I hear regularly from anglers who fish occasionally, that short (neap, small) tides are no good for bass fishing. And I get lots of enquiries from clients, who ask the unanswerable question. "What are the best tides to book". My standard answer is, "the ones where the bass are feeding". Why such an unhelpful response? Because it is how it is. And today rather proved that.
First sailing, and I was joined by David and his best buddy George. Table fishing was very much the order of the day, with David's passion for eating fish taking him many places around the world, including working as a Sushi chef for a while. This was very reassuring, as I was pretty confident that even if all the other fishes in the sea did not want to play, then at least the current cuttlefish plague would make David happy. And George was dead easy to please. He simply fancied a boat ride. If we caught anything, it would be a bonus.
First spot, I chose really because it seems to have the most cuttlefish on it. And they were there. Here is a weirdness about cuttlefish. They LOVE shads. But "egi's", the squid jigs, they hit reluctantly. I learned much about them in August 2012. Crystal clear seas, and an excellent spring spawning. Same as this year. I was bassing on the East arm with my main fishy buddy, Steve. We were lure fishing for bass. Steve had a stupid rubber thing on.
Maybe a sidewinder, designed for fixing onto a flying collar and dumped 150' into a wreck. Where many live permanently... Steve didn't care though. As usual, to prove me wrong, he was determined to nail a bass on it. I think I was flinging metals. "What's that?" asked Steve. I looked down at his lure being retrieved close to the surface. A cuttlefish was swimming backwards. checking it out. Before grabbing it. But once tension went on, it released.
I quickly produced an "Egi". A squid jig designed for casting. Confident I was now about to catch one, Steve called out again. "There's three following it now"... And so, we learned, with co-operation, to bring them in from the reef by Steve casting his sidewinder, and then, when below, remove the sidewinder and go in with the jig. We had a serious amount of cuttles doing this. Prime cod baits, as back then, there were still chances of good cod in the colder months.
And this is the same technique we use today. Except, swap the "egi" for the landing net. And then swap the sidewinder for an AXIA (the new lure branding from TRONIXPRO) Mighty Minnow. When one grabs, don't move the rod tip at all, but simply winch slowly keeping the same pressure. Cuttle wont let go, until you get the net behind it, and it gets scared, shoots straight back into the net. This is much better than hooking it, as there is zero ink shot if you get it right. Could even be an eco friendly way to harvest ink without killing the cuttle. Just saying like, should any forward thinking commercial be reading. Expensive stuff, cephalopod ink...
But the good thing is, it seems further confirmation that where these cuttle assemble, bass of a certain size assemble also. We managed 7, with plenty of chances missed. And all were above the magic 42cm, with most being 45-50. Plus, I don't remember how many cuttles. And, I seem to remember a mackerel also. Great banter, made for a great if chilly (yes... chilly!! Brisk NE wind the whole time) session. Next one, was bothering me.
Not because of the clients. Long time regular, both shore and boat, Ian was aboard, and another go for more and more regular Jamie. What was bothering me, was a short tide over the last of the ebb. I do have spots for this combination, but a colleague reported them as not playing on the one I fancied the most. But we still had some tide, and the wind, was dropping right away also. Which would make for straighter drifts, that I might stick to the more cuttley areas easier. The cuttles were playing less. Plenty of takes, but too ready to let go.
This was however, rather irrelevant (although Jamie did manage to nail a couple in the end) as the bass were still playing ball. We had four, and then, we could not deny the action dropped off. I perused the chart. Some heavy rock, in reasonable depth, that I hadn't tried for a good while. And another little patch, that I had never realised even existed.
First spot. Not so good. With just 45 minutes to run, I had nothing to lose on the other bit. First cast, fish on... and a nice one. Same time, Ian's rod banged over. We managed another four, to bring us on to the recent average. All good fish, and very lovely bronzed. Maybe they have been sunbathing also... However, this was at what was in theory worst part of the tide. Had I found the bassing nirvana? A place where bass hang out waiting for the tide to change?
I suspect not. Wouldn't that be great though. Snag is, bass are total gits. I have long since given up predicting them. Instead, we go hunting them. And today, we found them. I did suspect that on the next sailing, with more tide, they might be more active. I was right.
The next sailing, and I had fly angler David back on board, alongside another long time regular, Ian who had driven down from Portsmouth to play. Worth the journey as suddenly the sea was alive with everything. Cuttles were not getting a look in, as mackerel were a real pain. Happily, we managed to land 13 bass, with plenty of others missed. A real step up, and it leaves me itching to go to work in the morning. That's really good fishing. Lets surmise it a different way, to lump it together, which would give a compare to a regular all day charter. 2 rods plus skipper, fished 9 hours actual fishing time, to land twenty eight bass, twenty four of which were sizeable. Does that sound better? I dont know. Dont really care I guess either. I just love the fact that after three years I have found a new lump. What will we find tomorrow? This gig will never get boring, that's for sure.