If at least one bass hadn’t been caught I was going to give up fishing

OK, not really, but when it’s nearly May and the wind has finally swung around to the west, there’s a touch more warmth in the air, and the conditions are increasingly bouncing, yesterday afternoon was one of those sessions when I had said to myself that something was going to get flung in the tide if at least a single sodding bass had not been caught. Lures in the tide? Rod? Camera gear? Mark? Storm? Whatever the case, confidence was high that we might at least see something impaling itself on one of our lures……….

Are we all slightly guilty of basing our expectations on when the bass fishing might kick on the previous season, almost regardless of the actual conditions? Well they were here at so and so time last year, so they are damn well going to be here at the same time this year! When we’re well into the bass season as such I reckon you stand a far greater chance of catching a few fish when conditions are less than ideal, but as we have had recently with a lot of E/NE winds and then this recent winter blast, let’s just say that early season conditions have been less than ideal. But then the forecast was saying the wind was going to shift from NW round to W/SW through yesterday and freshen right up come the afternoon.

We wanted to run down to the spot but we couldn’t because what passes for a path is so bloody overgrown, and if you take a wrong step you end up neck deep in gorse. Be gone you bad person, of course I would not laugh if this happened to Mark! Storm did a hell of an impression of a gazelle when the tried to pounce on a pheasant, but she just about managed to extricate herself and stay with us. On the one hand this pathetic excuse for a path hides how to get down to this particular rock platform rather nicely, but wow do you not want to be wearing a nice pair of waders that you care deeply about. Not much of a worry for Mark because, how shall I put it, his waders receive that much care and attention that at times they could walk down to the spot on their own! Conditions are pretty stunning and there’s also a decent drop of light bouncing around which always helps to stop me fishing too much and instead rattling off photos because quite simply I can’t not, but fishing and photography are one and the same to me so it’s par for the course.

So only the one small bass was landed, but just before Mark went and hooked it I was about to say that line “if we don’t catch a fish today I’m giving up”. He caught it on a very battered DUO Tide Minnow Slim 140 that had been rigged with those very good Seaspin Gamu SW single hooks, and I know Mark was made up both to catch the bass and also because hooking the fish in such bouncy conditions helped to give him another confidence boost with using single hooks on hard lures. Isn’t it amazing how a shift in the weather and one small bass can do so much to one’s mental state? We spoke about how there had to have been more fish there, but with a rapidly freshening westerly wind that was coming side on to us, how effectively were our lures really fishing when that belly of braid catches the wind so much and seems to really affect how the lures swim?

Yesterday aside, I wanted to draw your attention to the filth above. I am struggling to control my mature self with this brand new custom colour Fiiish Black Minnow that is exclusive to the UK and will be in shops sometime soon I believe. The photo doesn’t actually do enough justice to the body colour of the lure, and what is really messing with my head is how the back of the lure glows in the dark. Yes, I know, I understand. Lie down and be calm. Rest assured I have been lurking in a dark corner of my house looking at this lure and thinking about what I might do with it. My girls think their dad is even dafter than before. And to save me from having to answer emails and messages about this new custom colour Black Minnow, if you’re in the trade and want to stock Fiiish in the UK or Ireland then contact Top Water Lures. As for us lure-weak individuals, keep an eye on your local Fiiish stockist or various lure websites. I have the one sample here and I have kissed it all over. Have a good weekend and may the conditions come properly right for you.

Pretty sure that some gear isn't properly tested before going on sale (really?) - or how long constitutes a proper bit of gear testing?

True story - I went to a fishing tackle trade shows a few years back, and while I was wandering round I bumped into somebody I knew who worked for a tackle company that I am not going to name. Arranged on a rather smart looking rack was a range of spinning rods that looked interesting, so I asked what they were like, what they were designed for etc., and I received this answer: “not a clue, they haven’t been tested”. So what you might ask? Well the point is that the range of rods was being shown at the trade show because they ready for sale - and they hadn’t even been tested/used out in the real fishing world………

Now of course this left a bad impression on me, but to be perfectly honest I wonder at times how much some gear does actually get tested out in that “real fishing world”, or on the flipside to this, if the gear does get “properly tested” (whatever that actually is), what then constitutes a proper testing period which then tells the company the item or items are indeed ready to be sold to the fishing public - the likes of you and I. Now I am sure that we would all love to imagine that the fishing tackle we buy has all been through a rigorous and carefully structured programme of specialist testing in the various environments into which the products are likely to be sold, but really? Some companies do this for sure, but can you imagine the costs involved? And you simply can’t account for some things happening way down the line.

I have always loved the way that the US fishing apparel company Simms makes such a big deal of its gear being so heavily used and abused by reams of professional guides around the world who use it for their work at the end of the day. Pro fishing guides tend to  use fishing gear hard, and especially stuff like waders, wading boots, waterproof jackets etc., indeed if any company needed anything like that tested properly, and I mean properly, properly tested in a harsh saltwater environment, then I can’t think of anybody better placed than the bass guide John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage Ireland. Wow does he go through waders, wading boots and jackets through the course of his working year. If I was to set up a tackle company dealing with that sort of gear when I’d be asking John to test the gear out for me, and I would actually act on the feedback instead of some companies which don’t actually want to hear about anything that may actually be wrong with their gear.

Anyway, via three different pairs of Simms wading boots failing on me last year, I must assume that they don’t get any saltwater guides to test these items of gear out, or if they do, the testing period simply wasn’t long or harsh enough - but how long is long enough? Early on last year I was kindly sent a pair of breathable waders to try out (not Simms waders, a different company), and for about three+ months they were performing impeccably, and I mean completely problem free. I was absolutely loving them and in fact I was about to write a blog review which would have praised them to the hilt - and then out of the blue I was wading across a gully and I thought I must have involuntarily wet myself! Whilst I might now be north of 40, so far I haven’t yet wet myself by mistake - nope, right out of the blue the previously impeccable waders started leaking through the crotch area, and then water started coming in through the foot as well. I found that the tape had started to come away from the seams and it was end of waders.

So those waders were on the market. I wasn’t testing them out prior to them going on sale, rather it was a kind soul who let me use a pair to see how they might do. After a lot of use in saltwater they failed on me, but would the waders have possibly gone through a similar testing period before they actually came to market? I doubt it. In summer last year I received a new pair of waders from a different company that looked frigging awesome - yet they leaked through the neoprene sock on my first day of use! Same with the second pair, albeit they lasted three days I think. Potentially such a good pair of waders - great cut, a few nice features, but let down by a god-awful neoprene sock. I just don’t believe those particular waders could have ever been properly tested - sure, one leaky pair might well be unlucky, but two pairs which leaked in exactly the same place so quickly? A worrying lack of real world fishing testing if you ask me, or is it testers simply saying yes sir, no sir because there are no systems in place to accurately take on board feedback and of course constructive criticisms and work them through for a better product.

The smaller Penn Clash 2500 - my mate has just bought one. Very impressive bit of kit so far.

The smaller Penn Clash 2500 - my mate has just bought one. Very impressive bit of kit so far.

I now have a couple of these Penn Clash spinning reels here - the 3000 (check here and here), and now the smaller 2500 as well. As it stands right now, in my opinion these are some incredible spinning reels for a quite incredible price, and I will properly review them in due course - but then report back if any faults develop after those reviews. Because these reels are doing so well I am thinking (hoping?) that Penn put them through a rigorous testing process, but I was interested to see that the company got a bunch of fishing journalists together out in Costa Rica I think it was to put the reels through their paces in the hands of the “fishing press”. I bet it was a blast, but let’s say that trip was a week of fishing at best - do the resulting reviews from what I am guessing was a bit of a jolly then constitute “proper reviews”? What does a week with an item like a spinning reel tell you?

Well in some respects a fair amount, but on the other hand it’s often after a much longer period when things start to go wrong of course. I still reckon the 2015 Daiwa Caldia 3000-A Mag Sealed spinning reel is an incredible product for some very sensible money (review here), but sometime after that review the roller bearing failed on me (check here). I have to attach some blame to myself for not keeping a proper eye on its roller bearing - I am now very much doing so on all the spinning reels I have! - but because it happened to me, does that show up insufficient testing of the product, or was it simply natural wear and tear and quite possibly an error on my part? Same with the Shimano Sustain 4000FG (review here) - way down the line of me using the reel, I came to realise that the bearings are quite possibly not exactly the finest ever put in a spinning reel, but for a good long time the reel was as smooth as warm butter to fish with.

A company could test and test and test and never actually get a product to market. A reviewer could test and test and test (after the product has come to market of course) and never actually produce a review because he or she never actually completes their testing process! I am sure many of you fish with items of gear that work flawlessly, but then sometimes we are all left angry and annoyed when something fails for what seems to be a simple/stupid reason, and in reality that reason should most likely have been picked up during testing and then put right. Sometimes it bugs the hell out of me that some items of gear fail for whatever reason, but then I also understand how impossible it must be to sell something like braid for example. It might be the most tested braid ever in the history of braid. It might have performed flawlessly for months on end, dealing with the biggest fish in the harshest environments - but then it goes to market, and a few anglers end up buying the braid who, how shall we say, can’t tie a decent braid to leader knot for starters. Or they can’t cast very well. Or they are seriously overloading their reel. Or they are using an ancient spinning reel that was never designed for a modern braid. Or they get dragged over some sharp rocks by some monster fish and get broken off - but of course, none of this is remotely the customer’s fault. No way, not a chance. Gotta be because the braid’s rubbish! Who’d make fishing gear for saltwater use especially?

How colour choosy can fish really be?

I couldn’t resist nipping out for a quick go on the wrasse last week, mainly because the weather was absolutely stunning and I wanted to see if a “new”, incredibly bassy looking spot we have found a way down to via a couple of ropes might also be a rather nice and tucked well out of the way wrasse spot when the conditions are not exactly conducive to bass fishing. I like trying different places and I also like fishing spots where the chances of seeing other anglers is at best remote, and like many parts of the UK and indeed Ireland, luckily it is still the case that if you are prepared to walk and scramble and get off the well beaten tracks then it’s pretty easy to do.

Anyway, it was hardly the most epic fishing session ever known, but it truly was one of those times when just being out and about was more than enough, and a lot of my fishing tends to also be a good dog walk for Storm as well. What on earth she makes of me as I make my way down some pretty loose cliffs with the aid of a rope while she runs up and down without seeming to notice that we are actually on a slope I will never know, but I do know that I will never have another kind of dog. Nope, sheepdogs and their amazing zest for life are where it’s at for me with our four-legged friends. Anyway, apologies, I digress.

Lovely bit of ground, about an hour into a flooding tide, and whilst the place screams bass when there’s a bit of bounce on, that flat calm and warm afternoon it screamed wrasse - albeit any fish were resolutely staying the hell away from the soft plastics I was chucking at them. I’ve got a bit of a thing for that Graphiteleader Tiro 832M-MR 7-28g as a wrassing rod, but this lighter and more “precise” MegaBass Racing Condition World Edition RCS-802ML 8’ Max 28g, lightening frigging fast (freshwater bass rod I believe) rod is an absolute peach for wrasse fishing with plastics, and I can’t help but wonder how a couple of the lighter rods in this range (here) might do for closer quarters, smaller lures bass fishing - sight fishing for example?

Sorry, lure colours is what I was meant to be talking about - went through my regular selection of soft plastics that I might chuck out for wrasse and to be honest pretty much expect to catch. OK, so it was a “new” wrasse spot for me, but it’s perfect ground, the tide’s flooding and I was surprised not to be getting even a hint of a sniff. Greens, browns, blues, you name it, I tried it, indeed if I don’t get a wrasse bite on the Z-Man Punch CrawZ in the California Craw colour especially then my confidence levels do drop a bit. I’m starting to think that perhaps it’s just one of those days when the fish aren’t feeding, or else of course I have simply taken the wrong punt………..

In my bag of plastics I find a packet of Snowbee Stinger lures in a simple black colour - why the hell not? Wrasse sometimes show a liking for black coloured plastics, so I rig one up on my 10g Texas rig and chuck it out there. I bet you can guess what happens next - yep, a wrasse of about 3lbs on the first cast with the black lure. I only ended up with a couple of fish, but it really struck me how I could have walked away fishless if I had not tried a black coloured soft plastic lure. I have usually got at least one Fiiish Black Minnow with me because it seems to be another of those “if there are any wrasse around they’ll chow that one for sure” sort of lures, but I couldn’t find any in my bag to use that one as another yardstick.

Sure, the fact that I suddenly went and caught a couple of wrasse when previously it seemed to be barren could be down to other factors such as the state of tide etc., but in reality I was standing in the same spot and covering the same sort of ground at essentially the same time when I chose to finally try the black coloured soft plastic. I also accept that there are many times when wrasse will hammer almost any colour or type of soft plastic, but I can’t help but think about how some fish suddenly switched on when I started using a black lure colour, and then whether that state of fish seeming to have lockjaw to not having lockjaw can and does apply with bass fishing? Do you happen to carry different colours of the same type of lure when you go out bass fishing, and how many times have you not been catching, changed colour, and then caught? Or have you had it happen when a mate is using a certain colour of lure and is catching fish, and you are not using that colour and blanking? More food for thought if you ask me. More stuff to mess with my already lure messed head!

There is no ban on going bass fishing, but until the end of June 2016 you must return any bass you catch - get out there!

I have read some stuff online recently which got me thinking that a number of UK anglers think there is currently a six month long ban on catching bass - but this is categorically not the case. There is no ban on going bass fishing. I am not going to get into the farcical goings on as regards recreational anglers being required by law to return all the bass they might catch until the end of June whereas commercial fishermen are not, together with the somewhat scary fact that our esteemed Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP claims that gill-netting is “sustainable” - nope, that is for another day.

No, this blog post is about the fact that sport anglers are categorically not banned from going bass fishing at all. Get out there! I have no idea how the government is implementing or indeed policing the no-take law for bass that us anglers are currently governed by, but by law you must return any bass you catch until the end of June 2016, and then for the rest of the year you may take one bass per day as long as it’s over the minimum landing size (MLS) of 42cms. Now I know that plenty of anglers release all the bass they catch anyway - me included - but I wonder if the fact that the law states all bass must be released until the end of June means that some anglers either aren’t going out fishing, or else they are targeting other species until July when they can then (legally) take their one bass a day to eat.

And I also wonder how many anglers have simply got the wrong end of the stick and believe that we are currently subject to a six month long bass ban/close season? For all the work that the various fishing related organisations do on our behalf, it’s not as if the government seems to be that good at getting the relevant information out there. Sure, they can quite happily spend our tax money on sending us all (biased?) leaflets about the whole Europe thing, but if you took a poll of say a thousand UK based saltwater anglers, I wonder how many of them would know what on earth is going as regards bass fishing right now?

Man up and get in there Mark!

Man up and get in there Mark!

Would a proportion of anglers not go out bass fishing anyway because they couldn’t by law take any of them home to eat? I have no issues at all with being required by law to return the bass I might catch (ignoring for now the commercial sector issues), but I don’t eat fish myself and I like to put bass back anyway - so these new laws make no difference to me anyway. But how many anglers want to take the odd bass to eat and have been put off going out bass fishing purely because of the law change which means they can’t do so until the end of June? Going fishing is of course rooted in the whole hunter/gatherer part of us, however much some of us might like to return certain species, but I assume that some anglers simply can’t face fishing for a species that by law they can’t take home to eat. Are there charter skippers out there for example who would routinely target bass who have had a dropoff in bookings? If so, holy cow that must be galling when the commercial sector is allowed to carry on like they are.

Ooops, I'm floating!

Ooops, I'm floating!

And what’s the story say with spear-fishing? What happens if I go and badly deep-hook a bass and I know it’s going to snuff it - must I by law return what is essentially a dead fish? By the letter of the law I assume that I must, but what would be the sense in that? Logic would of course say take the dead bass home rather than fling it back in the sea, but as you can no doubt ascertain, I’m not sure how much logic there is to the whole bass debacle! Whatever the case, there is no “bass ban”, indeed there is no month long close season (May 15th to June 15th) over in Ireland this year either. OK, so this knowledge was only made official and public last week - talk about leaving it perhaps too late for visiting anglers to take advantage of some cracking bass tides - but there’s no reason not to get out there bass fishing save for the sodding conditions hardly playing ball! If not being allowed by law to take any bass home to eat until the end of June stops you heading out bass fishing then that is up to you, but personally I am absolutely buzzing about the rest of the year. Have a good weekend. As per my last blog post, I am feeling the need to do some more DIY!