If you could start your fishing life all over again, would you do anything differently? And yes, cabin fever rages!

I don’t do regrets and life is for living, but from time to time I sit down and think about what I would do if I could go back in time and start my fishing life all over again, and what I might be doing in it - and yes, call it cabin fever if you like, but I am in the process of doing a bit more striped bass based research for various reasons at the moment, and when I go looking about at the shore based fishing for these fish, I wonder what I might do if I could go back to say the age of 18 and have another crack at life - with a bit of knowledge about what fishing I know is out there around this glorious earth………….

I have fished for stripers on a couple of occasions now, and whilst a fish like a tuna or a GT leaves them for dead in the speed and indeed power stakes, as with our own bass fishing it’s the whole culture/lifestyle/bit more “normal” vibe which surrounds the actual fishing that so floats my boat. What little I know of the striped bass world over in the US reminds me very much of what we do over here with our bass, only across the pond their stripers grow much, much bigger and of course there are a few more of them! If I was 18 right now and I had half a clue about what was out there, I reckon I’d be applying to live in the US to become a serious striper junkie. I mean come on, look at the video above and tell me you could not imagine immersing yourself in that kind of fishing and living it like you might well our own bass fishing.

I know the grass is always greener and I can’t help but read some of the recent news somewhat open-mouthed at the various US political goings on, but this blog post is only a bit of fun, and what’s the harm in dreaming about turning up on a deserted beach to find big striped bass smashing bait as far as you can see? How about standing waist deep in the middle of the night, trying your absolute best not to fall apart with adrenaline because you can hear stripers hitting bait in the inky blackness? I think back to launching big surface lures out into the famous Cape Cod Canal and connecting with stripers like the one above, which as pleased as I was, to be honest it didn’t raise an eyebrow amongst the numerous other anglers who were also into fish. I’ve caught far larger fish from the shore, but that whole being there and doing it thing kinda got to me on an emotional level. .

I can see myself cramming as much work in during the winter months and then completely giving myself over to chasing stripers from say May to November. Hell, I could call it “research” and put the expenses through my accounts! I’d buy a great big truck, kit if out for fishing, and then live in it while I chased striped bass until my arms were fit to fall off. Hell, sod the work and why not have a second home somewhere way down south for when winter hits the north east of the USA and you can run for warmer weather and species such as redfish, snook, tarpon etc. Holy cow now that’s a plan for my alternative life!

 

Just how fragile are these modern lure rods, and should we be taking better care of them? But how can we with how we are using them?

This blog post is nothing to do with defending or damning certain lure rods, rather it’s something that has been bouncing around my head almost ever since I first started using what we might term “modern lure rods”, and was then rammed home when Mark’s rod broke the other day, as per Monday's blog post. How fragile are these lure rods that so many of now fish with, and if in a perfect world we should be looking after them a bit better, in reality can we possibly do so when we do what we do with them?

One of the many uses for a lure rod!

One of the many uses for a lure rod!

I would hazard a guess that many of you here who are are into lure fishing either come from or are still actively involved in your more regular UK-style shore fishing with beachcasters etc. Now while I haven’t cast one of these types of rods for a long time now and I don’t know much about the newer shore rods that are out there these days, they were always a pretty robust bit of carbon in my eyes. So whilst many of us got into lure fishing via that world as such, do the lure rods we tend to fish with these days bear any correlation at all to beachcasters? Do we kind of expect them to be banged around over the same sort of ground and withstand that sort of abuse when a thin-walled, delicate looking lure rod couldn’t be more different to say the old Conoflex Scorpion Sport that I so loved shore fishing with?

If you come from fly fishing then perhaps your take on this is a bit different, indeed something like a modern, lightweight and delightfully responsive 9’ 10-30g Major Craft Skyroad lure rod reminds me much more of a fly rod than it does a great big beachcaster - and wow are fly rods some delicate carbon tubes. Sure, I have seen some seriously big and powerful fish landed on fly gear over the years, indeed I have stood there open-mouthed on many occasions whilst photographing what this “delicate” gear can actually do in the right hands, but if that same rod which landed say a 50lb+ GT on a shallow sand flat then gets dinged with a fly in the cast, is dropped hard on a rock, gets trodden on or is high-sticked while landing a fish, it is most likely going to snap.

The photo above is literally a split-second before a 12-weight fly rod breaks as the angler tries to grab his fly line to land a lively but not very big GT out in the Seychelles. Look at the rod tip, where the fish is charging around, and how the angler is grabbing the line, and I am sure you can picture exactly how the rod broke. Angler error, plain and simple, but that same rod landed a stack of fish on that particular trip before it snapped. I have winced on numerous occasions when photographing fly and lure anglers landing fish and what is happening to the rod, but sure as night follows day these same anglers won’t actually know they are doing anything wrong in the heat of the moment.

As I said at the start, I am not here to tell you that so and so lure rod has or has not got a flaw or whatever, but I know what I do with my lure rods, and I would guess that most of you do the same. I do my best to look after them, but they get knocked about via use fishing, walking, wading, scrambling or whatever. They are transported to the actual fishing on the rod racks stuck to my car and from time to time I drop a rod or something like that. I would try and look after my beachcasters as best I could as well, but mistakes happen. A beachcaster looks like a more robust/thicker carbon tube to me though, whereas that lure rod you thrash about is surely a far more delicate tool? None of us exactly wants to be breaking fishing rods, but should we be more realistic with our expectations of many of these modern lure rods?

Mark kindly left a couple of comments on that Monday blog post about his Truzer which snapped, and I am going to copy and paste those comments here as an example of an angler being totally honest and upfront about what he has done with the rod and why he isn’t throwing his toys about: “Before I go and upset anyone I would firstly like to say that I am only describing what happened to my rod and no one else's Secondly I feel sorry for anyone who has had a rod blow up within a few hours use. I have owned my Truzer for just under two years so I think a manufacturing fault can be ruled out as I have abused this rod which is rated to 23gm. Yes I have launched a 28gm Patchinko with it I have slapped it on the surface of the water whilst casting. I Have dropped it and walked it tip first into a cliff face. Two weeks ago which was the last time I used it I dropped it with the reel attached on some jagged rocks Most likely this was the cause of the breakage, not to mention the countless times I have stuffed the tip into the sea bed while testing the depth of water. ANGLER ERROR I THINK SO. Just in case anyone is interested I will purchase another In no way has it put me off the rod. At work this morning while pondering what might have happened I realised that I did in fact drop the rod on my last outing albeit only about waist height but it did land on jagged rocks.” I wonder how many other anglers have been this honest with a rod breaks on them?

I really respect Mark for being so honest about what he has put his 7-23g Truzer through and at the same I then wonder how honest most other anglers are when a rod breaks and they try to sort a replacement out. I also wonder if many of us here are simply doing it a bit wrong from time to time with these delicate bits of carbon we use as lure rods (what, a man, wrong, seriously?), and on the flipside I wonder if indeed there are either a few rods which are not really fit for purpose, or via the manufacturing process that mistakes do happen and less than 100% quality rods do slip through? Look at various car recalls for an example of less than perfect quality control. Same with the Penn Clash spinning reels I used last year - the 2500 went “grindy” yet Mark’s 2500 hasn’t (after nearly a year of use as well I might add), and the 3000 one I have used a lot now is as smooth as it was when it first came out of the box. Go figure!

I will leave you with a comment that was posted on my Facebook page the other day, and to me this perfectly sums up my opinion that most broken fishing rods are down to some sort of angler error or mistake - and note the word “most” as opposed to “all”, and that it’s my opinion and not remotely fact. “Every kitchen waste I've ever unblocked has been as a result of fat going down. Every single customer has told me they NEVER EVER put fat down the waste. Every broken rod returned to a shop has been carefully looked after much like a newborn. Not knocked, bumped or similar.”

 

How can a lure rod break after nearly two years of use?

Mark and I had a go yesterday morning, and whilst there were a serious number of birds feeding on what we presumed was a mass of bait very close to the shore (thanks Gary for the tip off!), it didn’t seem to be the case that bass were there working on the bait as well. Or if they were, we sure as hell couldn’t catch them! Still, for February it has to be good to see this sort of activity, but to be honest it didn’t feel anything like a mid-Feb day………

Anyway, nearly two years ago Mark bought the lighter 9’ long, 7-23g Major Craft Truzer, a rod that I had my hands on for a little bit and seriously loved fishing with. Mark fishes a lot and he tends to alternate these days between that lighter Truzer and his beloved 9’6’’ Skyroad Surf. It is fair to say that the 7-23g Truzer has had a hell of a lot of use, including bass to 11lbs, “occasional” overloading with a Patchinko - Mark is more than happy to admit to this - being used to test the water depths in gullies, up and down ropes, endless cliffs, being strapped to the Vac-Rac rod holders on my car, and along the way he reckons he must have dinged it a few times. But the rod kept going, and I know how much Mark loves the thing.

So we’re both fishing the 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick yesterday morning (weighs 15g with a weedless hook setup) as we try for a February bass. Mark is fishing to the left of me and suddenly out of the blue his Truzer snaps as he makes another cast. It’s an unmistakable sound when a fishing rod breaks, and Mark said that the rod came around fine but snapped as the lure went out and the rod bounced back on the recovery if that makes sense - and the three different Truzers that I have used for bass fishing all recover very quickly, indeed I was fishing with the regular 10-30g 9’ Truzer myself yesterday morning and loving it as much as I always do.

So the rod has snapped on the butt section, a little bit below the join, and to be fair to Mark he didn’t remotely throw his toys out of the proverbial pram. In fact I would say that he was incredibly level-headed about what happened, along the lines of he’s had a hell of a lot of use from the rod, it’s a tool to be used and the rod owes him nothing, but all that aside we are both left scratching our heads as to how a lure rod can break like that after so much use. Mark had been fishing away with the Truzer just fine for at least an hour before it snapped, and he knows he didn’t catch anything behind him on the cast. So how does a lure rod break like that after all this time?

Mark putting his beloved 9' 7-23g Truzer through its paces a few months ago

Mark putting his beloved 9' 7-23g Truzer through its paces a few months ago

To be honest neither of us has a clue. I thought my blog post about my continued love affair with my 9’ 10-30g Truzer the other day might elicit “various” responses from a few anglers who for whatever reason have ended up with their own, rather unique three piece Truzer, so as much as I welcome your comments on here and would encourage more of you to please engage with me and leave comments, please don’t waste your time by giving me anything along the lines of “told you so” etc. I haven’t come across anybody else who fishes with the lighter Truzer anyway, and the whole point of this blog post is not to damn a lure rod which Mark and I absolutely love, rather it’s Mark and I wondering how on earth a rod can break like that after such a lot of use………….

Any ideas? Can carbon weaken over time? Mark can’t recall any specific damage he might have done to the rod via a ding/tumble/fall or whatever, but if something along those lines had happened a fair while back, can that then manifest itself further down the line with the rod snapping clean during a cast, bearing in mind that he was casting a lure which was well within the rod’s weight range? The easiest thing would be to say that the rod is flawed, but how can it be when it’s worked so well for so long? Surely if a rod has a manufacturing flaw it’s going to break pretty damn early in its life? Is there anybody out there who knows what actually does happen with carbon rods over time, as opposed to hearsay and rumours which amount to squat?

Interesting to see some Shimano Japan bass fishing tackle in the new Shimano UK 2017 catalogue

Are the bigger UK tackle companies slowly but surely waking up to the increasing interest in lure fishing for bass in the UK and Ireland? I note with interest how there are now a few JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) items in the new Shimano UK 2017 catalogue (you can see their 2017 new products here), and Daiwa have been offering a few of their JDM Morethan lure rods for a year or two now, plus numerous spinning reels of course. I think I have a fairly good understanding of the different marketplaces and the relative size of the “modern bass fishing market” compared to what many anglers think it surely has to be, but bearing in mind how slow to react these bigger companies tend to be here in the UK, I do wonder where bass fishing tackle might go now that a couple of the big boys in the tackle trade are increasingly getting in on the act…………..

I love how the bass lure market here in the UK over the last few years has tended to be driven tackle wise by a number of smaller but specialist companies who decided that it was time to start offering us the consumers the sort of gear a lot of us are now taking for granted as being readily available. Go through a Daiwa or Shimano catalogue from a few years ago and I bet you struggle to find say a 9’ lure rod rated say 8-28g that is suited to saltwater lure fishing for bass, yet I bet many of us have called that kind of lure rod “normal” for a while now. Same with a number of Japanese hard lures from companies such as IMA, DUO, MegaBass etc., plus any number of soft plastics from around the world. I can remember very well laying eyes on my first ever IMA lure at the CLA Game Fair not that many moons ago for example.

And now we have a couple of the bigger boys getting in on the act with a small but interesting array of JDM (sea) bass fishing tackle, and I also note how Shimano make specific references now to “sea bass” lure fishing in the new 2017 catalogue. Yes, of course, these companies have always offered big ranges of spinning gear, but it is only recently that they have begun to offer specialist bass lure gear from their Japanese arms that can suit the way that so many of us go about our bass fishing here in the UK and indeed Ireland.

I waggled a few of the roughly £250 RRP Shimano Dialuna XR “Sea Bass saltwater spinning” rods in the Art of Fishing tackle shop before Xmas and they felt very much like my kind of bass rods, plus I got to fish for a couple of days with the £249.99 RRP Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000 size spinning reel which felt suitably sublime (but then most spinning reels do feel like this straight out of the box, and only time will tell how they might last in a saltwater fishing environment). I can’t tell you any more about these rods and reels save for they were designed by Shimano Japan and the lengths/casting weights of the Dialuna XR rods are well suited to the lure weights that most of us fish with from the shore on a regular basis.

I wonder if a company like Shimano (and indeed Daiwa) which has such a highly developed range of bass fishing tackle over in Japan will ever bring more of these rods and reels into our marketplace, and whether they will make their extensive hard lure ranges available to us consumers (junkies?). I have heard some very, very good things about the Shimano Exsence range of bass lure rods for example and they sound right up my street. I also see that Shimano have launched a new, sub-£20 8-strand braid onto the market, called “Kairiki”, which I must assume is designed to compete against the fantastic and similarly priced and specced Daiwa J-Braid. Interesting times ahead…….

I would like to say a huge congratulations to Del and Vikki who got married on Valentine’s Day earlier this week. My wife and I plus our two girls and of course Storm boarded a little plane at Land’s End airport last Saturday afternoon in the pissing rain and a bit of a gale (we got to the Isles of Scilly in plenty of time for that truly epic England v Wales Six Nations march, holy frigging cow talk about a nerve-jangler!), but come Tuesday and their wedding day was blessed with the most glorious February weather imaginable. Obviously Del and I did a bit of wrassing on the morning of his wedding. We were incredibly honoured to be asked, and spending a few more days in one of the most special places I know on this earth doesn’t get any better. We went for the most glorious walk imaginable on Wednesday morning, had pasties on the beach for lunch, and then flew back to the mainland later on that afternoon. As good as it gets if you ask me. Congratulations Del and Vikki!

Our co-guided lure fishing trips in Ireland have already sold out, so we’re planning another trip in November - interested?

If you read my blog then you will know that along with my many lure fishing tackle issues, I have fallen head over heels for this co-guiding work I do with John Quinlan over in Kerry, Ireland. Sure, I know it’s work, but I bloody love it, and I was mighty pleased and even a little proud at how quickly our 2017 dates sold out. The October dates went almost straight away with repeat bookings, which I hope means that John and I are doing something right by working together like this, and the July dates finished filling up a few weeks ago.

A short bass fishing film shot in Kerry, SW Ireland, from our co-guided lure fishing trips in October 2016. 

And the result of this is that John and I have been speaking like the business minded grownups that we both are (?), and we want to go ahead with a plan we hatched late last year - which was to offer another co-guided four day trip later this year in November. If this seems late in the year to you to go bass fishing with lures, then please believe me when I say that it can actually offer some of the best bass fishing of the year down in that magical corner of the world that is Kerry. Sure, the weather can do anything - but then it can and indeed does at any time of the year anyway - but once again I come back to why that part of the world is so damn perfect for a fishing trip…………

There’s always somewhere to go fishing, whatever the weather does or doesn’t do, indeed I was speaking to John (remember, we have very grownup conversations!) yesterday morning and he could not recall losing a single day of guided fishing to weather in 2016. They also had some great bass fishing in November last year, indeed he reckons they’d have carried on catching bass on lures if they had been taking clients in December. Hence me feeling perfectly confident in putting the idea of this November co-guided trip out there and seeing if people are interested. Go on, give me another perfectly good excuse to get myself over to Ireland this year! If the fishing fires like it can that time of year it could be great, and if the fishing isn’t quite on fire we will find some fish and have an absolute blast. These are the dates we are proposing for this trip:

  • Tuesday 14th November - arrive at Thatch Cottage
  • Weds 15th, Thurs 16th, Fri 17th, Sat 18th - four days of guided fishing
  • Sunday 19th November - depart Thatch Cottage

If you interested in coming along on this trip, then please contact me via the Guiding page on my website. Where is it? At the top of this page, and thank you for getting in touch.

Some tense moments in the opening Six Nations weekend, crumbs, but I do believe that winning when you’re playing that badly has to be good in the long-term for England - or is that just wishful thinking as we head for Cardiff tomorrow? My wife and I are heading over to the Isles of Scilly tomorrow with our two girls plus Storm for my mate Del’s wedding next week - and yes, the wrassing gear is coming with me - so I am not sure if I will be able to do much on the blog. I am incredibly honoured to be Del’s best man and I will be making a speech which of course will make no mention of him being without doubt the hairiest creature I have ever shared a room with. We all love him to bits and he’s marrying a cracker. Aren’t these girls lucky to have us blokes eh?! Many thanks and have a good weekend.

18g of French loveliness!

Yes, yes, yes! At last there is a jig head for the 120mm long Fiiish Black Minnow that sits between their 12g Shore Head and the 25g Offshore Head, and whilst it might seem a bit strange to be so damn excited by a mere jig head, I make no apologies at all. Yes, I am excited, and yes, I can’t wait to see how this new 18g “Search” jig head from Fiiish might offer me something a little different with the killer Black Minnow, and especially with the 120mm size that I so love for shore fishing………..

And so you know, yes, I do some paid work with Fiiish France, but they would never ask me to write a blog post about their products etc. (and I wouldn’t do it anyway) Believe me, if you knew the Fiiish lot over in Brittany then you would understand how vulgar and un-Fiiish like they would think it to ask me to do anything like that. Hell, I can’t even be a part of these “Team Fiiish” things that they put together in their different regions because I do paid work with them. I must therefore leave it up to you to decide if you want to trust that I am writing a blog post like this because I am quite simply very excited by this new 18g Search jig head. So there!

18g Search head (left), 12g Shore head (right)

18g Search head (left), 12g Shore head (right)

Anyway, that boring stuff aside, if I think back to the bigger bass I have either seen landed or caught myself over the last few years, then I am pretty sure that the one single lure which has been responsible for the highest percentage of those fish is the Black Minnow. Sure, it goes without saying that there are any number of different paddletails out there that will catch you a heap of fish, but I still say thanks to Matt the designer of the Black Minnow for designing a paddletail system that in one fail swoop managed to sort out all my paddletail needs, save for swimming one very shallow and slow. And even then I have tended to move away from slowly swimming something like the Yamamoto Swim Senko in shallow water when regular senkos and indeed the OSP DoLive Stick have proved so frigging lethal.

18g Search head (left), Shore 12g head (right)

18g Search head (left), Shore 12g head (right)

And from my early days of fishing with the 120mm/12g Black Minnow, I’ve been hankering for a heavier jig head that isn’t as heavy as the 25g Offshore jig head. For a fair while now I have been taking the 20g Shore Head that’s designed for the larger 140mm body and been using it with the 120mm body, and for those times when I need more than 12g it’s a combination that has worked really well. But now we have an 18g jig head that fits nice and flush with the 120mm Black Minnow body, and I am interested to see how the shape of the head is somewhat different to both the smaller 12g and larger 25g heads. What other options might this give me?

Well my admittedly very basic understanding so far of this new 18g Search head is that it’s been designed around fishing the Black Minnow along the bottom, so I can’t help but get all excited over again about how the Fiiish Portugal lad I know told me a couple of years ago how he’s fishing the lure along their extremely rugged and swell-beaten coastline - check here. I am sure that a bunch of you here like to fish the Black Minnow by bumping it along in a decent run of current - as do I - and I wonder if this new slightly heavier head might prove very good for that style of lure fishing. How about simply nudging it along over a sandy bottom?

A 10lb+ bass taken by bumping a 120mm Black Minnow along the bottom in a run of current

A 10lb+ bass taken by bumping a 120mm Black Minnow along the bottom in a run of current

How about whacking the Black Minnow out into a nice bit of rough, tumbling water and simply swimming it back like you might a minnow style hard lure? Might this new 18g Search head and it’s somewhat fatter/flatter bottom side work well for that? And I bet that on the drop it the profile of the head has to help as well. Yep, I don’t actually know yet, but damn I love trying different stuff out to better understand how it might work for me, plus whether it might indeed give me a few more options without needing to change to yet another type of paddletail because I have such strong levels of confidence when I am fishing with the Black Minnow.

90mm Black Minnow with the new 8g Search head

90mm Black Minnow with the new 8g Search head

Oh, and there’s also a new 8g Search jig head that fits the smaller 90mm Black Minnow body, a size that I don’t use enough but I need to rectify that this year because I have seen plenty of bass caught on them. You know that I don’t sell fishing tackle, but to save me from having to reply to a bunch of emails and FB messages, these new heads are available now in the UK, so keep an eye on your local tackle shop or on this website here. Come on springtime, we need you here now please………..

Your mate catches a serious fish - do you celebrate his or her success, but with a tinge of jealousy?

It interests me how anglers react when their mates catch a really good fish, and I wonder how often that human trait known as jealousy rears its ugly face? Do you jump for unfettered joy when your mate lands that special fish, or do you kinda jump for joy but inside you’re thinking lucky sod, and why the hell didn’t that particular fish come to me?

It was a very, very special experience to witness this fine bass being caught and then released.

It was a very, very special experience to witness this fine bass being caught and then released.

Through the course of going fishing and working around fishing I suppose I have seen and indeed caught a bunch of what I would class as pretty special fish, whether that be a what is now a fair few 10lb+ bass that I have seen landed from the shore - albeit I have not landed one myself yet - to numerous, more exotic foreign fish the likes of which the vast majority of anglers will never catch let alone see in their lifetimes. It’s obviously bass fishing which absolutely obsesses me these days, and obviously it’s a double figure bass which I suppose most anglers into this kind of fishing dream about catching from the shore especially. But as I said, I haven’t landed one yet from the shore, so when I either see one landed from the shore or hear about one that a mate has caught, does the fact that they have caught the magical 10lb+ bass and I haven’t yet make me jealous of their success?

I am convinced that it’s my obsession with photography as well as fishing which I believe removes any feelings of jealousy I might (reasonably?) have when a mate catches the fish of a lifetime. Sure, whilst I’d like to catch a 10lb+ bass from the shore, I guess it doesn’t bother me as much as some anglers - and that’s perhaps for two reasons. Firstly I’ve caught enough “special” fish around this glorious world to give me what I think is perhaps a different sense of perspective to those anglers who have not been as lucky as I have with my experience of sport fishing on a global and not just local scale, and secondly, it’s such a genuine pleasure to be able to take the photos of an angler cradling the fish of a lifetime. Hell, simply being there is enough for me.

I want the photos of such special fish and I’d sure love it if I caught a bass like that one day, but I don’t feel jealous. It’s just too damn special to see fish like that to feel jealous or envious, or at least that’s what I reckon. And nope, that doesn’t remotely make me a good person, rather it’s always going to be the whole fishing experience that does it for me, and whilst I am competitive by nature, for some reason fishing doesn’t bring that side out in me at all. Damn right I would like to catch a fish like that - and I might or indeed might not one day - but you can’t not be swept up in how happy it tends to make somebody feel to achieve a lifetime’s ambition. And as for anglers who don’t get excited about it? Well I would ask what’s the point in them going fishing in the first place?

One thing I will never understand is anything along the lines of so and so didn’t deserve to catch so and so fish because they haven’t been at it for more than a lifetime, haven’t paid their dues (whatever that crap actually means), or didn’t do their own homework and other rubbish like that. You hook that fish and you successfully land it, well I reckon it’s damn well done and you sure as hell “deserve” to beam with joy at catching it.

Like the bass in the photo above. From memory it was Michael’s second ever bass he caught (the bloke on the left), but he hooked it, he landed it, and he damn well “deserved” to be the proud captor. OK, so he was taken to the mark (as I had kindly been a few years previously), he was helped along with baiting up and where to cast etc., but does that then make his catching such a special fish any more or less “deserving” than say my mate Mark and the sheer, glorious joy that came across on the phone when he landed his bass of a lifetime in May last year? No, of course not. I was in Ireland at the time and the only tinge of regret I myself feel is that I wasn’t with him at home in Cornwall to share in the joy of the moment when he landed his first 10lb+ bass from the shore. No offence to our mate Andy, but I wish I had been there with my camera!

And here’s a look at my work in the new issue of Sea Angler magazine that will be in the shops very soon. Thanks Charlie for being so kind as to let me interrupt your fishing to shoot those photos. It will be fascinating to see if that particular spot will fish as well sometime this year as it did for us towards the end of last year………..

A great report about what’s going on with the new bass regs and how they affect the different parties, including us anglers

I’ve been waiting for these SOS guys to publish their “Sea Bass Fishery Update”, and I make no apologies for publishing it in full here on my blog - whilst I would implore you to take a close look here at SOS’s (Save Our Sea Bass) summary of the actual regulations that have come into force, because at the end of the day that is what their reaction below is based on, in truth you’ll get a great overview below as I shamelessly copy and paste their quite excellent summarisation. Nope, nothing’s ever perfect when you mix nature, politics and entirely too many people on this glorious planet, but if you ask me then what has come into being as regards bass stocks is surely a shining example that the noise which anglers are increasingly starting to make is actually making a difference. Please read on and draw your own conclusions, but it remains for me to say a profound thank you to those kind people who give up their time to try and improve our corner as such…………

“Sea Bass Fishery Update – 31 January 2017

Hear Us Roar!

2016 will be remembered in fishing circles as the year recreational anglers found their voice and united with determination to defend bass stocks and recreational bass angling. Anglers, guides, tackle shops, tackle suppliers, and the angling press and media – all coming together to demand a sustainable bass fishery and a fair deal for recreational anglers.

Our sincerest thanks to the many thousands of you who supported the numerous campaigns: the petition in early 2015 against gill nets; the House of Commons debate on bass; the march on George Eustice’s constituency office in Camborne; the lobbying of the EU Commission as they prepared their proposal for 2017 Fishing Opportunities; the lobbying of George Eustice and other Fisheries Ministers in advance of the 2017 Fishing Opportunities meeting, and finally the Government website petition in November to “Get the Nets Out!”

Grubby Politics

At the Fishing Opportunities meeting in Brussels in December, it was agreed by EU Fisheries Ministers that only commercial hook & liners and recreational anglers would be able to target bass. But the UK and Welsh Governments’ attitude to this agreement was disappointing: they put out statements that contradicted this. Defra said they interpreted the agreed text to provide an “allowance” of 250kg per month for fixed netters that included, but was not restricted to, by-catch. In other words, Defra maintained that fixed netters would have a vessel catch limit of 250kg per month and would be able to target bass in 2017.

In response, the EU Commission promptly issued a new draft of the legislation making it crystal clear that it would be illegal for fixed netters to target bass and that the fixed netters’ 250kg per month allowance was only for “unavoidable by-catches”. The UK Government has just corrected its statement on its petition site to match the new law.

The New Rules

On 29 January 2017, the new EU laws for the Northern bass fishery in 2017 came into force. You can view them here.

In short:

  • the rules for recreational anglers have been rolled-over unchanged from 2016: C&R in the first 6 months of 2017 and a 1 fish bag limit in the last 6 months of 2017.
  • commercial hook & liners can land 10 tonnes of bass in 2017 but have a closure in February and March.
  • fixed netters cannot target bass, but have a 250kg per month allowance for unavoidable by-catch.
  • Demersal trawlers and seiners cannot target bass, but have an unavoidable by-catch allowance of 3% of catch with an overall cap of 400kg per month.
  • drift netters and pair trawlers cannot target bass and have no by-catch allowance.
  • Commercial fishing for bass from the shore is illegal and there is no by-catch allowance.

So, what do Save Our Sea Bass think of these new rules?

Impact on the Bass Stock

In June 2016, ICES advised that the bass stock is now below Blim. This means the stock has fallen to such a low level that there is a high probability that the stock’s ability to regenerate itself will be impaired due to insufficient egg production and the stock may fail to recover as expected and remains depleted for extended periods. Accordingly, ICES recommended a zero catch for 2017 to get the stock back to a safe level as quickly as possible.

The EU Fisheries Ministers talk a good game about respecting the science, but seem congenitally unable to follow the scientific advice in full. Recognising this, the EU Commission’s Fishing Opportunities proposal was not for a zero catch, but for 1,000 tonnes of landings, which would increase the stock by 8% (a zero catch would have given a 22% increase).

However, because the EU Fisheries Ministers have allowed “unavoidable by-catch” allowances, which will be difficult or impossible to enforce, it seems likely that landings will be far in excess of the 1,000 tonnes, so the stock will decline again in 2017, meaning tighter restrictions next year.

Impact on Fixed Netters

It will be illegal for fixed netters to fish for bass in 2017, a vitally important step in moving to a sustainable fishery and a fantastic victory for everyone who joined our campaign.

However, the UK and Welsh Governments’ statements after the Fishing Opportunities meeting made it clear that they still support fixed netters being able to target bass, despite their unsustainability. A political fudge has been delivered: fixed netters cannot legally target bass, but instead of being given a “percentage of catch” restriction that would make enforcement easy and ensure that they cannot target bass, they have been given a monthly unavoidable by-catch allowance that is far more than they need for genuine unavoidable bycatch and ensures that it will be extremely difficult to stop fixed netters who illegally target bass.

We await an explanation from the Marine Management Organisation of how it intends to enforce the new law for fixed netters, but to be frank we do not have high hopes – it has been given a virtually impossible job. We will continue to press for a complete ban on fixed netters landing bass.

Impact on Hook & Liners

We are disappointed that no commercial hook & line organisation has publicly come out in support of our campaign for a sustainable bass fishery, but we are pleased that hook & liners are now the only commercial fishermen who can legally target bass.

However, we are extremely unhappy that whilst everyone else in the fishery is suffering pain to help recover the stock, for hook & liners it is business as usual. We have analysed the UK 2013 landings data to see what impact the new 10 tonnes per year restriction would have had:

  • only 1 vessel caught more than the 10 tonnes in the year;
  • 99% of vessels caught less than 3.5 tonnes; and
  • 90% of vessels will not be at all affected unless the restriction comes down to less than 1 tonne.

The closure in February and March to protect the spawning stock sounds meaningful, but in fact is a complete con: in 2013 less than 1% of annual hook & line landings were in February in March!

So, much as we support sustainable commercial hook & line bass fishing, we will be pressing for restrictions that ensure hook & liners play their fair part in saving and regenerating the bass stock.

Impact on Demersal Trawlers and Seiners

The commercial fishing lobby argued that these métiers are needlessly discarding dead bass that is unavoidable by-catch and managed to get the by-catch allowance increased from 1% to 3%, subject to a 400kg per month cap.

We object to this for two reasons:

  • why has this decision been taken without any evidence being provided on the level of discards or whether this is truly unavoidable by-catch?
  • allowing bass to be landed as by-catch and sold provides a profit incentive to catch bass and a disincentive to fish more selectively.

Recreational Fishing

The UK Government has said “We were disappointed we could not move beyond the current scheme and agree a fairer package for anglers.”

George Eustice has listened to recreational bass anglers in 2016 and tells us he wants a fairer deal, but actions speak louder than words. Had the UK Government been truly committed to delivering a fair deal for bass and bass anglers it would have pushed harder for:

  • no commercial bass landings to take place when recreational fishing is restricted to catch & release. Why should a recreational angler be unable to take a bass home to feed his family, when a commercial vessel fishing nearby can catch and land bass?
  • a “percentage of catch” restriction on fixed netters.
  • real restrictions on hook & liners, rather than trying to hoodwink the public with measures that sound meaningful but in truth have no impact.

Cefas report that recreational bass landings have been cut by between 63% and 85%. The 2017 rules repeat the injustice of last year’s measures. We must continue to fight and put even more pressure on George Eustice and the other EU Fisheries Ministers to redress the balance.

Fully Documented Fishery

ICES tell us that actual UK commercial bass landings are 3 times greater than shown by the official landings data. How can anyone manage a fishery without knowing the true level of landings? The EU Commission and the MMO are currently working on this issue and we will keep pressing for urgent action.

MCRS

The current 42cm MCRS will be reviewed by the EU Commission in 2017. It is too low and needs to be increased to 48cm to give bass a chance to mature and reproduce. Now that the bass fishery is recreational and hook & line targeting only, the MCRS can be increased without fear of increased discard mortality or netters complaining that they can’t afford to buy new nets with larger meshes. More mature bass will: enable the fishery to recover quicker; deliver increased profit per kilo for hook & liners; and improve the recreational bass angling experience. A no–brainer.

Bay of Biscay/Golfe de Gascogne

French small scale fishermen have warned that the destruction of the Northern bass stock is being repeated in the Bay of Biscay. Hook & liners’ landings in the first half of 2016 were down 43% on 2015. The EU Commission has found that despite no reduction in fishing effort, landings overall were down 13% in 2015 and down 20% in 2016, which strongly suggests the Southern bass stock is declining rapidly.

In November, the EU Commission floated the idea of some restrictive vessel catch limits for the Bay of Biscay. But it appears this idea has been dropped and the French Government has introduced its own, inadequate rules:

  • A 2017 catch limit of 2,490 tonnes (a level that was only exceed twice in the last 7 years, according to French small scale fishermen).
  • No allocation of the 2,490 tonnes to specific métiers, so it fails to give priority to sustainable hook & line fishermen.
  • An increase in the MCRS from 36cm to 38cm, still far too low to protect juvenile bass.
  • A 5 fish a day daily bag limit for recreational anglers.

Conclusion

In 2016, we have made great progress towards a sustainable recreational and commercial hook & line bass fishery – EU Fisheries Ministers have accepted our arguments about their environmental and socio-economic superiority. But commercial fishing pressure remains too high for a stock that is in grave danger and the new rules will not deliver the cuts that are needed.


The fight continues! We will need your continuing support in 2017 to force the fishery managers to cut commercial bass landings to a sustainable level."

Guest blog post - Keith White - Learning to sew, part 4 of a needlefish series

Thanks again to Keith for these guest blog posts, wow has this stuff got me thinking about things for 2017! I am off to France later today to spend some time with the Fiiish people so I’m not sure if I will be able to get any more blog posts up this week. Take it away Keith……..

“Following on from the last part ... Open your minds young padawans.

If you are going to make your own or get a custom builder to make you some, please consider all the facts laid out beforehand in this article. Don’t just guess, think about it and then, choose the BEST POSSIBLE MATCH.

It might be, slow sinking, 6”, tail weighted, 1.25oz, white. It might be you need 2 or 3 types to start and you might indeed, not know at all. In the latter case, a slow sink 6” green needle, centre weighted cannot fail to catch if fished correctly. Buy or make 3. One to use, one to lose and one to start your friend off. The more of you actually fishing these styles and comparing data, catches etc the more you will learn about what you need, when, where and how they should behave. It’s not rocket science.

When I go to sinking styles, like DEEP runs and gullies I might want a needlefish but I’ll probably run a bucktail through first. I’ll match the length by simply adding a trailer of pork or similar. Much cheaper and yet, just as effective, fished in many ways much like a needlefish and yet, also not so much in that they SINK and, no matter how much you read the quote...“Float the bucktail through the run”, bucktails, ‘lead cast’ bucktails do NOT ******* float... LOL

What was meant by that statement that still persists in books and on the internet is the balance between the weight, the sink rate, the retrieve speed of the reel , elevation of the rods tip and the waters depth and speed. In a side sweep, you can, with practice, just retrieve at a steady pace and just about maintain a depth for some period as it does so. The same is true of a straight retrieve to some degree.

The thing to start taking from all of this is, many of these swing, drift, and trot styles are LINKED. What is learned in one, is often applicable in another. Sometimes not but generally yes, it’s true.

This being in unison with the water medium isn’t by itself, any better, or worse than simply casting at retrieving a lure on standard tackle in the standard way. Well, by itself it isn’t. Where it really starts to pay off is around marks where water conditions affect the way bait holds and swims and of course, at night, bait behaves in a much more benign way.

Bass know both what these baitfish look like and, how they behave in such water. What would happen in you saw a car driving the wrong way up the motorway? Is that normal? No, it would likely distress you or damn well should anyway…

So why then, can’t we try to ensure our lures blend in that bit better? Of course we can by trying to present such lures in the ways we have already described above.

On a more, just in touch swing, or a true drift, a properly designed needlefish, or rigged senko etc will align MUCH faster with the right ‘line control’. You will get all the little swings and nuanced side to side movements and a more stable drift depth wise too because as we discussed previously, an over tight line creates DRAG!

Now take this idea and apply it.

Wave faces travel UP, longshore drifts are more lateral. Rip heads often cycle and have both outgoing conduits and incoming ones either side. Yet the vast majority of people casting into surf cast straight out, and retrieve straight back in ?

White water from swell sucks and surges, lapping the shoreline and creating all sorts of complex currents below. Things sink faster in white water too remember as it’s full of air. Yet people seem insistent on fighting nature with their lures."

Can there sometimes be so much bait around that it negatively affects your shore fishing?

If like me you happily accept that we will never come close to knowing it all as regards nature and the fish we chase, do you still ask yourself a whole heap of questions and try to come up with a logical answer anyway? Granted, said answer may well be way off the mark, but it can be fun to look for a reason as such, and recent happenings around here in south east Cornwall have got the old grey cells a churning…………

Whilst this winter is another classic example of never knowing what you’re going to get weather wise and of course we have no choice but to take what is thrown at us, I really, really look forward to November and December around here for bass fishing. Some years we have hardly been able to get near the sea for the conditions, but with the so called winter we have been having down here we had a lot of what I would call pretty damn good bass fishing conditions around here in that say eight week run up to Xmas - ok, so the fishing was not bad at times, but to be honest it wasn’t nearly as good as the conditions we were getting suggested it might be.

We caught a bunch of fish away from the south east of our rather wonderful county, but I’d have expected to see more bass with the time we put in close to home. There could of course be a whole heap of reasons for this - with overfishing of course being at the top of any list - but with what was going on around here, I can’t help but wonder if for a lengthy period there was that much food around not very far offshore that the bass would have been expending unnecessary energy by coming inshore to look for food. Surely predatory fish go to where the easiest and most plentiful food source is?

I would suggest that while it could be a giggle to hook a fish like this from the shore on your bass fishing tackle, I would also suggest that it would be a mighty fine way to try a new spool of braid out, 'cos this beauty's taking the lot!

I would suggest that while it could be a giggle to hook a fish like this from the shore on your bass fishing tackle, I would also suggest that it would be a mighty fine way to try a new spool of braid out, 'cos this beauty's taking the lot!

As much as bluefin tuna are one of the most impressive fish I have ever been lucky enough to see and indeed catch in my lifetime, I refuse to believe that they were stationed off our coastline for a bit of a laugh. If there is one thing that spending a lot of time with John Quinlan over in Kerry has taught me, it’s that I am guilty of not thinking enough about searching for the food that bass want to eat when I am out chasing bass - and with there being a load of bluefin tuna hanging around here, I must assume that there was a hell of a lot of food for them, indeed surely that was the sole reason that those magnificent fish were here?

So if it’s something like serious numbers of herring that the tuna were hanging around to stuff their colourful faces on, does it make sense that most self-respecting bass would also be joining in on the feeding frenzy and not then wasting energy to come close inshore and be so kind as to crawl up our lines as they can sometimes do around the end of the year? Or is my attempt at applying some sort of logical thought here merely my ineptitude as a human being and not understanding something else that was going on?

If our local coastline had been blown to pieces by winter storms then we’d have never been able to notice how things didn’t seem quite “normal”, but when you get good conditions you can’t help but think about previous years when you got similar conditions. I remember a trip I did to the south coast of Ireland a few years ago now in October when we were getting report after report about how many herring I think it was that the boats we could see just offshore were landing, and with some pretty tidy conditions in fact we struggled like crazy to catch bass. OK, so with what I know now I wonder if we did some different things (white senkos at night for a start) whether we’d have caught more fish, but that week or so has always stuck in my head as being a potentially classic example of there being that much easy food around for the bass that it actually impacts negatively on our fishing.

And the pre-Xmas period we have just had is now another example that sits in my head as a couple of months that I can’t explain. We hammered a heap of bass up on the north coast but might then nip out locally in some conditions that you’d be literally running down the cliffs to get a lure in the water, yet come away with things just not firing like you’d expect. For sure there might have been a hundred different factors impacting upon all this, but I don’t remember hearing about all those bluefin tuna being around like that before, and my brain can’t help but wonder at these potential coincidences. Who really knows, but then yet again isn’t that the whole crux of this fishing thing that we so love?

Over two years with the Major Craft Truzer 9’ 10-30g lure rod - so what do I think of it now?

I am lucky to get the chance to mess around with a bunch of different lures rods, and whilst there does seem to be an amazing array of good lure fishing gear out there these days, it’s only natural that a few items really, really float my boat in a major way. I’ll tell you what I most enjoy about this 9’ 10-30g Major Craft Truzer that I have here - leaving it be, trying other lure rods out for a while, and then coming back to it and realising all over again how frigging perfect this rod is for me and my lure fishing for bass. If you read this blog I am sure you have noticed how many lure rods I get to play around with, but for all the gear I am lucky enough to try out, I haven’t found a 9’ long lure rod that I like as much as this near as dammit perfect (for me) Major Craft Truzer……..

OK, so I’ve heard a bunch of anglers complaining about their Truzers breaking on them, and whilst I can’t help but wonder if at least some of it is angler error and either not realising so or simply not admitting to it, I do also wonder if somewhere along the line there was a genuine problem with some of them. I have never heard anything from Major Craft to say there had been a dodgy batch of rods or anything like that, but nothing untoward has ever happened to me with any of the Truzer family of rods that I have fished with, so I am not about to damn a rod based on stuff I hear versus the rod I actually have here continuing to perform so perfectly for me.

I reviewed this 9’ Truzer in September 2014 (check here), and whilst as I said earlier I try out numerous different rods and therefore have not been fishing exclusively with it, it’s had one hell of a lot of fishing time with me over the last couple of years - and without a doubt I like the thing even more than when I wrote that review. Putting out a 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick on this 9’ Truzer is just awesome. I just feel so well connected to the lure if that makes sense, and because the rod is so incredibly steely, when a bass hits it feels like a glorious jolt of electricity right down my arm. I can still miss the frigging fish though, as indeed I did the other day!

I am more than comfortable fishing a decent 9’6’’ lure rod these days, but if you tied me down and allowed me to use the one length of lure rod for my bass fishing, I reckon I’d settle for 9’ long. Why? Partly because this 9’ Truzer is so damn good, and partly because I slightly prefer working various soft plastics especially on the slightly shorter rod. Does it matter? Not really when a rod like the sub-£200 Major Craft Skyroad Surf 9’6’’ is so ridiculously good, as indeed is the more expensive HTO Shore Game 9’6’’, but then I pick the 9’ Truzer up again, clip on say a DoLive Stick or IMA Salt Skimmer, and I can’t help but feel the love all over again.

This rod is every single thing I want from a regular casting weight bass lure fishing rod. It’s so incredibly steely and fast and responsive - which I like very much, but of course you may not - and I just love lure fishing with it. I can lengthen my drop a bit, slow down a touch, and put a Patchinko out a country mile if needs be, but for all the different hard and soft lures I have fished with on this 9’ Truzer, nothing gives me that feeling of connection as deftly (what, me?) fishing a soft plastic like the OSP DoLive Stick, or bumping a Black Minnow around in a bit of current or surf. If a lure rod is meant to transmit as much information to you as possible, I would suggest that no other 9’ lure rod I have fished with has ever done that job to a higher level than this sublime Major Craft Truzer 9’ 10-30g. In time a 9’ lure rod must surely come along that I will end up liking more than this thing, but wow is it going to have to be one hell of a bit of carbon to knock the Truzer off top spot………..

I’ve made a video about how I’m fishing with lures like the OSP DoLive Stick

There’s a high chance that what you see in this short video ain’t nothing remotely new to you, but I make no apologies for that - because in truth I remain convinced that a lot of anglers getting into lure fishing for bass especially are confused as hell about how to go about fishing with soft plastics such as the DoLive Stick. By no means do I mean to say via this video that this is THE way to fish with a lure like this, rather it’s one simple but pretty damn effective way to do it, and it’s how I have been fishing with this lure and catching bass……….

And it’s also an exercise on my part at shooting a bit of video with a specific goal in mind, and then trying to cut that footage together in a way that flows well and also shows what I am trying to get across in an easy to understand way. Sounds simple if you know all about this sort of stuff, but I don’t, and I am trying to teach myself a bit of it and see where it goes. I also got the GoPro out to try a bit of showing the DoLive Stick underwater as we work it, and it’s a big thanks to Mark for helping me out with it all. We also lucked out the other morning because it was absolutely stunning, and whilst this doesn’t actually help with showing how we’re fishing with these lures, I am a sucker for a decent drop of light as you know. I can’t help seeing the world of fishing as a stills photographer, but I am enjoying a bit of messing around with video on this new Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera I’ve been shooting for a while now.

OK, so the video is based around the OSP DoLive Stick, but I’d fish other “twitchbait” style soft plastics such as the MegaBass Cattle Tongue, MegaBass DOT Crawler and even a senko like this. I don’t have a lifetime of experience at fishing for bass with lures, but neither do many of us who have fallen so hard for this style of fishing, and at least this simple video is a visual demonstration of something that I reckon a bunch of anglers could have a go at and benefit from.

Steve with a 9lb bass taken on a slowly straight-retrieved senko during the day

Steve with a 9lb bass taken on a slowly straight-retrieved senko during the day

Quite aside from this “working” such lures around though, I have also seen a lot of big bass caught over in Ireland especially by doing nothing more than winding a senko in at say a quarter of the speed at which we might retrieve the same lure at night, as per the video below. And yes, I know it’s meant to be that you wind lures slower at night than you do in the day, but with the fish I have seen caught and also caught myself, I would suggest that there are many different ways to skin the proverbial cat……………..