For me, like many others, bass fishing has become more of an obsession than a hobby. From catching my first over 20 years ago, to the last only a few weeks ago, the feeling is the same every time. Big or small never matters when you feel the eager thump on the other end of your line.
Growing up in Coastal North Wales, I have been spoilt with opportunity to hunt this silver thoroughbred fish in some of the most pristine habitat the UK has to offer.
This article will be my take on rigs, methods, baits and other miscellaneous tips that I have found useful in my life-long pursuit of the silver bass.
- Peeler crab (or softies)
- Rag worm
- Blow lug
- Black lug
- Live prawn
- Live mackerel
- Live sandeel
- Live butterfish
There are many products that are marketed to enhance catch rates, baits and attraction for fish. I have always been a believer that for bass, you should keep it simple. Fresh bait is key!
Match your bait to the ground you are fishing, and the prey species which are most likely to be what the fish in the area are hunting.
I have often found the larger specimen fish are picked out by using live bait. Not always of course, but when the opportunity presents itself to put a live bait out I like to try and make the most of it. The excitement of having a live bait swimming around under your float, knowing it could disappear any minute is completely unmatched by anything else in an angler’s world in my opinion.
A simple sliding float rig or locked in float with specifically targeted hook length matching the depth you would like to fish is perfect for this. Your float should be rated with high enough buoyancy rating (usually in grams) to suspend a small ball or inline lead and the weight of your bait without dipping below the surface.
Live Baiting For Bass
For live baiting with joey mackerel, I like to use a 5/0 chinu or circle hook.
If I want the fish to stay up in the water I will hook it through its jaws or lightly through its head.
If I want the fish to swim down, I will position the hook the fish behind the dorsal fin.
For other live baits, you should use your discretion when baiting up as to what size and pattern hook you feel may be best suited to the situation.
There are many variables that should come into play when you decide on what rig you’re going to fish with. These include what bait you’re using, tide in the venue, the type of ground you’re fishing over and how you’d like to present the bait in the water column to name a few.
So, for example, as a fast-running estuary angler primarily, I like to use a very simple running ledger rig, as I don’t need to achieve any distance in my casts. I like to use a small rod and a 4000- size reel, aiming to place my baits in and around eddies just off the main flow of tide. Fish are often holding in these areas, waiting for an easy meal to come by.
A pair of 3/0 or 4/0 chinu or Aberdeen hooks on 4 feet or so of 60lb mono or fluorocarbon, leading to a swivel on my mainline is how I set up, with a zip slider and a 2-ounce lead running freely on my 15lb mainline.
When fishing this type of area with this type of rig, my bait is almost always a whole peeler or soft crab. Baited to look fairly natural, leaving the legs on one side. This gives the crab some natural movement as it moves along in the current. After all, I expect the bass to be looking for crabs with legs! Keeping your bait as natural looking as possible will only ever benefit you when it comes to bass fishing.
Another type of venue I often fish for bass is open beaches, during or just after some stormy weather. You may hear anglers referring to a heavy surf as,”looking bassy”, and this is often the case. The action of the waves on the beach stirs up worm and other food species, inevitably attracting predatory fish.
Along with the water being heavily oxygenated by the gas exchange caused by the surface agitation, this can be a peak time for fish activity and a very attractive period for anglers.
Surf beaches, as they are often called, can be fished with many different rigs and baits.
A favourite and often under rated rig in my opinion is the trusty two hook flapper, baited with rag worm, blow lug or black lug. Hook size will be down to your discretion and usually matched to your preferred bait size, but I like to start with a 1/0 or 2/0 and work up or down in size, depending on missed bites or possibly a good stamp of fish showing from the off.
Other rigs to use include the pulley Pennel, pulley dropper, dropper loop rig and a single hook flapper also.
Grip leads will help keep your bait where you want it to be in a violent surf and stop it washing up at your feet minutes after casting as sometimes is the case. I like to start with a 5 or 6 ounce. Remember if you’re power casting, you ideally want to use a minimum of 10lb of shock leader for every ounce of weight. So that’s at least a 50lb leader for 5oz and 60lb for 6oz and so on.
Fishing low diameter line without a shock leader is possible when fishing in close, but keep in mind a leader will also protect your line against anything abrasive on the seabed, possibly being the difference between landing that big fish and feeling him part the line and swim to freedom, ending up as another story about the beast that got away!
So, to conclude this article before I turn it into an all-out book on my way of bass fishing, I’d like to say thank you for taking your time to read it, and I wish you all the best of luck in the future. I hope that in some way, it helps you or at least it gave you ten minutes or so where the primary thought in your head was that of the next adventure you have planned to look for those streaks of silver, we all love.