Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
20 September 2007
Phew! Nigel just caught our fourth bass on a mackerel livebait. Again, although no monster, it was still bigger than any we've had on lures from the same spot. Anyway, it occurred to me that some readers might wonder what the fuss is about, people have been using mackerel livebaits for years. Certainly John Darling caught big bass on livebaits (armed, if I remember rightly, with a big treble hook) from his boat and I know that anglers in the Channel Islands have used them from the shore for decades. No doubt there are many other people who have been catching bass on live mackerel (usually small ones described as 'Joeys') for decades. So what's different about our approach?
Well the truth is - nothing! However, from a personal point of view most of the places that I've traditionally fished for bass are so shallow that mackerel are a rarity, so obtaining baits would have been virtually impossible. It was only relatively recently (three or four years back) that I started fly fishing in deeper water for mackerel, pollack, scad and bass. It turned out that in these spots catching mackerel was easy and you don't usually have to wait long for a bait. I should say that I never bother how big the mackerel is and the first one that I land in good nick goes on the livebait rod. Of course there is nothing worse than struggling to catch a bait for ages, particularly if you don't have much time. By fishing early mornings I can generally get a bait in the first few minutes, sometimes on a fly but especially if I stick a small spoon on the spinning rod.
Having caught the bait it is lip hooked on a circle hook (Nigel and Ben do more or less the same) and set swimming freely (I no longer even bother with a float as the fish never go to ground). The only problem I've had is when I've become bored with holding the rod. On two or three occasions I've tied it to the bag (so there's no risk of it being dragged in) eased the clutch right off and let it fish for itself. Eventually what happens is that the line gets round the kelp (not far under the surface) and the mackerel gets tangled up on the bottom, sometimes resulting in a lost hook (only a hook in my case). If I hold the rod I can keep a more or less tight line and snagging is never a problem.
Now there must be lots of places (shingle beaches, rocky ledges, breakwaters and piers for example) where catching mackerel is relatively easy. I have to say that I'd have no qualms about sticking one on for bait in such situations. I'm CERTAIN that if more people tried this approach they'd catch a lot more big bass than they do at present. Of course not everyone wants to wait for hours in hope of a real biggy. Often I'm well satisfied with a catch of several modest fish taken on lures or flies and I still have the chance of a big fish if one comes along. However. it's like anything else, if you want big carp, pike, perch etc. you often need to be patient and to avoid the small ones. It also helps if you KNOW that there are big bass about in the spots you fish. As I've said repeatedly for some reason mackerel baits attract much bigger fish than do any of the conventional lures. We've now had four (and two or three missed bites) in about twenty 'man hours' of fishing - so it's not quick. Nevertheless, the excitement when you feel a knock and line starts to pour off the reel and you've no idea whether the taker is five pounds or fifteen pounds has to be experienced to be appreciated.
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Out with the hook.