Henry Gilbey
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Do bass eat garfish?

This question has been rattling around my head for a while now for a number of reasons. The other day I landed a bass around the 7lb mark on a surface lure the like of which I had never seen or used before, and with how much that particular bass wanted the lure (plus two other good fish that came off because I hadn’t set the lure up quite right) and because I can’t recall catching or seeing bass of that size from this spot, it obviously got me thinking because the surface lure in question is the most garfish like imitation I can recall clipping on.

Did you know that garfish are a type of needlefish? I quote: “Needlefish, any of the long, slim, primarily marine fishes of the family Belonidae (order Atheriniformes), found throughout temperate and tropical waters. Needlefish are adept jumpers, carnivorous in habit, and distinguished by long, slender jaws equipped with sharp teeth. They are silvery fish, with blue or green backs, and are edible. The family includes some 60 species, the largest growing about 1.2 m (4 feet) long. Among the species are the garfish (Belone belone) of Europe and the houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus), found everywhere in the tropics.”

And there are obviously these simple straight “sticks” that more and more of us seem to be turning to for night fishing for bass especially. We throw around the name needlefish for these lures, but were they designed to originally imitate needlefish over in the US (or garfish), or do our bass see them more as sandeels or even pipefish or something like that? A friend of mine told me an interesting theory about these needlefish lures, but I am not going to steal his thunder here and I will wait to report back on this until he has published his ramblings. The name needlefish for these lures has obviously stuck because that is what they were called as they were developed within the US striped bass scene I believe, but what does the name actually mean to us and what our bass feed on?

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So do bass actually eat garfish? I am aware of some local anglers to me who have caught some big bass over the years when fishing chunks of garfish deliberately for them, but do bass actively chase down live garfish? Towards the end of the year especially around here in south east Cornwall, smaller garfish can often be a pain in the rear when you are our lure fishing for bass as they keep on hitting the lures, but would our bass actually chase and eat these garfish?

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Regardless of how I had (wrongly) rigged up that surface lure the other day (it comes unrigged and the treble hooks I first put on it were obviously not quite right for the size and profile of the lure, photo above), it was uncanny how quickly and how hard that first, roughly 7lb bass launched into it. The lure in question is the Lurenzo "Don Belone", and it's much longer than any other surface lures I can recall using for our bass - 230mm long and weighs 23g. For sure you could look at it and think big sandeel or launce, but I think about how garfish are so often swimming so close to the surface and how this Don Belone surely looks like one.

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Are garfish a known prey species for our bass? I don’t actually know, but I do know that I have taken some advice that I was kindly given on Facebook and I have rigged this 23g Lurezno Don Belone up with a much bigger VMC 7554 TI treble hook size 1/0 on the rear (photo above), and one of those stubby little size 2 Decoy Y-W77 treble hooks in the middle (photo below) - this particular treble can’t snag around the top of the thin-profile lure like what could happen when I first rigged it up and those two nice fish came off. That bigger and heavier treble hook on the rear of the lure also seems to help stabilise it on the cast. The Don Belone hasn’t suddenly become a go-to surface lure for me, but with how quickly and confidently it was hit by a decent bass I can’t help but wonder if I was kind of by mistake imitating a garfish and that was what did it on that particular day…………..

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