When your sat at home in the winter just waiting and dreaming of that warmer weather to arrive, bringing the warmer waters, bait fish and not far behind the large shoals of bass that inhabit our shores in the warmer months. You no doubt will be dreaming of that perfect start to the season, with lots of fish and a few nicer sized ones chucked in for good measure. Well so far from my experience what we dream of and what actually happens are to different things, but as for this year those dreams have become reality. Well it’s that or I haven’t woken from a deep hibernation over the winter. The first fish of the season actually came quite a bit earlier than expected and certainly was a beauty of a fish. I hadn’t been out a lot over that period and to be honest the conditions were not what i was looking for. It was one of those times when your stubborn side takes over and whatever the weather and conditions I was going. To be honest it’s just nice being out regardless feeling those lures working the water and a nice bit of fresh air filling the lungs. It was mid march when I caught the first of the season, I went down to a local mark no more than a 5 minute drive from my front door. Upon arriving at the mark I was met with quite murky water with a bit of floating weed, it was also a small neep tide and bright sunshine, not particularly what I would have hoped for but I prevailed. The one thing I had on my side was a bit of life to the water this alone was the reason I pushed on. So I started fishing over some very shallow ground no more than a couple of feet but after 5 minutes I just wasn’t feeling it, I find it best to move on when you get that feeling as you never seem to fish efficiently if you’re not confident on the spot. So I moved down about 50m down the coast to a spot where there water was a bit deeper which meant there was some swell moving around. I switched lures to a IMA Hound Glide 125f as I wanted a lure I knew I could beam out far and would dig into the bigger swell. I start reeling in feeling the lure dig down into the swell, about half way through the retrieve I feel the unmistakable hit of a fish on the lure. It was one of those hits when you just know it’s a fish, no snags or anything to mistake it for. Straight away I stopped the retrieve for a split second and then resume reeling and bang, I have a fish on. To say I was surprised was an understatement, but in that moment the only thing I was thinking was how do I safely and quickly get this fish landed. It wasn’t the longest fight but did have a couple good dives but with a pretty tight drag it never really got far. I got it to the surface and that’s when my heart rate increased even more after seeing the fish. It was decent size and what didn’t help was nowhere easy to land it especially in big swell and rough water. I was perched a bit higher up on a rock and in the end I just grabbed the leader wrapped it around my hand and lifted it up, hoping the line would not part from being rubbed on the rocks during the fight. After a quick measure and weight it’s resulted in one of the healthiest looking fish I had ever seen at 59cm and 5.8lbs. Quick snap and the fish was released unharmed, no better way to start the season off for me and certainly gives you the drive to get out in any weather.
The next few weeks went pretty quiet with some rubbish weather not helping and easterlies churning up the water and bringing the weed in.
Once things settled down again things were picking up, for a while now I’ve been talking to a few local lads about getting out with them for a spot of night fishing. Something I’ve dabbled in but not really had success, well Keir Tim and Neil over the past couple years have had more than good success at night and while the bass are in they turn almost nocturnal. So we arrange to get out on a spot very close to me for a few hours into darkness, while waiting for the dark to settle in there was some good sport with the wrasse that are present pretty much on all the coastline I fish. Great fun and easy enough for anyone to get involved in, but this night was all about the bass and as darkness engulfed us I was first in on the bass, just a schoolie but great to feel that rod bending in dark. The bass fell to a savage gear sandeel in pearl white on a straight retrieve at normal pace. In the next couple hours another 4 bass were landed between us nothing of big size but even just that one fish really give you heaps of confidence at night
So thanks to the guys I now had the confidence and a bit more knowledge of the dark side of fishing. After a stressful day I decided the only remedy was to catch some bass and when I set out that afternoon I didn’t have a clue what I was going to be greeted with come the end of the session. I fished the same mark as the previous night, I fished a couple of hours down and then right up the whole tide, so a good solid 8 hour session. Others might never stick on one mark for that period of time but being a new mark to me I wanted to fish the full tide to see when it produced and my god it was worth it. Apart from one small wrasse I had nothing for the first 5 hours and by this time I’m thinking of heading home, when suddenly the Megabass x120 produces a bass. Possibly the smallest I’ve ever caught but bass none the less. Just this small fish gives you the drive to keep going, and in the next hour I landed 3 more fish 2 on the Duo jerkbait 120 sp and one on the redgill evostik both in pear white. The last 3 I may add were in the dark and after pulling back what was looking like a blank I was more than content with my efforts. I started the walk back over the rocks and back onto the shingle beach. Now for some reason I just could not resist chucking a few off the shingle, maybe it was the shallow reef and numerous gullies that lay in front. Second chuck bang fish on, just a schoolie but now im absolutely buzzing. A few more chucks and this time bang, fish on but this was more than a schoolie straight away you can feel the heavy knocks and head shakes that the better fish give you. After a good little scrap I pull a nice looking fish up onto the shingle, it measured 58cm and it was a prime condition bass. I stuck the head torch on and waded out to my knees to release this fish, I cradled it in the water and you just feel when its ready to go, a flick of the tail and it graciously swims of into the gully as I watch with the head torch.
I though maybe after a bit more commotion and the light shining all over the water where I was fishing there would be a good chance I had spooked any other fish that were present. I though wrong next cast another good hit and up comes another decent fish this one coming in at 54cm, at this point I’m in utter shock. After 5 hours of fishing with one tiny bass it then got dark and it was although someone has flicked a switch and the bass have turned on. Now I could quite happily go on and on describing each fish I caught in detail but there just not enough time for that as I have to get back out fishing. The summary though is that I ended up catching 15 bass in that session all of which were caught in the last 3 hours of the flood. This is the best session I have ever had and in fact, number wise this tripled my previous best session of 5 fish. It got to the stage where it was getting that late and with work the next day I was saying after this cast I’m leaving, but then on that last cast I would catch another and there is no chance I’m leaving after landing another. In the end I think I had 5 last casts all of which produced fish before they actually seemed to dry up! So after moving off the rocks to make my way home after catching a very modest 4 bass I then went on to land another 11 bass, yes 11!! All of which I may add were caught stood in exactly the same spot, casting dead straight out in front of me and all on the savage gear sandeel in the Lemon back colour. I’ll tell you now this night fishing has really changed the game for me, conditions seem to matter less, tides and time of tide still come into play, but this session it was flat calm and crystal clear not the conditions we would exactly go looking for in the day for bass. Since this session I’ve gone on to have another 5 or 6 good sessions down on this mark at night not to the level of 15 fish but landing an average of 5 fish a session.
After all this great fishing you would think how could it get much better? Well I think I definitely got the cherry on top the other night whilst out on a Session with one of my new fishing buddy’s, Tim. Conditions were looking good so we decided to head out, we got to our chosen mark and was already dark so it had potential to be good fishing right from the first chuck. Away we go and on Tim’s first cast he connects with a fish, unfortunately it wasn’t to stay on but it felt like a better fish. That is certainly the sort of sign you want straight away, knowing for sure there are feeding fish around makes you fish that much better and with confidence. A few chucks later and me and Tim had both landed the first of the night, only schoolies but always nice to see some silver. We carried on with good confidence of seeing a better fish, I cast long with my new very trusted Savage Gear sandeel this time in pearl white. The lure hits the water and over the bail arm goes, I start cranking at a fairly slow pace but just fast enough to stop snagging on the bottom, then bang I’m into a fish. I shout to Tim I have a fish on and it felt like a better size, just felt heavier and wasn’t as erratic as the schoolies generally are. I get it about half way in and Tim gets in a position so he is able to land it for me, he switches on the head torch. I can see the flashes of silver but can’t really tell the size of the fish from that distance in the dark. I slowly ease the fish in after a respectable scrap and pull it towards Tim, he reaches for the leader to pull it up onto the rock in front and just as he starts to lift the fish it goes a bit mad shaking its head. This resulted in him chucking the lure and falling back into the water, now I’m stood up on the rock above so didn’t really know what was happening but next thing I see is Tim diving forward to the water plunging his arm into it almost shoulder deep. I’m shouting down to him don’t worry mate leave it, its just a fish and as I said this I see him reach deeper. Now honestly I though the fish had gone which was fine always more to catch but after about 10 seconds Tim’s arm re appears grasping a fine specimen of a bass, it was held high like a trophy, and rightly so. That was by far the best and most dedicated landing of a fish I have ever seen and for someone else’s fish. I seriously take my hat of to the man for the sheer commitment shown to land the fish and my god when I saw it up close I was pleased he had retrieved the escapee fish, it measured a great 63cm which was to be my new English PB bass.
These are the sort of results I could only dream on 2 years ago when I started out lure fishing especially when I would spend a week fishing most days for solid sessions to scrape one small schoolie. It really is one good example of being patient and keep going as you will one day see the results. So all in this has just been a dream start to the season and especially good considering all the time the coast has been weeded out or the water has coloured right up from all the east winds.