There are few sea fish that enjoy the reputation the bass has earned as a fighter. In the right environment the species gives firstrate sport on rod and line. Bass fishing is usually practised from the shore or small boats closein, but the species can be caught wherever there are offshore reefs or sandbanks.
The ideal rod
A medium casting rod with a small multiplier or fixedspool reel, is ideal. The main criterion is lightness, because the tackle will be held all day. But it is well to remember that very light tackle —for instance, the 6 lb class equipment recommended by some anglers—can be selfdefeating. There is always the chance of a very big bass, a tope, a heavy ray; or that floating weeds and seabed rocks will snag the tackle.
Equipment of the 15 lb class is ideal for surf bass, although there are occasions when 25 lb line is necessary, for not all surf beaches are of clean sand. Some of the very best marks are strewn with rocks, pilings and breakwaters and you need strong tackle to master a hooked fish before it can take the line around the nearest obstruction. Another advantage of medium weight tackle is its ability to cast 34oz sinkers. A heavy sinker carries the baits more slowly so that they remain on the hook during the cast. Anchored firmly in the sand, a 3 or 4oz gripwired or pyramid sinker helps drive home the hook by pulling the fish up short as it attempts to make off with the bait.
Singlehook traces should be used, as two hooks double your chances of getting caught up. Mostly, however, it is the sinker which fouls, so when using either a singlehook paternoster or a paternoster ledger, always attach your sinker with some rottenbottom. If you Must break a fouled line, only the sinker is lost. Sparking plugs, rusty nuts or bolts, or even suitable stones will serve as disposable sinkers.
Bass feeding over rough ground bite very delicately. A paternoster ledger allows them to take line without becoming alarmed. Give the fish time to get hold of the bait before striking the hook home. If the fish is played gently at first, it usually heads for deeper water over less snaggy ground, where it can be fought more safely.
Float fishing over rocks In areas of high rock and deep gullies, float fishing is effective and enjoyable. As the tide floods in over the rocks and fills the gullies and crevices, the bass move in, searching for food. They may be found closein, often in very shallow water, so keep out of sight.
As the depth of water will vary considerably, your float will need frequent adjustment. Use just enough lead to take the bait down to the desired depth. In calm conditions a fine float is adequate, but in broken water it will not be seen, nor will it support the bait.
Allow the float to wander in the wash. The take is usually very positive, the float sinking down and away. Just tighten your line and lean back, and the fish will usually be hooked with ease.
Float fishing baits
Live prawns and peeler crab are the most effective baits for float fishing, but a string of mackerel, sandeels and other small fishes, and lugworms, are also useful. Crabs can be a nuisance to the angler fishing on the bottom; they quickly shred and strip soft baits. Peeler crab is the best bait as it takes them longer to demolish their own kind.
Spinning for bass also embraces the use of a natural bait that is worked in similar fashion to an artificial one. A sprat or small herring that is fished ‘sinkanddraw’ style over known holding grounds can be extremely effective. Live sandeels are commonly used on the South West coast.
Most of Britain’s bass fishermen are shorecasters, using rods that have sufficient power to cast a 4oz weight, yet with enough suppleness to feel the movement of fish and current. They rely on the bass finding the paternostered or ledgered worms that are usually offered. Crabs in both the ‘peeler’ and ‘softie’ stage of shedding the hard carapace, are a bait that can be used to great effect from rocky shore platforms where there is a mass of weed growth that bass recognize as cover for crabs.
Bass also frequent the shoreline close to rock faces and cliff edges. Float fishing takes the hookbait at the speed of the current to where bass will be picking morsels from both weeds and rocks.