Does it amaze you how different each year is?

You can have all the lures, rods, reels, braids and as much knowledge about where to fish and when as you have amassed, yet nature continues to do its own thing and teach us every single year that every single year is different. However much we go back over our records and plan for say bass fishing on the lures to kick off again on a specific set of tides or something like that, I love how at times we are reduced almost to beginners in our quest to beat nature at her own game. In 2015 things suddenly kicked off around here in south east Cornwall around the middle of April, but here we are towards the end of May and aside from a few catches of decent fish we are still waiting for the bass fishing kick off properly……...

Whitsand Bay is full of May bloom and has been for a couple of weeks now. It’ll disappear sometime soon, but wow are some of us tearing our hair out! We didn’t get it last year so you can’t help but sort of stupidly assume that perhaps we weren’t going to get it this year either. But no, nature has other ideas, and nature does what nature does. We try to move to her rhythms and we continue to look to all manner of weather forecasts and hope for “ideal conditions”, yet at the end of the day we are merely human beings doing our best to outwit something that I have always believed retains the upper hand however much we think we might know. And I love that. We will never be bigger than fishing or nature however hard we try.

How has it been for you so far this year? I had a good few days in Ireland when we caught a lot more bass than we thought we might with the forecast, so yet again it proves to me that it’s far too easy to write things off because of past experiences. I do it and I am sure most of you here have written off certain conditions, but I am pretty sure bass aren’t coming close inshore to satisfy our urge to try and catch them. Nope, I am pretty sure they are there to feed, and to feed they need food. We strive to learn all we can about bass fishing, but do we spend anywhere near enough time on learning when certain food sources are available for the predators we might fish for?

I am still having almost unnatural feelings towards the khaki glitter Black Minnow. Yes, I am obsessed!

I am still having almost unnatural feelings towards the khaki glitter Black Minnow. Yes, I am obsessed!

You might have gathered that the fishing so far this year has thrown up a lot of questions for me, and you would be right. I know what I know and I do all I can to learn as much as possible as I go along, but there are plenty of anglers out there with a whackload more knowledge about it all than I will ever have. Do those anglers have questions that they simply don’t know the answers to when each year comes along and plays with your expectations? Of course I know it’s unrealistic to expect each year to behave in some sort of uniform manner, but if you really stop and think about it, do we really know what happens from year to year? I’ve got a thousand theories about the slow start, but am I anywhere close to the truth? We are anglers and when the fishing suddenly fires we forget all about the tough times. We are endless optimists and we hope for those occasions when everything comes together in what we feel is a perfect way. Doesn’t it amaze you how different things are year on year?

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid and Daiwa J-Braid review - can “budget” 8-strands really be serious fishing lines?

Crumbs. Two very smooth feeling and frigging lovely to fish with 8-strand braids that are on sale at prices which can’t help but shake things up a bit. No longer do anglers need to buy a 4-strand braid because an 8-strand costs too much money. Nope, with these two 8-strand braids at the prices they are, to me the choice between a 4-strand and an 8-strand now comes down to what you want from your braid and what you prefer fishing with. Sure, the really high end 8-strands aren’t suddenly going away, but I must imagine that various line companies are at least a little worried with the might of Daiwa especially behind such a good value for money, “proper” 8-strand braid.

Daiwa J-Braid on the 2016 Certate

Daiwa J-Braid on the 2016 Certate

But why be worried about Daiwa more than Sufix? Is one of these braids better than the other? Not at all, indeed these are two equally good braids for lure fishing in my opinion. What I mean is that Daiwa’s a seriously big player in the global fishing tackle world and has obviously decided to chuck its might behind their newish J-Braid, whereas as much as I am a serious fan of Sufix monos and braids and I wish we saw more of them here in the UK, the fact is that Sufix is not in the same league size wise as Daiwa and as such they don’t have the global marketing reach to get behind their outstanding Performance Pro 8 braid like Daiwa can with their J-Braid. Daiwa make some serious gear and I am seeing more of this J-Braid for sale in the UK and Ireland, but it strikes me as such a shame that you’ve got what I reckon is one of the best line companies in the world in Sufix not being properly represented here and as a result I wonder how many people will get to see just how good their Performance Pro 8 braid is? Choice is a good thing if you ask me, and especially when we have two similar types of braid here that can do so much good stuff for us consumers.

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid on a Penn Clash spinning reel

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid on a Penn Clash spinning reel

It’s pretty simple if you ask me. Buy either one of these braids for your lure fishing and you can’t really go wrong. Of course I recognise the supposed advantages of a good 4-strand braid for rougher ground fishing or wrassing on the plastics especially, but I do enjoy bass fishing especially with a really smooth, long-casting 8-strand braid. I accept that the best gear is always going to cost, but sometimes stuff comes along which for me kinda redefines what we can get for a certain amount of money. The Major Craft Skyroad rods have done that for me big time for me as regards lure rods for example, and Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid and Daiwa J-Braid are now doing it for me on the braid front.

What can I really tell you about these lines other than they are lovely 8-strand braids to go fishing with? I like the range of colours - and yes, bright braids do it for me, but both are available in a dark green if you don’t - and there are endless diameters and breaking strains to suit a wide range of fishing applications. I like the spool sizes for my UK and Irish lure fishing (150m/135m), but I can buy larger spools if needs be. Daiwa J-Braid seems to be pretty widely available now, but if you want to get some Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid then it’s easy to find some say in Europe (check my preview blog post here for example). I can’t believe how cheaply such good 8-strand braids can be sold for, but it’s good news for us anglers.

Daiwa J-Braid in action

Daiwa J-Braid in action

I have ranted about line diameters and breaking strains before (check here). I have no idea if the figures for both these braids are true, and of course there are wildly different figures depending on where you buy the lines - both lines feel very thin though, and as before I am going on the European specs. I know that some anglers do their own kind of line testing and that’s great. I don’t. I’d rather go fishing, use my lines in real fishing situations, and then make my own judgements from there. I reckon I’ve used enough 20lb braids (whatever that actually is) for my fishing to know when I’ve got a good or a bad one as regards actual strength and how it fishes - bearing in mind of course that you need to keep a close eye for line damage on those first few feet of braid especially, regardless of whether you use a leader or not.

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid on a Penn Clash spinning reel

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid on a Penn Clash spinning reel

And with the 20lb/0.16mm Daiwa J-Braid and then the 21lb/0.15mm Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid (European figures, and no, I don’t know how “true” they are), I’ve got two mainlines here for my lure fishing which I reckon are doing what I have come to expect as such from a quality 20lb braid. These are serious mainlines and I am struggling now to justify spending more money on an 8-strand braid mainline. I only use the FG knot to attach my leaders to my braids, and I retie leader knots and change leaders often. Sure, I have a bit of thing for the far more expensive Varivas 8-strands, but as much as I like them because I know them inside out and I trust them implicitly, I can’t sit here and tell you hand on heart that they are much better than these two much cheaper 8-strands. Things are changing and I am all for it if it gives us anglers greater choice and better gear for our money. I reckon Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid and Daiwa J-Braid are fantastic braids and are now a more than viable options for those of us who want to fish with those smooth feeling 8-strand braids but don’t want to sell body parts off to do so.

What’s it like to land the fish of a lifetime?

I so, so wish I had been there to see this bass landed! I was over in Ireland the other day when I got a phone call from a very, very excited friend who I fish with a lot at home. Why the excitement? Well he’s only gone and bloody done it! A lifelong passion for bass fishing and he had gone and landed his fish of a lifetime, and whilst I was having a great time in Ireland and catching plenty of fish, I cannot tell you how much I would have given to have been there to see Mark hook and land that special bass - 79cms long, over the magical 10lbs, how good does it get?

Photo courtesy Mark Quinton, shot by Andy Bignell

Photo courtesy Mark Quinton, shot by Andy Bignell

I don’t think he’s come down yet! Life goes on, nothing radically changes and non-anglers won’t have a clue how much catching a fish like this means to us, but that’s just it - we are anglers, we “get” fishing completely, and there are certain sizes of fish or indeed locations to fish in that we spend a lot of time dreaming about. Some people fish for a bunch of different species and some anglers specialise in fishing for a certain species that floats their boat quite enough to sustain that lifelong obsession. As I have said multiple times before, fishing is so damn awesome because it is big enough to fit us all in, and it means so many different things to so many different people. I know how much Mark loves his bass fishing, and I know how much the capture of his bass of a lifetime means to him. Big, big respect, and I am gutted that I wasn’t there to witness it and take the photos of one rather happy angler.

This 79cms long bass was caught from a spot that we have finally worked out how to get down to, so whilst I wasn’t there to see it caught, it does make my day that such a special fish came from a location that we had had a hunch about for a while (and especially Mark). Hugely well done Mark obviously for catching such a special fish, but also for having made the call to fish that particular spot on that particular morning. Mark and Andy had that one bass only, but I think it was enough fish to fuel a lifetime more of dreaming about more fish of a lifetime if that makes sense! Mark caught the fish within ten casts of starting the session on a forecast that to be honest wasn’t exactly what you’d have chosen, but the fact that it was early in the morning must have been ideal. As with nailing a bunch of bass over in Ireland on east winds, what do we really know about when the food is going to be there for bass to come in and feed on it?

He caught the fish close in on a Tackle House Feed Shallow lure, Major Craft Truzer 9’ 7-23g rod, Penn Clash 2500 spinning reel and Duel Hardcore X4 braid if that helps. I know how good Mark is at really searching the close in ground all around him: “Never ignore really shallow water twenty feet in front of you, even if you risk losing a lure or two”, and it’s something I think we could all learn from. Sure, having the ability to put lures out a long way and cover lots of ground is so handy, but nobody could ever accuse the regular size Feed Shallow of being a long-range missile of a lure, yet Mark goes and hooks his bass of a lifetime not very far off his rod tip. Right time, right place, right lure, right cast, right decision. Sometimes things are just meant to be, and whilst fishing owes none of us anything, I can’t help but feel that Mark quite simply deserved that special fish. It was his time, everything went right for him, and I am so frigging made up that a good friend has successfully caught (and released) his fish of a lifetime. And yes, it can’t help but buzz me up that bit more that such a fish was caught not very far from where I live. Well done Mark, that is some mighty fine fishing and it could not have happened to a nicer bloke. Wow!

Nothing like a bunch of fish hits that don’t connect to tell you something’s wrong with your hook sizes

I am really liking single hooks on the rear of most of my hard lures, but when I was over in Ireland the other day I quickly realised that I had done something wrong as regards rigging a particular lure - how do I know this? Because I got hit six times without hooking up, then changed the rear hook, chucked out again, and hooked the first bass that hit me again. I will explain……….

IMA Calm 110 rigged with that small size 4 single on the rear

IMA Calm 110 rigged with that small size 4 single on the rear

When you have no choice but to sit around on your arse for a few weeks, not only does your mind play wicked tricks on you about the actual reason for having to sit still in the first place, but with it being winter as well, of course all manner of fishing related stuff was churning round and round my brain! I was increasingly conscious that I have a few hard lures squirrelled away here that I simply haven’t given proper water time to, and via my increasing confidence in lures like a (soft plastic) senko that does very little that we can see in the water, I came across the little IMA Calm 110 (110mm, 11g) that for whatever daft reason I hadn’t ever actually fished with. I most likely bought it because it looked nice, and then because I am a bit of a tit like that I went and forgot all about it. So I drag it out of some obscure box and find that the two little trebles on the lure are all rusted up and need changing. On the front goes a barbless treble hook and on the rear I put a small size 4 Cox and Rawle barbless single lure hook that I happened to have. Seemed to make sense to put a small single hook like that on what is a pretty small hard lure.

Anyway, Steve and I happen to be on some out of the way mark over in Ireland the other day and we are battering a bunch of bass on the IMA Salt Skimmers. Now don’t get me wrong, I love catching a bunch of fish, and especially off the top, but if there is one thing I do like doing is using those times when there’s a lot of fish around to either experiment, or otherwise try and catch on some lures that I have never caught on before. Come on, admit it, however much you might like the look of whatever lure, you never feel truly confident in it until you’ve caught on it - at least I don’t anyway.

I happened to have the little IMA Calm 110 with me, so on it goes. I can’t believe how well it flies for starters, and I couldn’t really think of a better way to fish it over such shallow ground other than to very simply straight-retrieve it at a medium sort of speed - which depending on how excitable you are could be anything. Straight away I get hit by a bass, but it doesn’t hook up. I counted three times on the first retrieve that I was hit, and then three times on the next, and it’s frustrating me - over the moon that bass want to hit the lure, but of course I want to hook up. I reckon Steve can actually hear the cogs in my brain churning over now……….

I look around, and yes, Steve’s got a pair of those green and black IMA pliers strapped to his waist, the ones with the split ring bit on the end. I always keep a pair of these pliers at home because I think they are excellent for crushing barbs and changing split rings, but luckily Steve actually had a pair with him. I borrow the pliers and set about taking off that small size 4 single hook and changing it for a larger Seaspin Gamu SW size 1 single hook that I took off another hard lure of mine. On it goes, I give the pliers back to Steve, and I launch the little Calm 110 out there again.


And hook a bass almost straight away, only this time it stays connected and I land it, and after a couple of fish I change the lure because I want to try and catch on something else. I can’t find any other variable to that incident other than I had gone and mistakenly rigged up the little IMA Calm 110 with a rear single hook that was simply too small. Whilst it is of course possible to catch bass on very small hooks, I imagine that when a hard lure like that is moving through the water, the small rear single simply isn’t able to hook them up - ok, so I could have persisted with the small size 4 single, but six hits and no connections told me what I needed to know, and then the change to the larger size 1 single confirmed it. Interesting though that the bass didn’t hook up on the front treble……...