Gear of the Year 2016, part 1

Can it really be nearly Xmas again? I was sitting in a room in Derriford hospital yesterday afternoon, waiting for another three monthly check-up, and wondering where on earth nearly twelve months have gone since they took a chunk from from my leg and successfully got the melanoma out of me. I am a lucky sod this time around and far too many people sadly aren’t with the bastard cancer. One of the most powerful and emotionally wrenching photographs I have ever seen can be found here, and I don’t mind admitting that I struggled to read about this. Go through to the Facebook page and you will read that the little girl died recently. What a brave family. Things like this hit me so much harder these days for a number of different reasons. Anyway, another year of fishing, working in fishing, being married to an awesome woman, and having the two most awesome daughters. I am here, I’m not going away anytime soon I hope, and a big thanks as ever to you guys for reading this blog of mine that I so love doing. As has become a bit of a pre-Xmas tradition it seems, here’s Part 1 of my Gear of the Year 2016.

The best “regular” lure rod I have used in 2016 - Easy. The rather fantastic HTO Shore Game 9’6’’ 7-35g lure rod. I’ve read some speculative garbage about this fishing rod online yet I take it out fishing and I wonder yet again if the anglers who spout this sort of stuff have ever actually seen the rod, let alone fished with it - too stiff, made for HTO by so and so, begat by a demon, various conspiracy theories, and so on. Balls! This 9’6’’ HTO is about as a good a 9’6’’ lure rod as I have fished with, and whilst in a perfect world I’d like a different handle on the thing, as a rod it’s done me proud with all manner of lures, techniques, conditions and indeed bass. I know who makes the rod for HTO and it doesn’t change a damn thing because most tackle companies have rods made for them to their design by specialist rod making companies - this is one hell of a fishing rod and I love fishing with it.

Best lighter lure rod 2016 - I so love fishing with weightless/weedless soft plastics, and this style of lure fishing often means I am fishing in calmer, clearer conditions which don’t call for a more powerful lure rod. I got to fish with the outstanding Major Craft Skyroad 9’ 7-23g lure rod this year and yet again with this family of lure rods I am left wondering how on earth this Japanese company can make such good lure rods for the the price. Give me this lighter Skyroad, a smaller spinning reel and a 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick rigged weedless/weightless and I am in heaven, and even more so if a few bass are jumping on the end and making my giggle like a child at how much fun it is to fish with such balanced fishing tackle.

Worst buy 2016 - The Patagonia Ultralight II wading boots. Do yourself a favour and don’t whatever you do buy these (not remotely ultralight at all) wading boots if you do any fishing in saltwater. In a word? Crap, and the crying shame is that I hear such good things about the Mark 1 version of these wading boots from some saltwater lure guys who I know absolutely hammer their gear. Why on earth does a company make new stuff that is worse than the old stuff? Maybe Patagonia and Simms are doing it deliberately to wind saltwater anglers like me right up? Or maybe they should be honest and state on their websites when certain items of gear are not suitable for use in saltwater so muggins like me can avoid the buying mistakes that I have made.

Best hard lure 2016 - I have got a thing for long-casting, shallow-diving hard lures, and from the off the little IMA iBorn 98f Shallow has done it for me. It casts like a little bullet, it swims beautifully just under the surface, and it catches bass, including a few for me at night on this lure. I like how it’s offering me a different action to my beloved IMA Komomo SF125, indeed this iBorn 98f reminds me a fair bit of the killer but discontinued Daiwa Shoreline Shiner R50+SSR FG. Another shallow diver that I feel very comfortable putting in my lure box.

Best waterproof jacket 2016 - I’ll take either of the excellent Vision Kust or Scierra C&R jackets. Both have done fantastically well for me this year and I can’t really think of much about either of them that I would like to change. When it rains properly over in Kerry I reckon you find out a lot about your gear, and I was never given any cause at all to doubt how these two jackets work for me and my lure fishing, photography and guiding. If I had to choose the one jacket? I like them both and I’d go for whichever one I could find the best deal for.

Best accessory 2016 no.1 - The Breakaway Mini Link lure clip which I have used all year for my lure fishing, and if a client needs a lure clip when we’re guiding over in Kerry then this is the one we use. Perfection in a lure clip? I reckon so, and they’re cheap as chips as well. Same as last year so apologies for being boring, but these simple lure clips just do it for me.

Best waders 2016 - Still the Vision Ikon waders, albeit mine are now on their last legs and I must either send then off to Diver Dave or buy a new pair. Waders and hard use in and around saltwater aren’t the best of long-term bedfellows, but out of all the breathable/lightweight waders that I have fished and photographed in for any number of years now, the Vision Ikon waders are the ones that I feel most comfortable dropping my money on and getting a proper amount of hard time versus cost.

Item I can’t be without 2016 - As ever it’s my Costa del Mar polarised sunglasses, and for me it’s specifically their Permit frames with the Green Mirror 580G lenses. Perfection, plain and simple.

When the wind’s in the east……………….the bass feed like piranhas!

What the hell do I know anyway? Take some conditions that I’d generally despise for bass during the day, yet we’re out there smashing fish on soft plastics - an east wind that’s stuck around for at least two weeks now (very much offshore where we were fishing), crystal clear water, a mix of sunshine and overcast skies - exactly the sort of conditions I’d write about in Sea Angler as being a real turn off for bass. Oh, and it’s nearly Xmas. What on earth is going on?

Well that’s the whole point if you ask me, and I love it. When are we ever going to come close to knowing it all? I couldn’t fish the weekend before last because my wife was away at a 40th birthday party and I was looking after my girls, but a couple of mates went out on the east winds and absolutely smashed fish. I then managed to get out on the Monday and had a bunch of fish on my go-to “twitchbait” style soft plastic, the 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick. If bass fishing gets any more fun than working soft plastics over stunning ground with plenty of rip currents, fizz and life and fish hitting you pretty regularly then please let me know, because I spent the few hours literally feeling sick with excitement I was loving it so much. That connection between you and your lure is just electric, and I can’t get enough of it.

White senkos, night fishing and a few bass aside last week - I’m generally feeling fine with flat calm conditions for this as long as it’s properly dark - a few of us got to fish this daytime spot again on Saturday. I got out of my amazing Berlingo, saw the sea and the clear water and the calm seas and I must admit that my heart sank a bit, but as I got down to the rocks and saw one of the lads playing a bass, well let’s just say that I was jumping for joy yet also giving myself a mental kicking for being so bloody predictable with my worrying about conditions. There were plenty of bass around if you kept reading the water and looking for them, it’s early December, it’s pretty cold with the freshening east wind, yet I’m sweating away again with my excitement levels fit to burst.

It goes without saying that I love fishing, but without a doubt it’s the direct connection between rod, lure and fish that is the principal reason for why lure fishing has done it for me in such a big way for a number of years now, and those few hours on Saturday before the England v Australia rugby match kicked off were about as much fun as I can imagine having. If you read my blog then you will have worked out that I am having another love affair all over again with the DoLive Stick, and I guess that it’s the confidence this lure gives me in a situation like that which is so important, and the hit from a fish as you’re working the lure is just frigging awesome - twitch, twitch, pause, reel a bit, twitch, tap from a fish, twitch it again and then the tip slams over as the bass connects. Come on, does it get any better? I can’t pretend that a certain amount of over excitement didn’t occasionally cause me to fish like a bit of a tit (sorry Jody for wrapping my braid around your rod tip when you had a fish on!), but overall I am just happy to keep on learning - learning about fishing better with weightless soft plastics, and learning to stop dissing certain conditions because they might not fit with my mental image of what “the perfect bass fishing conditions” actually are.

And we won the rugby after a scary twenty or so minutes of tripe. What a game. Unbeaten for 2016, could you possibly imagine that after England’s dire World Cup last year? And then it was Strictly in the evening with my girls. My perfect Saturday!

This is how we are fishing a (white) senko at night, and it could not be easier

Whilst I am many millions of miles away from being much good at filming and editing related work, when I was out fishing with my mate Mark the other day we took a bit of time out to shoot a very simple “how to” video on how we’re fishing with a generally white senko at night for bass. For me it’s very much an exercise in learning more about filming and editing as opposed to stills photography which I feel far more comfortable with. Whilst this may make little sense to anybody here who has never got involved in anything filming related, this basic video shoot thing I did with Mark was the first time I have actually had a shot list in my head in order to then edit to when I am in front of my computer - instead of just filming stuff and seeing what you’ve got for whatever reason.

I hope this short video might help a few of you out with better understanding how some of us are fishing these simple senkos at night for bass, and bearing in mind of course that there are many different ways to skin the proverbial cat here. What I think comes across as most surprising to some anglers who I know have seen this video and then commented on my Facebook page is the speed at which Mark is winding the senko in - and please bear in mind that it’s obviously daytime in the video because you ain’t going to see much if I film it at night. I will fish a senko far slower during the day than I will at night, which I accept might not make a whole lot of sense.

But it does work, indeed Mark caught this bass a couple of nights ago fishing a white senko EXACTLY the same way as he is in the video. It’s such an easy way of lure fishing for bass and it fascinates me how this whole night fishing thing has crept up on me to the point that it now feels just as normal as chasing them during daylight hours. I’ve got so damn much to learn about it and that is exactly what I so love about lure fishing I guess. Have a good weekend, can’t wait for England v Australia, loving the banter between the coaches!


Guest blog post - Keith White - Learning to sew, part 1 of a needlefish series

Once again it is my profound thanks to Keith White over in Jersey for penning another excellent and detailed article about the art of fishing with needlefish lures for bass. Keith is really interested in going into more detail than he did in his last two previous guest blog posts on here (check here and here) and we spoke about breaking down some of his extensive knowledge to come up with a series of articles - of which this here is the first. Thanks Keith, plenty to think about once again and nothing floats my boat more in fishing than learning, learning, and learning some more………