Henry Gilbey
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My mate’s first bass of the season was considerably bigger than mine! A session that had almost everything………..

If my first bass of the 2019 season scraped 2lbs the other day I’d have been surprised, but damn right I’ll take it with all the confidence one single fish brings and how the urge to get out there again and again takes hold after a grim couple of months when being honest I’d quite happily be somewhere else than the UK. But with what happened when Mark and I went out fishing early Friday morning and now that the bass fishing season for us is officially on? Bass fishing is it for me and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than Cornwall or Ireland until at least the middle of January next year…………….

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So Mark’s first bass of the season weighed 7lb 5oz, and yes, I weighed it on scales and didn’t measure it. I nearly forgot that I had scales in my rucksack but these days I also need to scrabble around for a pair of glasses because my eyesight at the ripe old age of 46 isn’t what it was in my thirties. I am determined to keep carrying a small set of digital scales and a lightweight weigh-sling for those times when weighing a fish is worth it and/or of interest. I sure as hell ain’t going to weigh many bass though, because it’s a faff to do it properly (wet weigh-sling etc.) - as indeed one should - but when your mate hooks, lands, plus breaks his rod on his first bass of the season like that, a proper weight was the least I could do for Mark!

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He had another around 6lbs, I landed one that might have nudged 5lbs, and Mark also had a fish of that sort of size as well. We both had a few more hard hits as well. My biggest buzz of the session was twofold - watching Mark hook and land that cracker of an early April bass, and I hooked into a bass that for a few seconds just didn’t budge, before shaking its head and the lure came out. I know it’s always the biggest fish that are lost and so on, but I also know how much pressure I put on hooked bass compared to other anglers I see.

Now if there is one thing I will always do when fishing with mates is to offer them a helping hand landing their fish if I am nearby. I see a hell of a lot of anglers not helping their mates land fish because I guess they want to keep fishing, but that’s not the way I’m wired and when you’re fishing together with a friend or friends, surely you are all in it together? Anyway, Mark hooked his first bass of the season pretty soon after we’d started fishing in the most sublime conditions you could ever hope to see (I do love it when the forecast is actually spot on), and straight away I asked him if he wanted a hand landing it - but he declined. To be honest we both initially thought it was a small fish because Mark just started off by winding it in without any undue hassle, hence him not needing a helping hand to land it.

Then the fish woke up and we got a glimpse of his bass at the edge of the rocks, but by then Mark had moved away from me to an area of the rocks where he’d be able to “beach” the bass on a wave. I was watching the whole time quite simply because I was so bloody happy to have seen my friend hook his first bass of the season - I know how much fishing means to him. Anyway, Mark will be the first person to admit to this, but he properly cocked up the landing of that 7lb 5oz bass by high-sticking (to the side) his beloved Tailwalk EGinn 9’6’’ Max35g rod (review here), and sure as night follows day the rod broke. The rod was to the side and went beyond the vertical if that makes sense, the tip was bent right around, the bass wasn’t high and dry, it very suddenly moved back down the rocks as the wave receded, and the only thing that could have happened when a rod is (wrongly) bent like that happened - it snapped. Ouch! The bass did get landed, and to his credit almost the first thing Mark said was “angler error”. I’ve done it myself (check here, and holy cow was that exactly how not to land a bass!), and sure as shit loads of anglers have done the same thing and either not even realised they high-sticked a fragile bit of carbon, or otherwise they did realise but refused to fess up when trying to claim a new rod and instead “it just snapped when I was casting a light lure” or some similar pile of poo. We’re mainly blokes, and when do blokes ever make a mistake and then actually admit to it?

Anyway, so I happened to have two rod and reel setups with me. I rarely do this, but because I am starting to fish with and evaluate a new lure rod and I wanted to compare it to the outstanding, “finesse-style, more powerful” lure rod that is the stunning Tailwalk EGinn 10’6’’ Max45g (review here), I had decided to take the two setups with me on Friday morning. This new lure rod had the Penn Slammer III 3500 on it, and the Tailwalk had the increasingly impressive Penn Spinfisher VI 3500 on it. Mark is a very calm person and wasn’t remotely ranting and raving at his mistake, but it felt great to be able to turn around and say to him no bother, grab my other rod and get back at it - which he did, and he landed two more good bass before heading off to work. I stayed for a while longer but never got another sniff of a fish. Which was frustrating.

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From a fishing tackle point of view it was very much a hard lure or bigger paddletail kind of session to deal with the conditions, and I was so pleased to hook and land my bass on a lure that I had bought over the winter (as one does!) and then finally got to use it in the kind of conditions I envisaged it for. I have talked about how well the discontinued IMA Hound 125F Glide (check here) casts and “grips” into bouncy conditions, but my new Shimano Exsence Silent Assassin 129F (129mm 22g) felt like it was casting even further again - and it caught me my bass in some pretty gnarly sea conditions. I am seriously getting into some of these Shimano Japan hard lures, and that big bass I mentioned earlier which didn’t stay connected was hooked and lost on the stunning little Shimano Exsence Responder 109F (109mm 15g) that I bought during the previous winter’s cabin fever period - and it’s still showing no signs of rust at all on the split rings or two treble hooks. This shallow-diver now lives in my lure box as much as the killer little IMA iBorn 98F.

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Mark hooked and landed his first bass of the season on the smaller Tackle House Feed Shallow 105 which I must admit is a lure I simply haven’t given enough time to - he’s frigging deadly with both the 105 and 128 Feed Shallows though. His other two bass came on a hard lure that I have also done well on myself at this particular spot, the Apia Dover 99F (99mm, 15g). I know all about the big lures, big fish thing, but if I think back to the biggest bass I have seen or indeed caught myself over the last few years, I am pretty sure they all came on what I’d term smallish to regular sized hard and soft lures. Go with what works for you and isn’t lure fishing great how it is so versatile and all-consuming?

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