Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

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.

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