Guest blog post - Marc Cowling - How to find and fish bass marks part 4 - Patrolling bass

Big thanks again Marc for kindly doing these fascinating and seriously helpful guest blog posts for me, much appreciated and I hope a load of you reading these are learning as much as me. Take it away Marc………….

"This is part 4 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 5 - Positioning Bass

Part 6 - Predatory Bass

All photos here are kindly provided by Marc

All photos here are kindly provided by Marc

What are patrolling bass?

Patrolling bass are what I would describe as fish that are swimming with the tide, along natural, almost predetermined routes between one feeding area and another. The bass are therefore, extremely catchable as they move through your chosen mark.

The same fish?

If like me, you like reading about bass fishing and their habits, then you've probably come across an article where the author describes losing a bass (when the trace has snapped) in a specific spot, be it a gully, small reef or similar, only to go back the next day, hook a bass in the exact position, only to find the lost hook/trace from the previous day in that fish’s mouth? Was this sheer coincidence or could that fish be moving around the coastline to a set pattern, route or timetable of its own? Let nature take its course!

No I'm not talking about getting onto the beach at dawn, fishing for a few hours and then suddenly realising at 7am that you haven't had your usual morning constitutional :-D What I'm describing is that when you're looking for a potential bass mark, it pays to be on the lookout for a 'natural route' that a 'patrolling bass' may follow.

A common approach of mine, and many others I suspect, is to try 3 methods when lure fishing for bass:

  1. To try specific marks at predetermined states of the tide, for periods of say 10 - 30 minutes.
  2. To continually keep moving, making 2 or 3 casts into lots of different areas - or the same areas but from different angles.
  3. To remain in one spot for a long time (1 - 6 hours), trying different lures and lure types, but ultimately waiting for the bass to move through and come to you.

We all like to be successful therefore, when it comes to trying to suss out the natural movements of bass, I also attempt to try to 'work out' the following 5 types of marks:

  1. Natural gorges or gullies set within large platforms of rock or reef systems.
  2. Reefs comprising weed and low rocks (only 6 inches - 1ft above the sand) on an otherwise featureless sandy beach.
  3. Fishing stances above and adjacent to small, yet exposed (to wind and tide) coves.
  4. Headlands where there is large rock (island) between 30 - 100 yds off of the most exposed point.
  5. Extremities of beaches.

Let’s cover them separately -

1.     Natural gorges or gullies set within large platforms of rock/reefs - In the picture below you will see a defined gully that leads from one reef to another. It seems logical to presume that a Bass would take the 'natural' road/route when moving with the tide. Indeed, as the tide floods or ebbs this 'link' from the open sea to another feeding zone would be a good starting point to try to find some kind of pattern - you might find that bass move through once the gully has a certain depth of water for instance.

2.    Reefs comprising weed and low rocks (only 6 inches - 1ft above the sand) on an otherwise featureless sandy beach - Any natural structure on an otherwise featureless expanse of sand will attract all sorts of fish (particularly small wrasse and pollack looking for shrimps and crabs). Therefore, it makes sense to consider that if there are small prey items available, then bass will look to capitalise on this. See below the flat-ish reef that is easily within casting range from the beach - it would be worth attempting to fish this type of mark during different sea conditions in order to find the magic formula.

3.    Fishing stances above and adjacent to small, yet exposed (to wind and tide) coves - I really like these kind of marks especially during wild, rough sea conditions out on the open coast (away from the flood water running out of estuaries) where you're likely to still find a certain amount of clarity to the sea - especially if you can find deeper water (like the mark below).

The 'above' element here is that you're looking for 'safe' (a good 10ft higher than the waves although this does admittedly make it tricky to land fish) stances preferably on either side (adjacent) to the cove in order to be able to fish it in all but the worst conditions. Look for somewhere that faces and is exposed to the prevailing wind/tide direction and is a 'dead end ‘or 'collection point' for anything being washed with the current and waves to become trapped. Bass will be attracted to areas where food items are being naturally washed into. If you're positioned 'at the mouth' of these coves then you could reasonably expect to encounter bass that are moving in for the kill (Of note, is that I find big noisy surface lures (120mm+) seem to work very well in rough conditions).

4.    Headlands where there is large rock (island) between 30 - 100 yds off of the most exposed point - Look on Google Maps at the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Pembrokeshire and you'll find many headlands, some large, some small, where there are 'islands' just beyond the main 'point' to the actual headland (like the one below).

What you're looking for here are areas where the tide is compressed and therefore accelerated between the two. Sandeel shoals for example, will sometimes become disoriented in this kind of scenario and I find surface lures are particularly deadly when worked through these natural passage ways.

Shoals of bass or the big loners will use these headlands due to the increased tidal flow, so I would try these types of marks at every state of the tide (ebb and flood) to see if they are indeed, natural routes.

5.    Extremities of beaches - Another good way to find a nice consistent bass mark, readily fished with either bait, soft plastics, hard sub-surface or surface lures is to think how a bass might access a beach - be it under flat calm or rough conditions.

If you take a beach of between 100 - 1000 yards wide, you would definitely expect a percentage of those fish to swim directly onto it from the open sea. However, bass like to use cover (weed/rocks) in order to hunt therefore, it again seems appropriate to imagine that a bass would use the rocks bordering the beach to travel with the tide - picking off any opportunities (food items) that might present themselves along the way. Additionally, any natural routes (gullies) among these extremities that bass and another species (prey perhaps) could utilise are excellent ambush points, from the lure angler’s perspective.

This isn't essential, but the next trick works for me. Pick a stance where the waves/tide/current 'hit' you first. For example, if the waves/tide/current are/is coming from the right, make sure you are on the right side of the beach in order intercept bass moving up the coast. Try drifting or bouncing a soft plastic around, or crank in a hard sub-surface minnow and just continually cast and retrieve waiting for that hit from the patrolling and foraging bass. Just think - they're bound to access/depart the beach at some stage of the tide so make sure you're there when it occurs…

Conclusion + Remember to take notes!

To conclude - Patrolling Bass are those that come to you - You just need to work out the best time to be on that mark. This can only be achieved through hours and hours of trial and error in lots of differing weather, sea and tidal conditions. Therefore, to maximise your bass fishing for the future, it really does help to make notes.