Henry Gilbey
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Nothing beats being comprehensively outfished to fuel that urge to keep on getting better

Early Wednesday morning for me was one of those (surf) fishing sessions that will stick long in the memory for a number of different reasons, but it was nothing to do with memorably big bass or anything like that. Nope, it was to do with being comprehensively outfished which then causes my brain to go into overdrive as I break the session down and analyse how I might keep on improving my own fishing, and especially for the next time we are faced with similar conditions. I see some anglers getting really niggled if they are outfished by mates or other anglers nearby, but my argument will always be that fishing delights in humbling us from time to time anyway, and why would you strive to improve if you were always the man so to speak?

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So we were fishing by about 5.45am. There was a strong onshore wind which was blowing directly in our faces, and there was plenty of broken, fizzed up surf, the sort that surfers hate but I am loving more and more because those shorter swell periods and onshore winds seem to produce the best surf fishing. It’s the same here on the south coast albeit we obviously need different wind directions to get the same effect, plus my local coastline doesn’t “hold” as much sea before blowing.

I was using what has become my default surf fishing setup - that awesome 10’ 12-42g HTO Nebula rod I reviewed the other day, a Penn Slammer III 3500 spinning reel loaded with 18lb/PE#0.8 Sufix 131 braid (I wish this stuff wasn’t so bloody good, because it’s not exactly cheap), and the (cheap as chips) 30lb/0.56mm Berkley Trilene Big Game Fluorocarbon as a leader. I know this is a relatively heavy leader, but it doesn’t remotely put bass off in the surf, and I like the extra diameter and strength for grabbing hooked bass by the leader itself, wrapping a couple of turns around my hand, and then easily unhooking them. As per my blog post recently, single hooks all the way for me on my metals in the surf now, and I suppose it goes without saying that all my barbs are crushed which makes for such easy unhooking.

Anyway, so at about 5.45am yesterday morning I clipped on a Savage Gear Seeker in that pearly white colour. I know these 35g samples I have got here are not available yet, but I do like the extra bit of weight for punching into the sort of conditions that were hitting us in the face. After a while though I hadn’t had a sniff, so in the half-light I got my lure box out and changed over to the “Black Pearl” colour 28g Seeker that I blogged about the other day - and lo and frigging behold I got a tap on my first cast with it, followed by a few fish. Damn those hits in raging conditions like that feel like bolts of lightning down your arm.

After a while I waded over to Dave to see how he was getting on, but he hadn’t had a sniff - and this lad can fish. I gave him my 28g Black Pearl Seeker to see if it would make any difference to the lure he had been using, and lo and frigging behold he also gets hit on his first cast with the different lure, followed by a few fish. I waded back to where I had been fishing, clipped on that blackish colour sample Sandeel Pencil (a fixed Savage Gear Line-Thru Sandeel), and nailed a few more bass.

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A while later though and things seemed to change, as in we started to connect with less and less bass in front of us and not too far out, whereas Marc began hitting bass after bass after bass - and he was doing things a bit differently. I don’t mind admitting that I had essentially written off those specialist casting/slow jigs from the likes of Zetz and Major Craft for my surf fishing (check here) because I had tried and tried with them in what were mostly some wicked side winds here on the south coast, and a big belly of line killed any direct contact I could get with a lure that relies on you being fully in touch with it to get it working properly.

I have taken the bottom hook off now because I don’t think it’s needed if you are jigging with these lures

I have taken the bottom hook off now because I don’t think it’s needed if you are jigging with these lures

Marc had clipped on a 40g version of the Zetz Slow Blatt Cast Up. He was whacking it out, but as well as they cast they aren’t going any further than I was putting a 28g or 35g Seeker. Nope, it seemed to be the way the bass changed how and where they were feeding, and how that specialist casting jig was obviously getting down to the bottom and working in the right zone for longer than a metal which you tend to straight retrieve. With the strong wind directly in our face and no (slack) belly of line, Marc was able to keep in proper contact with the lure as he fished it with a very controlled sink and draw kind of retrieve. Crumbs did he nail a bunch of bass, and as per usual on a jig type of lure, they were hitting on the drop and hooking up on the assist hooks on the top of the lure. He outfished us all and it was fascinating to see.

Major Craft Jigpara Shore 40g

Major Craft Jigpara Shore 40g

So what did I do when I get home later on? I had a good rummage around, found those Zetz jigs I had bought last year, and put a couple in my surf lure box. There is also a Major Craft equivalent called the Jigpara Shore, they come in a range of weights, but I like the 30g and 40g. Surf fishing doesn’t need to be complicated in terms of techniques, indeed the most complicated thing to me is getting the right conditions, but I am learning all the time that there are different ways to approach it, and that what worked the previous session might not work so well the next time you are out there. It’s all very well banging out metals and winding them back in, but what if things change right in front of you during your next session? Do you write it off as no fish around or the conditions weren’t right (as I did the other morning), or do you try something a little different to see if it might make work? This is why being outfished never bothers me for a single second, but then I am always watching other anglers and asking them questions because it’s the way I’m made. You all have a good weekend, and may your brain be bouncing as much as mine currently is!

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