Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

Guest blog post - Marc Cowling - How to find and fish bass marks part 3 - Quiet rocky/weedy coves

This is part 3 of a 6 part series of how to find your own Bass marks and how to fish them. In the next month I will also cover the following:

Part 4 - Patrolling Bass

Part 5 - Positioning Bass

Part 6 - Predatory Bass

What is quiet?

When I say 'quiet' what I mean are areas tucked away from most of the population, in a way that it is either relatively inaccessible, cut off by the high tide and/or generally well and truly off the beaten track. These are the types of bass marks that you need to go out and find yourself (in the same way as Part 1 here with the help of Google Earth and the mark 1 eyeball).

This can and will often mean hiking long distances from the car (miles), clambering down paths that are barely there, getting stung, pricked and cut in addition to continually looking out for adders (in the summer anyhow). What is extremely satisfying though, is when you've put in all the homework and legwork into identifying a potential mark (in the depths of winter perhaps?) and then you get to actually fish the venue and ultimately, you hook into and land a nice Bass…

Consider places where you'll get cut off (think safety here though)

Please, please do not attempt to scramble up cliff-edges or stand on your toes on tiny islands where either any loose rocks or increase in wind/swell could see you end up either severely injuring  yourself, or being washed in!

What I'm talking about is a cove or small beach that you can access only up to half-tide, remain on and fish over high tide before returning when the tide drops low enough. Or a large rock, at least the size of a bus and double the height of the expected forecast waves, where you can fish over the high water period before making your escape when the tide retreats.

So why would you bother to do this when there are potentially many other bass marks that are readily available to you? Well, the idea is that you're very likely to be fishing over ground that is rarely, if ever fished - something that definitely appeals to me.

The two images below depict a typical mark (seen here at low tide and 1 hour after on the flood) that is only accessible for the first 2 hours of the tide and is backed by large boulders at the high tide mark. Note the very weedy/rocky snaggy ground that you would be casting a lure into - it literally smells of Bass... and it will of hardly ever been fished...

Low tide

Low tide

1 hour into the flood

1 hour into the flood

So when and how should you approach these marks?

In my experience, the safest and often most productive way to fish these really quiet coves or small beaches is over the high water period in very calm, clear water conditions - the perfect summer’s day perhaps? Furthermore, if you can link this into a session at the crack of dawn, or very late evening then you will increase your chances significantly.

My theory, based on many hours of lure fishing on these types of venues is that the bass will look to move into these areas to 'mooch around' out of the main current, often on the top of the tide, in order to conserve energy whilst remaining on the look-out for an easy meal.

What is even more interesting is that these quiet, weedy, rocky, difficult to get to places are consistent, in that Bass will routinely move into these regions on say, a very high water spring tide, when the sea is absolutely crystal clear when the bass know they are unlikely to be disturbed by boats, swimmers etc.

Imagine you're a hunting Bass

When you're out researching marks like the one in the featured images, if at all possible, try to actually stand exactly where you would aim to cast on the low tide (assuming it dries out of course). Run a small net through the rockpools, lift the odd rock to see what life is underneath it - the chances are it will contain gobies, pipefish and butterfish and the like.

Moreover, if in amongst the broken ground there are sandy or muddy patches you may well find lugworms or ragworms under any rocks that are 'dug' into the seabed. Add into the mix the small wrasse, pollack and sporadic sandeel shoals that will inhabit these intertidal zones and you have a potential bass banquet. I think this is what many authors mean when they say find the roughest, snaggiest, weediest, broken ground imaginable when looking for bass marks - what I am saying is add the quiet into the mix.

Typical bass ground in south Devon

Typical bass ground in south Devon

Lure Types

The types of lures that I would use in the above circumstances/conditions/types of marks in order of choice/success are:

Slow sinking, weightless, weedless worms or shads.

Shallow running, small (100 - 120mm) minnow or jointed lures.

Small (90 - 120mm), subtle surface lures.

My logic/thought process when lure fishing under calm, clear, low light conditions is to try to match what the bass may be looking for, under the circumstances/conditions they may expect to find them. So let’s look at the lure choices above:

1.    A slow sinking, weightless, weedless worm (senko) will be fished in a way so to imitate a 'worm' trying to either dig themselves back into the sand/mud or they may be trying to utilise whatever tidal movement there is present to drift (swim) into an area where they can achieve this. Therefore, I would look to retrrieve the worm excruciatingly slowly, letting it occasionally fade down onto the bottom with the odd enticing slight twitch. Similarly, I would look to fish a shad type lure with a very very slow retrieve so that it almost 'slaloms' its way in - see below the types of lures I use.

2.    Shallow running, small (100 -120mm) minnow or jointed lures (like the ones I use below) can simply be 'wound in' rather than 'worked' like the soft plastics. However, depending on the depth of the water above the mark, or the type of fish that I was looking to imitate, be it a wrasse, pollack or sandeel would depend on which lure I would use, and in what order.

For example, if I had seen or expected to see sandeel shoals then I would be casting out one of the slim, shallow diving lures initially. If the ground was as 'rough as rats' and I had previously caught wrasse here (in the heat of the day perhaps) then I might go for a chunkier, deeper diving plug. If it was late evening when the pollack are more likely to be active then out would go a pollack imitation.  Of note, is the fact that the jointed Rapala J11 or a similar lure will often induce a 'follow' when other lures have failed.

3.    Small (90 - 120mm), subtle surface lures (note the subtle!) can be very effective, particularly when it is oily clam or the light levels are at their lowest. Again, if there had been, or there still were, sandeel shoals skittering on the surface then a more 'sandeel-esque' lure might be the order of the day.  Likewise, if there were presently or there had been brit, small pollack or the like jumping out of the water (predators beneath perhaps?) then I would be looking to cast out a slightly stubbier 'walk the dog or slider' type of surface lure (see below)

Don't just go through the motions!

We've all done it. You're content to be out fishing, taking in the glorious landscape, you're dazzled by the beautiful sunset and just enjoying being 'at one' with nature so to catch a bass would be the cherry on top. However, to become a consistently successful bass lure angler, you shouldn't think in this way.... enjoy it yes, but be ruthless!

What you should be doing is continually re-evaluating your surroundings, the conditions, the lure choice in relation to the circumstances, remaining in the 'zone' mentally - this is what I find the most relaxing as nothing else enters your head (like run of the mill day to day stuff).  All of the above may seem very logical but it is sometimes (particularly during a very long session) easy to get caught in the moment or to momentarily forget the methods or lures that you'd originally planned to use.

You may be pleasantly surprised

In summary, always be on the lookout for these coves/bays/tiny beaches, as there could be a brilliant bass mark tucked away there, or around that next headland that you never even considered attempting to get to. Don't be afraid to fish the very calm conditions on these quiet, hard to get to venues. Also, stay particularly vigilant for those bass that appear out of nowhere it seems and that 'follow' the lure right to your rod tip…

These are the places - quiet, weedy rocky coves where you may be surprised to catch a very big bass.

Go for it!

Big thanks for this post Marc, so much good info here, plenty to digest and learn and I love how you write this “where and when” stuff in such an easy to understand and logical way. More to come, thank you!

Oh, and by the way, my last blog post was NOT an April Fool’s thing. I was speaking to an angler at the BASS AGM yesterday who asked me about the post, and he thought it was a bit of a windup - which it categorically was not! OK, so when I wrote it and then posted it, later on I did think that perhaps because it was so close to 1st April that it might be taken as an April Fool prank post, but no, it genuinely was a top tip post on an easier way to have a pee when wearing waders!