Finally, some “UK bass size”, off the shelf and not very expensive needlefish are now available in the UK - yippee!

You need to know a couple of things here before I get into this - my experience so far of bass fishing with needlefish revolves around whacking them out and winding them in at night over shallow ground with no obvious current, very much like I might fish a senko at night for bass, and if you read this blog post and fancy getting some of these new to the UK needlefish, from the links I will be giving you I would make a very small commission via affiliate linking. Please, please go looking elsewhere for these needlefish if that bothers you, and if you want to think that this is purely a marketing post then I can’t do much about that. I would far rather you look at this blog post as me being really happy to finally see some not very expensive needlefish available to buy here in the UK and wanting to tell you about it - but I must leave it up to you………….

Anyway, because most of my catching bass at night over the last few years has been on the white senkos - and sometimes struggling with them a bit when there’s a side wind and/or slightly bouncier conditions - when it comes to needlefish and wanting what in their most basic sense I feel they can give me here (cutting through wind and waves that bit better, and having a treble hook on the end, see here for why, etc.), I don’t want those great big lures that are designed for striped bass and the heavier gear that is mostly used for their shore fishing across the pond. Nope, for the moment I have been wanting what is basically a hard version of a senko, and then perhaps a slightly larger, slightly heavier version for those times when it’s useful to have a bit more weight and/or profile.

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I really like the smaller, 18g (14cm, or 5.5’’) needlefish that is made by Jim’s Lures (photo above) - it’s made of wood, it works well for bass, casts great, is handmade, and is not a cheap lure as such. They are handmade, hence the price I guess, and let’s face it, you are unlikely to go and lose many needlefish if you are winding it in so that it’s swimming either just below or actually on the surface. The lures come unrigged by the way. These 18g ones cast really well and they have caught bass for me.

So how about some off the shelf needlefish that can be had for £9.99 here in the UK? A while back I mentioned finding some lures like this when I was over in the US the other day, and a couple of switched on tackle dealers I know got in touch to ask if I knew where they might source these lures and bring them into the UK for their customers. I didn’t think I would ever find these smaller needlefish again after buying a couple out on Martha’s Vineyard a few years back, letting them sit gathering dust for ages, then spraying them white last year, taking them out bass fishing and catching on them straight away - yet again, how much is confidence to do with lure fishing?

Anyway, so I was in the well known Cape Cod Canal based shop Redtop Tackle recently and I asked my friend Bull whether he by any chance knew about these smaller, plastic needlefish that came out of Martha’s Vineyard, not thinking for one second that they’d stock them around the Canal. I couldn’t believe it when Bull led me over to a rack of these lures - kinda like leading a junkie to his next fix! With how much the US anglers like their great big needlefish for striped bass, it was a real surprise to find these Spofford’s needlefish lures again. They were not remotely expensive, and yes, I bought a bunch because I didn’t think we’d be seeing them here in the UK and they are exactly what I want for my bass fishing. These Spofford’s Lures are made from what I think is ABS plastic over on Martha’s Vineyard in the US. I don’t think the hooks are up to much and I replace them on mine - it’s easy, and this is coming from an idiot at DIY! You can actually buy a fairly substantial 42g version, but the two sizes that I bought and have caught bass on are the 17g (actually 15.8g with two trebles on), and the slightly larger 28g one (actually 23g with two trebles on).

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Above is the smaller 17g Spofford’s Lures needlefish in the two colours that I have here - White and White Green (you can also get Black, White Lime and Chartreuse). It comes rigged with three treble hooks which I think is overkill, and I don’t like the look of the trebles on them that much - you can simply unscrew the components for the front and middle trebles and replace (I don’t put a middle treble on there), and then at the rear of the lure you need to slightly unscrew the ring thing, open it up slightly with a long nose pair of pliers, and replace the hook. Close the eye of the ring thing back down and screw it back into the lure night and tight. If I can do it, believe me, you can do it far more easily. You might not want to bother changing the hooks, but I just don’t like the look of them. Rigged with a couple of size 4 trebles this 17g version comes in at 15.8g and it’s 13cm long, or just over 5’’. Imagine a hard 5’’ senko that absolutely flies, for this is what this particular Spofford’s needlefish reminds me of. The first bass I caught on the one I had sprayed white was actually during the day last year, slowly retrieving it like I might a senko - which makes no sense I know when I am retrieving a senko faster at night than I would during the day, but it’s fishing, and we’re never going to understand it all.

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And above is the next size up - on the website here it says 28g, but rigged with a couple of size 2 trebles it comes in at 23g, and the lure is 17cm long, or very nearly 7’’. This thing seriously flies and it feels very stable through the wind and in the water. I caught bass the first time I used this lure here in the UK which of course gave me all the confidence I needed that firstly they worked for our bass, and secondly that the “few” I had bought in the US weren’t a wasted investment! I changed the hooks on this one as well, just follow the details from above.

These are some incredibly simple lures, but they are exactly what I have been looking for - and yes, it slightly fries my brain that I actually had a couple sitting here that for far too long I simply didn’t have the confidence to take out and use. How have chucking white senkos at night changed my bass fishing for the better, because as well as the options it has given me, it has also given me the confidence to start messing around with lures like these Spofford’s ones. I like having options, and especially if there’s a bit more wind and bounce on the sea that I was expecting, and as much as I will be experimenting with single hooks on these needlefish sometime soon, having that (treble) hook right on the end of the lure caught me a bunch of fish earlier in the year when the bass were hitting and hitting the senkos but not hooking up on the large single weedless hooks.

So there you go - the size and weights of needlefish I have been looking for, and which means I don’t have to step up to a heavier class of lure rod to fish the one type of lure, and they are now available to buy here in the UK. I know bass will hit really big lures sometimes, but where I am with lure fishing right not I am not feeling the need for them. As I said, please bear in mind my lack of experience with needlefish in general (and I would urge you to search my Guest Blog Posts for Keith White’s excellent series on fishing with needlefish), and also you need to know that I have not taken these hard plastic Spofford’s needlefish out and let them swing in a run of current etc. I have been whacking them out, winding them in, and catching bass on them, so while I accept 100% that there is so, so much more to these simple straight sticks, at the end of the day you can still head out to the right spots at the right times and with the right conditions and chuck lures out at night that are doing so little obvious stuff in the water when you wind them in - and catch bass on them. Does there need to be much more to it at times?

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.

 

Being comprehensively outfished doesn’t bother me one bit if I come away from the experience a better angler

And I would suggest that yesterday was a classic example of this. I caught the one bass and a lump of a wrasse, whereas Nick must have landed at least eight bass, but holy cow did I learn a lot of new stuff, and without a doubt I have come away a better overall bass angler. Nothing floats my boat more in my work than meeting and spending time with highly skilled anglers from all around the world and then learning about their fishing and understanding what makes them tick………….

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I left my house at 4.30am yesterday morning to head for a stretch of the north Cornish coastline that I don’t know at all, and this lad Nick fishes a bunch of spots that seem to very rarely see other anglers - perhaps because most of these places he treks down to are properly difficult to access, and I make no bones about it, I got a serious case of the fear when we were coming back up and out of the first spot, and oh how I wish I could have four legs like my sheepdog Storm who was having a blast! Nothing yet has changed my opinion that most people don’t like a good yomp for their fishing, and I guess that saves a lot of our coastline for those of us who welcome a trek.

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Anyway, to cut a long story short, I learnt a lot yesterday about a lot of bass related lure fishing, and I find it absolutely fascinating to be around good anglers who are so knowledgeable about their local area and have essentially had no choice but to adapt their gear and general lure fishing techniques to better suit their local fishing. I am not talking about a radically different approach, rather it’s a mix of obviously having really thought about things, and then understanding that every day is different and being able to adapt to it - as Nick did so well yesterday.

I found out very quickly for example that however much I might love and obsess over the 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick, yesterday the bass were feeding that bit deeper down, and with the side wind plus swell I simply could not get a soft plastic rigged weedless and weightless down to the fish and fish it there for any meaningful length of time. I changed over to a 120mm Fiiish Black Minnow with that lovely new 18g “Search” jig head and pretty quickly got a hit on the drop and then saw a proper bass turn on the lure right on top of a set of light coloured rocks. I think I might have dropped a little bit of bad language at that precise moment!

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A lure that I know works for a number of lure anglers but I simply have hardly ever used is the Savage Gear Sandeel, and yesterday Nick gave me a masterclass in how to fish this lure over the sort of ground and conditions he faces. Fishing new places and meeting other anglers to me is so much about watching how these guys fish, and whilst you can of course whack a lure like the Savage Gear Sandeel out and crank it straight back in, it’s how Nick was systematically searching the ground and the water column and changing lure body colour until he found the fish that really got me thinking and learning. Purchasing is required on my behalf.

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Whilst no really big bass were landed yesterday, I have seen the photos of the many lumps that Nick has landed from his stretch of coastline, and we are talking about some serious bass from some serious ground that stays delightfully quiet and untouched. I have seen some photos of some 10lb plus bass, put it that way. Nick and I were talking about various hard lures that he might use when required, and he was raving about how many of the killer IMA Sasuke lures he owns and uses and catches on, so I clipped on an IMA Sasuke 120 that I had with me and caught a bass around the 4lb mark from some fizzed up water in amongst some seriously gnarly ground that simply had to have had a fish or two nosing around. I then thought I’d try and search more of the water column and put that 120mm/18g Search head Fiiish Black Minnow combination on and hooked that lump of a wrasse above instead. Thanks Nick for grabbing it in that swell.

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Yesterday for me was about learning more about lure fishing via my comprehensively being outfished by a highly skilled angler who knows far more than me about this particular style of bass fishing. I get the sense it really bothers some anglers if they are outfished on the day, and whilst I am by nature a competitive person, for some reason fishing just doesn’t bring out that side of me at all. If there’s a few fish about and I can get the photos I need plus I come away having learnt more about this glorious pastime that so many of obsess about, then how on earth could I remotely worry about somebody catching more fish than me? Thanks so much Nick for the most awesome day.

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.

 

Sometimes I’d like to give myself a damn good thrashing - good old fashioned bad angling!

At times I think I am a better angler when I am watching our clients rather than actually fishing myself, or to put it another way, it’s often easier said than done - yep, it’s another example of me fishing like a tit and doing exactly the opposite of what I have advised other anglers to do. I will explain.

So Mark and I are fishing a stunning bit of reef on Sunday morning. There’s a few fish around, the conditions are spot on albeit I could do with it not being so bright, Mark’s landed a couple of bass, and on guess what lure? OK, too easy, yep, the 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick. I know I keep banging on about this soft plastic, but I genuinely believe that if there are bass around then they are going to nail it. You might well have a few lures yourself that just give you so much confidence when you’ve got one one, and I think that is so much of the point here - confidence. Anyway, I digress. Henry and some piss poor angling……………….

I think Mark’s on three bass now, and apart from one gentle little tap I haven’t caught anything so far, but then out of the blue I get one of those wonderfully unmissable hits when the bass just smashes my DoLive Stick and impales itself. All I have to do is tighten up, land the fish,  and then tell myself what mighty fine angling I just did.

So I’ve landed a fish, and now my adrenaline levels are through the roof. I love just being where we are fishing, the water is that beautiful shade of fizzed up greeny blue, I am literally shivering with pleasure at fishing with what I think is quite possibly the out and out best “regular” casting weight lure rod I have come across, there’s a 6’’ DoLive Stick on the end, and yep, I am feeling nice and confident. There doesn’t seem to be a heap of fish around, but I just so enjoy that direct kind of touchy feely fishing with weightless soft plastics that any kind of interest is enough for me. But of course I’d love another bass or two.

Now if there is one thing that I speak to our clients about over in Ireland when they are fishing with lures like these DoLive Sticks, it’s to try and control yourself as a person to be able to react properly to a hit. Obviously it’s no worries when a bass nails you good and proper and you couldn’t miss the fish if you tried, but there are plenty of times when you get a gentle tap, and this is when I try to get across to our clients that they need to almost ignore it, keep on fishing the lure, and nine times out of ten they will get a properly hard, strikeable hit in a second or two - i.e. whatever you do, don’t strike that a gentle tap, because you are going to miss the fish. I can’t tell you how much of a thrill it is to then watch one of your clients do exactly the right thing and nail a bass or two - as per here for example.

As I said at the top of this blog post, it’s often easier said than done though! I get one of those lovely little taps that is just asking for me to carry on fishing the lure and then strike the next properly hard hit, but oh no, that would be far too accomplished. The little demon that resides in my head and controls the tackle tart urges within me also sometimes jumps up and makes me fish like a serious tit at times, and this is one of those occasions when he decides to take over. That gentle little tap, and then what do I do? Damn right, I strike the living hell out of it and miss the bass about as perfectly as you could hope for. None of that waiting for the proper hit to come. Oh no, sod that, why don’t I just remove what the bass obviously wants to eat from the entire equation and leave the sodding fish wondering where on earth it’s food just went. Now that’s some serious angling! On the way home I fess up to Mark about my episode of piss poor angling and then I start looking for a spare tree branch to give myself a damn good thrashing a la Basil Fawlty. Mark didn’t laugh at my ineptitude at all!

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.

 

People say you shouldn’t do it, but have you ever actually damaged a rod ring due to clipping your lure in it?

Sure as night follows day if I go and post a photograph like the one below up on Facebook, somebody is going to leave a comment along the lines of you shouldn’t clip your lure into your rod ring like that because you are going to damage it. Now whilst this makes perfect sense because rod rings or guides are meant to be fairly fragile things and so on, yes I do clip my lures into my rod ring (mostly the bottom one) when I am moving around when fishing - and I have never yet damaged a rod ring because of it…………..

Have you though? I understand where anglers are coming from on this, and perhaps one day I shall have cause to regret clipping my lures away like this, but it’s never happened to me, I have never seen it happen to anybody I have lure fished with, and I can’t really think of a better way to secure a lure on a rod when you are carrying it around. Is it one of those fishing things that people talk about but it doesn’t actually happen? Like the unseen bass you lost that was definitely a double figure monster?!

OK, so we are talking about lures here that aren’t exactly great big heavy things which I am sure could do some damage to rod rings, but then really big say GT lures call for far more robust rods with bigger rod rings etc. My mate chooses to clip his lure onto the bale arm of his spinning reel as per above which is another easy way to secure it, but as much as I have tried this method, to me it’s just so easy to clip your lure onto the bottom rod guide.

And I am more than happy to then strap my lure rod onto the Vac-Rac rod holders that are secured to my car, and still with all that bouncing around from driving with rods on there like that, I haven’t seen a rod ring damaged - and we’re talking about cheap rod rings right through to the most expensive Fuji Torzites. I am setting myself up for a fall here when next time out fishing and no doubt I go and break a rod ring, so please leave a comment and tell me if you yourself have actually damaged a rod ring due to clipping your lure into it.

 

Sufix 832 8-strand braid review - under £20 for a 120m spool here in the UK (is there another 8-strand braid that's better suited to the rough and tumble of lure fishing?)

I make no apologies for reviewing the extraordinary Sufix 832 braid for a second time, indeed I thought a second review nearly four years after I did the first one might be of interest to those of you here who don’t like paying through the nose for your mainlines (and I include me here), and to those of you who do a lot of lure fishing in and around rough ground where as much abrasion resistance and overall toughness as you can get from your mainline can only be a good thing.

Yes, I have a serious thing for Sufix fishing lines - as per here - and via various Skype calls and emails back and forth with my Mr. Sufix contact I feel that I am now gaining a better technical understanding of their lines. And yes, it does make me feel good about my stumbling around and coming to my own conclusions that this technical stuff is marrying up with my experiences of these lines out in the real fishing world. Does that make sense?

Anyway, Sufix 832 8-strand braid - sure, there are slightly thinner, limper, smoother, quieter through the guides, and perhaps ever so slightly longer-casting “Japanese style” 8-strands out there (including Sufix’s own Performance Pro 8 that to me is as good as any uber-smooth Japanese 8-strand braid that I have ever fished with, whatever the price, and of course the outstanding Daiwa J-Braid, review for these two lines is here), but what I can’t get away from with this Sufix 832 is how tough it is, and to be honest I am more than happy to give up a little bit of that silky smoothness to get a braid that feels like it’s bombproof, and which just keeps on going and going and going……………..

I’ve got a spare spool here for the Shimano AR-C Aero C14+ 4000 spinning reel, and on that spool is 120m of 0.15mm (9.2kg/ 20lb) Sufix 832 in the white colour - now I fished with that particular spool on that reel back when I went to Morocco in December 2013, and from memory that line was used plenty before that trip and then plenty after it as well. The line has been sitting on that spool for nearly four years now and it feels as good as new, and perhaps more importantly I still can’t break it in my hands when I tie an FG knot to a leader. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me, indeed Mr. Sufix has told me on a couple of occasions now that their slight “problem” if you like with their Sufix 832 is that it lasts too long.

So this is direct from the horse’s mouth: “832 is a US designed braid, strong and for brutal fishing, lot of casts and catches. Unbeatable in abrasion resistance thanks to the Gore material included”. Sounds to me like it’s a braid which could have been designed for a lot of the sort of lure fishing that you or I might do. Did you know that one of the main reasons for your braid suddenly starting to snap out of the blue can actually be due to internal abrasion caused by fishing with it a lot - but do we not assume that those “breaks out of nowhere” are surely caused by external nicks and damage that we don't see? As per the slide above (with thanks to Sufix for letting me use them), the 832 braid is incredibly resistant to external and internal abrasion - and yes, I know what the “competitor braid” is, and yes, I have been asked not to say.

And yes, I grant you that machine testing for abrasion resistance (as per above) is different to being out fishing in the real world as such, but for the life of me I can’t recall any Sufix 832 braid that I have ever fished with not doing its job. I was reading my four year old review here and thinking about the wind knot problems I had occasionally found when using 832 on the smaller Sustain 2500, but with the complete lack of any issues I have had ever since I have to assume that this particular spinning reel just didn’t get on with this particular braid. Is that possible? Was I doing something wrong? Well I can’t see any other answer when I have now used it on other smaller spinning reels without a single issue.

Don’t get me wrong here - I love a silky smooth Japanese style 8-strand braid as much as the next lure angler, and I am in the lucky position to have fished with a lot of different ones over the years. I can’t get away from the realities of a lot of our lure fishing though, and whilst we are not about to hook fish from our shores that are going to strip all the line from a reel due to their sheer size and power, our mainlines can in fact go through a hell of a lot of grief at times because of where we so often do our lure fishing. And for all the deliciousness of a silky smooth 8-strand, in reality I know I’ve got a modern, tough as hell braid here in Sufix 832 that after a hell of a lot of experience with it now feels to me like it’s just about the perfect mainline for my lure fishing - and whether that be for bass, wrasse or pollack. For sure I will keep on trying other braids out when they come along, but it’s going to take something pretty damn special for me to not keep a spinning reel loaded up with Sufix 832.

But what about the diameters, strengths and different colours that you can get this Sufix 832 in? Well I would refer you to the Sufix Europe catalogue right here - and do please ignore any USA line ratings if you come across this line across the pond - and if you want to get some of this braid then go by the diameters and kg breaking strain. My thanks to all of you kind people who have purchased any of your fishing tackle through my affiliate links - the two lure fishing specialists I know of who are starting to major in Sufix fishing lines are here and here if that helps. But it also goes without saying that you can find this braid elsewhere. 

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.

 

Obviously I don’t need it, but that’s missing the point - I want it, which is another thing entirely……….

Needing something is one thing, but wanting something is completely different, and for all the shiny fishing tackle I either own or that passes through my hands and ends up as a review on here, there is always something else out there that I haven’t seen yet but could be “the one”. Damn right, I don’t actually need a new lure rod or spinning reel or whatever, but for some of us there seems to be this twisted little part of our brain that likes to play with us and our weaknesses for the shiny stuff. Read on and I will describe to you how a grownup man with a wife, two children, a mortgage and a Citroen Berlingo couldn’t get to sleep the other night because he is churning forth the eternal question in his head: “Do I really need it?” And then the little voice from the darkest corner of my mind pipes up: “Obviously you don’t need it, but you want it, don’t you?” Help……………

On Wednesday I am passing by Wadebridge so of course I have to drop into see Ben at his scarily impressive Art of Fishing tackle shop, and especially because he’s texted me earlier in the week to tell me (ruin me?) that he’s got a couple of new lure rods in that I really should see - and note here that he’s mentioned lure rods and nothing else. I can just about deal with that. Sure, I end up wanting far too many of the rods that pass through my hands for review purposes, but I am getting to the stage that I have been lucky enough to have fished with that many that I don’t then want every uber impressive lure rod that I get to try out. Or at least that is what I tell myself.

Anyway, so I open the door to the Art of Fishing, say hi to Ben, and we get down to the serious business of waggling some new lure rods. Crumbs. But it’s ok, I am breathing fine, I haven’t got that sense of panic like I get when I walk into a BassPro store in the US and know that I will never actually have enough time to see it all. I love seeing Ben’s amazing array of lure fishing rods and he is kind enough to let me sometimes take the odd rod away to fish with and write reviews if I want to. All is cool and of course I also re-pick up some lure rods that I have waggled before.

Have you ever read that Stephen King book “Needful Things?” I have read most of his books over the years, indeed “It” by this author is in my top three books of all time, and yes, I can’t wait to see what the soon to be released film is going to be like - loving the look of the trailers. Anyway, the plot of “Needful Things” from Wikipedia is as follows: “A new shop named "Needful Things" opens in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, sparking the curiosity of its citizens. The proprietor, Leland Gaunt, is a charming elderly gentleman who always seems to have an item in stock that is perfectly suited to any customer who comes through his door.” OK, so Ben at the Art of Fishing is not elderly, but do you get my drift here?

So we’re waggling rods and talking about world peace and currency exchange rates etc. OK, so that last bit is a lie, but we are purring over lure rods like a couple of junkies dealing smack in a dimly lit car park - and then Ben casually goes over to his counter and drops this question into play as easily as my hands might literally stroke a new lure rod: “Henry, have you seen the new Shimano Twin Power reel?” As he is oh so casually asking me this question, he is pulling one of the sexiest looking spinning reels out of a box that I have ever laid eyes on……………

“No Ben, I haven’t, but I am guessing this is it? The thing is Ben, I just don’t think that it’s really worth spending so much money on a spinning reel with how long it’s going to last compared to cheaper spinning reels which these days are mostly so damn good”.

Or some horseshit along those lines, and please excuse my French here.

I do actually mean that about expensive versus cheaper spinning reels by the way, but you need to understand what has happened here - like the purveyor of fine filth that he is, Ben has almost matter of factly put a brand new Shimano Twin Power XD C3000 HG spinning reel into my hands, and like the tackle junkie that I so obviously am, without even realising I am turning that handle and cooing over the (to me) perfect reel handle and how ridiculously smooth and together and light and sexy the reel is.

The regular part of my head is saying to me that of course I don’t need a new spinning reel when I have enough already, and that how on earth could I justify spending that sort of dosh on a reel that could probably stop a horse dead in its tracks and is of course far more than we could ever actually need to catch bass and so on. That logical stuff is easy, but the simple fact is that I am holding (caressing?) in my hands one of the loveliest looking and feeling spinning reels that I can recall picking up. I know it’s not going to stay that Shimano out of the box smooth for ever, and yes, you don’t get a spare spool with it, and yes, it’s way overgunned for a fish that might reach 10lbs if I am lucky.

But all that logic is completely beside the point now, because I want it. Sure as night follows day I don’t need this new Shimano Twin Power XD C3000 HG spinning reel, but I am weak around nice shiny fishing tackle, and the seed is now sown - and I can’t unsow it. On Wednesday night I simply could not get to sleep with churning the “obviously don’t need it” thing through my head, while the little voice threw endless reasons why I do actually now need a reel like this at me. I am lying there in bed mentally turning that perfect reel handle as I fish perfect bass mark after perfect bass mark, and it’s gone 1am before I drift off - to then wake up at 5am with this blog post bouncing around my brain. Welcome to my head dear readers!

You all have a good weekend. I am off to the Isles of Scilly on Sunday with my wife and Storm our sheepdog. Our two girls will be in France with their French friends and it’s the perfect chance to spend a few days in one of our favourite places on earth, and yes, obviously, the fishing gear is coming with me. I will blog when possible, but it’s me taking a few days off so things might be sporadic next week. How many more nights though will be consumed with turning that reel handle?

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 always amazes me how many people or indeed anglers don’t ask questions, and therefore don’t keep on learning and improving

If there is one thing my wife and I try to instill into our two girls - apart from having good manners of course - it’s to ask if they don’t know. What’s the point of bumbling through life but not asking questions? Surely life is about wanting to learn and understand more and more interesting stuff? Yapping away is easy, but how many people do you come across who can talk the hind legs off a donkey yet never ask any questions? My girls are who they are, but I am not going to have two children who aren’t interested in the world around them, and to me there are direct parallels with fishing here…………..

Do you actually watch people and how they behave, or do you breeze on through regardless? I reckon at 44 I know myself pretty well by now, and I know that I ask a lot of questions - but how can I not? How can I spend time around anglers from all over the world and not ask lots of questions? How ignorant would it be to sit there and not want to learn about all kinds of fishing, as well as understanding more about what makes various anglers tick? Surely we become better anglers because we strive to learn, indeed there seems to be a direct correlation between anglers who are struggling and anglers who simply don’t ask questions.

I simply can’t abide ignorance and I can’t stand it when somebody waffles on at me about themselves and their own experiences but never asks a single question back. You know the type of person or indeed angler I am talking about here - they’ll tell you how it is or it isn’t, but they can’t recognise that it’s they themselves who could do with asking some questions so that they can improve their own fishing. So they don’t get better and so on.

I guess it’s human nature. Some of us strive to keep on learning new stuff, and some of us don’t. It has always amazed me when I go on some of my photography trips and you’re spending time around professional fishing guides who are the ones spending the time on the water and for the most part are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced - yet I see some clients who might have paid serious fortunes to do this fishing essentially putting no questions to these guides. Pay your money, turn up, do your fishing thing, and go home - but how could anybody not want to learn as much as they can when they are in this kind of environment? Surely that is part and parcel of the overall experience?

I have always loved spending time around anglers, indeed I would put this part of my job up there as perhaps the biggest thrill in some respects. I meet all kinds of anglers from all walks of life and with all kinds of skill levels, but in truth it’s too many times when I stand there and wonder why on earth more anglers don’t ask more questions, or to put it another way - why they don’t try to learn more and become better and more rounded anglers. I don’t mean go pumping good anglers for their best locations, rather I am on about actually talking back and forth, and not just I did this and I did that and I am such a frigging hero but I plainly have no interest in what you do sort of thing. Surely fishing mirrors life, or is it the other way round?

 

Favorite Skyline SKY-862M 8’6’’ 6-21g lure rod review - £279.99 UK price

If you on the lookout for a lighter lure rod to use for bass fishing - and no doubt other lure fishing as well - then I would strongly recommend that you take a long look at this amazing new Favorite Skyline SKY-862M 8’6’’ 6-21g lure rod. A lure rod this light in my opinion almost has no right to feel like this - it’s so damn fast it’s almost a joke, it will properly put 21g lures out there if needs be but then also properly fish the much lighter stuff, I don’t know how they manage to put a tip like this on a rod that’s got so much grunt lower down, and I just love how this Favorite Skyline SKY-862M 8’6’’ 6-21g lure rod is the next level up in power over the slightly lighter Favorite SkyLine 862ML 8’6’’ 4-16g sibling that I reviewed a while back.

It’s when you start working various lures that this slightly more powerful version of the lighter Favorite Skyline suddenly and seriously comes to life, indeed it’s quite remarkable how outstanding this magic wand of a 6-21g lure rod is when you are imparting action to soft lures especially. Do nothing but whack and crank and you might as well save some money and buy something cheaper that isn’t giving you this much, but bringing lures to life and I can’t really see how an 8’6’’, slightly lighter lure rod is going to get any better than this Favorite Skyline SKY-862M. Bloody hell this thing is special, and I will do my best to tell you why.

OK, so I am obsessed with the OSP DoLive Stick soft plastic lure, and especially the 6’’, but increasingly the smaller and long casting 4.5’’ FAT version. I like how far these things cast and I tend to like working them with a kind of twitch, twitch, pause, wind a bit, twitch, pause and so on sort of retrieve, but then saying that, I watched our clients over in Ireland the other day land some fantastic bass on the 6’’ DOLive Sticks by simply winding them in at a slowish sort of pace so that the lure swims with the most outrageous slalom sort of action. It’s when I feel totally connected to a soft plastic “twitchbait” like this that I know I am using a decent lure rod, and I can’t think of a better combination than this particular Skyline rod plus DoLive Stick, senko etc. I like a fast lure rod, and this thing’s as fast as they come, but the tip on it is just something else it’s so good.

Yet again I have shamelessly "borrowed" this screenshot from the excellent Art of Fishing website!

Yet again I have shamelessly "borrowed" this screenshot from the excellent Art of Fishing website!

When I’m working the lure, obviously the tip needs to work with me to help impart life to it, but I don’t want to feel that a lighter lure rod like this is “collapsing” into the lure if that makes sense - we need a tip to help us work soft plastics especially, but I can’t stand any sort of floppy stick of a lure rod. I could watch the way the tip on this Favorite Skyline 862M bends into the rest of the rod all day long, but better still I am in love with how it feels in my hands - absolute precision, maximum feedback, and the feeling that with the rod I am alert to any kind of interest at the lure end. I’d love to be able to better explain it, but at the end of the day it just all feels wonderfully “together”.

I've put a GIF together of this Skyline being cast (thanks as ever Mark!), hope it works ok on your device

I've put a GIF together of this Skyline being cast (thanks as ever Mark!), hope it works ok on your device

There’s no point in me telling you what you should or should not be doing with this lighter lure rod - I think the casting weight and rod length gives you all the clues you need. As for whether you would ever want or need a lure rod for your bass fishing like this depends on many factors, not least where you tend to do the bulk of your fishing, what sea and weather conditions you tend to face, and what lures you tend to like fishing with.

I got a bit of a shock the other night when I fished with this 6-21g Skyline and also the lighter 7-23g Major Craft Skyroad which I really like (review here) - I would fish for a while then change rods but use the same lure, and whilst I have a serious thing for the lighter Skyroad, I could not believe how different these two rods are when you cast them. The overall steeliness blending into that utterly sublime tip on the Favorite Skyline is very different to the more through action on the light Skyroad, indeed it showed me how the lightness of the Skyroad is right through the rod I suppose (and I really, really like the 7-23g Skyroad), whereas the Skyline is so much about the tip working with a lot of steeliness - and yes, the more expensive Favorite Skyline is more “precise” than the Skyroad, as indeed perhaps it should be for the price.

The grip and handle design on this 6-21g Skyline are the same as on the 4-16g version I reviewed a while back, and whilst I generally like what is going on but had reservations about what sits under my reel hand, over time I have come around more and more to what I think is some sort of textured carbon underneath. The build quality on these not cheap Skyline rods smacks of quality and I do really like a set of Fuji Torzite guides that just never seem to show any signs of rusting. A rod bag makes little difference to me, but I like the fact that it’s neoprene, plus you get a couple of neoprene rod straps included which I think is a nice touch.

If you read my previous, lighter Skyline review then you know my feelings on these lighter rods - I am increasingly enjoying fishing with them, and this is largely down to me fishing more and more soft plastics rigged weedless and weightless especially. This 6-21g Favorite Skyline seems born to fish surface lures like my beloved IMA Salt Skimmer, and I have absolutely blasted some 20g GT Ice Cream type lures I have here in an attempt to stress the thing out a bit, but to be honest the rod just keeps on going, and I put that down to the power present in the butt and mid-section. Because of where I fish and the conditions I often face, I can’t use a lighter rod like this all the time, but when a lure rod is as utterly sublime as this new Favorite Skyline SKY-862M, then I can’t help but find as many excuses as possible to fish with it.

I knew nothing about Favorite rods only a few months ago, but holy cow have the few I have fished with so far been some impressive bits of kit. I wonder where this mightily impressive company might go with the bass type lure rods they are increasingly making available, indeed that sub-£200 Favorite Shooter SHT-962MH 9'6'' 15-35g rod (review here) still sits in my head as one of the most impressive “next step up” bass lure rods I have come across. In my lure fishing fried head I am dreaming of a say 9’4’’ 7-28g version of this awesome Favorite Skyline SKY-862M 8’6’’ 6-21g lure rod - now that would be something else…………...   

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.

 

How’s your local bass fishing been? Strange year so far?

Whilst there is of course no denying that bass stocks are under huge pressure from many different angles, I refuse to believe that what has been a very up and down season so far around here is purely down to overfishing. I hope I am not burying my head in the sand, rather things seem so different to last year that if this current lack of bass numbers was solely down to commercial pressure then I would be almost beyond worried if that makes sense………..

How has the bass fishing been around you so far this year? I keep my eye on as many fishing reports as I can, and unless I am mistaken it seems that some parts of the country have been experiencing some pretty good fishing, whereas in other parts it has sometimes felt like a bit of a desert out there. One set of tides and you’re finding a few fish, and then a week later and it’s as if something is seriously wrong. I dread to think how our catches would have been so far this year if we weren’t into night fishing.

Take yesterday morning for example. Mark and I found what could only be described as perfect conditions for this part of the world - every single thing was spot on (check the photo above, and believe me, for around here it doesn’t get much better - green water, bounce, nice tide, very little weed, you name it, that’s perfection), yet we managed one piddly little bass between us. Granted, it could have been down to some crap angling, but in reality at this time of year we really should have seen a few bass, and this has happened too many times for it not to at least get the brain churning about what might be going on out there.

Things kicked off sort of when you’d expect it to around here, as per above, and for a while it seemed as if we were on for a good few months, but the last while has been some tough fishing - how about you though? What are you finding out there? Are you experiencing anything close to what you might term “normal”, or are you struggling, or are you seeing more bass around?

As far as I can tell, bass aren’t coming close inshore for a bit of a laugh - surely they are coming in to where we might catch them because there’s a good food source around? And then they don’t come in if a decent food source isn’t around, or rather they are off somewhere else where their food source happens to be. I hear so many different things about who’s catching bass and where, where the shoals of say sandeels and mackerel might or might not be, and so on, but in reality I simply don’t know what is going on - my head tells me that we aren’t seeing many bass close inshore around here at the moment because their food isn’t around. Why though?

Does anybody actually know, or are we simply guessing? Is it a case of nature doing what it does - overfishing notwithstanding - and us as human beings clutching at straws when nature doesn’t then do what we kind of expect it to do, but because it’s nature, it doesn’t always work like that. And so on.

Are we as anglers sometimes guilty of going to the same marks at the same times and in the same sorts of conditions, and then when things don’t go to plan - like now around here - are we clutching at a few more straws? I have no doubt that the bass fishing will properly switch on around here sometime (or at least I bloody hope it will), but if there is one thing that the current up and down nature of it is telling me, it’s to change various things up and see what might happen - which might of course prove to be beneficial for the future……………..

 

It niggles me when you don’t get a spare spool included with a spinning reel, but I’ve found a solution for this sublime Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS

So when did you last have such a bad blow up with your braid that either you had to change spools over, or else if you weren’t carrying a spare spool you couldn’t actually carry on fishing? Granted, this might never have happened to you - and for the life of me I can’t remember the last time it happened to me - but I am haunted by this feeling that some day I am going to be in the middle of the most epic bass fishing session you could ever imagine, and my extreme over excitement is going to cause me to do a particularly bad cast, blow my reel up beyond all hope, and then I will be left thrashing myself with my lure rod - unless there’s a spare spool loaded up with braid, sitting in my rucksack, calling to me………….

And this is one reason in particular I like to carry a spare spool for my spinning reel - and therefore yes, it niggles me that with some spinning reels you get a spare spool in the box, yet with some you don’t. As I said, I can’t actually remember having to use a spare spool, but I also like being able to use the same spinning reel with a couple of different breaking strains or makes of braid for example - which I can’t do if my reel doesn’t come with that spare spool in the box. I could buy a spare one of course, but firstly I don’t see why I should have to, and secondly they are often next to impossible to get hold of anyway. I must give credit to Ben at the Art of Fishing for actually stocking a few spare spools for some of the more popular Shimano spinning reels - check here.

Anyway, I have been fishing a lot more with this utterly sublime Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel (review here) - I liked it a hell of a lot when I wrote that review, but I like it even more another couple of months down the line. Why? Because it just feels right when I turn that lovely chunky handle, and so far I haven’t had a single problem with it. This Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS is so my kind of lure fishing reel and I am sorely tempted to buy another one it’s that nice to fish with - but yes, it still niggles me that this reel doesn’t come with a spare spool in the box.

I mentioned in my review of this reel that it reminded me very much of the Shimano Sustain 4000FG spinning reel, and the other day an idea suddenly came to me in a blinding flash of light - and apologies here if this would seem remarkably obvious to you - would the spool from the Sustain by any chance fit onto the Exsence?

By jove it does, as per above! I have heard of the spools of various Shimano spinning reels fitting perfectly onto other Shimano reels, and this is one of those cases - lo and behold if this Sustain 4000FG spool fitting onto the Exsence C14+ 4000XGS doesn’t now sort out my problem of not having a spare spool with me when I am fishing with it. OK, so none of this will apply to you if you don’t own these reels, but at least my finding this out may give you cause to swap some spools around on your spinning reels and see what might fit. Chances are you aren’t going to need to carry a spare spool with you, but is it worth taking that risk?

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.

 

Sufix Super 21 FC fluorocarbon review (150m spools for £9.99) - why spend any more on your leader material?

I was rooting through the Sufix European catalogue the other day and came across what they refer to as a “castable fluorocarbon line” in this Super 21 FC stuff, and straight away I am wondering why on earth it can’t also be used as a leader material? I like the fact that you can buy 150m spools, the breaking strains and diameters make a lot of sense to me, and the prices are really good when compared to some of the specialist fluorocarbon lines that are sold specifically as leader material.

So I got hold of some and then emailed my Mr. Sufix contact and asked him whether I was barking up the wrong tree by trying this Sufix Super 21 FC castable fluorocarbon out as a leader material, to which his reply was no, not at all, it works great, although of course it’s not made from exactly the same raw materials as their their somewhat more expensive Sufix Invisiline, plus it has various things done to it after extrusion to make it into a castable fluorocarbon mainline (that Sufix Invisiline is a pure leader material, I have used it plenty over the years, and it’s an outstanding line). Yes, I am obsessed with Sufix lines, but why wouldn’t I be when no Sufix line has ever let me down in all the time I have been fishing with them? I also really like the fact that their two different 8-strand braids are well under the £20 mark here in the UK, and that they are becoming properly available once again (Sufix 832 here and Sufix Performance Pro 8 here) - and of course it helps that these braids are just awesome mainlines.

Anyway, this is a remarkably easy review to write, because this Sufix Super 21 FC works perfectly as a leader material for species such as bass, pollack and wrasse, and I know this because I have now used it plenty myself, plus I used it for our clients over in Ireland the other day when I was tying on new leaders for them - and it just works, end of. It’s strong, it works perfectly with the FG knot, it knots great to the lure clip, I like how it’s a bit stiffer than regular mono which I think makes lines like this work so well as leader material, and to be honest, as much as I tell myself that I do really love “pure” fluorocarbons, in reality when I use a line like this Sufix Super 21 FC I am left wondering if I do actually need to spend any more money than what this stuff costs. This much cheaper fluorocarbon leader material does exactly what I want it to do.

If a 150m spool of this line doesn’t last you for a season of saltwater fishing then I’d be surprised (used as leader material), and at the £9.99 price for the sort of diameters/breaking strains we would use here in the UK and Ireland, Super 21 FC just makes a whole heap of sense to me as a leader material. There are a bunch of numbers on the spools, but if you do want to try this fluorocarbon out then go with these figures here when choosing which one to use (and I have based the UK prices on what the outstanding Art of Fishing tackle shop is selling this line for):

  • 0.28mm - 5.4kg/12lb

  • 0.30mm - 6.3kg/14lb  

  • 0.35mm - 8.1kg/18lb

  • 0.40mm - 9.0kg/20lb

So there you go. Yet another Sufix line which is working perfectly for me. Nice and easy on a Monday morning!

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.

 

If you’ve ever had a problem with the FG knot, then these might be the two reasons (angler error? Never!)

I make no apologies for another blog post based on the FG knot, not when it’s the best connection from braid to leader that we can use, and not when you’ve got clients snagging the odd lure in the bottom when pollack fishing and John Quinlan or I pull for breaks on the FG knots we have tied in their lines and every single time you get the leader back - either with the lure still attached after serious pressure, or with it having given on the knot that was tied on the leader to the lure clip. But have you ever had any problems with the FG knot? Perhaps it’s gone out of the blue, or like what happened to me a few years back, perhaps you give it a sample sort of pull and for some reason the knot just unravels out of the blue?

Well I reckon there are two reasons why the FG knot could fail on you - it getting scuffed badly on sharp rocks aside of course - and both I would classify as angler error, with means that both reasons can be easily avoided. Today I am the FG knot doctor! I must sound like a scratched record here, but what on earth is the point in spending good money on modern lines and then not using the best modern knot to connect your braid to leader, if indeed you use a leader that is? Sure, the Improved Albright or the Uni to Uni are decent connection knots, but the fact is that they are not as good as the FG knot.

To me it’s like spending decent money on say a lovely soft plastic lure, but then rigging it with a suspect weedless hook - it will most likely be fine for most of the fish you might connect with, but what about when that fish of a lifetime comes along? Why take the risk? There are any number of reasons for us losing fish, but I know that it’s not going to be my leader knot that fails on me - so one potential problem has been removed from the equation. How about sometimes getting expensive lures back from snags as well? Anyway, I digress…………..

With the braids and leaders we are likely to use for our own lure fishing, I put thirty turns into my FG knot, or thinking about it another way, fifteen complete cross-wraps - which is more than on the video above, but I just think that it’s required for lighter braids especially. A few years ago out in Morocco I distinctly remember pulling hard on an FG knot one morning (that I had tied the previous day) and it just unravelled and came apart easily - which of course freaked the life out of me. From that moment on I started to put those thirty turns on the knot (instead of the twenty or so I had been doing) and it has never, ever happened again (if you do the next step properly as well), indeed on the last evening of that Morocco trip I snagged a hard lure up good and proper, but got it back because I literally straightened the trebles out. The mainline if that helps was the awesome Sufix 832 braid in the 0.15mm size.

Look around the internet and there are any number of videos on how to tie the FG knot, but I still really like the one embedded into this blog post as the best one I have come across for the initial construction of the FG knot - but once I’ve done my thirty turns (or fifteen complete cross-wraps), I reckon this next step is absolutely vital to “set” the knot, and the bloke in the video does this later than I do. Oh, and if you can’t secure the braid in your teeth to get some tension, you can tie a loop in it to make it easier, or secure that loop around something that’s attached to you (small carabiner attached to your wader strap for example) , or even secure that loop around the handle on your reel to get tension, and tie the knot like that, as per the video above (thanks to the French guy who left a comment on my blog and made me aware of this technique, love the music!).

So what is this next step? Tie that first half-hitch around the leader and braid, tighten it down, and then pull the living hell out of the knot - to me this is absolutely vital, and if you don’t do it you risk the knot failing on you. This step properly tightens up those cross-wraps so that they literally “grip” onto your leader, and after that real tightening phase you can finish the knot off. I’ve done that one half-hitch so far, so now I will put a couple more in over braid and leader, then I cut the leader as close as possible, put two more half-hitches around the braid only, and then do a three turn locking knot around the braid (which is basically a three turn half-hitch - put three turns inside the loop you form instead of just the one for a half-hitch), pull it tight, and leave a bit of a tag as per the photo above. That’s the FG knot done for me, and I’ve done it in a gale of wind and on a rocking boat with no problems at all - and it just works.