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Berkley Gulp - is it any good?

Written by David Hall

The first two days of the Half term school holiday brought heavy rain and strong winds to the coastal resort the family had decamped to for the week. At last the wind dropped and the sun came out and we ventured out pale and bleary eyed from a surfeit of Mario Kart Wii.

Can we go fishing Dad?" asked Joe. I looked at my watch - 5.20 pm. We had no bait and it was too late to get to the tackle shop at the other end of town. "We'll go tomorrow," I said lamely. Just as the mother and father of all sulks was about to begin, I saw a handwritten sign on a piece of card propped up in the window of the newsagent we were sauntering past. In jazzy multicoloured biro it read, 'WE NOW SELL BAIT' "Let's go in here." I said. "What bait do you have?" I asked the guy behind the counter. He gestured to a spot over my shoulder. "It's all over there hanging up in packets".

Berkley GulpI turned and saw that one corner of the shop was dedicated to fishing tackle. The merchandise ranged from the ridiculous kiddie tackle featuring the too short rod with the entirely useless plastic spinning reel to some more serious gear. My heart sank as I saw the condition of the sandeels in the sealed polybags. Their dried, moribund appearance not improved by the occasional burst belly.

"These any good?" I asked holding up a pack of Berkley Gulp Ragworm. "I'll tell you what, I used those myself for the first time last week. I was amazed. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." "OK," I said, wincing at the price, "I'll give them a go."

Hastily gathering our gear together, Joe and I headed out to the small cove. We arrived at bang on high water at 18:20 and set up on a rock platform about 10 feet above the water on the east side of the cove. This is a rocky spot with lots of weed, the sort of tackle graveyard I've learned never to fish lighter than 17lb line.

I removed one of the Berkley Gulp artificial ragworm from the packet and threaded it carefully onto a size 1 hook. This was then suspended under a clear bubble float on 5ft of line. I cast this out into the centre of the bay and retrieved it very slowly. Just as the float was about to reach the kelp about 10 yards in front of us, the float shot under and I felt the weight of a decent fish. It dived several times and put up a great scrap, almost standing on its head to get away. Eventually I steered it around the half submerged rocks and got it onto the beach, but it gave a really good account of itself. It looked a good wrasse and I wanted to weigh it but my bass bag had fallen out of my rucksack on the way down to the cove so I had to put it back without recording it. I think it was about 3 1/2 lb.

Next cast we lost another fish while I was passing the rod to Joe. About half an hour later Joe got another smaller wrasse but still bigger than we'd ever had at our usual haunts in Sussex. He was very pleased with himself. We then lost the tackle on a snag (told you) so decided to pack in for the evening.

The next evening we tried again at the same spot with an identical set up. This time Joe scored first with a pollack of about a pound and then I had a slightly larger wrasse in excess of 4lb. I was feeling confident on every cast. I lost count of the number of pulls and nips at the worm as it was retrieved.

The following afternoon we tried a different rocky location with the same set up and with similar results: one 4lb wrasse, one pollack of around a pound and one bass of around a pound and a half.

The next day I thought I'd try a different approach at the cove - the Berkley Gulp ragworm fished static on a paternoster. Result: no bites and no fish.

Conclusion: it seems to me that the Berkley Gulp ragworm are great if you can impart a bit of movement into them by retrieving them or letting them drift in the current but fished static they don't seem to score as well as the real thing. However, the experience of that week means that I'd have no hesitation in using the Gulp ragworm bait again under the right circumstances.

POSTSCRIPT: I've since used the Gulp ragworm bait fished static on a paternoster and landed a 3lb wrasse. Does this mean wrasse are stupidly easy to catch or is there something else at work here?

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