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Small boat fishing - having a go for bass

Written by Bruce Dickinson 

A message on facebook from a fishing friend Steve Cooper led to a ‘spur of the moment’ decision to nip out the following morning with the intention of having a go for bass from the boat.  The odds seemed to be against us as Steve had only been afloat once or twice and was always sea sick and, although I’d caught plenty of bass, it was usually more by luck than judgment.  I’d never actually had a serious go at lure fishing for them from the boat.  But, having had a lot of fish from the beach and river recently, we knew there must be fish about, surely we could cover enough ground to find one of two.  We set out through the 9m loch in high spirits in a calm sea and bright sunshine although Steve was slightly wary about getting queasy even in the flat calm.

Ahhh sick sickness …the bane of my life too- that’s why I ended up buying my own boat. If I get green I can come back in and not be stuck out in mid channel gipping up for 8 hours. One time I was so bad on a charter trip they nearly called out the air ambulance…. Over the years I have worked out a more or less foolproof routine to avoid getting sick- and that’s the subject of another article. Back to the bass-

So our plan such as it was, was to head out of Shoreham and find areas of rough ground inshore east of the Marina in 15-20 foot of water. We would look for quiet – no other boats or jet skis, keep and eye out for birds and find some features where fish might be hiding out of the tide and waiting to ambush bait. We’d be fishing over high water down, which Steve said was a good time in his experience from the shore.

We both used spinning rods and braid and had a collection of plugs and softbaits.  I was using the Fiiish black minnow and Steve a savage gear eel with a teaser fry fly two feet up the leader for no other reason that we had confidence in them.
Steve Cooper with schoolie from Palace PierHeading east we stopped at the palace pier and had a couple of chucks in the piles.  It was quite quiet for such a cracking day and I was hopeful that at 9.30 in the morning no other traffic had been buzzing about disturbing the bass before we got chance to bother them.  Pulling the boat into the tide I set up a drift past the front of the pier. Two or three casts in and …wallop!  A schoolie grabbed Steve’s eel. This caused a disproportionate amount of jubilation – before the first fish it always seems so improbable that, with the whole sea to search, you can find a bass at all, and having done so that he could be caught on an imitation fish, however skillfully worked. And then there he was, indignant, bristling and glinting in the sun, and suddenly it seemed so inevitable that we were going to catch….preordained sort of thing. But of course that’s not the case, the margin between success and failure is on a knife edge and the real secret of fishing is to keep casting, keep putting the baits out there, keep giving fish the opportunity to have a go.

Despite having to control the boat I managed a cast or two, and got a slightly larger one of a couple of pounds on the minnow.  Bruce with angry bassI said to Steve that it almost looked like we knew what we were doing… As often happens with this sort of fishing after a few drifts it went decidedly quiet, so we moved off past the marina to the rough ground to see what we’d find. The early ebb was running east to west with the wind so we motored a way east intending to drift back home, checking the sounded for a any features below, trying to keep to the clear water and a depth of 15- 20 feet. Our homespun logic was that a bass might see a lure in that depth and be persuaded to move form the bottom to the top, and by covering ground, we’d be bound to find something that would have a go. We got a lovely fish about 3 ½ lbs near another structure, which I felt had turned the day into a real success, and we’d only been fishing an hour or so.Bruce and bigger bass from further east

Steve had mentioned that he’d never caught a Pollock, so I whizzed over to a wreck 8 miles off to see if we could find any more bass and also get him a new  ‘first’.

The tide and wind was spot on and I set up the drift. The original ‘sea sick steve’ was started to go a funny colour and had stopped talking so I didn’t know how long we’d have to fish.  The wreck was showing numbers of fish and they turned out to be Pollock holding very tight to the main structure.  I set Steve up with a standard wreck set up, although we stuck to the light rods - a mistake as it turned out.   After a couple of near misses I got us smack bang over the wreck and the result was an instant hit of Steve’s SG eel. It was a proper monster – after a battle the fish was near the surface and I had the net out before it set off on an unstoppable crash dive to the wreck. The light rod wasn't pokey enough and although Steve hung on holding the fish very hard the 20lb leader parted over the structure below. How big was the fish? Well Steve’s biggest of the day on the boat was 13lb and the lost fish was a lot bigger … a rarity this close inshore.  Steve Cooper with his first pollackThere’s certainly an argument for fishing heavier as I lost another fish in a similar way. Steve had the best of it and we went back in the 3.30 loch with three Pollock between 5 and 13lbs all to the 12 cam SG eel which out fished everything else.  All the bass were returned.

What had we learned?

A lack of experience hadn’t stopped us picking up some bass and we had only scratched the surface of what might be possible. Perhaps we could find the energy to get up for a dawn start?  Fishing round structure, and thinking about how the fish might lie in the tide had worked, and we had found that lures in the 12 cm range had out fished larger offerings on the day.  Whatever, it had been a great day out Steve hadn’t puked and we’d had a laugh. Maybe we shouldn’t analyze it any more than that.

Pollack on the fly

I know  good place...where the rocks are gradually exposed on the ebbing tide and it's possible to hop from rock to rock until you are able to get far enough from the shore to cast a fly into water beween twelve and twenty feet deep even at low tide. There's location in particular where there are two jagged fingers of barnacle encrusted rock that rise up steeply from the crystal clear water and the fronds of kelp growing over the submerged reef.Between these two outcrops lies a bay where pollack heard together shoals of bait fish and they set about them with great ferocity as dusk begins to fall. This, of course, is a great time to be casting a fly or using a light spinning rod.

In other places within this cove they lie in ambush on the down tide edge of the rocks waiting to pick off the small fish as they are swept along with the tide. Pollack will very often sweep upwards through a shoal of bait fish, taking as many as possible before crash diving back to the bottom.

If a fly or lure is fished too high in the water they will totally ignore it so you have to be prepared to risk losing tackle by fishing as close to the kelp as possible. But as the light fades they move closer to the surface and this presents the best opportunity for some exciting action.

When a pollack hits your fly it will dive for the bottom at speed

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