I can hand on heart say that I'd happily use their Easy Shiner model in Sight Flash for all of my lure fishing if I had to pick one lure to use forever, it really is that good.

Right, now my affinity to the brand is established let's crack on.

The challenge was to find a new lure that i could use to rival the Sandy Andy, i needed something with the same enticing tail action on the drop, on a slow retrieve but that would also work when ripped back to the boat at 3 to 4 times the speed. Importantly i wanted the same profile and colours.

My quest naturally led me to the old-school Swing Impact, a favourite of mine for wrasse i knew they'd have the action and the profile but what about the colours, Mike sniffed out the more popular 'bass' colours for us, we had Sight Flash (White back, clear belly with silver flake) Ayu (Khaki back, gold belly) Pro Blue Red Pearl and Silver Flash Minnow (green, silver and black glitter back with a clear/ silver glitter belly)

The Swing Impact has that perfect sand eel profile, it's slightly more supple than the Sandy Andy and it has ribs along it's body, the colours are great so that box was ticked and i knew the action was already there as I first used this lure 10 years ago.

Lure settled upon i needed to find a jig head, I've tried all manner of jig heads with this lure previously but not settled on a selection that i really loved until this year.

The first I've settled on is the new Jigpara Dart head from Major Craft, i took these in 5g, 7g and 10g increments. They've got a really neat design as they have a retaining spike without it being thick and tearing the baits as you slide them on, the lip below also matches the contour of the Swing Impact and Easy Shiner, the hook is strong without being overly thick, i really like the hook, it reminds me of the one that's on the Xorus head that features later.

You can find the jig heads for sale here

Another feature i like is that when they're in the box i can tell which is each weight as the weight is printed on the bottom of the head.

The Sandy Andy I use a lot has a 22g head, to replace this I've been using the truly wonderful Xorus Coyote which you can find here.

What I really love about these is that even after 50

fish the hook point is still sharp (the model i own has a Decoy hook), they have no retainer so a dab of super glue is required with them.

The Xorus head with the Swing Impact looks like this together, very close in profile and colour to the Sandy Andy, the hook size is bigger but i don't mind that, it certainly doesn't affect hook ups, if anything it'll find an easier hold in a bigger fish.

The Technique

Three really short explanations of methods that i like to use to fish soft plastic sandeels like this, i use soft plastics to search out fish and these 3 methods give you an idea what is happening in my mind when I'm doing it.

1 Cast it out, let the lure hit the bottom and then straight retrieve with the odd pause or change of speed (IE go faster), often the pause or change of speed will can initiate a hit, I will then release a bit of line from the bail-arm to let the lure flutter back toward the bottom.

The fall time will vary given bottom changes, how far you've cast and how the tides affecting it so i don't count down as such but i do make a mental note of how long it's taken to hit bottom, on my next cast i will then try to stop the lure hitting the bottom and start the above again to allow me to work higher up in the water column (If i'm in 30 feet i don't want to be fishing the same 6ft of bottom, the fish may be at 15ft for example)

2 If we've had no fish in the depth we're fishing from and we're fishing lets say a channel or the edge of a ledge/ casting to shore or casting where there's a significant change of depth (IE over the edge of a reef dropping into deep/ a sandbar etc) I will assume that fish have gone shallow, this normally happens later at night or early morning but can vary on the tide and mark.

I will cast the lure into the shallow whilst the boat is in the deeper water and then rip it back to the boat a two to three times the speed that i'd previously been using. Often this wakes up the fish and I've had fish screaming back towards the boat doing this, to the point one hit the side of the boat when i lifted the lure out on one session.

3 This is slightly different to the traction fishing that the lads use for the offshore bass'in it involves casting and letting the lure fall on the absolute slowest fall (fishing slightly underweight for the tide/ drift) I allow the lure to fall down to the sea bed, i expect this to take AGES compared to my top method, if you ever see me do this on a video i put my hand in my pocket or often look at my phone whilst it's falling, once it's hit the bottom (if it makes it that far before being hit) i then move the rod tip up around 1ft and let the lure brush the bottom again before i lowering the tip then taking a big up sweep, you'll sometimes find that bites come at the top of that up sweep as following fish chase the lure.

If I don't get a bite I'll let the lure back under it's own weight, if it doesn't make it i'll release line from the bail and start again. It's very similar to a technique that i use for zander, slowing the fall speed really can help. At times it can feel like you're trolling on the drift and that's the exact feel that you're looking for only that the optimum is that the lure still feels like it's falling rather than riding up in the tide.

The Fishing

First Session

Ok, the fun bit, we had our maiden bass session during the last bank holiday, it was two parts of the TackleWave crew (me and Mike) my mate John also joined us for the session.

We didn't expect anything big nor did we care much really it was just a day of blowing the cobwebs out, having fun on UL tackle and giving some of the lures we've been stockpiling over Christmas a run out.

We had a little side bet which was arranged by Mike as he's über competitive, £1 for the first fish, £1 for the best fish and £1 for the most fish.

The day started slow, Mike nailed the first and biggest fish in the first few drifts at 48cm.

John and Mike had fish before I'd woken up missing 6 bites before I joined them and got the blank off my back.

Once I found the balance parity was restored and I managed to claw myself back into contention for the most fish quid, I sneakily dropped to a very light rod (rated to 10.5g) and a really fine 0.6 PE Dangan X 8 strand which definitely helped me to fish OTD more efficiently.

As the tide and winds changed we tried a few marks and had fish on most, it meant adapting quickly at times as Mike had a tendency to move us off fish as quick as we found them, it played havoc with the brain as just as you found what was needed you had to change again (I think he was trying to protect that last £1)

All in all it was a really enjoyable day with lots of laughs and fish finger bass, to see Mike's face light up as a bass swiped at his Chappy 100 was brilliant, it felt like summer was on the way.

Final scores on the doors:

Longest Bass £1- Mike First Bass £1- Mike Most bass £1- Me with 23, Mike had 16 John had 6.

We finished happy with the session but with the hope of building on size through the year.

42 of the fish were on a variety of Keitech lures, we used the Swing Impact, Live Impact and Easy Shiner, we also had 3 on Major Craft Jigpara slow in 30g which came whilst jigging in 60ft during a hard.

Second Session

No competition on this one, just straight shooting to see if we could find a better stamp and to record some footage for work.

We had a bunch of fish on various lures, mainly the Swing Impact, Easy Shiner and Live Impact from Keitech again. My biggest however was funny, i was doing method 3 from the above.

I've cast and the lure has taken about a minute to hit the deck, watching it back on video is funny, I'm stood, hand in pocket and i get a thump, the lure still felt like it was falling at the point it got hit and based off the previous cast. I strike and start playing the fish, the fish felt better than the smaller fish we'd had on this session and the previous session - still, not massive but an improvement. Half way to through the fight the fish come off, how/ why i can't tell you. Stood in disappointment and confusion how it's got off just paused and lowered the tip in case there's another following (much the same as we do for zander) 5 seconds later i feel a tap, lift up and I've got another fish on- that fish ended up being this fish. Whether it's the same fish that got off or another following one we'll ever know but it was cool all the same!

Final Word

Since starting to write this blog we've been out again and top water season has officially started for us. I can't wait to get back out again now!

Before i go i wanted to just clear my head of something niggling me.

There's a bit of banter, as always around bass fishing on Facebook/ Insta, as someone who's had their fishing and enjoyment of fishing taken away by chasing specimen fish and judging the days success and my own happiness on catching a specimen i really wouldn't get sucked into it. You do you.

I fished ultralight/ light game, the top end of my rod rating was 10.5g, i used this for the majority of my fish on the first 2 sessions and was great fun.

To catch specimen fish consistently you needs lots to align- for every specimen you see on social media there's 100's if not 1000's of sessions that don't contain one, in the mean time the commercial rod and line fishermen that i know are out there breaking mine and your PB most days of the week, the longer i spend around fishing, the more people i meet and the more i hear and see i have realised that you can't get wrapped up in the ego world of 'size matters' if you want to continue enjoying your sport.

Unless you're willing to fish more, at times you don't want to go to places you don't want to go then you aren't going to reap the same rewards as others. I'm a competition angler, I'm used to the pressures of competition angling where both size and numbers matter - I can tell you now worrying about it when you've got nothing riding on it isn't going to help you to enjoy your hobby- go out, look up, enjoy your surroundings and tight lines.



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