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).
I've recently had a couple of emails asking me whether it is worth trying artificial lures for bass in very dirty water. This is not the easiest question to answer largely because it can be a matter of 'How dirty?'. First things first, there's no doubt that bass (and many other sea fish) will feed in pretty murky conditions and also that they manage to capture live prey (other fish) even when the water's dirty so, in theory, lure fishing should be OK.
On my own patch of the Dorset coast the water is sometimes very clear but fairly frequently, when there's a bit of an onshore blow, the sea can be full of suspended shale/chalk/sand and loads of seaweed. Under these conditions my instinct would be to use some sort of natural bait - fish, squid, crab, etc. However, I've caught fish on plugs and soft plastics under some pretty extreme conditions. Indeed, the biggest bass I ever hooked (and sadly lost) took a plug in really dirty water.
A bit of thought suggests that there may be things you can do to enhance your catches if you have to fish in cloudy conditions. The first thing to think about is how the bass find and catch their food. Vision is obviously important to them but bear in mind that bass will take lures on dark nights. Presumably when it's black and moonless they can still find their prey. In these circumstances it probably pays to fish the lures more slowly than usual and if possible to use a lure that creates a lot of fuss or vibration. The latter may help the fish to home in on their prey even when visibility is limited, so the same tactics should be effective when the water's coloured.
Similarly, it is well known that bass are able to seek out large natural baits in dirty water. Indeed, the best conditions for bottom fishing are usually when it is turbid. How does this help when you are spinning? Well, some years ago, I did a lot of spinning for mullet. In the course of my experiments I caught all sorts of fish. Bass were one of the commonest catches on the ragworm baited mullet spinners. It appeared that a smelly worm enhanced the attraction of an essentially 'visual' lure. Now my mullet spoons are pretty lightweight so they are not really much use for pitching into a stiff onshore wind.
At the time it occurred to me that it might be possible to use a heavier lure that cast better but didn't sink too quickly. An obvious candidate was a spinnerbait like the ones used in the USA for black bass. Generally these lures have a lump of lead and a hook baited with a plastic squid on one arm and a flashing spoon blade on the other. I thought that by replacing the skirt with a piece of bait the whole set up would be more effective in poor visibility. I tried various baits - worms, prawns, clams and bits of fish. I even made up a lure armed with a big Pennel rig that would carry half a mackerel fillet, the idea being to tempt bass in dirty conditions. Much to my surprise the tactic worked and on one occasion when we couldn't buy a bite on plugs my 'baited spinner' attracted a very big bass which I hooked but lost as we attempted to beach it.
Of course messing about with bait sort of defeats the purpose of using an artificial and to my own detriment I never followed up the 'spinnerbait' ideas. I did try anointing plugs and poppers with a mixture of Vaseline and pilchard oil but had no evidence that it increased the number of bites. I still think that adding scent to artificial baits has potential for mucky water fishing and last week I even revived one of my old spinner baits and had a (not very successful) go for wrasse. I will have another go. Perhaps there are people out there who regularly fish the dirty waters of estuaries or eroding shores with plugs, poppers or spinners. If so drop me an email and we'll try to decide whether the results make it worth spinning in the 'cocoa'.
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bass in the dark.