I’m out in the US

My apologies for the sporadic blogging, but I flew to Boston on Friday morning and I am now here in Cape Cod doing some striped bass related stuff with Fiiish’s lure designer. We were out on the boat on Saturday and smashed a load of striped bass - no size, but it was great to see how a bunch of prototype lures worked. Then we hung around the famous Cape Cod Canal on Sunday. There’s been a good run of fish the last few days and I saw some landed to maybe 30lbs yesterday morning, and whilst I didn’t manage to hook any myself, the highlight of my day was watching an osprey come down and pick a mackerel out of the water right in front of me.

Anyway, it’s 3.30am in the morning as I am writing this and we are heading out to fish first light. The photo above is of a serious Canal specialist who puts lures out further than I have ever seen and could not be kinder with helping us out Thank you Bull, we are in your debt. I even managed to find a few absolutely perfect UK bass sized needlefish in a local tackle shop out here - ok, so the hooks need changing, but they are exactly what I have been looking for, and the retail price was under $7 a lure! More to come………….

 

We are ready to go with this co-guided lure fishing in south Devon - dates, prices, info, absolutely bouncing to get going!

Well this is it! After plenty of planning and bashing of collective heads, Marc Cowling of South Devon Bass Guide and I are ready to go with offering a number of co-guided lure fishing sessions that will indeed be based around the stunning south Devon coastline - and there are many, many miles of varied fishing. If you would like to come lure fishing with us - with an emphasis on bass fishing of course - then the easiest way is to head over to my shiny new Guiding page on this website, have a read, and then fill out the contact form and we can get the ball rolling……………

Why offer co-guided trips? Marc and I want to offer something a bit different, and between us we feel we have got all bases covered when it comes to giving our clients a thoroughly memorable and rewarding guided lure fishing experience. We take a maximum of four clients out fishing at a time so that we can give everybody the benefit of our combined knowledge and experience, plus I will always have camera gear with me to record your day and provide you with photographic memories that will live with you forever. Marc and I are complete and utterly addicted to saltwater lure fishing and we feel strongly about how we can best impart our collective passion, knowledge and love for fishing across to anglers - running these co-guided lure fishing trips is our answer.

Why south Devon? A long, varied and breathtaking coastline, south Devon has got the lot when it comes to lure fishing - open coast rock marks, loads of beaches and numerous estuaries, and whilst we can’t control the weather, it’s rare that we are not able to get out lure fishing and have a good chance of connecting with a few fish. I learnt the bulk of my saltwater fishing along the south Devon coastline whilst Marc has lived close to Kingsbridge nearly all his life and knows every nook and cranny.

These are the dates we have set aside for 2017, to coincide with good tides etc. If none of these work for you but you really want to come along (brave person?), then please do get in touch and we will do our utmost to make it happen.

September 2017

  • Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd
  • Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th

October 2017

  • Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th
  • Thursday 19th and Friday 20th

November 2017

  • Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd
  • Thursday 16th and Friday 17th

December 2017

  • Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd

And how much are we going to charge?

£400 per day - two anglers

£500 per day - three anglers

£600 per day - four anglers

A £100 deposit per angler secures your booking. You can find the more grownup information over on Marc’s website - FAQs are here, and the Terms and Conditions are here.

A day is eight hours from the time we first meet up to head out fishing, but please rest assured that if after eight hours out on the coast we suddenly have a heap of fish wanting to crawl up your line then we are of course open to bribery!  

And if you want something different - say Marc and I on your own for example - then please do talk to us. We are complete and utter fishing junkies ourselves and we know what it’s like to literally need to go fishing.

So there you go - it’s out there! We are not going to tell you that this co-guiding venture is all about big bass and nothing else, indeed both Marc and I are very keen not to try selling ourselves like that. For sure we will major on taking our clients out lure fishing for bass - and please note that we are also making night lure fishing available if conditions look favourable and you are keen to do it, plus a go at wrasse and pollack on lures as well - but we are here to work with fish, tides, conditions and the anglers who might book us up. Head over to my new Guiding page on this website, have a good read through, and then fill out the contact form.

As with my guiding work over in Ireland, to me it’s about our clients having a blast, and whilst catching fish if course top of the list, I firmly believe that the whole experience is what counts in the end. We’re going to have fun and we are here to help you with your fishing - and on that front, please, please do not worry for one second if you are not some grizzled lure fishing veteran. We are here to work with you, and both Marc and I feel very much the same about fishing - have a whole heap of fun and keep on learning. If that mentality floats your boat then please come along……….  

Apia Foojin'R Best Bower 96MLX (9’6’’, 6-32g) lure rod review - £284.99 UK price

Be careful what you read, or at least that’s what springs to mind with this particular Apia lure rod. By hook or by crook I have ended up fishing with a number of rods in Apia’s Foojin’R range now, but this Apia Foojin'R Best Bower 96MLX (9’6’’, 6-32g) eluded me up until Ben at the Art of Fishing kindly let me have an extended play with it. To be honest though I had kind of ignored this rod because of what I had read about it on a Japanese website which I have to assume was either a bad translation or a lack of understanding of the English language - which I would like you to note I am not about to criticise, not with my complete lack of understanding of Japanese!

I quote what I had read about this Apia Foojin'R Best Bower 96MLX: “The Apia 2014 Foojin’ R Best Bower 96MLX is the standard model which has elastic and whippy action which is developed to be applied to all fields. Though the material is high strained graphite, but the blank is really mild for comfortable casting.” I suppose you could take that in a number of different ways, but to me it implies that it’s a through sort of “elastic” action which to be honest I tend to shy away from with my lure fishing. Hence my not really getting excited about wanting to see this rod, and my saying be careful what you read when translations come into play.

Now I seriously like the slightly more powerful APIA Foojin’R Best Bower 95M 9’5’’ 7-35g as per my review here, but it is definitely a step up over your more regular casting weight lure rods say sub-30g or something like that, and whilst my technical knowledge of lure fishing rods is at best limited, it’s interesting how this 6-32g Best Bower 96MLX sits so precisely just under the 95M, but still a noticeable and potentially useful step up in power over something like the ridiculously good Major Craft Skyroad Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g, indeed if it wasn’t then I would be questioning APIA’s rod ratings.

First off, and it always seems to be the case with APIA rods - I love the handle. So simple, so effective, just so well thought out and it just works. Good length, good grip, what more do you need? As for details on rings, handle lengths, blank diameters and curve diagrams, I am going to shamelessly acquire a screenshot above from the excellent Art of Fishing website, and then direct you to the rod right here to check out all those details up close and personal. I don’t know anybody else doing APIA rods here in the UK, so again it’s credit to Ben at the Art of Fishing for making them available to us tackle junkies. There’s not much point in me trying to describe the tip on this rod to you when you can see the info so clearly in the above screenshot.

If your bass fishing tends to revolve mostly around putting regular and larger size minnow style hard lures out there then this rod is born to it, and it’s a joy for working the larger surface lures plus say bumping Fiiish Black Minnows down a strong run of current. Give me an IMA Hound 125F Glide and a bit of bounce on the sea and this rod is flying. And yes, before people ask me, as with the slightly more powerful 95M, this 96MLX puts a surface lure like the Patchinko out as far as you could ever need to get it. Need to go further? Try something like a GT Ice Cream or the 30g Westin Kongetobis (which is essentially the discontinued Bass Bullet) - or else buy a kayak!

You can of course then turn to fishing with soft plastics rigged weedless/weightless such as my beloved OSP DoLive Stick in the 6’’ size, plus the white senkos that we use so much for night fishing - and the rod will do it, but it’s not what I would describe as nice and comfortable doing it, not like the freak of nature HTO Shore Game S962MLM 9'6'' 7-35g (review here) which is so damn special in the tip that it seems like it can do almost anything. Sure, if I was looking for a lure rod to really major around fishing soft plastics rigged weedless/weightless then I would not be buying these kinds of rods anyway, but I far prefer the HTO rod over this particular APIA as and when I might clip these kinds of lures on - there’s more precision in the HTO tip and I think it handles those lures much better. The APIA does it ok, but to me it so wants to help you blast lures out there and crank them in or splash them across the top etc. I can’t get away from how much a part of my lure fishing these days those soft plastics rigged weedless/weightless are, hence me thinking more and more about this when playing with various rods.

This Apia Foojin'R Best Bower 96MLX is a serious lure fishing rod that works well for a lot of our bass fishing. I like it, but I don’t love it, indeed I can’t help but prefer the slightly more powerful Best Bower  95M - it just feels more “together” to me. These rods are not cheap, but from my own experience of a number of APIA rods now, you’re getting some serious rods for the money. As it increasingly seems to be these days with far too many nice lure rods that I want (need?) to own, check out the excellent Art of Fishing website for the next best thing to actually getting out and fishing with a rod like this.

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.

 

Outfriggingstanding! My overall favourite brand of fishing lines is back in the UK………

It popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday morning - Sufix UK. I knew that Shimano UK had dropped their distribution of Sufix, indeed I could never work out why they got involved with a line brand anyway, not when they do PowerPro and also a whole bunch of their own lines already , and with how much I love Sufix fishing lines I was immediately interested that there was a Facebook page called Sufix UK. I sent the page a message and in the afternoon a bloke kindly called me back and we had a bit of a yap…………..

So you know, and to get any whiff of our English cynicism out of the way - I am nothing to do with Sufix UK, I have never met the people now involved with their UK distribution, and the only way I could remotely be financially involved here is if the places that I now do affiliate links with decide to buy Sufix lines in and then I link to them. As per usual now, if any link to Sufix lines appear in the future that revolve around affiliate links, there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of the blog post to let you all know.

Anyway, that stuff aside, I first came across Sufix lines on my first or second trip out to Namibia many moons ago now - many of the locals were using this bright yellow mono mainline and landing massive sharks and all manner of bigger fish from the beaches than we are ever going to tangle with over here. It stuck with me how good the line was, and also how it seemed to cut through the waves a bit better than the also very good Ultima Red Ice that I used to use so much for my bait fishing.

As outstanding as the numerous Sufix monofilament mainlines and leaders that I have used over the years are though, my principal interest now is in braids and fluorocarbon leaders, and of course we are seeing more and more good braids here in the UK and Ireland these days, plus thankfully, at increasingly sensible prices - with Daiwa J-Braid, Sufix Performance Pro 8 and SpiderWire Stealth Smooth 8 braid being the three “budget” 8-strand braids that I have extensively used now, and can’t find a single thing about any of them that I don’t like. I’ve said it on this blog a few times before - I have no issues with spending what it takes to get good lure fishing tackle, but what I need to spend now to get an outstanding 8-strand braid has changed forever thanks to those three mainlines.

Sufix 832 braid

Sufix 832 braid

Not that it means much, but if you tied me down and allowed me to use only one brand of fishing lines for ever more, then for me it would be Sufix. If we are talking about monos, braids and fluorocarbon which all had to come from the same manufacturer, well for me it’s a complete no brainer. Sure, I love plenty of the Japanese braids, and of the fluorocarbon leaders which you can actually buy here in the UK then I find it hard to look beyond the consistently excellent YGK Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon - but one brand for all lines?

Well that Sufix Performance Pro 8 is as thin and smooth and silky as any Japanese 8-strand braid I have fished with, their tougher and slightly rougher feeling Sufix 832 braid to me is perfect for lure fishing if you are after a mainline that’s a bit more robust perhaps (but then I’ve never had any issues with the silkier feeling Performance Pro 8), and whilst I have never seen it for sale here in the UK, the Sufix Invisiline is one hell of a good fluorocarbon leader that like the YGK Nitlon DFC just doesn’t let me down. And as for monofilaments? Easy. Check out the Sufix catalogue here - there are loads! Plenty of mono leaders as well, and I find it hard to look beyond the truly outstanding Sufix Zippy. I also love those spools that a leader like Zippy come on - so damn easy to use, and they don’t require a frigging diploma to work out how to get line off and then secure the end so it doesn’t all fly off!

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid

Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid

Anyway, I had a good yap yesterday with a guy from Normark UK, the company which is now starting to distribute Sufix lines here in the UK, and I see from the list of lines they are making available in the UK right now that the Performance Pro 8 and 832 braids are on there - yippee! And both well below £20 RRP which really makes my day. I really want to try the Sufix Nanobraid for slightly lighter lure fishing, and that’s available as well. I can’t see the Sufix Invisiline fluorocarbon as being available in the UK yet, but I am going to try “nudging” them towards doing it as it’s seriously good stuff.

So there you go. This blog post most likely won’t change your life overnight, but I am one happy angler to see Sufix lines back on the UK market, and I hope now being done properly by a company that actually wants to do something with stuff that is of seriously good quality. You all have a good weekend and may plenty of fish crawl up your lines, and very importantly, may the Lions win tomorrow morning against a New Zealand Super 12 side that I believe hasn’t lost a game all season. Dream on?

 

Guest blog post - Marc Cowling - How to find and fish Bass marks part 6 - Predatory Bass

My profound thanks to Marc Cowling of South Devon Bass Guide for so kindly doing these guest blog posts. I can’t wait to start working with the guy later on this year, but in the meantime, if you fancy going out for some guided lure fishing with a thoroughly nice and very knowledgeable guy, then please contact Marc here and see what days he has available. He works his butt off for his clients and he is very much on my wavelength - we love our fishing, we are happy to say that there are far better anglers than us out there, and we both passionately believe in communicating our love for fishing to other anglers. Thanks Marc.

"This is the final part of my 6 part series of how to find your own Bass marks and how to fish them. So what are Predatory Bass?

In the context of this post, Predatory Bass are those that are likely to be 'more catchable' on lures or bait, due to the naturally occurring conditions.

A big sea and a big tide to go with it in South Devon

Feeding frenzy or something else?

Despite thousands of hours of bass fishing, there is only one time in my life when I have witnessed them shoaling up within 50 yds of the shore annihilating bait fish. In this case it was from a very large ledge in Dorset routinely fished by non-other than Mike Ladle where the bass were slashing at, and then smashing into the sandeel shoals.

However, what I have witnessed on countless occasions, are times when there has been a marked increase in the amount of bass that are feeding very close to the shoreline - although they aren't immediately visible. It is within these sometimes short periods, that a bass is simply being what it is - an utterly ruthless, completely adept, outrageously effective, apex predator. Clearly, it is during these times that you can really increase your chances of latching into one. So why do bass act in this way?

We all appreciate the sporting nature of these magnificent creatures, being that they're capable of feeding in a multitude of situations from off-shore sandbanks, estuaries, rocky headlands, quiet bays and catchable on float fished prawns, large chunks of mackerel, surface lures, minnow type plugs etc. However, what I've noticed are 3 things that encourage Bass to be more prominent very close inshore, almost cavalier in their feeding habits and essentially; easier to catch:

Increased concentrations of bait fish.

Rough seas.

High water on very high tides.

So let’s take a look at them individually -

Increased concentrations of bait fish

I mentioned above an occasion in Dorset some 10 years ago now, where I witnessed bass slashing on the surface in their pursuit of sandeels. Now this was a very noticeable display however, sometimes bass aren't always so obvious.

Before you even cast your bait or lure into the vicinity of where you hope they are, there are often clues to the potential of bass being in a 'predatory' mood. This could be increased bird activity, dead (but fresh) brit and sandeels washed up on the shoreline or even mackerel shoals hammering the above right into the shallows  or even onto the rocks or beach.

In my experience of catching bass in South Devon (and I'm sure this goes for anywhere in the UK), if there is an increased amount of bait fish (and I include the mackerel here) concentrated into a particular area then the bass (and pollack and wrasse, yes wrasse) will be turned onto this.

Coves or small beaches facing the prevailing wind and tide are susceptible to being invaded almost by huge shoals of brit in the late summer. Under these conditions, it can appear that everything swimming in the area is trying to 'have a go' at the small shoaling fish - your only problem here is trying to locate the bass in amongst the other types of fish!

See an occasion here when there were large numbers of bait fish and mackerel around and bass were abundant. Of note, is that sometimes once the carnage is receding, a mackerel head lobbed close in can sometimes be the way ahead.

Rough seas

Please think SAFETY here but rough seas, without doubt, offer the bass lure fisherman an advantage. With rough seas often comes coloured water, but again this isn't necessarily the disadvantage you might initially perceive see here. What is guaranteed is that there will be more bass close inshore when it is rough - created from the swell of a storm hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic, to strong onshore winds.

If there is white water crashing around the rocks or onto beaches, then I would bet that there will be bass around, or certainly more bass around. The reason for this is that it becomes easier for them to feed - all the odds are stacked in their favour!

No other fish is as effective at not only swimming, but hunting in the breaking waves, where the water is only inches deep above reefs or sand for that matter. Bass are brilliant at this and will use it to their advantage against anything that is being washed out of its lair or disoriented by the pounding or churning waves.

One sometimes overlooked way of catching Bass when the sea is rough is to cast lures from beaches or shingle backed coves. You can attack the beaches in the form of bouncing a paddletail lure around in the surf on a shallow sandy beach or indeed focus on fishing the 'gutter' on a deeper or shingle backed cove or beach - the 'gutter' being the area where the waves are turning/breaking onto the shore and/or where the shingle meets a reef.

I absolutely love hooking bass from a beach in rough conditions as they always seem to really smack into the lure and will use the undertow to really power either towards or parallel to you - exhilarating stuff!

Something else that seems to work quite well on steeper beaches in rough conditions, is to try to cast as parallel as possible to the beach, working the lure in the gutter for as long as possible, even holding it there (not winding in) if the undertow allows.

High water on very high tides

Think late summer/autumn when the days are the same length as the nights, when we get the highest spring tides 5.6 - 5.9m here in south Devon, or indeed a spring tide that is larger than it should be due to atmospheric low pressure.

There could be any number of reasons why there are more predatory bass around during these periods (increased current, a swell that goes with the biggest tides perhaps?), but again, in my own experience, there is no doubt that these tides bring bass with them - even in calm conditions it seems.

I have caught them on lures and bait on patches of sand/shingle that are rarely covered by more than a couple of inches, if any water see here on neap tides. If it is really calm, the headlands or promontories of rocks on the edges of beaches can often be the place to lure fish, again possibly due to the increased current?

To ram the point home, there is a mark that really sticks in my head. It is basically a sand/shingle cove, tucked under a cliff, 15 yds across and 3 - 4 ft deep on the very highest spring tides. It links two beaches and is trodden on by hundreds of holiday makers a day in the summer months.

The first time I ever saw a bass caught from here was when I was around 11 years old. I watched a gentleman 'prep' the area by stuffing limpets, crab and fish guts into all the crevices he could find and simply waited for the tide to flood..... I clearly remember thinking he was mad to be even contemplating fishing into such shallow water.... 3 hours later I watched astonished and amazed when he landed a 6lb+ bass caught on... would you believe it, periwinkles!! yes the tiny snail-like creatures that live in shells...he had managed to extract them and place enough on a hook to convince a bass it was worthy of a meal! This was one of first times that I had ever seen a big one caught from the shore and is a mark that still produces in the right conditions.

I don't know if there are simply more bass spread out around the coastline during the big spring tides, or indeed if there is something in residence being washed into the sea such as sand hoppers/sea slaters having to shift higher up the beach/rocks than normal bringing the bass into feed. There is certainly something in it though and maggots being washed out of the rotting seaweed 100% brings them into areas they maybe wouldn't normally frequent.

The 'so what' about the story above is that it highlights the fact that during massive tides, bass are moving into areas that are sometimes devoid of any water on the neaps, let alone fish, crabs or prawns.

I would hazard a guess that bass will be in amongst this!

To summarise

Bass are opportunistic feeders therefore, maybe the best time to catch them from the shore is to fish when they're most likely to be in a predatory mood - On a huge spring tide, over high water, when the waves are pounding the shoreline and the brit/sandeel are being harassed by the mackerel? If only it was that easy! However, I would definitely be going out of my way to fish in such conditions, and would dream about getting my clients onto conditions like these."

A decent shore caught bass from South Devon

 

Fancy a completely free, one year subscription to Surfcaster’s Journal, one of the great online fishing magazines?

I defy you not to read the outstanding Surfcaster’s Journal magazine and firstly not find anything that you can apply to your own UK and Irish bass fishing, and secondly start harboring serious thoughts about emigrating to the east coast of the US and fishing for striped bass for the rest of your life. I am sure that many of you here have come across this outstanding publication over the last few years, and if you haven’t, then you really should be reading it………….


So it’s my profound thanks to one of the guys who puts this online magazine together for kindly offering us lure nuts here in the UK a year’s free subscription to Surfcaster’s Journal - no strings attached, there’s absolutely no kickback to me for blogging about this, and it’s really very simple. Go to this sign in page here, use the code SJGILBEY17, and away you go. How about that for a great start to the working week? Striped bass are awesome, Surfcaster’s Journal is a fantastic magazine, it’s fascinating how they do their thing over there, there’s loads of video content as well, there’s plenty that makes sense our side of the pond, and it’s free for a year. What’s not to like?

Is it my imagination, or are there more and more lure anglers fishing for bass at night, and often catching more and bigger fish?

OK, so first off it’s apologies to those bass anglers among you that have been night fishing with lures for these fish for many years now, because you will no doubt be wondering what on earth I am on about when it’s second nature to you. To a lot of us though, night fishing with lures hasn’t been second nature for that long at all, and I am convinced through what I hear and read. that there are increasing numbers of anglers going out and deliberately fishing with lures at night for bass - and then it also seems that a lot of these anglers are catching more and bigger bass by doing so……….

Or is it more a case that more anglers are active on social media and are posting more reports of their fishing? That may well be a part of it, but I remain convinced that night fishing with lures for bass is growing and growing, and I would hazard a guess that the principal reason for more anglers doing this is because they have found that night lure fishing often produces more and bigger fish than it does during the day. By no means am I saying that night is better than day all the time, not at all in fact, but if I was to go purely on my own more recent experiences together with those anglers who I either fish with or personally know of, then having a few night fishing skills in the quiver is a complete game-changer.

There are many aspects to lure fishing that I cling to if you like, and with night fishing it was that nagging doubt that bass are going to be able to home in on my lures when there is no light to see them by. I’m way past that fear if you like by now, but I cling to those doubts because I like to try and ground myself as much as possible - and remember what it’s like to try something new when you’re just not quite sure about it.

And it seems to me that a greater percentage of anglers who fish lures for bass are spending more time out and about at night, and this of course means that more anglers are fully confident that fishing lures at night can sometimes be absolutely lethal. Believe me, via my photography work and wanting good light to work with, if I felt confident that when it went calm and clear especially I could go and smash a heap of bass during daylight hours then rest assured that is what I’d be doing, but the unavoidable fact to me is that when I get those conditions that night time is the time to be out and about. Not always, but it’s very interesting how a lifeless feeling coastline can change so much when it’s properly dark.

I got a very excited phone call off Marc Cowling yesterday morning (Marc runs South Devon Bass Guide, and we are going to be starting some co-guiding work together in a few months, dates to come) - Marc had taken a client out for some bass fishing, and whilst conditions were calm and warm, they saw fish moving around before it got dark, but hooked nothing. And then it all changed when the light disappeared, with Marc’s client landing I believe five bass up to about 5lbs on Jim’s Lures needlefish, plus plenty of other hits and a couple of really good fish that came off. Imagine now if they had not fished on into darkness - they’ve got conditions which for the most part you know are going to be tough during daylight hours, but come darkness and the game completely changes. And yes, damn right, Marc and I are talking about how best to go about making night lure fishing a part of our co-guiding packages as and when conditions dictate.

One thing I never wanted to do on this blog was do nothing but report on my own fishing sessions, but if I was to look at the bass I have caught so far this year for example, if I was not into fishing lures at night then I’d really have been struggling. It’s been up and down around here so far in 2017 as it is, but most bass I have caught on lures so far this year have come at night, with some real struggles during daylight hours, and often in tidy conditions as well. Sure, I know that in time we will smash a bunch of bass in the day when we get bouncy conditions and a decent amount of bait is inshore to help bring the predators in, but these days I catch myself laughing when I no longer dread calm and clear conditions one single bit. Nope, fishing with lures at night feels as normal to me as doing so during the day now, and I am convinced that more and more anglers are feeling exactly the same way - and on the flipside I wonder how many lure anglers there are out there who have yet to stumble upon how good bass fishing can sometimes be at night on the 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.

Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel review - around £230 here in the UK

I first saw an earlier version of the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Shimano Exsence spinning reel a few years back out in Morocco when our guide for the week was using one for his fishing, and he loved the reel. It was a stunning looking bit of kit that of course I wished we were seeing here on our market, and now we are, albeit it’s the newest version, the Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS. My understanding is that over in Japan there are four models in this Exsence C14+ range, and Shimano UK are making the C14+ 4000XGS (retrieve ratio 6.2:1) and the smaller C14+ 3000HGM (retrieve ratio 6.0:1) available here - the other two models we are not getting have slightly slower retrieve ratios, or rather that is all I can tell from the Shimano Japan website here.

Anyway, I have been fishing for a while with this rather stunning and obviously nice and lightweight Exsence 4000XGS, and first off, yep, I absolutely love that big round, chunky handle. It just feels right in my hand, and whilst it’s obviously not going to catch me any more fish, I do like a nice reel handle - this one floats my boat.

I did actually envisage using this Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel on the outstanding Shimano Dialuna XR 900ML lure rod (review here), but this combination didn’t feel that well balanced in my hands - so I put a smaller reel on the 9’ Dialuna rod and it feels much better, and I have been fishing this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS reel on some slightly longer lure rods where I think it feels more at home. Bear in mind that this is merely what feels right in my hands, and as much as I like that big handle, I do think it creates a slight feeling that the reel is a smidgen bigger than it actually is. A minor point perhaps, but it’s something I have noticed. I have picked up but not fished with the smaller Shimano Exsence 3000HGM, and it has a smaller handle if that is any help.

I do hear some anglers talk about shying away from a spinning reel with a faster retrieve, and whilst in some respects I understand this, why not just slow down if needs be? Sure, my own adrenaline levels can sometimes go through the roof when fishing goes off, but I like to think that I can adjust my retrieve speeds these days to better suit how I am fishing. Can I really though? Well I have not found a problem lure fishing with this 6.2:1 Exsence C14+ 4000XGS, and I also haven’t found a problem lure fishing with the mighty fine Penn Clash 4000 either (review here), and that’s got what is generally accepted to be a fast retrieve as well.

So what’s this Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS like to fish with? Well that’s an easy one, and I am sure you know exactly what I am going to say here - yes, it’s beautifully smooth, and yes, it’s just a pleasure to turn that handle and watch the braid wrap around the spool in that Shimano sort of way. The drag feels great, but as always with bass fishing especially here in the UK and Ireland, I would question our obsession with uber-smooth drags when these magnificent fish ain’t exactly going to put a reel’s drag system under much pressure anyway. Nice to have it of course, and for sure we expect it on a reel at this price, but am I that concerned with braid coming off the drag as smoothly as a snow leopard purring? (If they do actually purr of course). Nope.

The one thing I can’t tell you as per usual with spinning reels is how long this one might stay as sublimely smooth as it is right now. Shimano UK were kind enough to let me have a play with this reel a few months back and I am not sure for how much longer I will have it here, but I will keep fishing with it and report back if anything untoward happens while I have got my mitts on it. I can’t help but be reminded of the Sustain 4000FG spinning reel when looking at this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS, and as much as I love my Sustain, as per here I had issues with it not staying smooth enough for long enough. I am going to assume though that a JDM spinning reel from Shimano’s (sea bass) Exsence range has been built for hard saltwater use so I am hoping that this 4000XGS is going to stay the course. For the moment this is one awesome lure fishing reel and when compared to other reels that I have had personal experience of I think it represents good value for money, save for the annoying fact that it doesn’t come with a spare spool.

Talking about spools, this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS comes with a fairly shallow braid style spool, but you can easily fit a spool of say PE#1, 1.2 or 1.5 8-strand on there, indeed the quoted capacities are PE#1.2 - 190m, PE#1.5 - 150m, and PE#2 - 130m. If that’s not enough mainline for you then I would suggest that either you are the world’s best lure caster who is casting too far anyway, or else you are letting a hooked fish run so damn far it’s going to have a heart attack from the sheer exertion. Or you’re just talking a load of rubbish about how far you can put lures out there! Anglers exaggerating how far they cast lures and baits? Never! Whatever the case, this is a stunning spinning reel to use and it so makes me want to fish with the smaller 3000HMGR version and see how that sits on some of the lure rods I might mess around with.

And here’s a sneak preview of my lure related work in the new issue of Sea Angler magazine, out this week I believe.

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.

What a tit!

Passport in hand I headed over to south Devon yesterday to meet up with Marc Cowling of South Devon Bass Guide and his clients for the day - Marc is the guy who I will be doing some co-guiding work with later in the year, and I wanted to come along and take some photos of guided lure fishing here in the UK to help with our marketing efforts etc. A big thanks to Marc for having me along, but especially to his clients who had to put up with my antics which if I am honest I am feeling bad about.

We met up around LW and I followed Marc and his clients out to the most stunning looking stretch of coastline you can imagine. I used to do a lot of huss fishing back in the day not that far from where we were, but it’s amazing how differently you look at a coastline and its features when you’ve got bass eyes on, and after perhaps a couple of miles yomping along the coast path (how lucky are we to be able to access the coastline like we can?) we were at the first spot that Marc wanted his clients to cover with their lures.

So we’ve got a howling east wind and it’s very bright, but Marc’s done his thinking and he has deliberately gone for locations that were kicking up a bit of fizz. One of the lads had a bass swirl at his surface lure pretty quickly on in the session so things were looking promising. The light was incredibly harsh for me and my camera gear, but that’s part and parcel of the job. After no more activity at this particular spot Marc called for a move back along the coast to this stunning looking sort of big rocky lagoon that was starting to fill up nicely with the rapidly flooding tide.

Off in the distance I could see one of the lads bent into a fish, with Marc standing next to him, net in hand. I started to make my way over, and then it happened. Henry, you are a bloody tit! We move across the rocks without really thinking much about it. It’s part of what we do and whilst of course we take care to plot a path over what can be some tough terrain, many of us have been doing this sort of stuff for longer than we can remember - all I did was stretch a bit to jump from rock to rock and bang, it was like a strong electric shock went off in my calf and I knew instantly what had happened. Why? Well I’m obviously no doctor, but I did the exact same thing to my other calf when I was on a guiding trip over in Ireland a year and half or so ago.

I had gone and torn my bloody calf muscle again, and like last time I felt like such a bloody idiot. The most innocuous little stretch or jump from rock to rock and now I’m in a bit of trouble and I want so much not to impact upon Marc and his clients who are spending the most glorious day on a beautiful part of the coast. They sure as hell don’t need a sodding photographer who can’t now get across the rocks properly! I want to shoot a whole heap of different photos, but I am now hobbling across the rocks like a tit. I radio Marc and ask him to keep the wrasse in a rockpool until I can get to them. It’s a beautiful fish that took a hard lure - I think it was a Feed Shallow - over some lovely shallow, weedy and rocky ground that I’d seriously love to spend some time on in the future, indeed I can’t recall seeing so much awesome looking ground for a while.

Anyway, the tide’s not far from cutting off our retreat from this lagoon, so Marc calls his clients in and it’s time to make a move to the next spot. I tell the guys to walk on ahead and please don’t wait for me, but there I am, hobbling along like a tit with my camera gear on my back, with the lads pretending to walk at their normal pace when in fact I know damn well they have slowed right down to allow me to keep up with them. I’m facing a roughly two mile walk back to my epic Berlingo and it’s not exactly flat terrain, so I make the call to leave the guys to their fishing and not impact on them any more than I already am. It’s not my style to mess with people’s precious fishing time and I am struggling to limp along at any sort of meaningful pace. When I tore my calf last time around we were at the start of about ten days or so of guiding work over in Ireland and I was sure as hell not going to cry off with an injury so I kept going regardless, but this is Marc’s gig and I am now in the way and it’s not right.

Thanks lads for having me along. About a hundred times on my pathetically slow hobble back to my epic Berlingo I did think how nice it would be to simply dump my camera gear down and lie down for a kip in the hedgerow, but to be honest it was my sheepdog Storm looking back at me that kept me giggling and hobbling along. She’s so used to the speed we walk as a family that she kept on looking back at me with this quizzical look on her face as if to say “come on dad, what the hell is up with you and this snail pace?”

I wasn’t able to rest my torn calf muscle last time around, but I am going to try and get a doctor’s appointment and see what they say. It’s the same leg which I had surgery on for my skin cancer, and I’ve got a bit of lymphedema going on as well, so combined with a torn calf muscle I am now feeling like a complete tit to be honest! Changing gears in my epic Berlingo on the way back to Cornwall was interesting at times, but hey ho, what can you do? I know I am meant to rest this injury, but what on earth am I meant to do with these tides and a rather interesting weather forecast? I nodded away when my wife “encouraged” me to rest it up this time around, but she knows how much of a tit I can be…………….

Favorite Shooter SHT-962MH 9'6'' 15-35g lure rod review - £194.99 UK price

If a lure like the Xorus Patchinko II is in your armoury and you regularly fish sea conditions which require the use of sub-surface lures such as the long-casting and incredibly grippy IMA Hound 125F Glide, then I would suggest you do all you can to check out this sub-£200 Favorite Shooter 9'6'' 15-35g lure rod. Wow. This thing is a frigging machine of a rod, indeed the only niggle I could possibly have here is that there isn’t a more “regular” 9’6’’, say 6-28g version of this rod in Favorite’s (sea bass) Shooter range that has the same sort of action and build, because this 15-35g one is a peach. Readers of this blog will know that I have a thing for Major Craft rods, and especially the sub-£200 Skyroad range, but this Favorite Shooter 9'6'' 15-35g lure rod shares the same kind of rarified air - out and out class that really could easily cost a bunch more………..

OK, so with the range of locations and conditions that I might fish the most, together with the majority of the lures I could end up using for my own bass fishing, this Favorite Shooter 9'6'' 15-35g lure rod would not be my everyday rod as such, but these days I regularly find myself turning to something that bit more powerful when conditions and/or location dictate. As much as I might love fishing soft plastics rigged weedless and weightless for example, it’s not much cop trying to fish a 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick straight into a bouncing bit of SW wind and sea (I don't like adding any extra weight to them). Tucked away from it might be a slightly different matter, but when the sea starts to properly bounce and you start needing to getting bigger stuff out there, this rod does it without breaking a sweat.

This Shooter is that white line - so my kind of lure rod!

This Shooter is that white line - so my kind of lure rod!

I like the build of the rod - Fuji Alconite guides and Fuji reelseat - and I am a sucker for those slightly more chunky duplon grips like I found on the considerably more expensive and a bit more powerful again APIA Foojin’R Grand Swell 96MH 9’6’’ 7-42g (review here). The handle length on this Favorite Shooter 9’6’’ is perfect for me, but I think it’s far better if I acquire a screenshot above from the outstanding Art of Fishing website which shows so much brilliant information on this and so many other rods - and of course you can find this particular Favorite rod right here.

The Shooter reel seat with the sublime Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel

The Shooter reel seat with the sublime Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel

This Favorite Shooter 9'6'' 15-35g lure rod is perhaps a medium/fast kind of action, but without remotely being too much. I don’t want some scaffold pole of a more powerful rod that rips my shoulders apart with repeated casting. You can really feel the mid-section loading up and helping launch something like the Xorus Patchinko out there a true country mile, and I very nearly reached my backing when I properly wound up the 30g “seems exactly the same as the discontinued Bass Bullet” Westin Kongetobis. Granted, distance is not remotely everything, but the chances are that by turning to a rod such as this means you’d at least like the ability to help punch stuff into decent headwinds. I can’t stand fishing windier and rougher conditions when the tip on a lure rod bounces around all over the place and makes trying to control your line even harder than it already is - and the tip on this Favorite is just fantastic. Working the Patchinko or a surface lure along those lines at range is so efficient with this rod, and it almost goes without saying that bumping Fiiish Black Minnows around is just as satisfying, and especially that new 18g Search jig head rigged with a 120mm body.

So this lure rod is a definite step up in power over something like the so good it’s a joke Major Craft Skyroad Surf 9’6’’, but if you were after the one lure rod and you tend towards the heavier lures and/or bouncier conditions then this Favorite Shooter makes a lot of sense. What a rod for punching bigger lures out into a good surf for example, or pushing rougher conditions out on the rocks. I reckon the 15-35g rating is just about spot on and I have a feeling there is more there if required, but pushing a rod over its stated casting weight has to be up to the individual angler. Me? I would never do it!

Any complaints? Well not about this rod because it’s a serious bit of kit for the money, but as I said at the start, I can’t help but think that Favorite have missed a few tricks with the rods that are currently available in their “designed for seabass” Shooter range. There’s a 9’ 15-35g, but I’d love to see a 9’ 7-28g as well, and there’s this fantastic 9’6’’ 15-35g we have been looking into here, but I’d love to see a 9’6’’ 7-28g in there as well. This is only the second Favorite rod I have reviewed here on my blog, with the first being that utterly sublime Skyline 8’6’’ 4-16g (and I now have the brand new Skyline 8’6’’ 6-21g here now, help, it’s a disgrace it’s so nice!), and I know squat about their future plans with this Shooter range. Get those more all around casting weight rods in there and I think that Favorite has real potential to take on the Major Craft Skyroad range with how good this 9’6’’ 15-35g Shooter is…………..

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.

Do you think what bass are feeding on at different times of the year then affects how they hit your lures?

If you take into account the simple fact that I haven’t been chucking lures around for bass at night for that long, and my number one lure has been a simple white senko with a 5/0 or 6/0 (barbless) weedless hook in it, then my experiences are probably different to a lot of you here who might well have been night lure fishing for far longer. Since about early April when we started to connect with a few bass at night around here, without a doubt our experiences with how they are hitting these lures are different to say the back end of last year…………….

And I wondered if any of you here have any thoughts or opinions about bass seeming to hit lures - and therefore whatever they are feeding on - either differently to other times of the year, or quite possibly they are feeding on different food which requires a different approach from these perfectly magnificent fish that so many of us chase and obsess about. Please leave a comment below with any thoughts and observations you might want to share with us.

When I am casting and straight-retrieving lures at night - ok, so it’s mostly been the white senkos as per the video below - I do expect a few hits from fish that don’t result in hookups, indeed don’t we all get that with lure fishing? If every single touch or hit resulted in a landed bass then no doubt our catch rates would increase, but over the last month and a half or so, well I can’t recall in my relatively short time at seriously chasing bass at night on lures when we were getting so many hits from fish which came to nothing - and I’m talking about a few hits as well which seriously feel like the bass is trying to pull the rods out of your hands.

A few weeks ago I distinctly remember the first hit I got that particular night, and honestly it felt like the bass had a hold of the end of my white senko and was pulling back against me. I swear I could almost feel the stretch in the senko as the bass pulled back, but without hooking up. So if the bass are intent on hitting the tail of the lures at this time of year - which they seem to be around here - then as per the photo below which is how I am rigging a white senko for night fishing, unless the bass inhales the whole lure then how is it going to get hooked?

OK, so occasionally they have been hooking up, but the conversion ratio of hits to hooked fish has been way down when compared to other times of year when I have been fishing the same way at night. I can’t help but wonder if the bass are dialled into a different food source that requires a different approach from them, and because we have been putting the same lures in front of them which they are obviously interested in perhaps regardless of which (real) food source brought them in close to the shoreline (habit perhaps, like salmon “feeding” on a fly in a river?), does this translate to less hooked fish for us anglers?

Anyway, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and because by my nature I am happy to try different stuff and risk a bit of failure, I decided to try and do something about converting more hits to hooked fish. It’s obvious the bass are happy to hit a lure with a profile like a senko - which as we know is doing very little in or indeed on the water when you wind it straight in - but I need to try and get a hook in the arse end to see if I go and hook more fish. As per the photo above I have tried putting a regular J-hook into a senko, and via the use of a Gemini Link Clip I have been able to get the hook further back in the lure body, but actually I haven’t given this enough time yet. A lad on Facebook kindly suggested threading a leader all the way through a senko with a baiting needle and then tying a treble hook on so that it’s now right on the arse end of the lure - what an ingenious idea, but I quickly found that the leader started cutting through the (soft plastic) body of the lure down where the treble hook sits.

So a few nights ago I head out on my own to go fishing, and I come across another angler who is fishing the same area as me. He must be as daft as me, because it’s a savage yomp and very out of the way, but conditions and tides are spot on and I feel very confident. If you read this blog or have met me, then I hope you have realised by now that it’s just not my thing to boast about my own catches and I genuinely couldn’t give a stuff who catches more or less fish - as long as I feel I’m learning all the time and hopefully becoming a better angler. Now I have met this guy a few times before and he knows exactly what he’s doing, but on Thursday night he didn’t land a single bass whereas I think I landed six or seven fish - ok, the biggest was about 4lbs, but I put my catching and him not 100% down to my changing lures almost straight away.

I caught a small bass pretty quickly on my usual white senko and weedless hook setup, and to be fair this bass did what you hope a fish would do - it jumped all over the lure and essentially hooked itself. But straight after that I started to get a few bumps and niggles from bass which didn’t hook up, so I did what I had been thinking about and promised myself that I would do if and when this happened again……………….

There was a reason for my blog post about senko sized needlefish the other day - if we are catching bass and getting plenty of hits on slim-profiled lures around the 5’’ and 6’’ size, then if I am going to start really getting into this whole needlefish thing, why would I want to start chucking out much larger lures? Needlefish come from the US striped bass market, and for the most part stripers are somewhat larger fish than our bass and are often feeding on larger bait than our bass might - hence the larger lures.

Anyway, after that first bass the other night was followed by a bunch of hits but no hookups, I changed straight over to a simple needlefish that was rigged with two size 4 (barbless) treble hooks as per the photo above, indeed that is the exact lure I caught the rest of my bass on the next night - I photographed it the morning after that night fishing session. Whilst this needlefish is not off the shelf as such, Jim’s Lures seem to be making a bunch of them now - check here for starters - and they are a similar size to the Wave Fishing 5’’ Bamboo Sticks I have been using and loving for so long now (way before I started night fishing with them).

So how do I know that my putting on a needlefish worked better that night? Because the other angler who was fishing with a senko/weedless hook setup didn’t land a fish. He got a bunch of hits but didn’t hook a single fish - and the bass I landed were all lightly hooked for the most part on one single hook of the bottom treble, and if this doesn’t mean that they were hitting the lure from the arse end then I don’t know what does. I went from a bunch of hits not connecting to suddenly connecting with a far higher percentage of fish hits. Oh, and I’m fishing it exactly the same was as I am a white senko - whack it out and wind it in.

You could of course put this down to a one off, or perhaps the fact that the bass weren’t exactly monsters, but I went out again the next night with my mate Mark who I would back to outfish me more often than not - and the same thing happened. I didn’t even bother with a white senko and started the session with one of Jim’s Lures needlefish again, whereas Mark went with the white senko. Again I didn’t catch anything remotely large, but Mark didn’t land one fish yet I landed and released perhaps ten bass - with every single one being lightly hooked on the rear treble hook. He was getting plenty of hits on the white senko/weedless hook setup, but didn’t connect with one fish. Of course I offered him a needlefish lure to hook on, but he wouldn’t take it so the session actually ended up being another interesting experiment.

Granted, the bass I caught were not big, and I am sure there will be plenty of nights this year when larger bass will inhale the white senkos as per usual - but what does it for me is thinking about the problem, trying something out, and seeing it work. That’s the whole crux of fishing right there for me. It’s nothing to do with me catching and the other lads not, not at all, rather I have proved to myself that I am heading down a potentially productive road by starting to use needlefish more and more at night (accepting of course that there is far more to these lures than simply whacking and winding), and also that aside from the needlefish I mentioned in that blog post the other day, here in the UK it’s not exactly that easy or indeed cheap yet to get hold of a variety of needlefish. Will this situation change? We shall see, but it seems that having that hook on the rear of a simple, senko-like hard lure has gone and caught me a few bass when my “regular” lure wasn’t doing the job. And yes, my next experiment as such is to swap that rear treble for a single hook, because as much as I dislike trebles in the first place, I absolutely frigging despise them swinging around in the middle of the night when you are doing all you can to keep any light off the water.

Fishing eh? The day we stop learning is the day we become experts, and wow do I hate that word.

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.

Two hours of fishing (ok, blanking) in the driving rain and not a drop of water got in anywhere - result!

The fact that I didn’t bother the scoreboard in some pretty tidy conditions is by the by here, but yesterday morning I spent the last two hours of the flood tide thrashing various lures around in the rain, and I mean it was proper driving rain, with a bit of breeze as well. As good as some our waterproofs are, I must admit that I’d expect to get back to the car and at least have wet sleeves where the water has trickled in around the cuff area on a waterproof jacket, plus find that a bit of water has got in down the front via me often fishing directly into the bit of breeze and driving rain………….

But I couldn’t find a single drop of water inside of my waterproofs yesterday. Sure, I don’t expect my waterproof jacket to leak (the outstanding Vision Kust jacket), nor my waders which I have been using solidly now since I really started going after the bass again this spring - review to come in due course, but so far they seem to be an impressive pair of breathables. I have been doing a couple of things slightly differently in the pissing rain though, and I think these “tricks” as such have been helping to keep the water out of the areas I described earlier.

I’ve gone back to wearing a baseball cap when it’s raining as I really think it helps the hoods on these waterproof jackets work that bit better. A baseball cap is a pain when I am photographing, but then my photographic opportunities in the pissing rain are somewhat limited anyway, so I’ll wear the cap and quite happily take how it helps to stop most of the water getting in the face area of the jacket and trickling down my front.

The cuffs on a waterproof jacket are my main bugbear though, in that for all the good and bad jackets I have worn over the years, I still haven’t come across a sleeve/cuff design that keeps all rain out when you are actually fishing - your hands are coming up and down etc. while you cast and retrieve, and therefore water tends to find a way in and you end up with wet sleeves. Does it really matter? No, I suppose not, but it’s a pain and I’d like a solution.

I can’t remember where I got this idea from, and it may well have been some kind soul on here or on my Facebook page, but I bought some cheap and cheerful sweatbands off Amazon, and blow me down if they aren’t stopping water getting inside my sleeves anymore. Yesterday morning I put my Vision Kust jacket on, did the sleeves up so they were snug - I don’t like doing them up so sodding tight that I can’t fish properly - and then put a couple of sweatband down over my wrists so that they were covering the inner sleeve bits on the jacket. I am sure that a lot longer than two hours in a monsoon might mess this system up, but my two hours yesterday morning saw this simple sweatband solution work a treat. The sweatbands were pretty damp from the rain, but they had obviously absorbed the rain that tried to work its way in. Having dry sleeves after that amount of rain sure is a new experience. Simple stuff I know, but ain’t some of the best stuff often like that?