What’s the most valuable lesson that lure fishing has taught you?

I never had even half a clue that there was so much to lure fishing, indeed I cling to the odd bit of spinning I used to do as a mere add on to my bait fishing as a kind of comfort blanket when my brain starts to bounce with how much lure fishing has taught me - and with how much I have yet to learn. But what’s the most important thing that lure fishing has taught you as an angler? Can you break it all down and think of one single lesson as such that fishing with artificials has really sunk home and perhaps affected your whole outlook on fishing in general?

I could come up with a number of different things if I had to, but at the end of the day I tend to come back to something that continues to bang home to me - never say never. Wow it’s so easy in life to close yourself off to new experiences and wrap yourself up with the knowledge you already have as a kind of protection against forging ahead and opening up those grey cells to new stuff. Lure fishing without a doubt has helped reinforce the whole “never say never” ethos to me, as in the more I unravel and learn about this whole lure fishing thing, the more I realise how easy it would have been to dismiss so much of it because it requires thought, effort and an open mind.

Take something as simple as chucking a senko at a bass or indeed pollack or wrasse - if you had told me say ten years ago that I would be obsessing about a simple soft plastic “stick” which seems to do hardly anything in the water I’d most likely have laughed at you. I remember the first spool of the Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE 8-strand braid that I ever got, and how it sat on a shelf because I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that a line that thin and supple could work for our lure fishing. How about the gradual realisation that we don’t actually need poker-like lure rods to catch most of the species we might be able to realistically target from our coastline? Not going out without a range of lures that can fish in ways I never could have imagined were a part of say bass fishing, catching wrasse on lures, the sheer range of locations that can throw up bass, and of course, night fishing for bass with lures - carry on doing the same stuff all the time or never say never and open up your mind?

The easy way would of course be to do what you always do, change nothing, and carry on fishing as you have always done - nothing wrong with this, of course not, but the day that fishing sits still for me is the day that I walk away and do something else. Fishing is my life because it offers me so much, and learning new stuff for me is the key to loving fishing more and more - but if I didn’t adopt the “never say never” mantra then I am not sure my obsession would be so consuming. I will never understand people who don’t ask questions and don’t have that desire to learn more, just as I can’t sit still with all that there is to learn about fishing and of course lure fishing. I hear about and read some things sometimes that a part of can’t help but want to simply dismiss and move on, but then that never say never part of me catches myself and I wonder where I might be with this fishing thing another five years down the line……

And of course, come on England!! The third Test starts today - can we put that shameful drubbing behind us and draw on the fight we showed at Cardiff? Hell yes. Never say never!!

Infernal b%&$$y weed

You know when you’re watching a forecast because if it’s right, it’s promising so much for a certain spot you have in mind that can take the weather and often fish well when it’s fairly pounding in? Well that was me watching the weather for yesterday, and the first glimpse of the water had us essentially running down to get started - only to have our hopes dashed upon the rocks like the walls of white water rolling in……

Weed. Infernal b%&$$y weed - along with dirty water, surely it’s the bane of a lure angler’s fishing life? I’ve got it wrong with this spot a few times as regards the weather and it hasn’t even been safe to get on the rocks and fish, but yesterday was looking pretty damn good, and I was also pretty happy to see some misty, murky conditions when we arrived. For the life of me I can’t remember being weeded out down there in heavy yet fishable conditions, but yesterday was just a lost cause really. The three of us tried all manner of lures and techniques to try and keep on fishing through the weed, but sometimes you just know when it ain’t going to work. Bumping the (weedless) Black Minnow along the bottom didn’t even work yesterday, so I guess that the weed was choking the water from top to bottom.

It’s not one of those shallow marks where you would expect the kind of onshore conditions we had to go and blow it out, indeed this place can take some bit of weather and keep on fishing - just not yesterday, and I am hearing of plenty of lure anglers suffering plenty of weed problems at the moment. Save for rough weather kicking it all up, so much weed around is I guess down to warmer weather and plenty of weed growth, and the problem we had yesterday was that it was one mark or bust for us on that forecast. Of course things will get better, and of course weed can be a very localised thing, but walking away from that spot yesterday with those conditions was a heart-breaker.

Are you currently suffering bad weed problems where you fish? We can all expect plenty of weed in estuaries especially at this time of year, but how about the open coast? This distinctly autumnal weather we are currently getting down here can’t be helping with breaking up all that new-growth weed, but does anybody actually know what is happening when you see this much weed around? It can’t all be broken up new-growth, surely? Or is it? Things will get better of course, but holy cow it breaks my head when I have so got my hopes up on a forecast……

How fast can a bass move when it wants to kill something?

If there is one thing I am far more comfortable with in lure fishing these days, it’s fishing various lures much slower when required, but via my growing obsession with the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel I can’t help but wonder how fast a bass can actually move when it really wants to zone in and eat the lure/kill some kind of prey. I remember out in Italy in April when we were chasing bluefin tuna on Le Crazy (photos here), and on a couple of occasions I managed to see the outrageous ease with which a tuna could chase after a fast moving Crazy Sandeel and nail it. Look at the shape of a tuna though and you expect them to move like a missile - but what about our bass? How fast can they actually move? Wow I would love to see some professional underwater footage of bass on the hunt for fast moving prey.

I was out for a quick dangle on Tuesday, and whilst I tend to fish this particular spot around the HW and down, I needed to be back to look after my girls when my wife went out for the evening - and to be honest it was a good excuse to check the place out on the LW and the first of the push. Conditions were ok, albeit I’d have liked a bit more sea and lower light, but it was a chance to get out bassing after a week away in the US, plus I wanted to try out this brand new Major Craft N-One 9’ 10-30g lure rod I have just been kindly sent to have a play with - crumbs……

Over some parts of the mark there was actually more water there than I had realised, but I didn’t get a sniff on any hard lures or weedless soft plastics I tried, and it wasn’t until about half an hour into the push that I clipped on a 150mm/10g Crazy Sandeel and got nailed. It was a small but very welcome bass, but what continues to amaze me the most is how easily these fish seem to be able to nail a fast moving lure like the Crazy Sandeel, and also how they just engulf it. Even if I wasn’t an advocate of fishing with barbless hooks I would be crushing the barbs on Le Crazy because the bass just seem to inhale it, indeed I reckon that little bass would have died on me if I hadn’t been able to simply push my finger down on the bend of the hook and have it so easily slip out. Holy cow they nail it.

Now I was fishing my Crazy Sandeel at a fair old pace, as in you can very easily feel the lure start to do its rather seductive vibrating sort of swim when you rip the rod tip back properly. Too slow and the lure feels dead, but get the right speed and it just comes to life, and the pointy shaped jig heads are obviously designed to get the lure dropping fast and thus also fishing properly on the drop when you complete a “rip” of the rod tip and the lure of course drops down as you reel back to it for another “rip”. Does that make sense? I compare the speed at which this lure needs to move to say how slowly I was fishing a white senko on a beach in Ireland a few weeks back (check here), and it’s night and day. But that small bass just crunched my Crazy Sandeel with what I must assume was considerable ease - it’s a shame we so rarely get to see bass hitting lures, but in a situation like that I can’t help but wonder just how fast they can go when they want to.

Now it was hardly an epic bass session, but I moved around a bit, tried a few different hard lures to no avail, and I then found some deeper water and this time clipped on a 150mm/20g Crazy Sandeel. Pretty quickly I dropped a small bass and then landed one, but a few more taps later and I had to head for home. As before I was ripping the Crazy Sandeel nice and fast, albeit I don’t really know how fast the thing’s moving compared to say me, a load of adrenaline, a decent hard lure and a bouncy sea!! All I know is that for all my learning how to slow down when required and without doubt catching more bass because of it, there does seem to be a time and a place for ripping the hell out of various lures - and as is the case with a lot of my lure fishing, my continual learning about various techniques tends to be driven by particular lures and how one might work them, and yes, I am mildly obsessed with this Fiiish Crazy Sandeel and what it seems to be able to do for me in the right locations. Food for thought? Anybody know how fast bass can actually swim if they have to?

Below are some previews of my work in the next issue of Sea Angler magazine, on the shelves very soon I believe. Have a good weekend all of you - smash ‘em. And of course a big congratulations to Richard Cake of Dorset Fishing Rods (interview with him here) for winning the recent 2015 Irish Bass Festival. Not only can the guy bass fish a bit!!, but he can also build a mean rod. Well done sir.

Major Craft X-Ride XRS-962M 9’6’’ 15-42g lure rod review (£269.00)

The next step up in casting weight from the more regular kind of say 5-30g lure rod rating that so many of us use for our bass fishing, and I was really interested to see if I could possibly have any need for a more powerful lure rod than say the (pretty much close to perfect in my eyes) Major Craft Truzer 9’6’’ 10-30g (review here). Aside from the 150mm/30g Deep head Fiiish Crazy Sandeel that I find myself drawn to for rougher conditions and deeper water, I simply don’t carry bass fishing lures over about 28g I reckon. The last time I used a “next step up” lure rod for bass fishing I am pretty sure was the rather special Graphiteleader Argento Nuovo 9’3’’ 10-35g (review here), so how was one of Major Craft’s more powerful offerings going to do?

The lighter 9’6’’ 10-30g X-Ride seriously floated my boat (review here), and it was with a certain degree of reluctance when I handed it back to the kind soul who lent it to me - it’s one fast but very easy to use rod, and I was a little worried that the same length 15-42g X-Ride might simply be a more powerful version of that rod and thus potentially a bit much for the sort of bass fishing with lures that many of us tend to do around our shores - which it isn’t, not at all. Nope, this 15-42g one stands on its own I am pleased to say, and as per usual it seems with the Major Craft brand and the sort of rods I like lure fishing with, this is one serious bit of kit………

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What an easy rod to fish with, and I mean that as some serious praise. More powerful this particular Major Craft X-Ride XRS-962M 9’6’’ 15-42g might be, but it’s just so easy and efficient that I reckon it would serve really well as the main lure rod for a number of anglers who either need to be fishing with heavier lures, or quite simply prefer a bit more grunt to their lure rod. In no way does this 15-42g X-Ride try to bite your head off while giving you the ability to cast heavier lures, indeed it just grew and grew on me the more I fished it. I like the way that the butt section bends into a cast and lets that stunning tip work properly, I like how efficient this rod is as a casting machine, and whilst I can’t pretend that this rod is going to work at its best when you drop down to something like the IMA Salt Skimmer (14g), in truth it’s doing just fine. Put something like the absurdly long distance IMA Hound 125F Glide on and I can’t help but grin at how far it goes. Don’t lash into this rod - wind it up nice and smoothly and just let it go to get the best out of it, and when you time it right this is a serious casting machine with plenty of feel and feedback.

Hard lures in all manner of conditions are almost a given with a rod like this, albeit it’s more comfortable with the heavier lures as indeed the casting range suggests, and the bigger surface lures are also very easy to work at whatever range you can get them out there - I bought a couple of the rather cheap Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper lures when I was in Cape Cod, and holy cow when you catch them right they go like a missile on this rod. I have never put the Hound Glide or DUO Tide Minnow Slim 140 Flyer out further for example, and whilst bass fishing of course is not remotely all about distance, give me the string to my bow that is being able to cover a bit more water and I’ll gladly take it.

I’ll tell you what impressed me most about this rod - bumping lures such as the Fiiish Black Minnow in a run of current. There’s a place we fish over in Ireland where you need to reach the channel to be in with the best shout at catching bass, and on a spring tide there can be a fair run of current - I really like fishing the 120mm Black Minnow body combined with the 20g Shore Head that’s meant to go with the 140mm body, and this 120mm/20g combination just absolutely flies on this particular X-Ride, and the feel you get when you fish that slowish sinks and draw down the current is just fantastic. The rod is plenty light enough to hold for long periods and for me tends to balance really well with the your fairly regular Daiwa 3000/Shimano 4000 size spinning reels.

OK, so the handle is a little longer than I am used to (42cms from end of butt section to reel stem), but I understand that with a more powerful rod a slightly longer handle might help with leverage - although to be honest this 15-42g X-Ride is just so easy to cast that I find myself naturally putting my bottom hand slightly up the grip. The handle on the rod is ok, although I would prefer that little bit of duplon behind the screw-lock to be closer to the back of my hand. The overall build quality seems to be very good as per usual, and I like those first two stronger, double-footed rings on the rod. I make no apologies for the fact that I think this is yet another hugely impressive Major Craft bass fishing rod, and whilst in reality I can quite easily get away with using no more than one of their 10-30g lure rods for my bass fishing, this slightly more powerful 15-42g rod doesn’t half make an impression on me, and yes, it does get me thinking about those rougher seas and the ease with which this rod puts the necessary lures out there……