Gosen X8 Braid review

It’s thanks to Ben at the Art of Fishing who lent me his own spinning reel loaded up with this lovely looking pink Gosen X8 Braid - and yes, I’m perfectly comfortable with a pink braid (real man!), and this comes from rating the outstanding Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid so highly which I have been using in the pink colour. Does the colour of a braid make a jot of difference? Of course not, but I do like fishing with bright coloured mainlines, and I think that pink might be my thing! Anyway, this Gosen X8 Braid………

It’s the first Gosen braid I have fished with and I note that the retail price here in the UK is £29.99 for a 150m spool of either PE#1.2 or PE#1.5. On the one hand this is an easy review to write, because I can’t find a single thing I don’t like about this excellent 8-strand braid - it’s thin, it’s very smooth and it knots beautifully. It casts really well, I had plenty of bass on it towards the back end of last especially so I trust it from a fishing point of view, and on the little Shimano Stradic FK 3000 spinning reel that Ben lent me, this Gosen X8 Braid in a PE#1.2 has performed absolutely impeccably. Not even a hint of a problem, but then I’d expect that with a modern 8-strand braid that feels as nice as this stuff loaded up on a decent spinning reel.

And then on the other hand this is a bit if a tricky review to finish up, and for that I lay the blame if you like at the door of Daiwa’s newish 8-strand J-Braid especially, and to a lesser extent the just as good but harder to get hold of Sufix Performance Pro 8. We also have the excellent Spiderwire Smooth 8 Braid and now the new Shimano Kairiki 8-strand braid which I have not tried yet. The “problem” is of course that for many of us our expectations have now changed about what we need to pay to get a properly premium mainline for our lure fishing, indeed as much as I love the really high-end stuff because I am of course a proper tackle tart, if you nailed me down then I am at a loss to describe to you what more you might be getting from an 8-strand braid that costs however much more than the sub-£20 8-strands I have mentioned about.

You can’t go wrong with this pink Gosen X8 Braid because it’s bloody brilliant, and yet again I must doff my cap to Ben and his Art of Fishing operation for sourcing so much interesting fishing tackle. Hand on heart though and I can’t tell you that you’re going to get a load more performance from this £29.99 Gosen braid over say the distinctly sub-£20 J-Braid, but I am nothing to do with what anglers choose to buy, and for me this Gosen X8 is another fantastic 8-strand braid that gets added to my mental list of trustworthy mainlines that I am more than happy to lure fish with myself. I don’t know anything else about Gosen lines, but if that’s how good their 8-strand braid is then I wonder what else they do that is worth checking out?

Guest blog post - Marc Cowling - How to find and fish bass marks part 2 - Gullies

What are gullies?

I'm sure that anyone reading this blog article will know what a gully is! However, in relation to my own bass fishing they generally fall into 4 categories.

  1. Gullies carved into the sand (flat beaches or estuaries) by tidal flow.
  2. Natural gullies linking rock pools (similar to depressions talked about in the previous post) within 'pavement' rock formations.
  3. Gullies between larger rock formations where the current is exaggerated or waves are forced to break around - where the water is relatively deep (15 - 25ft) therefore they do not dry out at low tide
  4. Clearly defined 'pathways' linking reefs to beaches or coves - these are generally shallow (1 - 15ft) therefore, they do dry out at low tide.

In this post I am going to concentrate on items 3 and 4.

In Image 1 below, the very obvious gully that has 'dried out' on a low water spring tide is 'open' to the prevailing wind, waves and tide and runs into a small cove - somewhere where sandeels and mackerel shoals can occasionally become trapped.

The broken rocks at the entrance to the gully mean that during any onshore or swell conditions you're very likely to see waves breaking (creating white, foaming water) into this area creating a natural 'zone' for smaller fish to become disoriented. There are a number of stances where you can move with the incoming tide where a weedless soft plastic or precisely positioned minnow lure (cast straight up the sandy gullies) can work really well.

Image 1

Image 1

Image 2 below is a classic (in my neck of the woods) grouping of rocks and gullies that doesn't quite dry out at low tide - often found at the end of long promontories of rock or headlands. I've found these types of marks are very good to fish at the start of the flood or end of the ebb; as the bass move in from, or out to the open sea.

Due to the proximity of the weed and rocks a successful method has been to simply casting and drift soft plastics (particularly OSP Do-Live sticks, Dot Crawlers and Megabass Cattle-tongue lures) into the gullies and literally retrieve them (occasional twitches) up to your feet. This method has been successful during flat calm to slightly rough (1 - 3ft waves) conditions.

Image 2

Image 2

Image 3 is pretty much a myriad of bass venues rolled into one! Look to fish these types of mark during the first 2 hours of the flood or last 2 hours of the ebb when only the slightest amount of movement (breaking waves, swell = turmoil, easy prey) can see the bass feeding in numbers.

Note the arrows (right to left) depicting the flow of the tide on the flood in this instance and the lovely gullies that run at 90 degrees to it. This is exactly the type of ground that bass will seek to follow the tide into and out of. I have found it best to fish it with surface lures such as the Chugbug, Sliders, small Patchinko and the IMA Salt Skimmer or with very shallow diving minnow type plugs such as a Tackle House Feedshallow.

Image 3

Image 3

Image 4 below displays what is my favourite 'type' of bass mark - large rocks at the end of a promontory of rock or headland, where the seabed is mostly sandy, and where, most importantly a very natural gully or 'route' is defined. These types of marks generally 'stick out' in the current and are subjected to the greatest amount of wave/tidal movement.

If you're looking for a good general bass mark then these are the ones that will fish the most consistently in varying weather, wind and tidal conditions. I think the combination of the acceleration of the current between the rocks, the turmoil created by the breaking waves and the number of ambush points available to a hunting bass make these types of marks extremely noteworthy.

Of significance, if you can find a mark like this with a sandy seabed then any prey items (or lure) washed/cast into them massively standout. In parts 4 and 5 of this series, I cover patrolling and positioning bass - the patrolling element here is the bass moving through with the tide but with a successful method being to cast the lures (soft plastics, hard and surface) straight up the gullies, but as close to and as parallel to the rocks as possible.

The positioning element is that I've found during rough conditions bass will wait at the base of the promontory of rocks and wait for items to be swished towards them (circled in the image below). Under these conditions expect to be hit very close to your stance. Indeed, it can often pay to position yourself further down the line of rocks and cast into the gully with a view to the lure moving more naturally into the 'hot zone' so to speak.

Image 4

Image 4

Images 5 and 6 are of the same venue seen during different states of the tide. It is similar to the type of mark above in that the rock formations 'funnel' anything that is being washed with the waves/current towards your stance. The seabed is sandy with the overall depth on a high spring tide being around 15 ft therefore, it does dry up on a very low water spring tide.

Again, these are great types of marks as they can be fished with a high degree of confidence in most (except severe) weather conditions with all types of lures. What more could you ask for!! A 5lb+ Bass nailing you, that's what!

Image 5

Image 5

Image 6

Image 6

Many thanks for this Marc. You all have a good weekend. Still crying after last Saturday’s rugby, but in truth all that seems so insignificant when yet again we are so sadly reminded how much hatred there exists in the world. What can you say to the families so suddenly torn apart like that? There are no easy answers and I guess we pull our children in close and reiterate how hatred is such a pointless narrative by which to live one’s life………….

Are hard lures for our bass fishing still a lot more popular overall then soft plastics, and where might we be another few years down the line?

And please note that I don’t actually know if hard lures are overall more popular than soft lures, but I need to go on something here, and that something is me thinking about the people I know in bass fishing and what they go lure fishing with - and it strikes me that as increasingly popular as soft plastics are amongst those anglers I know and am personally aware of, hard lures still seem to the most popular type of lure that a lure angler would clip or tie on and fish for bass with……….

Why this blog post? For no other reason than I am always fascinated with where lure fishing for bass is going (notwithstanding the obvious worries that we might not have enough decent bass to go meaningfully fishing for one day) as more anglers seem to be getting into it, and as more information about lures and techniques is floated around the internet and various fishing magazines. I love how different kinds of fishing seem to resonate so strongly for different anglers, and I wonder how many anglers out there are following a similar kind of “bass fishing immersion” curve to me?

Which I guess goes somewhere like this - hard lures such as ultra-shallow divers, regular minnows and of course surface lures make so much sense to us when we are starting out with our lure fishing. We understand how they are imitating various prey species and one would be hard pressed to find bass fishing more exciting than when decent fish are smashing lures off the surface for example. Hard lures make logical sense from the off I believe - they tend to cast pretty well, some of them have lots of action when they swim (which tends to make us pretty confident), the range of colours are almost outrageous, we can find hard lures to deal with most situations we might be faced with, and of course they catch fish.

And anglers of course, me included, but hard lures I think just make a lot of logical sense, and a lot of this I believe is down to the simple fact that you can wind a lot of them straight in and via their design they are doing something that we can actually feel. Go back to when you first started getting into lure fishing and imagine if somebody told you that a lure which does essentially nothing in the water could in fact catch you a load of fish - I bet you any money you’d go for the lure that was doing something “attractive” in the water, and damn right I was in that boat for many years. Confidence is a huge thing in fishing is it not?

As much as soft plastics came on my radar fairly quickly as I was getting into bass fishing - and I put this down to seeing a couple of talented anglers smash bass on the MegaBass XLayer over in Ireland - without a doubt my trusting plastics 100% came via a combination of the Fiiish Black Minnow, the XLayer, and to some extent a senko which I started twitching around and catching bass on, mainly because this seemed the most obvious way to fish it at the time. I wonder if a lot of bass anglers kinda fumble their way into using soft plastics for the fishing, and I also wonder if a certain number of anglers are then put off because results might not be instantaneous? Or does that degree of patience, slowing down, and fishing them a little more deliberately put some people off? I can’t help but wonder as well how much the introduction of the Fiiish Black Minnow onto the market has helped so many anglers discover soft plastics - an easy to use lure that is easy to understand how it works that of course slays fish.

Whatever the case may be, I wonder if hard lures are more popular for bass fishing overall in the UK and Ireland, or is that my own understanding based upon the anglers I know and fish with? And whilst hard lures I am pretty sure are more popular at the moment, I do believe that there are more and more anglers using more and more soft plastics for their bass fishing, and by doing so - and mixing their use with hard lures - I would guess that they are finding so many different ways to effectively fish so much ground. Where might we be another few years down the line with the lures we use for bass fishing?

At last, PE ratings for braid make sense to me!

I like to think I am relatively intelligent and I pride myself on trying to keep on learning about fishing all the time, but up until Saturday morning I don’t mind admitting that this PE numbers rating system for braid had me both confused and a little angry into the bargain - confused because as with quoted diameters and breaking strains, I was thinking that PE ratings were yet another set of numbers designed to bewilder us, and annoyed because I can’t stand it when fishing comes across as overly complicated………..

I spent a couple of hours on Saturday morning with my mate Mark at the highly impressive Art of Fishing tackle shop in Wadebridge, indeed I would hazard a guess that there is nowhere else in the UK where you can see and pick up such an array of modern style lure fishing rods, not to mention heaps of lures, reels, clothing, accessories etc. I repeatedly take my hat off to Ben the owner and I also got a sneak preview of the new shop website that is coming soon - take it from me, I doubt there’s another English language website out there that goes into such easy to understand depth on lure rods especially. I shall shamelessly be quoting and grabbing screenshots from this forthcoming Art of Fishing website for future blog reviews!

Anyway, I digress. PE ratings and how they have confused the hell out of me in the past, and how they now make perfect sense, and it’s all thanks to Mark and Ben. OK, so I could have gone and done loads more research into PE ratings, but to be perfectly honest I had left the subject alone ever since I wrote this blog post here way back in August 2012. PE ratings annoyed me back then and I decided to stick to the more conventional diameter and breaking strains, even if they themselves are quite often a steaming pile of meaningless poo anyway. Perhaps here in the UK as anglers we have been conditioned to think of lines in terms of diameter and breaking strains? I remember when I first went to catch big sharks off the beach in Namibia and I was fascinated to learn how the anglers out there only talked about mainlines in terms of diameter.

On Saturday morning the three of us were having a discussion about braids (I got to have a look at the new sub-£20 Shimano Kairiki 8-strand braid, felt bloody lovely) and how for example I had seen a post on WSF where an angler had provided links to ratings for that new Shimano braid where yet again there were those annoying discrepancies between diameters and breaking strains depending on which country you live in and buy your braid from - check here and here. So I launched into another tirade in the shop about how these differences annoy the hell out of me because it’s so damn difficult to find a “standard” say 20lb 8-strand braid if you base it on those kinds of discrepancies -  to which Mark and Ben both replied “forget about breaking strains and buy your braid based on the PE numbers”. “But how can I when those bloody PE ratings confuse me as much as the breaking strains and diameters?” I asked.

PE # Diameter

  • PE 0.6 ………………………….. 0.128mm
  • PE 0.8 ………………………….. 0.148mm
  • PE 1 …………………………….. 0.165mm
  • PE 1.2 ………………………….. 0.185mm
  • PE 1.5 ………………………….. 0.205mm
  • PE 1.7 ………………………….. 0.218mm
  • PE 2 …………………………….. 0.235mm
  • PE 2.5 ………………………….. 0.260mm
  • PE 3 …………………………….. 0.285mm
  • PE 3.5 ………………………….. 0.310mm
  • PE 4 …………………………….. 0.330mm
  • PE 5 …………………………….. 0.370mm
  • PE 6 …………………………….. 0.405mm
  • PE 7 …………………………….. 0.435mm
  • PE 8 …………………………….. 0.470mm
  • PE 10 …………………………… 0.520mm
  • PE 12 …………………………… 0.570mm
  • PE 14 …………………………… 0.620mm
  • PE 16 …………………………… 0.660mm
  • PE 18 …………………………… 0.700mm
  • PE 20 …………………………… 0.740mm
  • PE 22 …………………………… 0.780mm
  • PE 24 …………………………… 0.810mm
  • PE 28 …………………………… 0.870mm


The PE rating system comes out of Japan, and as per the figures above it is actually based around diameters, with the PE numbers are meant to be standards diameters across the board. From talking extensively with Mark and Ben about it, it now seems to make sense for me to ignore those breaking strains and diameters figures on the spools and packets - because we know they are kinda meaningless with how different countries rates their lines - and instead start buying your braid based on the PE ratings (when the number is actually on there of course). If you all do this already and I haven’t been then ignore this blog post and instead have a good giggle about how stupid I have been, but I would hazard a guess that a number of you out there have been confused as me about all this.

But can we bring ourselves to essentially forget about the supposed breaking strains of our mainlines though when it comes to buying them? Yet again I would draw your attention to how confusing and arguably meaningless those figures we use to base our line buying decisions are - take a look here for starters which is me searching the word “diameter” on my own blog - yet if these PE ratings are indeed “standard” diameter measurements, then surely it’s a simple way of bypassing those other figures and instead buying your braid based on some sort of standard ratings system? Granted, braids coming out of the US especially don’t use the PE ratings system, but for me I can only think of PowerPro, Sufix 832 and Performance 8, plus the new SpiderWire Stealth Smooth 8 braid as lines I use or have used which don’t carry some sort of PE rating number on the packet or spool - and all those excellent braids I would suggest have some confusing numbers on the spools depending on where you buy them.

I found this information online and I am quoting it here: “The PE standard of measurement is based on a numbering system known as “gouw”, the system that the Japanese originally used to measure the diameter of silk thread. This measurement system has since been applied to monofilament and braided fishing lines. The “PE” stands for Polyethylene, the fibre used to make Dynema and Spectra braided lines. The PE rating is a constant measurement, so while two lines advertised as being rated to 50lb may actually test at different breaking strains, two lines with the same PE rating will always be the same diameter. As a very general rule, you can multiply the PE# by 10 to get an approximate breaking strain of a braided line, i.e. PE4 x 10 = 40lb, as it will rarely test below (10xPE#). However, the breaking strain can vary a great deal between different lines of the same diameter. This is especially true in many of the high end braids that use more strands and a tighter weave, resulting in a rounder, smoother finish and higher breaking strain for the same diameter as lines of lesser quality”.

So what PE number braid should you be buying for let’s say your bass fishing from the shore? It’s hard to get away from wanting to know at very roughly what your braid might break at via what I assume was some sort of machine based test, and my understanding is that a high quality 8-strand braid quoted as PE#1 should be somewhere around the 14-18lb mark, and a high quality PE#1.2 8-strand braid is roughly a 20lb breaking strain (whatever those breaking strains actually mean of course) - BUT, you need to understand that the PE system is based on diameter and NOT breaking strain. Trying to apply breaking strains to PE numbers is very much a generalisation then, but if I go looking through the 8-strand braids that I fish with, I reckon I’m fishing with a PE#1.2 8-strand braid the most, and then say a PE#1 on the slightly smaller spinning reels (Shimano 3000 size, Daiwa 2500 size). I can’t imagine that any of us would go wrong with either of those PE rated braids for our bass fishing in the UK or Ireland, and then adjust accordingly whilst bearing mind that however much we love our bass, they ain’t straight-breaking these lines due to their sheer size or power! Nope, for me I want the best mix of strength, casting, abrasion resistance, and the chance of pulling snagged lures free.

So rather annoyingly I then notice on those Shimano Kairiki 8-strand links from earlier, plus with J-Braid on the Daiwa UK website, that the PE numbers are not actually quoted. They are actually quoted on the packaging and spools on both braids, but I can’t find a complete list of their PE ratings online, so I am not sure how you get around this unless you can find a decent website that sells the braids and lists their respective PE numbers. I know for example that the 20lb J-Braid that I have been getting on so well with has a PE#1.2 rating on the packet and spool - which interestingly doesn’t correspond with the quoted diameter of 0.16mm on the spool when as per the figures further up the page which says PE#1.2 is meant to be 0.185mm. Go frigging figure yet again! Can you see why the braids and their numbers annoy me?

I am sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that a number of spinning reels coming out of Japan especially quote their spool capacities as being able to hold so and so length of so and so PE number braid which now makes a lot of sense to me, and of course many of their lure rods use the same ratings which I must admit doesn’t make that much sense to me! I like the idea of buying a spinning reel which tells me exactly how much braid of a certain PE number I can fit on there and know that I am not then wasting any. Bear in mind as well that a thicker 4-strand braid coming out of Japan will also have PE ratings, but don’t forget that the PE ratings refer to diameter and not breaking strain, and as such a PE#1 8-strand will most likely be a stronger line than a PE#1 4-strand and so on.

Does this make sense? I hope so, although when I read it back to myself I wonder if I have gone and tied myself in knots all over again! I hope I haven’t though, but as much as I have tried to make sense of this PE stuff, at the end of the day it can still be pretty confusing, and if you put a decent knot on most braids we might use these days then you will be just fine. As for me? The more I think about, the more sense these PE ratings now make if I can bring myself to forget about breaking strains and actually how little they really mean, and I will start buying my 8-strand braids especially based on their respective PE ratings and how much I can fit on a spinning reel spool if indeed the numbers are quoted on there in the first place!

And note that there has been no mention of the final match in the Six Nations! Well done Ireland he says through gritted (gutted?) teeth……………….

 

Guest blog post - Marc Cowling - How to find and fish bass marks part 1 - Depressions

A huge thanks to Marc Cowling of the professional guiding service South Devon Bass Guide for kindly agreeing to write some guest blog posts for me - and yes, it’s Marc from this recent blog post here, the guy I am going to be doing some co-guiding work with here in the UK. Marc runs his own excellent blog on bass fishing and this guest blog post is actually culled from there. I was that impressed with the stuff he wrote that I asked him if he would mind reproducing some of it on here as guest blog posts.

As with Keith White and his recent guest blog posts on here, I take my hat off to the anglers out there who so generously put such useful information out there for the likes of you and I to read. Thanks Marc. If you don’t learn something from this guest blog post then I would be gobsmacked, indeed I am more than happy to admit to how much information I have taken on board here. Have a good weekend, I am horribly overexcited to see if England can come away with a consecutive Grand Slam over in Dublin tomorrow evening. Still can’t believe how we blew away Scotland like that last weekend………….and to think they came to Fortress Twickenham with hope in their hearts eh?!

“This is Part 1 of a 6 part series of how to find your own bass marks and how to fish them. I will also cover the following:

Part 2 - Gullies

Part 3 - Quiet rocky/weedy coves

Part 4 - Patrolling Bass

Part 5 - Positioning Bass

Part 6 - Predatory Bass

What are depressions?

Depressions in the context of this post are areas of the seabed that are lower than the surrounding platforms in the form of natural rock pools. Some of my most consistent bass marks are these zones - as they are clear areas that bass love to either raid, congregate or wait; something that I will talk about in more detail in Part 5 - Positioning bass

How to find bass marks

Clearly, Google Earth is an exceptionally useful site that enables you a bird's eye view of any area of coastline over different time lines. Some satellite images are from 15+ years ago, allowing the essential ability (in mark spotting terms) to see an area at low tide and possibly, differing stages of the tide and certain sea conditions. All of which can also be extremely useful in determining whether an area could hold bass.

Look for Pavements

Pavements are flat(ish) expanses of rock that food items will be washed across during the ebbing or flooding tide or through general wave movement. If you can find depressions within pavements then this is where the bass will wait - very much like a sandbank, whereby the food items are washed over the top of the bank to the waiting bass.

I have marked with 2 arrows the depressions that run roughly parallel to the current and waves (in prevailing wind conditions) in images 1 & 2.

Image 1 - How a depression might look on Google Earth

Image 1 - How a depression might look on Google Earth

Image 2 - The same depressions in reality

Image 2 - The same depressions in reality

Mark 1 eyeball

Mark 1 eyeball

If you can find marks with depressions (via Google Earth initially) then the next thing to do is get out there and take pictures of the exact same areas on a low water spring tide. Nothing beats actually looking at a mark with your own eyes (Mark 1 eyeball). Indeed, it allows you the opportunity to 'test out' the route down or onto a mark, in addition to the nearest available parking where applicable. By putting in this kind of homework you'll be well on your way to maximizing the potential of a possible bass mark.

More examples

Image 3 - I once caught 3 decent bass (4 - 6lb) on successive casts by simply casting a 'Maria Chase' shallow diving lure straight out over the pavement of rock. Each bass hit the lure in the exact same spot as it appeared over the depression that is 2 ft below the platform itself. The bass were seemingly lying in wait on a very high spring tide when the depth of water above the pavement was around 4ft.

Image 3

Image 3

Image 4 – This is a classic spot for drifting soft plastics (DoLive Stick or Megabass Dot Crawler) into on a flooding or ebbing tide. Aim to cast the lure beyond the depression and let it drift within it for as long as possible. Retrieve the soft plastic very very slowly with the odd twitch, gradually bringing the lure towards the shore, whilst maintaining contact (a relatively tight line or slight bow is fine).

Image 4

Image 4

Image 5 – In essence, a large rock pool. But bass will look to hold up – facing the current in such places waiting for food to be brought to them. A soft plastic or surface lure worked naturally (with the waves/flow rather than against them) has worked well on this type of mark – especially if there is a series of waves pounding through and the lure is mimicking gobies and the like being washed out of the rock pools.

Image 5

Image 5

Image 6 - The same mark as Image 5 but with the tide flooding on a calm day. Note the natural 'bowl' of the rock pool and the way the waves are gently breaking further out. Imagine a 3ft+ of swell rolling in over this - potentially bass (and bass lure angler) heaven!

Conclusions

I hope Part 1 of the series gives you an idea of how to find and fish the types of marks where bass could be present. Bass are opportunistic and predatory, but most importantly they are often creatures of habit - meaning that if you can catch one in the vicinity of a very specific pool or depression then chances are, they'll be present again under similar conditions.

The satisfaction you'll get out of researching and fishing a new mark and then ultimately catching a bass from it takes some beating. No-one can get it right every single time and some marks that, with experience, can scream bass will often be (bizarrely) completely devoid across the whole tidal range and in all conditions - we'll never work it all out in relation to bass fishing, but it's definitely worth starting somewhere. Good luck finding the ideal bass mark!”

Found a few needlefish lures over in the US which should be a good size for our bass and the rods we tend to use

My apologies for the lack of blog posts for a week or so, but I was over in the US at a fishing tackle show in Providence, Rhode Island. Wow, talk about a striped bass information overload! Absolutely fascinating, and it reinforces my desire to spend more time chasing these magnificent fish all over the north east of the US. It’s fair to say that over here in the UK we hear about Montauk and Cape Cod the most when it comes to shore fishing for stripers, but go and look at a map of the USA - find the vast Chesapeake Bay and then trace your finger up into south east Canada, and that is essentially the area where these migratory fish are caught at various times of the year, and this doesn’t include fishing for them in freshwater or over on the west coast. Yep, there are multiple lifetimes of fishing right there. We had a dumping of snow and the weather got properly raw after a couple of pretty mild days when we first arrived, but it seems that we got out of there at just the right time!

Anyway, needlefish lures are a huge thing over in the US for striped bass fishing, and I can’t help but think about these uber-simple lures more and more for our own bass. Obviously it’s a big thanks to Keith for his guest blog posts he has kindly done, but also it’s this white senko at night thing got my brain bouncing - I am at less than day one with how little I know about fishing with these lures for our bass, and I have no problem admitting that, but it interests me how if simply straight retrieving a senko at night (as per the video below) catches so many bass, then surely a hard version as such of a senko is going to work as well? OK, so I know it does because I’ve caught bass doing it, but there’s a problem when you go looking for smaller needlefish lures………...

And that’s because the majority of the needlefish the US striper guys use are pretty damn big, and whilst I am not saying that our bass won’t hit big lures, the simple fact is that I am not that keen on fishing with much bigger and heavier lures for my “regular” lure fishing - I don’t want to be forced into fishing with more powerful rods to cope with the heavier lures when conditions don’t demand it, and as such I have been looking around for needlefish that are the sort of size and weight of the lures I would normally go bass fishing with. You also need to understand that the shore based striped bass scene over in the US is a fairly specialist market - a bit like our lure fishing for bass over here I suppose - and most of their needlefish lures are made in the US by small companies or indeed individuals, and often sold directly through local tackle shops. But I did find a few internet shopping based options at the show if any of you are interested.

One way of avoiding ordering lures from the US is to keep an eye on Mr. Fish’s website over in Jersey, because they import some of the Super Strike needlefish like the one above, and it’s the 28g ones here that I am most interested in. I have a couple of the white ones. It was interesting talking to a few striper guys who live on Long Island and do the bulk of their fishing around there, for they were absolutely raving about Super Strike lures. Again, it’s a small company and apparently there is often a shortage of lures, but keep an eye on the Mr. Fish website or I guess something like Ebay.

I found the 27g needlefish above on The Roberts Lures stand at the show - it’s a plastic lure (i.e. not wood as many of them are), made on Martha’s Vineyard, and I changed the heavier duty trebles over to slightly lighter ones. I can’t find these “Needle Nose” on their somewhat basic website, but I spoke to the people there and they said to contact them here if you wanted to ask about shipping some to the UK. These Needle Nose needlefish come in various sizes from 3/4oz and up (my 27g one is their 1oz size) and they were not expensive at all at the show.

I then found the wooden needlefish type lures above on The Lonely Angler stand, and again, they said to contact them and ask about shipping to the UK. I have changed the hooks again, from their single to a treble, and I will see how they fish over time. Both lures are their 1oz sizes and you can see the ones I bought on their website here. These wooden needlefish lures were not expensive at the show, but I guess that shipping some to the UK from the US could cost a bit. Anyway, I thought I would put this information out there and hope it might be useful for a few of you. And yes, plenty of other colours were available, but I went for white obviously because a simple white senko has been working so well for us at night.

There are a few options to buy these sort of lures here in the UK by going down the handmade route. More to come on this, but if you are interested then you need to connect with Hendrik Strydom or Jim’s Lures on Facebook - neither of them have a website but both guys are good at messaging etc. on Facebook. I know that Jim’s Lures does handmade, off the shelf needlefish whereas Hendrik does very much handmade but bespoke lures, and they are something else.

When your mates try to get one over on you, but they forget who they are dealing with!

Let’s call these two mates Tit 1 and Tit 2 (a pair of tits?) so as not to embarrass them with their amateurish attempts to get one over on me the other day. In a befuddled moment of early spring based cabin fever, did they momentarily forget who they were dealing with? Were they trying to get me back for so easily winding them up like kippers over the years? The following is a true story - only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tit 1 and Tit 2 fishing together - a perfect pair of tits!

Tit 1 and Tit 2 fishing together - a perfect pair of tits!

The weekend before last was of course a Six Nations weekend, plus I had a stack of chainsawing and axing to do, so I’m going nowhere, but Tit 1 and Tit 2 decide to head off to Wadebridge to wreck their collective heads with the increasing amount of modern lure fishing gear that Ben is drip feeding into his highly impressive Art of Fishing shop. Anyway, Tit 1 rings me on their way back to tell me all about the scary amount of lure fishing rods that were on the racks, with heaps more to come I am told. Many of the guys I go lure fishing with have various lure rod related issues and I’d put myself at the top of any list comprising those who need to seek help. Thanks Tit 1, sounds like Ben’s got some serious new rods I need to go and have a waggle with. Back to the Six Nations………….

Does anything strike you as a tiny bit odd about the paragraph above though? Yep, it did with me as well. No mention from Tit 1 about any new lures in Ben’s shop. Bless him, does he think my head isn’t screwed on straight? Already my windup radar is lit up because there had been absolutely no lure talk. I know something is afoot, but because I have played this game a number of times myself, I pursue the matter no further, I don’t ask lure questions that I know Tit 1 is dying for me to ask, and I’ll see if they end up hanging themselves!

So I give Tit 2 a shout at the beginning of last week, and guess what? We talk about lure rods. Tit 2 has very serious issues with lure rods and I think it is fair to say that his head is a mess after their Saturday visit to The Art of Fishing, but again, there is scant talk about new lures. Bless ‘em eh?

My next phone call is to Ben in his north Cornwall tackle shop, and amongst a bit of new lure rod based chat, I enquire as to whether he by any chance he has got any of the 4.5’’ OSP DoLive Shads in recently. I’m just really interested to see what they are like compared to the larger 6’’ version that I got hold of the other day, but with those words from Ben “yes, got a few packs in,  Tit 1 bought some, didn’t he tell you?”, I was literally crying down the phone as yet again my mates’ attempt at getting one over on me had fallen flat on its face. Don’t they know who they are dealing with here? I know how Tit 1 especially was so looking forward to magically producing a 4.5’’ DoLive Shad when we were out on the rocks, because he so wants me to then ask where the hell he got it from and why wasn’t I aware of it.

The trick is though to let them hang themselves. Let them think for a little longer that they’ve got one over me, and the trick is not to come straight out and ask the obvious question. No, drop the idea in there and let events unfold.

So I call Tit 1 when he’s back from work and we talk a bit more about the lure rods he saw the other day. We’re having a good chat, and I know that he’s giggling away inside because he is so damn sure he’s got me good and proper and bought some lures that I don’t know about. We’re yapping away, there have been no mention of any lures, and then I drop it in there: “I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on some of those smaller DoLive Shads sometime soon, because I think Ben might be getting some in.”

Silence from the other end.

And this is when I know I’ve got Tit 1 bang to rights. Tit 1 and Tit 2 thought they were being so damn clever with their plotting, and I’ve had Tit 2 especially so many times now because I refuse to ask the questions that I know he really wants me to, and this makes him blurt stuff out that he was trying so hard to keep quiet until we are out fishing. I know he can’t take it when I don’t ask and then he capitulates. It’s a simple matter of being patient and dropping stuff in there when needs be.

And it’s still silent at the other end of the phone, until that is Tit 1 bursts out laughing. Bless ‘em eh? I don’t think either of them would earn a living as professional poker players! Tit 1: “I’ve already got a packet of the shads.” Me: “I know.”. Tit 1: “How the hell do you know?” Guys, seriously, if you’re going to try and get one over on me you so need to do better than that!

Anyway, have a good week all of you. I am off to the US tomorrow afternoon, flying from Heathrow to Boston and then meeting up with a bloke from Fiiish to do some mainly research based work that we can’t do here in Europe. I am not sure if I will be able to blog again until I get back next week, but I will try my best.

Making plans to offer some UK based co-guided lure fishing trips in conjunction with a thoroughly nice guy in south Devon

The co-guiding work I do with John Quinlan over in Kerry has absolutely smashed it home to me how much fun and deeply rewarding it is to take anglers out fishing and try to help them catch a few fish as well as hopefully learn something and have a hell of a giggle all rolled into the overall experience. I have been asked so many times over the years whether I take people out fishing in the UK, and whilst I have always appreciated anglers getting in touch and asking the question, I have held back from doing so for various reasons. But then I started doing this work with John and absolutely loving it and I began to wonder why on earth I couldn’t be doing something guiding related here in the UK…………

But I left it alone, until that is I met up with Marc Cowling of South Devon Bass Guide, a business he set up last year in, yes, you guessed it, south Devon! I might live in south east Cornwall now, but when I first started living in the south west, it was the south Devon coastline that was as good as on my doorstep, and I bloody love it. Sure, I need a passport now to cross from Cornwall into Devon, but I can live with that! To then meet another lure obsessed angler who is very much on my wavelength and calls that stunning coastline his home patch was pretty damn cool, and the sheer level of professionalism that Marc is putting into his newish guiding business really made me sit up and think. And certain thoughts got in my head and started swirling around, and it was interesting to find out that Marc had been thinking along the same lines as me.

The long and short of it is that Marc and I are starting to make firm plans to do some work together and offer co-guided lure fishing trips around south Devon. Sure, bass will of course be the major species we target, but we want to make these trips fairly flexible to account for tides and conditions. Catching a few fish for our clients will of course be the priority, but it would be remiss to make a song and dance about hordes of monster bass guaranteed to crawl up the line - nope, as per my work with John over in Ireland, we want these days/trips to be about the complete experience, and I will be very keen to get that across when we start to actually market what Marc and I are going to be doing. Fishing, catching some fish, learning about lure fishing, and having a blast.

Now of course Marc offers his own guided lure fishing trips - and you should get in touch with him if you want to fish around south Devon with a seriously competent guide who will work his backside off to get you fish and increase your knowledge - but together I think we can bring something a bit different to the table. As I said earlier, I have thought a lot about doing my own UK guiding work, but it’s such fun to work with somebody else so that our clients get a whole lot more.

Anyway, that is where we stand right now with this. Lots of planning is going into how we might best offer these co-guided trips, and due to a number of factors we will start to work together from about September and then go from there. It’s a long lure season down here in the south west and I will be fascinated to see if there are actually any anglers out there who would want to come and experience what Marc and I are going to do together. Of course we run the risk of this concept falling flat on its face, but doing something in the UK has been niggling away at me for ages, and as I said earlier, the combination of working with John in Ireland and getting to know Marc and his professionalism was what brought it all together in my head. If what we are planning is of any interest, please contact me here and I can make sure to get in touch directly when we are ready to rock and roll.

Please bookmark Marc’s excellent lure fishing blog right here. He writes really well about bass fishing in a way that is very easy to understand, and I have asked him if he would be so kind as to do me some guest blog posts. Watch this space. Have a good weekend, and below is a glimpse at my work that is coming out in the next issue of Sea Angler magazine.

When you get your camera or phone out to take a fishing photo, how do you “see” what is in front of you?

It always really interests me how we all “see” what is in front of us that little bit differently, and little in my mind illustrates this better than the photos we take - and because this blog is mainly about fishing, it is of course the photos of our fishing that I am talking about here. Whilst I can’t pretend that I find a great deal that catches my eye in a lot of the photos of fishing that I see all over the internet, I would also say that aside from the technicalities of what makes a “correct” photograph, none of us are “wrong” as such - because we all “see” what is it front of us a little differently, and with fishing there can be so much……….

Three of us were out bass fishing early one morning last year, and it’s a session that has stuck in my head ever since - but sadly not for the amazing fishing we had, because from memory I think we blanked on the bass front! Nope, it was how we all saw things that morning that got to me. As per above, it was one of those mornings when the world looked pretty damn incredible, and yes, damn right, you’re feeling a little bit smug that you’re up and out and seeing it before most regular people have even woken up. But then that’s the awesome fishing about fishing if you ask me - seeing so much stuff that non-fishing folk ain’t generally going to see.

So you have to bear in mind here that I am carrying a camera body and at least two different lenses in my rucksack, but most of you have smart phones that I am sure allow you to do a whole bunch of stuff as regards taking photos. And no, I don’t care about selfies! Now it could rightly be argued that the obvious shot is as per above - to put the angler in amongst that perfectly glorious light on a bit of a wide angle shot. Obvious it may be, but with that kind of very early light as per above, why the hell not I would ask? I can’t not shoot when it’s like that, and I noticed that Ben was snapping away as well on his smart phone. If a morning like that doesn’t affect you on some kind of emotional level then I would suggest you should be back home asleep or playing computer games……….

But what are you seeing when you’re snapping away? Damn right it’s the wide kind of shot that jumps out the most at you, but what else do you see? I shot a bunch of wide shots but I was also seeing something interesting out of my other eye and I couldn’t ignore it. I went for a lens change while Ben was still snapping a few pix on his phone, and as awesome as the sky was still looking, I changed over to a longer telephoto lens (70-200mm 35mm equivalent) to try and nail the shot that I could “see” in my head. Now Ben’s doing absolutely nothing wrong by continuing to bathe in that glory of light, sea and angler, but it fascinated me how he questioned my changing over to a longer lens. I don’t think he saw what I saw, just as I was not seeing exactly the same as he was seeing, and this fascinates me.

Ben’s a thoroughly nice guy who knows his onions backwards when it comes to fishing, and whilst photographing fishing is a big part of my job, it doesn’t then make what I shoot any more or less worthy than what he or indeed any other angler might choose to photograph when they are out fishing - but I “saw” another kind of photo when I was snapping those wide shots, and that photo that jumped into my head is the one above. I can’t help what I might “see” and just because I “saw” that tighter style photo above (early morning light playing on the water with Mark fishing and then a splash from a wave that gave me the motion I wanted), well that’s just me seeing things a little differently to Ben. Not right or wrong or better or worse - just differently.

Does it wreck your head when you see a bass follow but then turn away from your lure?

Talk about timing. I was at my desk a week or so ago, thinking about bass fishing and various ideas for blog posts, and something that has been gestating for a while in my head got me thinking about a blog post for this week on the subject of “follows” from bass. You know when you suddenly see a bass following your lure but it then turns away?

So my mobile goes off while I'm thinking about this and it's my mate Mark who proceeds to tell me about his brief try for bass that morning. He didn't catch (it is February after all), but he did see a bass clear as day follow his DoLive Stick in and then turn away. A follow. Exactly what I had been thinking about myself. Timing eh?

Anyway, I don't know about you, but as much as seeing a bass coming in on your lure is always a heart-stopper, if it turns away from the lure and heads off somewhere else, well this tends to wreck my head for the simple fact that it leaves so many unanswered questions via that one single moment. It’s not just that the fish you saw didn’t hit the lure - I'm working on the assumption that if you can see the bass then it has seen you - it's also a case for me that my head gets wrecked because I can't help wondering how many times the fish we chase might be turning away from our lures much further out but we aren't actually seeing it………..

Which in turn makes me wonder what I am doing wrong. You know those times when you thrash the water to a foam in perfect conditions and tides but come away fishless? Obviously there were no fish there says your head, but were there? You know when you fish say a hard lure for most of a session, don’t get a single sniff, then change to say a soft plastic and you hook a bass straight away? How often are there bass out there that are on the hunt for food but we as anglers are not putting lures in front of them that they want to hit? Or how often are bass out there but not switched on into a feeding mode? And so on.

OK, so whilst in some respects a follow and non-committal wrecks my head with the questions it asks of me, of course it’s us trying to beat nature and coming up short because we will never come close to understanding it all. If we had all the answers then fishing would not be the challenge that it is, and as much as I hope that I have learnt about fishing over the years, I happen to take great comfort if you like at how much more there is still to learn. By nature I am pretty black and white, but fishing surely is beset with so many grey areas that we simply don’t understand? Why would what seems to be a hungry fish rush in so enthusiastically on our lure but then turn away? Is it simply natural instinct that something is wrong? As ever, I choose to ignore those anglers who purport to have all the answers, because I simply don’t believe that it’s possible. Is it in fact a healthy dose of cabin fever that wrecks the head more than anything else?

If you are into your rugby then that was one strange weekend. I had a feeling Scotland might turn Wales over, and Ireland were surely odds on to beat a resurgent France, but I can’t work out how I feel about the England Italy game. I like to think that we were never in danger of losing, and it was frustrating as hell to have that team out there and for the most part not see them play expansively, but on the other hand I have to give credit to the Italy coaching lot for coming up with a tactic that so frustrated and confused England. Isn’t it interesting how professional players get thrown a complete curve ball and take so comparatively long to figure out a way to deal with it? In the heat of battle I might add, but pressure is an interesting thing. Maybe it’s a new Eddie Jones tactic to have England still in position for a grand slam whilst playing nowhere near their potential?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

One of the many uses for a lure rod!

One of the many uses for a lure rod!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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