Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket review - around £100 to £120

Well this is a first, and if you’d have asked me even half way through last year whether I could imagine myself sitting down to write a blog review of a lifejacket I’d have most likely laughed at you - yet here we are. I hope that I am proof enough that leopards can indeed change their spots…….

Before we get going, you need to know a few things - as you might have guessed, I am categorically not an expert on lifejackets, indeed much of my previous experience of wearing them has been having to grab one off a rack and wear one when out on a lake photographing fly fishing. I recall not liking the experience very much because they felt like they were getting in the way and I could feel a bit of bulk around my neck area especially. I had to wear them so I did, but I can’t recall coming away and thinking wow, that was nice and easy.

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And it’s thanks to my contacts at the RNLI that I have a few different lifejackets here to wear and test and see how I get on with. I have been using this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket for a while now, plus a couple of Crewsaver models (an auto-inflate and a manual-inflate version), and a modified Mullion lifejacket arrived a couple of days ago. As with testing and reviewing any of the gear on this blog, I obviously don’t get paid to do so and I will tell it how it is. I can’t control whether you believe me or not and as ever any thoughts and opinions are mine and mine only, and there’s a part of me that feels somewhat hesitant trying to review such an important, potentially life saving bit of fishing tackle such as a lifejacket. Oh, and yes, me calling a lifejacket an item of fishing tackle is entirely deliberate.

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OK, so what’s this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket like? And for ease of my typing, I am going to refer to it as the Deckvest Lite for the rest of this review. Well if this is what a modern lifejacket is like then I am all over it - talk about easy to wear, and as much as one of these things could end up saving our lives one day, they sure as shit ain’t got a chance at doing just that if we aren’t wearing one in the first place. If we as anglers are incredibly resistant to this safety related stuff but for whatever reason choose to become a bit more receptive, then it isn’t going to go much further if what we need to wear is a pain in the backside. I for one am not going to yap about wearing lifejackets if I don’t find it easy to wear one myself.

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And this Deckvest Lite is a breeze to wear. As I said, I don’t have much experience with lifejackets so far, but from the moment I put this thing on I was amazed at just how easy and comfortable it is, indeed my disliking older lifejackets which used to get in my way and bug the hell out of me seems like a distant memory now. My understanding is that this very much engineered to be light and comfortable Deckvest Lite is targeted towards sea users like us. I have grabbed this from the Spinlock website: “This ultra lightweight lifejacket is streamlined for ultimate comfort and agility”, and I have to agree.

Crumbs!

Crumbs!

When you put this Deckvest Lite on, make sure to put it on top of everything else (as per my blog post here), and then it is absolutely vital that you secure the crotch strap - take it from the back of the lifejacket, down between your legs and up your front, and then clip it into the front of the lifejacket. This is an auto-inflate lifejacket, as in if you end up in the drink then that immersion in the water will set the gas cylinder off which very quickly inflates the actual bladder/floatation part of the lifejacket which is rather cleverly folded away into the actual lifejacket itself that you can see here in the various photos and screenshots. I did jump into the RNLI tank with a Deckvest Lite lifejacket on, and like any auto-inflate lifejacket, it inflates quickly and powerfully, and if you don’t secure that crotch strap then there is every chance it will be forced up and over your head from the power of the gas powered inflation, and this of course then takes away from how a lifejacket works. Unlike a PFD or buoyancy aid, a lifejacket is designed to keep you upright and with your head out of the water - which it can’t do if you haven’t secured that crotch strap and it ends up and over your head.

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Wear a lifejacket or don’t wear one, it’s entirely up to you, but at least I can tell you here that for the price of a decent spinning reel, an HTO Nebula lure rod, or about thirty DoLive Sticks (5 packets, and as much as I love ‘em, they are not going to even potentially save my life), you can buy this Deckvest Lite lifejacket which is genuinely so damn easy to wear that when I asked my mate Mark how his first experience of wearing a lifejacket for shore fishing was going last year, he had actually forgotten he was wearing it (this has to beg the obvious question - why not wear one?). Do exactly what you want, but one thing you can’t do anymore is argue that a lifejacket is a pain in the butt to wear for shore fishing because it’s so heavy and bulky and constrictive and expensive, not with how easy this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket is to wear.

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And if you are thinking that an auto-inflate system might not work for you in certain situations (wading out in an estuary or on the beach perhaps?), then you can buy a Spinlock Manual Conversion Kit. I have one here but I haven’t used it yet, and what it does is essentially block water getting to the gas cylinder to set it off. If you were to end up in the drink then you pull the Manual Activation Handle which is of course part of the lifejacket, but for the most part I would suggest that the auto-inflate way is going to be the most applicable to how many of us fish from rocks etc. You can also buy add on lights and spray hoods (more to come on this). There is also a Deckvest Lite + version which I haven’t seen, but I think it adds a couple of lifting straps.

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Don’t go worrying about heavy rain or a bit of spray suddenly setting off the auto-inflate mechanism, because they are designed to go off via immersion in the water. This is the info from the Spinlock website: “UML Mk5 Inflator. This is a water sensitive activation system that uses a compressed paper capsule which dissolves when wet which then releases a spring to puncture the CO2 cylinder. The cap is designed so that only water flowing upwards through the unit will cause it to activate. Water, spray and rain running down the jacket will not cause activation.” You can buy replacement cylinders and you do need to keep an eye on them and replace as needs be. When I learn more about this, you will read it on here.  

This is how an inflated lifejacket is designed to fit around you and keep your head out of the water

This is how an inflated lifejacket is designed to fit around you and keep your head out of the water

The Deckvest Lite I have here provides 170N of buoyancy and weighs a measly 860g - it easily kept me afloat in a choppy RNLI tank with my chest waders on, and I am not exactly wasting away here with my relaxed muscles and a figure that was born to wear tight compression gear! Now you can pretty easily find these Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejackets online, but I am really, really pleased to see that a specialist lure fishing shop and website has taken the plunge so to speak and are now stocking these rather outstanding items of fishing tackle - check out the Lure Heaven website here, and give them a shout if you have any questions. If we as anglers are looking to increase our own fishing safety then we can all help each other by sourcing as much of this safety gear from fishing tackle shops which will then encourage these shops to stock more of it. I would also suggest that if the lifejacket manufacturers start to see anglers buying lifejackets then we stand a better chance of getting this safety gear made even better for our specific needs.

If you turn a headlamp on when you are night fishing, does it really spook the hell out of bass?

I can’t ever remember worrying for one second about using headlamps when I spent all my time bait fishing, but now that bass fishing on lures consumes me so completely, I tend to do all I can to keep any light source off the water when I am night fishing, and when I change lures or do something that requires a bit of light I will use the (pretty dim) red LED on my headlamp if at all possible.

I do all this for two main reasons - firstly my head tells me that keeping light off the water at night has to be a good thing with regards to not spooking bass which are coming in so close under cover of darkness, and secondly because so many anglers who fish for bass at night say that it’s a good thing to do as well. But is it? I was asking some questions on Facebook the other day and a number of people said that in their experience it didn’t make a blind bit of difference whether you turned a headlamp and used the white light settings and so on……….

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So what’s the truth here? I bought a new flashgun for my Fuji X-T2 camera last year and I wanted to give it a quick test in the middle of the night and see if it could properly illuminate my mate Mark when we were fishing. Now it’s obviously not a very exciting photograph, but I would suggest that chucking a lot of bright light from a flashgun in order to illuminate a subject like an angler is what it is - artistically lacking!

It serves a basic purpose though, but the point here is that we had decided to head home because things had been very quiet for a while. I asked Mark if he would mind carrying on fishing for a little bit while I tested the new flashgun out and I remember saying that me chucking a load of very bright and intense flash out across the water and into the night sky would sure as hell scare the hell out of any bass that might still be hanging around. I shot a few photos and then the very next minute and after all that flashgun light had been pumped out there, Mark got hit hard by a bass when things had been so dead for a while. Go figure?

Do any of you here have any thoughts or experiences of all this night time light on the water stuff for bass fishing? I can’t get away from the logic attached to night fishing and not suddenly shining light on the water, but does it really make any difference? Like ninjas we creep around the coastline at night, doing our utmost to keep any headlamp use to an absolute minimum, building up as much night vision as possible, trying not to trip the hell over and rent the night sky asunder when you smash your shin into a sodding boulder, but could we just make life a lot easier and in fact use our headlamps more?

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And what do you know about how red and white lights might affect fish or not? A part of me thinks that using a dim red light to change lures or whatever has to be a good thing because perhaps it isn’t spooking the fish, but perhaps more importantly it’s not messing up my night vision. So as impressive as so many of these modern LED headlamps are these days (and this rather amazing little Fenix HL60R that I have here to test has got five different white light brightness settings for example, from pretty dim but easy to move around up to so incredibly bright that I reckon I could be seen from space), would an LED headlamp that has a bunch of different red LED brightness settings as well as the traditional white LED settings be pretty damn useful for our night fishing and not messing up our night vision? Would it be possible to do all you need to do at night purely on a red coloured LED and different brightness levels?

Or am I barking up the wrong tree because a bit of white light suddenly shining across an inky black sea in the middle of the night doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the bass anyway? I can’t help but think it does, but then I can’t get away from some saying that it doesn’t, or that them shining torches around on night dives doesn’t scare bass away at all and so on. Not only do we consume ourselves with trying to think like fish and convincing those demons in our heads that a new rod or reel or lure purchase is purely because the bass would prefer it (what, me?), but wow wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see what fish do actually see? Surely science can tell us so much but in fact we can never completely know because try as we might we will still never be fish?

 

So sad to hear about another angler who died over the weekend whilst fishing the north coast of Cornwall

I have been away on the Isle of Wight for a few days with my family, but I saw the sad news of another angler who was out fishing on the north coast of Cornwall over the weekend at night, somehow ended up in the sea, and sadly died. Another angler who went out night fishing like so many of us do or have done, never for one second expecting anything to go so tragically wrong, and another family torn to pieces with grief.

From the Port Isaac RNLI Facebook page: “Port Isaac RNLI were paged at 12.43am today (Sunday 18th February) to reports of a fisherman in the water to the eastern side of Castle Beach at Tintagel. The casualty had been reported by members of the group he was fishing with. The inshore lifeboat launched at 12.55am and, with sea and weather conditions being fair, arrived on scene at 1.11am along with Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter Rescue 924. By this time the casualty had been in the water for approximately 40 minutes. The lifeboat and helicopter both began a search of the area with the helicopter using its searchlight. On the first sweep of the search pattern, volunteer lifeboat crew member Mark Grills spotted the casualty in the water about 80 feet from the base of the cliff. The casualty was brought on board the boat and volunteer crew administered first aid. The decision was quickly taken to transfer to Rescue 924 which airlifted the casualty to hospital. Owing to poor weather conditions at Newquay, they made their way to Derriford hospital. Sadly the casualty was pronounced dead on arrival. Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this time.”

I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I know no more than the above, but I do know for a fact that the angler who died was not wearing a lifejacket. Considering that I have successfully spent at least 99.9% of my fishing life studiously avoiding the whole lifejacket thing, I sure as shit am not about to hand out any blame here - fishing on the rocks at any time of day or night is what it is. You spend time by the sea and things can so easily go wrong, and whilst I am not out there bait fishing so much at night like I used to, you know and I know that the angler who so sadly died at the weekend could just as easily have been you or I. Anybody who fishes and believes that it will never happen to them is both deluded and a bloody liar, end of.

I can’t sit here writing this and tell you that if the angler who died had been wearing a lifejacket then they would still be alive this morning, but then I can’t get away from what I have been learning about lifejackets. The angler who went in “with sea and weather conditions being fair” (albeit pretty damn cold) was in the water for “approximately 40 minutes”, and whilst I dread to think how terrifying that was, correctly wearing an auto-inflate lifejacket is going to help buy you more time until you hopefully get rescued. There are never any guarantees and I am assuming that an angler out on the rocks at night in the middle of February knows what they are doing, but it’s the sea and as well as we think we know her, she is mightily unpredictable.

When they are ready I will be able to show you the short films from that tank test day we did with the RNLI, and by no means am I even remotely trying to compare jumping into a not that cold tank with safety divers all around us to that poor angler who ended up in the sea at night in the middle of February and died - but even from our very safe experiences in that tank I can tell you how nasty it is when you’re trying to stay afloat and choppy water keeps trying to flood your airways. I am going to quote from my RNLI day blog post I wrote: “let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible.”

Can you imagine how horrendously scary it was for that poor angler over the weekend, when it’s for real and you are fighting for your life? I try to but I can’t, and to be honest it breaks my bloody heart that another angler has died doing what they love, and another family is broken. I can’t tell you what to do here, but I can say this because it’s my blog and I have done a complete turnaround with regards to my ignoring the bleeding obvious - stop being a macho idiot who reckons it’s never going to happen to them (this was me not long ago at all) and start wearing a lifejacket when you are out on the rocks especially. They don’t cost much but they could end up saving your life. I will be doing some reviews of a few that I have been trying out in due course. They are not expensive and they are so damn easy to wear.

And as I said earlier, this is absolutely nothing to do with me blaming anybody or anything here. I spent many, many years fishing all manner of rocks marks in the middle of the night and in all kinds of conditions, not even knowing anything at all about lifejackets and how they might work for me. I can tell you a bit about lifejackets now because I have been learning plenty about them from some very knowledgeable people, but I wonder how many anglers out there know the first thing about modern, easy to wear lifejackets and how they could save your life? It’s not enough to simply say wear a lifejacket - anglers need to know about them and how much good they can do.

And please, please, please do not for one second rely on a floatation suit. You will see my mate Mark’s experience of wearing one in that RNLI tank in due course, and I can’t believe I used to wear a floatation suit for some of my winter fishing especially, feeling kinda safe in the very mistaken belief that if I ended up in the sea it would save my life. Sure they are nice and warm, but they are categorically not a lifejacket, indeed my understanding is that they are actually meant to be worn together with a lifejacket - but how many floatation suit companies do you see telling you this? I will be writing more about this when the short films are finished from our testing day, but I am mentioning this here because I was alerted to the fact that a ‘fishing expert’ from the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers said that a floatation suit is as good as a lifejacket on Radio Cornwall I believe, of course referencing back to the tragic events from the weekend.

Yet again I take my hat off to those brave people from the RNLI. Think about that crew who got that angler out of the sea at the weekend in the middle of the night. Think about how it must affect them to deal with death like that. So damn sad for too many people……….

 

Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod review - imported from Japan, never done this before, not remotely cheap

Call it a serious indulgence that I am not even going to try and justify, but you only live once and all that, and for a fair while now I have been itching to see how good the top of the range Shimano Japan Exsence bass lure rods might be. My interest was then piqued plenty more when an Irish bass angler I know kindly let me have a few waggles with his 3-piece 9’6’’ Shimano Exsence which felt so nice I nearly did a runner with it, and then a while back somebody kindly left a very detailed comment/review right here of a couple of the brand new Shimano Exsence Infinity range of (sea) bass rods that he had bought (a big thank you by the way if you end up reading this, and I blame some of me now owning this rod on you!). My brain went into overdrive…………….

I obviously get to play with a load of different rods via my blog and what I do but I have never bought a bass lure rod outside the UK - when it comes to lure rods especially I firmly believe in buying from UK sources if you can for a number of reasons. But with Shimano UK not exactly going hell for leather into the bass fishing world (when of course they so frustratingly could with all that good looking gear Shimano have got over in Japan) and me having a growing suspicion that some of their Exsence range of bass rods might suit me, my mind was nearly made up. I ummed and aahed for a while because the idea of importing a fishing rod and taking such a punt on something that I had never even seen worried the hell out of me, but one morning my finger “by mistake” clicked on buy and then I rather nervously waited for the thing to arrive.

Before I get into what the rod is like, I am not remotely going to try and justify what I spent on it or whether I actually need it or not (obvious really), and I am going to review a rod here that you will most likely never even see unless Shimano UK one day get their bass fishing act together or you choose to go down the road I have here. Lure fishing is obviously my thing, I love fishing tackle, I saved up, and that’s it really. Naturally I was a little worried in case the research I had done into this rod and with all the language problems that I might end up with something I didn’t really like, but I couldn’t find a way around that.

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When the comparatively little tube arrived and I somewhat apprehensively but also very excitedly pulled my brand new Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod from within (and there is also a 9’6’’ 5-32g version, as well as a more powerful 9’6’’ 6-38g), let’s just say that my heart was a fluttering as I put it together and had a few waggles, and yes, it’s very light at a quoted 122g. First impressions? Rather interesting but not quite sure about the tip, and within no time at all a reel was strapped to the new rod and out I went to take Storm for a walk and have a bunch of casts on my local estuary. The reel I put on the rod could only be my increasingly beloved Shimano Twin Power XD C3000HG, and yes, I am fully aware that there is a brand new and not bloody cheap, stealthy looking black (ninja?) Shimano Exsence 3000 spinning reel out there that I am sure would sit perfectly on this Exsence rod. Be still my beating heart and man the turrets against the ever present fishing demon in my head telling me that I need it!

I spent a not inconsiderable amount of dosh on taking a gamble with this rod, but I would be perfectly honest - if a bit sad of course - and admit whether my gamble had not paid off and I didn’t really like the rod. It felt very “together” when I had those first few waggles, but you and I both know that a few oohs and aahs mean very little until you get it out fishing and run through the different lures and techniques you might use. So now that I have used the rod a decent number of times, what do I think of it? Did I mess up by taking a punt on it, or is this brand new 9’ long bit of technical Japanese engineering going to make my life a whole lot better?

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Put it this way, and it’s a big phew as well - I have never, ever fished with a 9’ lure rod that has done it for me as much as this Shimano. The rod just feels totally “whole” - the feeling of tension and control when you pick it up and fish with it is unlike any other lure rod I have ever used. It’s very steely but not remotely too poker like, and the tip blends so seamlessly into the mid-section which then blends so seamlessly into the butt section and it all works so beautifully well together that when I cast and fish with this rod it feels like the most natural thing possible. Cast after cast is so stupidly effortless and precise, it recovers ridiculously quickly, and you are not going to get the best from this rod by thrashing the living daylights out of it - nice and easy does it and holy cow those lures fly out there. Bring it through as smoothly as possible like a proper fly angler might turn their loops over and this Exsence Infinity responds so well that I find myself purring as I am fishing with it. Seriously. There is not an ounce of strain when you load the rod up and send your lure out there, and whilst I accept completely that casting is merely a means to an end of getting your lures out there, I enjoy the actual casting with this rod so damn much I could do it all day.

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And then I get to retrieving my lures with this rod. Note that I wasn’t quite sure about the tip when I first waggled my brand new Japanese gamble - but oh how those waggles divulged virtually nothing! I knew for example that from the first waggle with the considerably cheaper HTO Nebula 9’ 7-35g lure rod that I was going to really like it - you either love that sort of lightning quick, poky sort of feel or you don’t (I do). It’s a hell of a lot of rod for not nearly enough money and what you see is what you get - and yes, I like that very much.

But this Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod is very different. It so, so needs to be fished with for a while to fully appreciate how utterly sublime it is. I haven’t drunk since I was 18 and I never liked wine anyway, but it’s a bit like a decent bottle of red needing to breathe for a while before drinking so that it can be properly appreciated and understood. Sure, the rod’s nice and fast, but there is just so much to it that has opened up to me over time. If I was a little apprehensive about the tip on this Exsence from those first few waggles then those worries if you like flew away as scarily easily as my money did to Japan to buy the thing.

I am not a technical person when it comes to rods and reels so I don’t know how Shimano Japan have achieved this, but I’ve never fished with a lure rod where the tip feels so natural and correct and such a perfect and seamless part of the overall rod. You can bend it perfectly easily if you pull on it - which indeed it should - but when you actually fish with it I can’t stop purring at how frigging amazing it is. Perfection? Well I have never fished with a 9’ lure rod that I like more, put it that way. I have loved the Major Craft Truzer 9’ 10-30g for a fair while now, but for me this incredible Exsence Infinity is a serious step up. Chalk and cheese………..

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Rung with Fuji Torzite guides and an overall handle design which I like so much that when I now turn to a different rod I am left wondering why on earth all butt grips especially aren’t like on this Shimano one, it seems to be the case that a lot of of money can sometimes buy you a rod which never seems to be remotely trying or overexerting itself whatever you throw at it within its casting ratings. That APIA Foojin'AD Flow Hunt 810ML 8'10'' 7-32g (review here) falls into this category, as does the properly stunning Tailwalk Hi-Tide TZ S90ML 9’ 7-24g (oh how I want you!). This outrageously talented Shimano Exsence Infinity breathes that sort of rarified air, and then some.

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Now I didn’t buy a 9’ rod like this to bang something like the Xorus Patchinko all day long, but the ease with which that lure gets out there is amazing, and working it is a doddle. An IMA Salt Skimmer on this Shimano rod is an absolute disgrace it feels so good, and there is just no need to lash the lure at all. Bumping the Fiiish Black Minnow around over a shallow reef is great, and putting various hard lures out and bringing them back in feels about as good as any rod I can think of that I have ever fished with. I gambled on this lure rod and went for the 9’ version because it’s my favourite lure rod length, and I wanted a really high end rod that might cover the bulk of my regular bass fishing when I know that I am not going to be faced with those hectic kind of bouncing conditions which tends to call for a different approach anyway.

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And of course what I was really, really hoping for was that this Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod might be a bit of a peach when I am fishing with soft plastics such as the 6’’ long OSP DoLive Stick especially. I fish with soft plastics so much these days that of course it influences the rods I err towards. I was hoping, but of course I didn’t quite know how it might turn out……...

Well this rod is so good with soft plastics like the DoLive Stick that it’s kinda cured me of my longing for the ultimate lighter lure rod. Don’t get me wrong, I do love dropping down a notch and fishing that smidgen lighter for bass when I feel I can, but this Shimano Exsence Infinity has turned out to be so ridiculously able and responsive and direct with the soft plastics and various other lighter lures that it’s now covering all those bases for me - when I need it to feel like a lighter rod in calmer conditions it does so, but when I need to step things up a bit and say bang a Patchinko or Hound Glide out, the rod feels just as good. This rod honestly feels as good fishing a small soft plastic such as the baby 4.5’’ OSP DoLive Stick as it does casting and then retrieving the 27g Patchinko II at the amazing range you can get this lure out there. It’s just not breaking a sweat whatever you throw at it within its generous and I think very accurate casting range of 5-32g.

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As an example, I was standing on a rock the other day, hoping for a depths of winter bass and fishing with the little 4.5’’ OSP DoLive Stick which weighs about 8.5g when rigged on a 3/0 weedless hook, and also bear in mind that I had the strong as frigging rope 26lb/0.18mm Sufix 832 braid on my reel - that small soft plastic absolutely flies out with the merest flick of the rod, and working the lure back gets me purring again it’s such a delight. I then changed to a 30g Fiiish Black Minnow (20g Shore Head meant for the 140mm body, used with a 120mm Black Minnow body which weighs about 10g), cast it out there, and this outrageous Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod felt as easy casting that 30g lure as it had the 8g lure a moment before. It’s just not breaking a sweat. Bumping/swimming that Black Minnow across a very rocky bottom is as easy as twitching a little 4.5’’ DoLive Stick around. And so on. Try as I might I just can’t trip this rod up. I have used a lot of good lure rods over the years, but I haven’t yet come across one that feels as effortless and in complete control of so many different lures, lure weights and techniques as this particular Shimano rod. I don’t know anything about how Shimano Japan have made a lure rod this accomplished, but holy frigging cow they must know their stuff.

The feeling of responsiveness and control really is quite something - yet again it strikes me how the whole rod is working together. There’s enough give in the tip - but not too much which as I said I don’t like - yet it doesn’t feel like it’s just the tip doing the work with you when you are actively working your lures. The overall tension if you like through the whole rod just feels perfect when you actually animate a lure instead of simply winding it in, and I seriously can’t think of another lure rod that has ever felt quite the same. As I said at the start, this rod was a present to myself that I obviously don’t actually need, but I am on the way towards justifying it in my head because it seems to so perfectly be a few different rods rolled into one and therefore money is in fact being saved! Or so my twisted logic goes. Holy cow am I now trying so hard to resist buying the longer and slightly more powerful 9’6’’ 6-38g Shimano Exsence Infinity lure rod to add to this beauty for those times when I need to step things up a bit. I’ll get my coat……….

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.

 

My go-to bass lures and go-to rods, reels and lines - I’m trying to summarise some of the extensive amounts of information on the Fishing Tackle pages

I guess a lot of us are in the same boat here as regards our lure fishing especially - we’re continuously looking for all manner of information for any number of reasons, and whilst for the most part this website and blog of mine are the thoughts and opinions of one obsessed angler, I guess that in some ways this is a resource. And this resource is not more right or wrong or better or worse than other fishing resources out there, but of course I am really pleased and also rather honoured that a lot of people spend time on here……………

I don’t know how many of you remember my previous website, but when I chose to migrate over to the Squarespace platform that you are reading this on, I was debating whether it was worthwhile migrating the Fishing Tackle pages over. It was going to take a fair amount of time to do so, and whilst they are merely fishing gear information pages that are hardly going to set the world alight with excitement, I am glad I did take that time and I continue to add to them - a high percentage of people spending time on my website spend time on the Fishing Tackle pages.

Which proves one thing to me again and again - as anglers we are looking for information and help. I am the same as you, but I happen to put information out there into the public domain and it seems to help a number of anglers out. I don’t try to cater to experts because experts know it all anyway, and if there is one thing I do with lure fishing it is remember how bloody confusing it can all be at times - and especially when you’re getting into it and us anglers throw technical terms around like confetti and expect that everybody else knows what we are talking about.  

Anyway, I am in danger of digressing - what I meant to say was that by virtue of me being absolutely fascinated with lure fishing tackle especially, of course those various pages within the Fishing Tackle section of this website continue to grow. Some of the lure pages are getting really quite lengthy, and whilst I do try and think of ways to better break down the various categories to make the information more easily digestible, I don’t want to simply remove information because some of the pages are getting quite long and/or some items of fishing tackle are of course discontinued. As I said, the information contained on these pages is merely my opinions, but it’s acting as a resource and I’d like to keep it going for those anglers who are interested.

So I got to thinking how I might go about summarising some of the Fishing Tackle information in a way that was shorter and to the point and perhaps better appeals to a modern generation that prefers bite size chunks that don’t take much time to digest. I woke up early one morning as I tend to do and started to put together a couple of new pages called “My go-to bass fishing lures” and “My go-to bass fishing rods, reels and lines”. I hope they might prove useful to some of you here.

I will do my best to keep these go-to pages updated. As much as I like messing around with different bass fishing lures though, over time we naturally default to a few different lures that we know and trust to help catch us fish in various situations - hence this “My go-to bass fishing lures” page. Of course I often take different lures out fishing with me than what are listed there, but that page is what I reckon I take out and fish with the most, and if over time some particular lures start taking over for me more than what is listed there then I will change the page to reflect this.

The rods, reels and lines page is perhaps a little different because I am so often messing around with new lure rods especially. What I have done is think about the lure rods I enjoy fishing with the most and which rods cover my bass fishing needs. Say I’ve got a week of my own fishing and photography over in Ireland and I tend to default to a rod or two that I really, really like and trust and know that it’s going to help me deal with different locations and lures and techniques as we move around. The same with spinning reels that over time I know that I like fishing with the most, and then with lines I know the ones I like and trust the most etc.

As above, as and when these choices of mine might change, I will reflect that by changing the information on the page. As an example, I have been fishing on and off with a particular lure rod now for about a year and a half and it’s just stunningly good and adept at so much of the bass fishing I might do - but it’s not on the market yet and I have been asked not to talk about it on here until it is. When that rod goes on sale I will tell you all about it and then amend the go-to page and so on and so on. Crumbs, sorry, this morning’s blog post ended up being a lot longer than I intended! Hope the new Fishing Tackle pages prove useful………...

 

Do you use metals (or shock horror, spinners!) much for your bass fishing?

Doing my guiding work with John Quinlan over in Kerry, SW Ireland has taught me many things over the last few years, and there is one thing that stands out because it’s so damn simple yet I wonder how many bass anglers don’t even bother - how many of you stash a couple of “metals” away in your lure box for those times when a serious bit of distance based (shock horror) “spinning” or jigging could do the trick? I guess the words “spinning” and “spinner” are beset with a bit of an image issue these days, so let’s refer to them as “metals”!

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I have never seen John without a bunch of metals in his lure box that he can get his clients using if required, indeed when there’s a bit of surf running they can be essential. Whack ‘em out and wind ‘em in, just like with the discontinued Bass Bullet or the just the same but available Westin Kongetobis, plus the increasingly interesting and effective Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel. Seriously, just chuck them out and wind them straight back in? Damn right, but isn’t it just spinning?! And of course you can jig/fastish sink and draw with the more jig like metals, and so on.

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I have heard from a few different people recently about how slow-jigging is becoming more and more popular on the boats and indeed from the shore. Hell, I have got my first ever light shore jigging rod here on test, the rather impressive Major Craft Triple Cross TCX-942SSJ 15-40g Shore Jigging Rod that feels like it’s a peach with metals (come on Henry, spinners!) as well as the regular sort of bass lures we might use - full review to come in due course, but this rod has the most sublime tip on it that I guess is designed to work those metals rather damn well.

There’s a session we had over on the south coast of Ireland last year that really sticks in my head, but it’s not because of the stack of bass we caught, rather it’s the one fish I caught when nobody else did that rams home to me how having that one metal (actually a casting jig I believe) in my box got me that fish. Come on, you know me by now, I am not remotely interested in boasting about the fish I catch and don’t catch, but I want to use that single bass to illustrate my point.

As the tide ebbs we tend to push right out on the edge of a big tide rip, and when this place fishes well it can be electric - a modest, say 4lb bass in that run of current is an epic scrap. For the most part we’re bumping various soft plastics along the bottom and trying to match the weight of jig head to the current so that the lure trundles on down the current without any help from us anglers. And yes, other methods catch bass at times, but you know as well as I do how easy it is to almost default to what has worked so well before. I tend to have a metal or two in my lure box these days, and even if they don’t often come out, I know they are there if needs be……….

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So we’re blanking away when the terns that are working on what I presume are sandeels start to occasionally come a little closer. Sod this bumping plastics for a laugh because it’s just not working, so I clip on a casting jig I have actually had for a few years now but hardly used it and I think is actually discontinued - the DUO Press Bait Fusion Slim which weighs 35g and absolutely frigging flies. I was using that ridiculously good HTO Nebula 9’ 7-35g lure rod and because of where the birds were I was absolutely leathering that 35g lure and not worrying for one second if the rod broke because it isn’t technically mine - but of course the rod didn’t break, indeed it’s such a damn good rod it gets a 35g casting jig out there like a frigging missile.

Anyway, I digress. On goes my casting jig and I am just about reaching the feeding birds that were only occasionally coming within any kind of casting range. I’m whacking the lure out, snapping the bale arm over, and then fishing with a sink and draw as the lure flies down the current, and a few casts in I get that unmistakable hit on the drop and I end up landing a nice bass. No other fish were landed out there and because it was just the one bass it’s ended up really sticking in my head as one of those times when having a simple metal or two sitting in my lure box paid off. I don’t know about you, but it’s often the individual fish that come when the fishing is tough which I often remember more than catching a heap of them.

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Now as much as I like that particular, discontinued DUO casting jig, and I accept completely that technical bass fishing lures cost what they do for a reason, there’s a part of me that can’t help thinking that many metals are quite simply metals and perhaps don’t need to cost too much. I am really interested in seeing how some of those specialist slow jigs for shore fishing might work, but after catching that single bass on that DUO lure last year, I went looking for a cheaper alternative. I don’t own any yet, but the not very expensive at all Savage Gear Seeker ISP metal looks very similar to me with that lumpy bit on the end, and I reckon it can be straight retrieved (come on, it’s spinning!) or fished like a casting jig etc. Not a very sexy bass lure I grant you, but I for one will be keeping a metal or two in my box this year. We did have another session on that Ireland south coast trip where we smashed a load of not very big bass where distance was the absolute key and we could only reach those fish with spinners. Damn, I meant metals, it sounds far more technical and grown up!

Oh, and well done England! Best not mention the TMO. Onwards and upwards.

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.

 

No fishing today, not with the monster that is England v Wales tomorrow afternoon

I am not sure what the definition of insomnia actually is, but this can’t be right. I stopped reading my book just before 10.30pm last night, I tend to get to sleep easily enough, but at 2.45am this morning I woke up with my brain in whirring overdrive about how utterly delightful DoLive Sticks and Salt Skimmers are on this new lure rod I went and bought because I am beyond hope (more to come), and of course the monster rugby match tomorrow afternoon that is England v Wales. Can this possibly be right?

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I don’t know Wales at all well as a country, but I drive through it plenty on my way to the ferry at Fishguard - and I sure am hoping that on my multiple journeys through this rather good looking country that I get to sit there in my epic Berlingo, secure in the knowledge and ever so slightly smug that we smashed the Welsh in the Six Nations.

Anybody into English rugby must surely be excited about what is going on with our national team, but what was really bouncing around my brain at 2.45am this morning was this growing feeling that as good as we can sometimes be and how we are learning to win both ugly and pretty, I don’t think we have properly clicked yet - and if and when we do click, my hope is that it’s woe betide the team we are up against when it all comes together in a glorious eighty minutes of balletic brutality.

Did Scotland play so badly that they flattered the Welsh efforts last weekend, or have all those Welsh injuries in some strange way helped them rediscover how they love to play? Are England good enough to not worry about this for one second and instead stamp their authority on the game for a full eighty minutes? I am feeling very good about an English win, but is everything about to click and we go on an awesome rampage that leaves the rest of the world quaking in their rugby boots? Or is my lack of sleep playing with my head and giving me false hope?

Roll on tomorrow afternoon. You all have a good weekend and let’s reconvene on Monday after a mighty England win. Bring on New Zealand in the autumn? Why the hell not………...

 

This cabin fever tends to give my wallet a bit of a hammering because I still can’t resist the shiny stuff

Depending on the weather and water conditions we tend to have a decent chance at bass on lures until well into January, but if we get long spells of really bad weather and/or we get into February and the prospect of at least a couple of months until the confidence is really bubbling again, well that for me is when the cabin fever starts to rage - and one of the ways in which it manifests itself in me is the uncontrollable urge to go looking for new lures.

But do I need any new lures? Go on, have a free guess on me! I am also going to assume that many of you reading this have a good number of bass fishing lures which are most likely covering as good as all the different situations you might come across and locations you might fish - but where’s the fun in admitting that? Be as cynical as you like and snort into your coffee or whatever, but lure fishing for bass especially is my addiction, and when the cabin fever starts to properly bite I go a looking. I enjoy it, and I sure as hell ain’t going to apologise for it either.

I like having a look around and then buying a few things that float my boat. I am not looking for the latest and greatest guaranteed bass catcher because we all know it’s so much about where and when, but lures fascinate me, and I do enjoy looking for variations on what I already have, plus if I can find a type of lure that I don’t have and it looks worth trying then I really like that as well. Like any of you here I am tend to default to types of lures that have worked the best for me in the past, but on the other hand I am always up for a bit of a gamble to see if some different stuff might work.

I’m going to detail a number of different lures that have somehow found their way to me recently, and most links here will be of the affiliate variety with a disclaimer at the bottom as per usual. I enjoy yapping about lures, cabin fever is raging, and I am trusting you to understand that none of the lures below have been proven by me (yet) to be out and out bass slayers. I hope you take this post in the spirit in which it is intended - I will show you mine and I’d sure appreciate it if you’d show me yours by letting me know if I need to check some other stuff out. Bloody cabin fever. The grizzled old me (who is 45 today, surely this can’t be right?) thinks I am above it these days, but as ever I have succumbed……...

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IMA Kosuke 110F (110mm, 17g) - Isn’t this a thing of beauty? When I saw that horrible person who owns Bass Lures posting this exact colour Kosuke on Facebook the other day, I resisted for all of about five minutes before heading to the Bass Lures website. I did actually own an IMA Kosuke 110F a year or so ago, but I snagged it up and lost it not long after hooking and dropping a bass on it. I am guessing the name Kosuke is a riff on the Komomo and Sasuke, and it really gets out there, looks like it dives a little shallower than the Sasuke but not as shallow as the Komomo SF-125, and it’s really grippy with a very intense action. I really fancied a bright chartreuse lure and I blame the persuasive power of Facebook for this one. I like bright lures in bright conditions, but I am also wondering if this colour might do me some good in a bit of coloured water.

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APIA Ailed'Ore 115F (115mm, 18g) - I actually got this last year and also nailed a few bass on it as well. Because of where I do a lot of my bass fishing, I lean towards lures that don’t dive too deep, and I have a serious thing for the hard lures that swim really shallow - this APIA Ailed'Ore 115F absolutely frigging flies and with that small bib and substantial profile it’s got a subtle kind of action that I know works because it’s caught me fish.

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IMA Yoichi 99 Light (99mm, 23g, and there’s a heavier 28g version which I haven’t seen) - I haven’t spent nearly enough bass related fishing time with what I think are called lipless minnows or sinking pencils or whatever, but when I saw a video of this stunning little IMA Yoichi 99 Light doing it’s thing in the water I had to get one. Why? Because I’ve got issues of course, but I do have a bit of a thing for smaller bass lures, and this 23g IMA Yoichi 99 Light really gets out there and swims nice and subtly as per the video below. I’ve got a few ideas where this lure might work and I’m going to enjoy finding out if my hunches are proved right.

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Shimano Exsence Responder 109F (109mm, 15g) - Did you know that Shimano Japan have a big range of bass fishing lures? I have been looking at them online for a fair while now, but this is actually the first Shimano bass lure I have ever owned - and if the rest are anything like this Shimano Exsence Responder 109F then I need to track a bunch more down. Holy cow this is every single thing that I want from a very shallow diving hard lure. I love the size and chunky profile, it’s outrageous how well it casts, and with little effort as well, the colours and details on the one I have here are stunning, you know the sort of stunning wiggle action it’s going to have from that shape of bib and then the video below, and I so need to track some more down. I cannot wait to get this Shimano Exsence Responder 109F in front of some bass, because I am so looking forward to seeing if it smashes them as hard as I think it will.

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Blue Blue Bloowin! 140S (140mm, 23g) - My go to lure in bouncier conditions has been the IMA Hound 125F Glide for a few years now because I trust it so much to get out there and grip in and catch me some fish, but I enjoy looking around to see if I can find something along the same lines. I like the DUO Tide Minnows and the MegaBass X140SW etc., and this Blue Blue Bloowin! 140S is an interesting addition to this group of lures. It casts very well, it seems to be incredibly grippy with that big bib, and the lure feels like it’s doing a lot in the water.

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Shimano Exsence COO 100F (100mm 10g) - I think this type of hard lure might be called a floating pencil in some parts of the world, but I stand very much to be corrected on this (floating lipless minnow perhaps?). What I am sure about is that I haven’t owned a hard lure like this before, but I absolutely love what this little thing does. I don’t know how Shimano Japan can get a little 100mm long lure that weighs only 10g to cast so well, but it’s pretty incredible. Get it out there and it floats like most surface lures, but now start the retrieve and this Shimano Exsence COO 100F slips just under the surface and comes back with the most delightfully subtle action that kind of makes me think of it as a hard soft plastic. Kind of like a slim profile, nice and subtle very shallow diving hard lure, but with no bib. Did I mention that I need to get my hands on some more Shimano hard lures?

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.

 

It wrecks my head when you give it a go this time of year, you lose a nice fish, then you’re left wondering and never knowing

OK, so it’s not as if early February is exactly the finest time of the year to head out and see if you can find a few bass, but if you don’t try then I would suggest you will never know. Down here in Cornwall I do believe that if we get some decent conditions then there’s at least a chance, and whilst that chance might well be slim, sometimes just getting out on the coast and working those lures feels mighty fine indeed………

Mark and I found some very good looking water on Saturday morning, and if nothing else it was a good excuse to keep on playing with a stunning new lure rod (more to come) and also check out how some new, cabin fever related lure purchases looked in the water (more to come). After the rubbish water clarity we have had around here for what seems like an eternity now, to have a bit of green fizz and virtually no weed on a nice big tide gives you the hope that there might just be something lurking around the big reef we were fishing.

We tried again on Sunday morning, not a sniff, but the light went off big time!

We tried again on Sunday morning, not a sniff, but the light went off big time!

Anyway, so we’re working the parts of the reef we tend to target, and although neither of us are exactly expecting a bunch of bass to launch into our lures, this is Cornwall and there is a chance. A hat, thermal buff and gloves is hardly my regular bass fishing attire, but a cold north west wind in February ain’t exactly warm, albeit it continues to amaze me how modern fishing clothing is so efficient and easy to wear compared to what we used to wear back in the day. Anybody remember those wooly bear suits?

It’s when that tide starts to ebb that I feel most confident on this mark, but neither of us have had a sniff, and Mark wanders off a bit. I can’t wade out to a certain rock that I like to stand on quite yet because the big tide means it’s a too deep to get out there - I can get at some of the ground by hanging back a bit and putting some long casts in, but the problem with fishing from that particular spot is that if you go and hook a fish your braid is essentially running over the top of a very sharp ledge, plus if it’s a decent fish that wants to run, you’ve got big rocks sticking out of the water left and right. I have landed fish from there before, but I have also lost them. Logic says don’t fish from there, but I want to get at that ground, and like with lure fishing in February, if you don’t give it a go then you will never know.

I have written about it on here a few times now, and with how a couple of north Cornwall lads I know and respect often fish their shallow reefs, I clipped on a Fiiish Black Minnow - I happened to have a black coloured one with me in the 120mm body/12g Shore Head size that I wanted, so out it went. It’s not very deep where I was fishing, so I let the lure hit the bottom, and because it’s so bloody snaggy and I know that a controlled sort of sink and draw along the bottom sort of retrieve tends to snag up a fair bit, instead I slowly retrieve the lure with my rod tip up, maintaining as much contact with the snaggy bottom as I can, so of course the rod tip is banging away as the lure bangs on the bottom.

It’s bloody typical isn’t it? First cast with the Black Minnow and not very far out from that horrible ledge that I am trying to pretend isn’t really there and something bangs my rod tip down hard. Holy frigging cow if it isn’t a fish, so I strike hard, my stunning new rod bends right over, I think I might have yelped with excitement, and then as quick as you like my braid snapped nice and clean over that sodding ledge. I have decided to go back to some heavier and more robust mainlines for shallow and very rocky, reefy marks especially, so even though my spinning reel was loaded up with the strong as rope and so nice to fish with 26lb/0.18mm Sufix 832 braid, it wasn’t going to make much of a difference with where the fish hit me and how my braid was over that bastard sharp ledge. Tight braid and knife like edges ain’t exactly the best of friends.

So I’m a bit gutted to say the least! You could of course say that I should not have been fishing where I was if the chances of landing a fish are that dicey, but I have landed plenty of bass from there before, I really like that section of the reef on the early ebb, and it’s bloody hard to be out in February and not at least fish exactly where you feel the most confidence.

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And I also accept that what I hooked might have been a wrasse, but I can’t recall having caught a wrasse from this location at this time of year before, the way it hit so hard and there was no messing around with the lure like wrasse so often do, and the simple fact that I never saw the fish which of course steers your head in the direction of the species of fish you wanted it to have been, well it wrecks my head. I know that wrasse love Black Minnows, but I have lost a donkey of a bass in the dark from that same spot, fishing a Black Minnow the same way, and because I will never know for sure and it’s early February and it’s Cornwall and there always seems to be a chance that a bass is hanging around, damn right this is all playing around my brain!

As much as I keep thinking about what might have been, at least the opening Six Nations weekend has helped towards a better headspace though. I had a suspicion that Scotland away from home weren’t going to be as good as they thought they had become, but I didn’t see Wales doing them quite like they did. Should be one hell of a game next weekend when England take on Wales at Twickenham, but with how ruthlessly we put Italy away I am feeling really confident. How good is that Farrell/Ford combination? How scary fast is Sam Simmonds? Even with all the injuries we have it’s still one hell of a team. All credit to Italy as well, and I fancy them to turn over a team or two this Six Nations. That France Ireland game wasn’t exactly a highlight save for that typical, out of nowhere French try, and then that sublime Sexton drop goal deep into injury time. Was it a bass or a wrasse though, that’s what is churning around my head………….

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.

 

It doesn’t matter how good or bad last season was, because around this time every year I start feeling sick with excitement about all the fishing to come

Whilst I don’t hold out a huge amount of hope for nailing a few bass on lures at this time of year down here, it is Cornwall, the water doesn’t feel too cold, and if conditions come good then a bit of a go has to be worth it. In reality though it’s the time of year for me when I start to literally feel sick with excitement and anticipation at the season to come - around where I live was very up and down on the bass in 2017, but you never know how each season as such will pan out, and as ever I have a bunch of plans and ideas to shake my fishing up a bit and see what happens…………

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Every year is very different and I don’t know when your local bass fishing tends to switch on around you, but if I include January at least as part of the bass season down here, then I landed my first bass of the 2017 season on April 11th last year, as per the fish above. When might things switch on this season? My mate Mark who is kindly holding my bass above had a nice fish on March 12th a few years ago, and I would still love to know if that was a bass which had stuck around or was it a bass that had just come in?

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I know that John Quinlan often starts his bass guiding season over in Kerry towards the end of March, and he fully expects his clients to catch fish or else he simply wouldn’t be taking their money. I keep hearing rumblings of some good, very early season bass fishing on lures in the deepest, darkest parts of Cornwall, and of course this sort of stuff makes my brain rattle around in my head when it’s early February, it feels like it’s been raining for two months solid, we’re burning a lot of wood to keep the stoves going, and my youngest girl is still wearing shorts to school but dad here isn’t as brave as he used to be and is waiting for warmer weather to get the shorts out.

I know things are different that far south and west, but are too many of us perhaps a bit guilty of doing the same things at the same times and not thinking out of the box a bit more? I am as guilty as the next angler of often defaulting to what you tend to know the best on your local patch, but with how up and down the bass fishing was around here last year I am determined to shake things up a bit. If there is one thing I don’t mind doing it’s taking a punt and risking a few blanks, because if I don’t try new places and techniques and stuff like that then I can get stale and lose a bit of the buzz.

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One thing I didn’t manage to do last year was spend nearly enough time over in Ireland on my own fishing and photography. I consider myself incredibly lucky to spend what tends to be about a month in Kerry spread over a couple of guiding trips, but for various reasons I only managed the one Ireland trip where I got to fish myself and take a bunch of photos etc. We had some awesome fishing around Dungarvan last September, but if things go more to plan this year then I will be getting back to my usual quota of time over in Ireland, my favourite country on earth.

And of course it’s that epic time of the year when the Six Nations starts again. It might not be an epic time for bass fishing, but I can’t wait for the Six Nations and I reckon it’s going to be one hell of an interesting tournament with so many injuries for all the sides and with how strong Ireland and Scotland are looking. You all have a good weekend and may spring arrive pretty damn soon please……..

 

Do you ever catch a bunch of bass on a new lure but sort of forget about it and then get highly overexcited when you “rediscover” it?

Or am I just a hopeless case? Call it cabin fever or perhaps owning a few too many bass lures (what, me?), but it has happened to me a few times now - for whatever lure addicted reason I take a punt on a “new to me” lure, that punt then pays off when a bunch of bass jump on the end of it, but because my head is constantly awash with looking out for stuff I then sort of forget about that particular lure until for whatever reason I “rediscover” it and get all excited about using it once again………..

It happened to me with the OSP DoLive Stick for example. I can remember hearing about a local angler catching a double figure bass on one, and at the time I had never even heard of the thing. I tracked them down, I bought some, I took the things with me to Ireland and I caught a bunch of fish on them, but this beauty of a soft plastic then fell out of favour with me for no particular reason other than I was most likely trying other stuff out. I then switched back onto the DoLive Stick in a big way when I became aware of a very good angler I know smashing a load of bass over in Kerry on it. I went digging for my original supply and now look at me - I find it hard not to bass fish with one! I own a few as well.

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I am going to point you to a blog post I wrote back in May 2013 - I dropped in to see my mate Mark who was working in the Art of Fishing tackle shop in Plymouth (that shop is now closed and he is working in the Wadebridge Art of Fishing shop) and I remember seeing these “new to me” soft plastics on the shelf that I gave in and bought. I was heading over to Ireland on a fishing trip and these Fish Arrow Flash-J 5’’ lures caught me a bunch of bass, and on a few occasions I remember outfishing a couple of local anglers who I would class as far better bass anglers than I will ever be. I put it down to the lure and not my skill levels!

I know it makes no sense when you catch some fish on a new lure but that lure for whatever daft reason ends up sitting in a storage box while you sort of forget about it and stumble onto something else. Now whilst I absolutely love messing around with “new to me” lures, just because they are new doesn’t make the older stuff any less deadly. Over time I have learnt to implicitly trust the DoLive Stick in so many different situations, and along those lines I sometimes wonder why I am not using that killer Maria Chase BW in holo silver that I used to use so much - ok, the fact that this lure casts like a bit of a dog and is no longer actually made is probably why, but you get my drift.

The Fish Arrow Split SW 5'' rigged on a belly-weighted 5/0 VMC 7329DD hook

The Fish Arrow Split SW 5'' rigged on a belly-weighted 5/0 VMC 7329DD hook

So Mark, Ben and I were on our way up to the RNLI last Monday in my epic Berlingo, and because the two of them are a pair of tits who know all about my lure related issues and weaknesses, “as if by magic” they procure a new soft plastic that I have never seen - the Fish Arrow Split SW 5’’ and SW 7’’, and to be fair to those procurers of filth, they kindly gave me one of each to have a go with. And I have done. And they look rather bloody lovely in the water as you wind them back nice and slowish and they do that slalom which I think is the reason why that Fish Arrow Flash-J 5’’ worked so well. They also look nice on a quicker, “twitch and slash” sort of action as well.

So when I get home I start digging through my lure storage box (ok, multiple boxes!) and I come across a few of the original Fish Arrow Flash-J 5’’ lures that I had bought back in 2013. Memories came flooding back of exactly where I had first caught bass on these lures, indeed I can distinctly remember nearly jumping out of my skin when a bass nearly ate my rod tip it was so keen to grab the lure. And then I start wondering why on earth I have not been carrying these lures with me and I start thinking about where they might work all over again with that shallow-swimming, gentle slalom kind of action that just does it for me and obviously the bass.

And because back in 2013 I was not night fishing for bass with lures, I am wondering if these Fish Arrow lures might do some serious harm when the regular people are tucked up in bed. I really fancy the new and slightly heavier Fish Arrow Split 5’’ working as the sort of soft plastic you can twitch around rigged weedless and weightless and also be able to slalom it on a slow straight retrieve, and of course I am sure it can be fished in any number of different ways that I haven’t come across yet - I have some VMC dropshot hooks here (VMC 7342SH Spin Shot Wide Gape 5/0) that I reckon could be interesting with this lure as I work it across a shallow, reefy bottom, and so on and so on. Yep, my brain is frying big time!

And because I am an addict and I just can’t resist, I rang Mark in the Art of Fishing yesterday and ordered a new packet of Fish Arrow Flash-J 5’’ soft plastics. If the DoLive Stick is my go-to weedless soft plastic (and if you are looking for them, the killer 6’’ Wakasagi colour is back in stock here - and as usual, please, please buy these lures elsewhere if you are actually looking for some but are uncomfortable with me alerting you to the fact), I can’t get away from how that subtle, shallow, slalom kind of action seems to so do it for the bass. I do like having a few different options. The cycle continues of brain-frying early mornings as my head goes into overdrive while the rest of my family sleeps as indeed normal people do………………..

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Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?

After jumping in the pool a bunch of times this time last week with the RNLI and then drying off and grabbing a bit of late lunch, each of us four had to go into a quiet room where the film crew had set up their camera gear with a bunch of lights. We were then asked a bunch of questions which I guess will be used in the various videos that will be released in due course…………

And if there was one thing I was always going to do throughout last Monday with the RNLI was be completely honest and upfront about the whole fishing safety thing. If I was asked any difficult questions I was not going to shirk away from them because I can see no point in me doing what I am trying to do here if I can’t be honest with myself in the first place. I am guessing that the RNLI and the film crew got together beforehand to plan the shoot and also think about the sort of questions they were going to ask us, and you must bear in mind here that I don’t know what Mark, Ben and Richard were asked when they went in for their interviews and I won’t know what they spoke about until I get to see the videos.

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Now I am a regular bloke who happens to thrive on being outdoors and around the sea especially. I have never functioned well when people tell me what to do and I guess I was one of those kids who needed to do it and find out rather than say yes and never question the actions and the consequences. I know my own mind, I am pretty black and white, I accept completely that the sort of fishing I live for doing comes with an inherent level of risk, but then so does a lot of fun stuff in life. As a father I passionately believe in the whole kids needing to fall over, bloody their knees and then pick themselves up instead of us rushing in to do so way of living because they need to find so much out for themselves without their parents endlessly fussing over their well being and suffocating their spirit of adventure and discovery and excitement.

And as an angler I am as guilty as most of us here of burying my head in the sand for far too many years and doing exactly what I try and teach my girls not to do. For sure my wife and I encourage them to go for it in life, but if for example they were massively keen on fishing from rocky ledges while the sea raged around them and they had no means of calling for help or floating the right way up for as long as possible if something went badly wrong, would I be a good parent if I wasn’t insisting that they carry and wear the correct safety equipment?

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They love their sailing for example, and they belong to a local sailing club. When they head out sailing they must wear buoyancy aids and sailing helmets, and of course the club has safety boats out with them. They would not be allowed out on the water without this simple safety gear. Both girls have been hit in the head with the boom and knocked off the boat or capsized multiple times and so on, but never once have those experiences put them off going sailing. We have never worried for one second about them being out there and I love how they so love doing this sort of fun stuff that of course comes with a degree of risk - but then what doesn’t?

Their dad (me!) heads out there many, many times each year to do what he so loves doing, and for most of his fishing life he has successfully ignored how simple it is to give himself the best possible chance at surviving if something were to go wrong. There are of course many things that an angler can do to stay that bit safer, but I would suggest that above all our supposed knowledge and experience is the simple and unavoidable fact that a simple and not very expensive auto-inflate lifejacket is such a frigging no-brainer for what so many of us love to do I very much expecting the day when my two bright and awesome girls turn the tables on me at supper and ask me the question “Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?”. They are now asking me if I will be wearing a lifejacket when I head out fishing, but it’s the why wasn’t I for so long that’s coming for sure.

I will be completely honest with them and talk them through my burying my head in the sand for far too long for any number of reasons and the fact that I would not expect them to behave as stupidly as their dad has done for so long. As for the whole boyfriend thing though, well let’s just say that’s not up for discussion! I have a big chainsaw and I know how to use it……………….