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).
My trouble is that I'll fish for anything that swims. Over the years I've had spells when I concentrated on particular species or spent a lot of time on certain stretches of the coast, river or lake but it doesn't take long before I fancy trying something different. This 'grasshopper' approach (together with the occasional holiday) is the main reason for long gaps in some of my BLOG reports. Anyway, I assume that no one wants to read about me (or anyone else) catching nothing. Recently the sea fishing has been rather neglected so last week I decided to have another go for bass. This season I've determined to do more bait fishing. My pals mostly spin so I'll soon find out if I'm missing out on good sport. So far this doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway, Last week we'd had a fair bit of an onshore blow and I guessed that the sea would be stirred up so when the wind died away I decided to try fishing from a beach, onto mixed ground, at high water. This meant setting the alarm for just after 03:00hr so the night before I laid out my gear - waders, jacket, hat, headlamp (in case I need to take a picture in the gloom) , 9'9" Surepopper rod, Stradic 4000 reel loaded with 30lb Whiplash braid, three feet of 20lb Amnesia and a size 8/0 Tsunami circle hook; I took a mackerel head and shoulders out of the freezer and popped it into my bait bucket to thaw overnight and I was ready for action.
Despite my preparations, by the time I'd fiddled about with tackle and driven to the coast I arrived on the shore at 04:30. It was still pretty gloomy and the tide was just approaching high water so standing back from the water's edge I lobbed my mackerel head and shoulders out about five metres. There was still a bit of a breeze which bowed the line to my right and very slowly dragged the bait left and inwards. As usual I held the rod with the bale arm open and the line between my finger and thumb. My first cast was a bit of a disaster. For perhaps twenty minutes all seemed to be well then I felt a bit of a pull on the line. Thinking that it might be a fish I released a bit of line but no run developed. Four or five times the same thing happened before I cottoned on that the line had bowed so far that it was trailing in the weedy margin. I began to reel in for another cast, it was heavy. Several kg of loose weed were draped over the line and bait. It took a good five minutes to reel in and clean up the line before I could cast again.
By now it was a little lighter so I could see the thin filament of line as it hung from the rod tip. This made it much easier to avoid a repeat weed collecting performance and I had no further problems. A further fifteen biteless minutes passed and suddenly the line was twiched from my fingers and began to run out. Faster and faster it went with my pulse keeping pace. Drop the rod tip, gently close the bale arm, hang on, the line goes tight, the rod begins to bend, everything fall slack - it's gone! How did I miss that one? Never mind, the bait's still there so cast again.
Out goes the bait and within minutes the line starts to run out again. This time the fish drops the bait after taking just a few metres. Why? I'm wondering. Try again Mike. A further five minutes pass and we're away again. This time the fish runs to my left along the beach, I let it go, I wait, it must have taken twenty metres of line, time to tighten. Go through the bale arm closing routine. Round goes the rod, I'm in! The clutch begins to zuzz, I see the boil of a decent fish away to my left and right in the margin only inches from the water's edge. It must have swum in and run along the shore. It thrashes again and it's off. My heart sinks. why are they doing this to me? Ever hopeful I reel in, check that the bait's still OK and lob it out again. Blow me down there's another run. Like my second one this bass drops the bait after a short trip. Once more I reel in. I decide to make the bait more manageable. I squash the meaty bit under the heel of my boot to soften it and I change the hook position by removing the lower jaw of the mackerel and hooking it just through the tip of the snout. I lob it out again.
I glance at my watch, it's twenty to six, nearly time to pack in. The line is snatched from my fingers and again begins to stream out. The coils of braid are leaving the spool at an amazing rate. Patience Mike. I wait until it's taken twenty metres or more straight out to sea. Close the bale arm, the rod's dragged round a fish makes a surging sploosh on the surface well out to sea and again it's gone. Bugger! As I reel in something doesn't feel right. There's no drag. Sure enough my rejigged bait has gone. Since it was the only one I'd brought I have to go home, disappointed but wiser. The air was blue. In retrospect I think that the bass werein the 3-5lb range and just weren’t getting my ten ounces of bait properly in their mouths.
The next morning I decide to try again. This time the bait is a bit smaller - the front two thirds of a sardine, still fairly bulky but surely the hook is big enough for this one. This time I start fishing at 05:00 hr as I'd had no bites before that on the previous trip. This time it's flat calm, there's still a tinge of colour but virtually no wind - easy fishing. The bait lies unmolested until about 05:30 then away we go. It's taken quite a lot of line then suddenly it's dropped the bait. Surely it's not going to happen again? Almost at once I have another bite but this one takes a bit of line and doesn't develop any further, what a downer. It's almost six o'clock and I see the bow in the line begin to straighten. Let it go! It accelerates taking line against minimal resistance. I'm nervous but I have to tighten again. I close the bale, fearing the worst but no it's on and it stays on. The clutch is buzzing and the bass is pulling hard. It slows down and I begin to slowly pump it back. It runs again. 'Don't come off! Don't come off!' I'm muttering to myself and this time I really mean it. It didn't. I beach the fish and remove the hook from the scissors, measure it to the fork of the big tail - 67cm. A thinnish fish which didn’t really put up much of a fight. Never mind. Success at last.
Curiously, before these sessions I'd just had an email correspondence with another angler who was asking why he misses so many bites freelining in a similar way to the one I describe. I said perhaps it was simply chance and there's no doubt that in these two trips I missed/lost as many as I might do in an entire season. My only explanation, and of course it's just a guess, is the relative size of the baits and the bass (at least the mouths of the bass). They must have been carrying the bait with the hook still outside the mouth. I suppose I could resort to a J hook but I've missed plenty of fish on them (many more than I do now in fact) or I could use a pennel rig but the risk of deep hooking would be increased and I'm not convinced that I'd do any better. Next time I may hook all five bites (if I get any). Well, it would be nice to think so.
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A big fish if a bit on the skinny side.
I ought to be pleased, having caught one at last.