Please consider entering this raffle to win these stunning handmade lures, with all money raised going to such a worthwhile cause

I post a bit on the WSF forum, and a lad from there emailed me the other day to ask if I might consider trying to help out a bit with a raffle they are running to try and raise some more money to help look after this lad Geraint. Via the links below you can read all about this brave lad, and his story is something that hits home hard to me as my eldest girls suffers from asthma. I know the lad Hendrik Strydom who makes these lures, and take it from me, what he does with wood is just out of this world (you can find him on Facebook) - rather than me waffle on though, below is the email I received with all the details of how to enter this raffle to win these handmade lures. My sincere thanks for entering if you are so inclined……………

"Hi guys, We have some pretty amazing members on this forum, but I very briefly want to tell you about just two. I sincerely hope you will be touched by either, or both, enough to inspire you to help in any small way you can by dipping into your pockets to buy a ticket, or few, for these amazing hand made lures (all photos here are of the lures and box they will come in, thanks to Hendrik for allowing me to use them)."

"The first is Chris Richards - Chris has a son, Geraint, an asthmatic, who shares his father's love of fishing. Two years ago, aged 11, Geraint suffered an asthma attack on the way back from school that was so serious it affected his breathing enough to put him into a coma, and cause him permanent brain damage. I link two articles on this, here and here."

"Now, I am not a father, so I cannot even come close to comprehending the emotional devastation this fleeting moment of tragedy must have had on Chris, but many of you will be, and will understand only too well. Having a child hospitalised in these circumstances is the stuff of nightmares. Just imagine it for a split second."

"Or, to be Geraint. One minute a carefree young boy, able to happily fish alongside his father. The next, to be struck down and have all the little things we take for granted every single day snatched away by a cruel hand of fate. Chris or Geraint could be anyone of us on here. Any one of us. There but for the grace of God, and all that."

"The other person I want to tell you about is Hendrik Strydom. My story on him is just a simple one. Just that he has put himself out, and tried to help Geraint and Chris in the only way he knows how. By putting in huge amounts of time, effort and skill to produce these four amazing hand made lures to be raffled in their aid. They will come boxed as well. They are just stunning."

"Now, not only am I not a dad, I am also lazy and rather selfish, so the accounts of these guys leave me feeling unbelievably humbled. They don't think they are heroes, but they are. They are the little people who deal with life's cards, or help make the world a better place through incredible selflessness and thought. My comparatively tiny contribution to this cause is merely to tell you about them, and about Geraint, and to bring this raffle to your attention."

"All four lures, boxed, will be raffled for £5 a ticket to raise money for Geraint's care and treatment. The closing date will be the evening of Sunday, 30th October, with the draw taking place on Monday 31st. If you are into bass angling, or want some lures for a tropical holiday, then these lures will sell themselves. If you are not, try to justify buying a ticket to win them to give to a friend or relative? And, if you cannot do that, just buy a ticket in lieu of buying Hennie a beer for the time and effort he made to help someone else. He deserves that. So does Chris."

"More importantly, so does Geraint. Giving £5 is another way of being a hero too. There are a few ways to buy tickets -

Bank transfer £5, or a multiple of that, to:

Bank - Carter Allen

Account number - 56081080

Sort code - 16 57 10

OR, send a PayPal 'gift' payment to -

ddraig69@hotmail.co.uk

You can transfer money over the counter using those same account details.

Take a picture with your phone of the counter slip or send proof of your payments (screenshot etc.), and email it to me at benwaddington@mac.com

Even non-members of this forum can join in, so please do circulate this amongst your friends, family, or anyone who might wish to help. Thank you, on Geraint's behalf. Tight lines, Ben."

An introduction to needlefish lures for bass fishing - Guest blog post by Keith White

A profound thanks to the Jersey based angler Keith White for taking the time to write me this guest blog post, and if you have never heard of or let alone fished for bass with a needlefish (lure), then this introduction to a whole different world of bass fishing is outstanding. I am fully aware via his generous sharing of information that Keith has been fishing with needlefish style lures for many years now, and with some simply incredible success rates at times, but my knowledge of these sandeel imitations is at best very limited. And yes, the name needlefish is somewhat misleading, because as you will read below, a needlefish lure is imitating a sandeel amongst other things.

Why my interest in needlefish lures? Quite simply because straight-retrieving senkos at night is opening up a lot of bass fishing to me, but there are of course many occasions when a relatively lightweight soft plastic stick ain’t going to cut it with more lively sea and wind conditions - and unlike a few years ago, I am becoming more and more comfortable using lures that to us look like they are doing essentially nothing in the water, yet to the fish must be doing just the right thing because they hammer bass. As I said, I know essentially squat about fishing with needlefish, but I am increasingly interested in them as a hard lure which could help me out with night fishing in bouncier conditions and/or current runs etc. - and then on from that there is obviously a whole heap of info to learn about these simple looking but hard to track down lures (you can find a few here if that helps). Thanks again Keith……………

Photo courtesy Keith White

Photo courtesy Keith White

“Where do I start. OK, the beginning sounds good and though this is simply an overview, it’s probably in everyone’s interest to be accurate. In fact, I have almost 20 years of history with this lure family in British waters but the story goes back way before then. No one really knows who made the first needlefish lure, only the history of it in striped bass lore was recorded and I’d hazard a guess, even that is a sketchy recollection. So, somewhere back in the 1970’s, the striper men discovered the needlefish but it was used in the guise as a ‘sandeel profile’ lure opposed to the way similar looking lures have been used in much warmer waters for other species. The latter is more a skipping, ‘walk the dog’, even slashing style for warm water game fish and yes, of course there is always crossover and I’m sure sure some of the needlefish lures themselves will serve in multi purpose roles. However,  the needlefish in NE USA striper circles is a lure of stealth, of distance, of inaction. It didn’t take long to become one of mystery and magic either and to this day, many are scared of it’s simplicity and effectiveness because many buy, try and ‘fail’. In fact, many would never unlock its secrets even with easy on the shore exposure to the lure by other ‘sharpie’ surfcaster’s smashing big bass after big bass. The myth about this magical stick, stuck.… LOL

So, this stick with hooks on it was accounting for some remarkable catches. Plug builder’s had tried many variations and to this day, many exist. Some were also made in mass production like the super strike series and these have been, very successful used in context. However, the needlefish as a lure, simple as it is, is still surrounded in myth and disbelief despite many efforts to dispel it. Why you ask?

Photo courtesy Keith White

Photo courtesy Keith White

Well, let me go back quickly to the late 90’s. I was being shown, first hand, the use of needlefish lures at Philbin Beach MV USA. Lets just say, I got a hammering I’ll never forget but I learned lots. From my perspective, I was doing ‘everything’ my mentor and teacher was doing. But 36 striped bass to 1 later, I kinda had to concede, something was not right. I learned for the first time, and this is coming from someone with a very open angling mind, that the bass wanted what they expected and though they wouldn’t refuse other presentations, the needlefish was simply offering what they expected, were used to seeing and, representative of what they would feed on at that time of year. That being sandeel and ‘spearing’. For all intent and purposes, we get the same sandeels and, spearing are ‘smelt’. From underneath, a very similar profile and, for the large part, these baitfish, like most baitfish, shoal and are largely inactive by night. In fact, most bait, day or night, is largely inactive and this idea of bass chasing bait around all day long has been asking to be lined up against a wall and shot for a very long time. My mentor’s response to my questions about why he whacked me with a baseball bat of fish was always “You have to believe in it”. I did, I’d seen it first hand but I know now, years later, what he actually meant and, that will only come with experience.

Anyway, cutting a long story very short, after a period of years, we had finally overcome initial problems with needlefish in Britain (mostly supply and dollars as Davy Jones started his collection) and we started to enjoy good success. Success that grew and grew. Some years were so fruitful, that needle-caught fish alone, spilled into the ‘thousands of bass’ on a single lure type. Basically, it works.

Photo courtesy Keith White

Photo courtesy Keith White

Now, years later, suddenly, people are asking questions about the ‘inactive style’ lures. Most have done this backwards as we only developed the ‘soft needlefish’ system of senko’s/Sluggo’s/Hogy’s on weedless swimbait hooks etc after many years of losing hard lures to rock, reef and weed beds. The soft style of fishing ‘sticks’ is very similar indeed to ‘hard needlefish’ but each have their shiny sides where they excel in given conditions. There is much to ‘soft needlefish’ or sometimes called ‘senko’ fishing for bass that deserves a series of articles by itself. However, here, we are talking about hard needlefish.

So, calm bays, weedy, 2 or 3ft deep or weed sticking up over just covering reef … Yea, I’m going to fish a weedless ‘soft needle’. But what about those nights when the fish are 60 – 100 yards away, the water is deeper, there is a strong current, a riptide, some surf, combo’s of the above and, let’s add an onshore wind of F4 or above into the cake bowl for a laugh. Clearly, trying to cast a weightless, weedless 6” senko that at best might total 18g isn’t likely to be my first choice to make 20 meters yet alone 60. In fact, being realistic, it simply won’t work.

We are now entering the world of the hard needlefish, and this magic wand of a stick. The latter, well, it’s up to you to prove that is it exactly that, a myth. It’s just a lure and one that catches fish without seemingly offering anything you might associate with bass catching action. Lets be careful here, “What YOU associate with bass catching action”. Well, what exactly is that?

Who said a lure has to roll? To wiggle? To Dive? Not the bass, then who?

Well, no one of course. There is always a place for minnow style lures, walk the dog style, poppers, jigs, vertical presentations, metals in their many forms but they are all simply slices of the bigger pie. Bass in general are lazy. The bigger they get, generally, the lazier they get and trust me, ask any night diver to watch baitfish and bass interaction and they’ll tell you, the bait does hardly anything and neither do the bass. I’ve seen bass IN shoals of bait, the bait didn’t care, unaware that it’s brethren was being picked off on the night tide. Bass drift with, sometimes intercept and often wait in ambush but, they will if at all possible, do things the ‘easiest way’. Bass feed using negative vortex. Mouth and flared gill’s sucks baitfish in from as much as 3ft away… gone!

So, ok, sometimes, a bass rooting for crab, disturbs a sandeel in a bed and like a flock of birds, you get a chain reaction of flee response and yes, this many, momentarily, trigger a pursue response in bass otherwise engaged and in a passive mood.

In fact, let’s take this this concept, just a little further without getting all scientific…

1) Inactive Bass

2) Passive Bass

3)Active Bass

In general, over observation on many tides, these 3 states of bass mood and awareness could describe most of the bass you might encounter. An active lure might appeal to group 3 but could spook groups 1 and 2. However, a needlefish, or a passive lure, a lure that doesn’t do a lot, doesn’t offend, doesn’t excite, is … well, just cruising or drifting along, like all other bass food sources, blends in and thus, in theory, is appealing to all 3 groups. If we suggest, each group owns 33.3% of bass numbers (very general and just for example as more complex owing to tides, conditions etc) you are by fishing the flashy minnow, banging away with a walk the dog lure etc, appealing to just 1/3rd of available fish. The needlefish or family type of passive lure, appeals to 100%, or ‘could’ in theory. This is already getting longer than I wanted so let’s cut to the chase.

Needlefish are cast, either to be swung on current, eased through surf or retrieved at various paces through calmer bays. All of that and more, works. If I had to suggest a colour, and colour isn’t that important to me but I would suggest ‘mid green’ as this will work in all day and various moon states. Size wise, 5 – 7” would be a good range on ‘our bass’  but I have needles 9”, 12” long and all have caught bass.

We have talked about the Super Strike needles and I carry 2 types. The 1oz and the 1.5oz. Both sink, quickly, both cast more than well enough and, if you have 6ft of cleanish water over surf or anywhere really, or a current, a rip, the super strike is a go-to choice. You simply cast, and retrieve, as a slow to moderate pace in calmer bays (speed is determined by reel size, speed of ratio, line size, cast length, needlefish size and THEN weight). If you say, keep snagging the bottom with a 1oz sized Super Strike needle, a 1.5oz needlefish actually might not as it has a larger surface area. It’s all hydrodynamics… lol, I digress.

As I said, we match the needlefish lure, to the prevailing conditions and, depth of water and, the type of ground over which said needlefish will be cast and swung or retrieved. Let me say, I cast 70 meters with one of my super slow sinking 7” needlefish in a left → right sweep. No surf, simply current. I’d cast, pick up the slack and, just make sure, as the needle is travelling (swinging), my line contact is just enough, to let it complete the ‘arc’ but, not simply fall to bottom like a rock with too small a life jacket. In fact, all needlefishing is like this, a balancing act.

There are many design types and most of course will have a ‘mark or area influenced heritage’. My own needlefish suit British style rods, lines and reels, are designed to cast, deal with currents and sweeps. Others deal with surf AND sweeps, others might float and simply be extensions of ‘wake lures’. I might use one as a sub-surface walk the dog style lure too but, that, outside of the more tropical waters and stickbait work, isn’t the design remit of the US style ‘sandeel emulating’ needlefish.

As I’m writing this, I’m sweeping snow off the mountain. I could try to add a lot more but it would likely only serve to confuse. Just take it from me, I have been hugely successful using various needles across such a wide range of water and in recent times, others have reported some really remarkable catches using not just hard needlefish but ‘soft style’ needle fish lure types too.

This is just the beginning.

You will note, I said we make our own. This wasn’t really by choice initially as most US style needlefish are designed for stripers and rods/reels/line far in excess power wise than would ever be needed for our own bass. However…, some do work, some are just fine and you can do some homework and find stuff in the right weight and size ranges by looking at NE USA sources. I’m certain at some point, we’ll have to let some of our needle’s go. You really need the ‘right’ needle for the right job and something that ‘looks the job’ might be rubbish and completely unsuitable. I was talking with Henry about this ‘gap’ in supply and filling it, well, it’s going to be a case of hard work and research for now for those interested or, until if ‘demand’ (demanded it), sorry… lol.

Photo courtesy Keith White

Photo courtesy Keith White

Local builders of lures could start a garage industry on salt water wooden lures. Yes, super strike are plastic, most of the other needles you need and use will likely be wood. With wood, heavy doesn’t always mean sinking, or indeed, fast sinking. One of our best designs sinks around 1’ per 5 seconds and yet weighs 1.5oz. However, anyone attempting such a build project would need to understand the needlefish and the weighting options and arrangements or you would be just as well attaching some hooks to a broken pool cue section. Weighting, planing angles, hook sizes (type of wood) are all in the critical balance that in turn, gives the stick it’s magic.

Learn to trust the wood and look after it. Do as I say, not what I do and wash your wooden lures after use and ‘dry them’ slowly at room temperature. Wood is organic, it breathes, it shrinks and swells with humidity and the seasons. It’s alive! No wonder the bass love to eat it.”

Keith White 2016

 

Is it worth spending any more than £20 these days on a spool of braid for UK and Irish lure fishing?

I have been fishing a bit lately with the rather lovely and not remotely cheap Daiwa Morethan 12 Braid, and whilst it seems to be a fantastic braid to lure fish with (so far), I am at a bit of a loss to understand what more it might be giving me over the two 8-strand braids that for me have completely changed my opinion on what I reckon it now costs to buy a spool of seriously “proper” braid - and these days that figure is under £20, thanks to Daiwa’s own J-Braid and the Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid. My review of these two outstanding braids is here if that helps.

OK, so this around £50 per 135m spool (yes, it’s not cheap!) of Daiwa Morethan 12 Braid feels very thin, and if the figures here are to be believed then it’s a little thinner again than the equivalent 8-strands - but I can’t verify these figures of course, and at the end of the day when you’ve got a couple of sub-£20 8-strands which are incredibly thin already, it begs the question how thin do you really need to go for a mainline? I am sure there are further benefits to be gained from a 12-strand braid that I don’t know about or am quite simply missing because I am just not good enough to recognise them, but at the same time I can’t fault the cheaper ones one single bit.

For all that this Daiwa Morethan 12 Braid is fishing absolutely perfectly for me and it sure does feel like a seriously high-end braid (slightly different feel to an 8-strand, kinda feels solid as opposed to “woven” if that makes any sense), Daiwa themselves have in my opinion gone and seriously shaken the braid market up - but why? Because their own sub-£20 J-Braid is so damn good that I just can’t find a single reason now for spending any more money on a braid for my own lure fishing. Same with the equally outstanding Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid, indeed both are as good as each other in my mind.

Is it me here missing the point of this expensive Daiwa Morethan 12 Braid though? It’s a beautiful braid to lure fish with - it flies out, no hints of any wind knots so far (always the fault of a reel or a braid of course, and never the angler!), it knots well, it does seem to really cut through the wind, and if money was never an object I’d happily buy plenty of it and fill a few different spinning reels up with it - but for most of us, money is a big consideration when we buy our gear, and because their own J-Braid is so damn good I am struggling to find a reason these days to use braid that costs any more. Which of course is a good thing for the angler.

Some anglers are going to want to buy the most expensive gear regardless, and that’s up to the individual. I have tried to find something that niggles me about both these two sub-£20 8-strands but I can’t. Both are in my opinion flawless braids and I just love how they are such good value for money. Have Daiwa made a mistake by launching their J-Braid when they themselves have far more expensive braids to sell? I would guess they know exactly what they are doing, but I do wonder sometimes when their own J-Braid is so damn good.

What about something more rough and tumble like wrasse fishing though? Sure, you could turn to the tried and tested PowerPro because it’s a 4-strand and it handles rocky stuff pretty well, but as for myself? I now simply turn to the stronger and just as cheap 0.18mm/26.5lbs Daiwa J-Braid or the 0.18/28lbs Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid - nope, I don’t need a mainline that strong for a fish that ain’t going to reach 10lbs, but a bit of extra thickness in my mind gives me that bit more abrasion resistance. In reality 0.18mm is still a hell of a thin mainline and if you felt the need to you could quite easily go bass fishing with a braid like this, indeed I have been trying them out on a heavier lure rod/larger spinning reel combination and they seem to fly out just fine in really heavy conditions. Hell, you could go thicker again with both these sub-£20 braids for wrasse and even pollack fishing, and still I reckon you’re not losing anything at all when at the end of the day all you are really doing is bumping small leads around on the bottom and then skull-dragging fish out of their rocky lairs - which is some might fine fun in my book, as per the short video below of one of our clients hooked into a rather nice shore pollack over in Kerry last year. I do love the bit of guiding work I do with John over in Ireland, but when you see pollack like this around you don’t half want to grab a rod yourself!

Do you have a tendency to stick to specific techniques/lures that have worked at specific marks in the past, and can this affect your catches?

Well I know I do. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t mind admitting that I turn to certain lures and techniques at specific marks where they have worked well for me before, and I would hazard a guess that a lot of you do this - at least as a kind of default anyway, and then chop and change according to conditions and whether you start catching fish or not. Some locations by their nature tend to call for a certain approach, and we all know how the whole confidence thing is so damn important in any kind of fishing. If you have caught before at a specific mark on a specific lure and a specific technique, it’s only natural to do the exact same thing again and again……..

On the flipside though, how often do you fish a spot you know really well in the way that you have done so well on in the past, only this time you catch sod all? Talk naturally turns to something along the lines of oh well, there were obviously no fish there today because we didn’t catch them when on similar tides, conditions, etc. we smashed them before - but is that always the case? Would a very different approach have found you a few fish, or were there really no fish around? Do we become a bit blinkered sometimes because we naturally default to what we know has been successful in the past? I like to think that I am an open minded angler, and certain fishing related instances really bounce around my brain when they are actually based around spots that I know and fish myself - when somebody fishes a spot that I know in a way that I have never done and then catches a heap of fish, well I would be beyond stupid not to sit up and take notice and think about how I could then incorporate aspects of what they have done into my armoury………….

An angler I know who happens to firstly be bloody good at fishing, and secondly grew up spending a lot of (family holiday) time fishing the exact same area of Kerry that I am now lucky enough to spend time around with this co-guiding work I do with John Quinlan - well this angler fished the Irish Bass Festival this year and based himself in Tramore on the south coast of Ireland. He is getting to know this part of Ireland bit by bit, but he has no preconceived notions if you like about how certain spots “should” be fished (which of course makes no sense anyway) - a few days before the festival started, this bloke wandered down to a spot that is well known by plenty of lure anglers. I guess he would feel a little naked without a few of those discontinued Bass Bullet lures in his box of tricks (and yes, this blog post does link into my discussions about long-range surf fishing recently, check here, here and here for example), and why on earth would he know that many anglers who fish this particular spot will tend to turn to those orange, white and yellow Savage Gear Sandeels, or at least something along those lines. Why you might ask? Because they have smashed fish on those lures at that particular spot plenty of times before.

But on this particular occasion this UK angler saw loads of birds working in behind the pretty lively surf, and because where he grew up bass fishing it’s perfectly natural to firstly know how to read and fish these conditions when there’s obviously a load of bait around, and secondly he’s gone prepared to fish (surf) conditions with a sufficiently powerful rod (Major Craft Skyroad 9’6’’ 15-42g) to really get his Bass Bullets out there, well let’s put it this way - he frigging smashed ‘em. On that first session at this spot he landed 25 bass in the 4-8lbs range, and that in anybody’s book is some serious bass fishing. The next day he went back and found good conditions again and landed 20 bass in the 3-6lbs range, and on the third session down there the conditions weren’t nearly as good but he still landed 5 bass around 4-5lbs.

Now all these bass were taken by belting out a Bass Bullet and then cranking it back at a speed which makes it work as a surface lure - he told me that at some points there were so many bass around that they would hit the lure the moment it came up on the surface, and then if the odd fish came off another one would then smash into the lure. I don’t see how lure fishing for bass is going to get much more exciting than taking them off the top at range in a big surf, but the simple fact is that I have never, ever gone to this spot equipped to fish like this guy did. Have I been missing out? Well I have to assume a big fat yes siree, because the simple fact is that the methods that have worked so well for other anglers in the past at this spot don’t always work - granted, there aren’t always going to be bass there, but what about when the conditions look just about perfect but we struggle?

I bet most of us here have got locked into certain lures and techniques at certain spots, but how often you do go to these spots prepared to do something totally different to what you would have done before? What this guy did was not a fluke, but whilst I know a couple of guys who might do a bit of long-range shore jigging at this spot, I don’t know of another angler who has deliberately fished there with ultra long-range surface lures. This is but one example though, and my questions here of course revolve around any kind of lure fishing that you or I might be dialled into but are then ignoring another potentially more successful way of doing things. Does that make sense? Sure, we might already be doing exactly the right thing at the right time in the right place, but what are the odds of that? I sure as hell am happy to admit that the more I learn about this lure fishing thing, the more I realise how little I actually know, and it excites the hell out of me. Nothing floats my boat in fishing more than learning new stuff. Have a good weekend.