Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

First bass on the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel, fished exactly the way its designer told me to

I couldn’t have cared whether the bass was a minnow or a monster, because I did exactly what I set out to do and nailed one on the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel which I was fishing in exactly the way that Matt the lure’s designer had advised me to do. It’s a lure that I like the look of but to be honest I’ve been struggling to really understand it - and I get the impression that a lot of other anglers who swear by the effectiveness of the Black Minnow are in a similar boat. What’s this sandeel looking thing that isn’t weedless and doesn’t have some kind of paddle shaped tail? I know how much planning, thought and testing Matt from Fiiish has put into the Crazy Sandeel, and it really struck home to me before Xmas last year when he told me that he was catching at least double the amount of bass on “Le Crazy” as they call it over the Black Minnow.

I really got the chance to talk at length with Matt last week in Italy when we there tuna fishing/photographing, and obviously because the killer lure was the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel, we spent a fair bit of time yapping about it - why Matt designed it the way he did, why it’s not weedless, and how one might go about fishing it in different situations etc. It does help to see bluefin tuna smashing into these lures, but tuna of course ain’t our bass, and whilst Matt is a very unassuming guy who does not remotely shout about what he has achieved in the lure fishing world, he happens to catch a lot of fish on “his” lures (and also his various prototypes). He fishes mainly from the boat, but we spoke about a number of potential shore fishing situations and how one might go about fishing the Crazy Sandeel when presented with them.

I got back from Italy about 7pm on Friday evening, and on the drive from the airport I had hatched a plan with Mark to meet up early the next morning and head out fishing very local to us, and the conditions that greeted us were about as perfect as you could hope to see - what is it about bass and fog/mist? Mark landed three small bass on his new DUO Tide Minnow Slim 140 Flyer in that stunning chartreuse back/white sides and belly colour, and for a while all I got was a couple of hits on an XLayer bumped along the bottom in some increasing surf that was getting up with the flood.

The evening before I had rummaged around and managed to find a 150mm size Fiiish Crazy Sandeel in the green colour, rigged on the 20g Off Shore head. I made sure to put it in my lure box for the morning, with every intention of giving it a go, but of course after Mark had landed a couple of fish and I hadn’t connected with one, it’s far easier to turn to a tried and trusted lure. But no, I was going to give the lure a proper go and fish it in the way that Matt had said would get the lure doing its thing, and holy cow if a bass around the 3.5lbs mark didn’t go and smash Le Crazy, and I mean absolutely frigging nail it. The conditions were really bouncing by now - we were fishing a rocky platform that gives way to mainly sand, a medium kind of depth around the tide state I hit the fish, and the water clarity was really good.

Hell, I caught tuna last week that weighed perhaps twenty times more than that single bass did, but ask Mark how excited I was at catching that bass on Saturday morning. Sure, we all want to catch great big bass, but I get such a thrill at something like this happening. One fish is all I needed to now feel the confidence flooding through me that the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel is in fact a lure that I should continue to fish with, and as I thought, I had been missing a number of things about this lure. Yes, I accept completely I may well have caught that particular bass if I had been using some other lure fished in some other way, but the fact is that I was determined to try and do something different to what I might have usually done, and it went and worked - and I get a huge kick out of that. Lure fishing is so much about confidence, and that one fish have given me another string to my bow, and who knows what fish might come to me via this new string? I don’t like sitting still and I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again, indeed lure fishing does it for me so much because there is so much to explore.

There is not remotely anything secret of complicated about how I caught that bass, but it required an understanding I suppose of how the lure works. It is very much meant to be different to the Black Minnow, and it doesn’t have an obvious kind of paddletail that say the much loved Savage Gear Sandeel does - so what does it have? It’s about getting the Crazy Sandeel moving at the right speed to kick that body of the lure into life. There are most likely a load of different ways in which anglers may be fishing this thing, but Mark and I happened to be fishing the sort of location and the kind of conditions that Matt and I had spoken about fishing Le Crazy when we were over in Italy. Get that lure moving - rip it through the water and feel that body come to life via the vibrations in the rod tip, and have the confidence that fishing it at a fairly fast speed Is firstly how it was designed, and secondly that bass are going to smash it. When I was asking Matt questions about the lure, he did say that with the (very successful) Black Minnow, why would Fiiish then go and launch something similar as their next product?

I am not saying that the Crazy Sandeel swims exactly like a real sandeel, but rip it through the water at a speed that gets the body almost “rippling” and tell me that it doesn’t look pretty damn impressive. But why isn’t it weedless? Well Matt couldn’t get the lure to swim properly on a weedless or indeed articulated setup, and also there is the argument that it doesn’t need to be weedless anyway because it isn’t designed to be fished like the (weedless) Black Minnow.

All I was doing was blasting the 150mm Crazy Sandeel out, snapping the bale arm over on the reel and then fishing it with a kind of long and fairly fast pull or strip (point the rod at the lure and strip the rod back, you’ll know if the speed is right because you will feel the lure working properly via your rod tip, you can’t miss it), then reel back to the lure and strip it again. I was using the 20g Off Shore jig head mainly because that was the one I had managed to find, and whilst Matt said that the 10g Shore head works really fished like this, I liked the heavier head in the heavy conditions we had on Saturday morning. The bass actually hit me right at the end of a strip back towards me on the rod, and I wasn’t fishing it with a sink and draw angle on the rod, rather a sideways angle to keep the lure up in the water - in deeper water though, really work through the water column.

It does in fact make absolutely no difference to me whether you take any notice of any of this or not. I get genuinely very excited when stuff like this happens in my fishing, and my feeling is that if I blog about it and could possibly help a few of you out or get your brains whirring like mine does about fishing so much, then that’s enough for me - and conversely, if you want to believe in conspiracy theories then feel free. I really admire the innovation shown of the French company Fiiish and I happen to think they are a thoroughly decent bunch of people who are passionate about their products. It would be beyond foolish of me to have spent a few days with such an intelligent fishing lure designer and not pick his brains and try to further my fishing knowledge, and for the life of me I will never understand people who don’t ask questions. Of course I need a heap more time with the Crazy Sandeel to see how it might or might not continue to catch me fish in various situations, but that Saturday morning bass just about made my year so far!!

Early tomorrow morning I start the long drive over to Kerry in south west Ireland for my first co-guiding trip with John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage Ireland. I will do my best to keep this blog updated with how we are getting on, but please bear with me and the very long hours that we will be putting in with our clients. I don’t like getting my hopes up too much, but the Irish bass season as such seems to have kicked off this year with a real bang. We shall see what happens, but I can’t wait to get back over there. More to come……