A fun filled day catching bass on lures

I love bass fishing, I always have and always will. They’re such wily creatures and very rarely do they play ball. Some days you can catch them on just about anything, on other days they will only take one bait or lure – that, of course, is if you can find them in the first place!

When I first spoke to John about bass fishing off the Suffolk coast I already had a rough idea of what it entailed. I knew Stuart Smalley when he was catching a lot of bass back in early 2000s before he ventured off to warmer climes.

John had already formulated a battle plan for our day afloat. We’d speed off to one of his favourite banks, some 30 miles offshore, then fish for a couple of hours with deadbaits. Once the tide slackened off, we’d spend an hour catching live launce then fish the ebb tide back to the bank for bass.

Now, I’d already done two bass trips on consecutive days leading up to this one, and the bass we had caught on those did anything but play by the rules. I had a different idea about how I was going to fish for these bass – and if my hunch was right, I’d be able to convert John round to my way of thinking.

Bottle Job

I must admit that I bottled it on the first three of four drifts. I wanted to catch that big double that I’ve been after for the past 30 years, so I opted for a whole launce, while the others went for smaller sandeels and ragworm baits.

The first drift produced a small bass, but it was really a ‘marker’ to see how the wind and tide were pushing the boat along.

Then on the next drift both John and I hooked into decent fish. John’s surfaced at 7lb, while mine made 6lb 8oz. Not a bad start on the first ‘proper’ drift of the day!

A couple more drifts followed with yet more bass showing in the 3lb to 5lb bracket, and I could see that we were running low on deadbaits so I decided to swap to the Sidewinder.

Sidewinder Scores

The first drift produced another 6 pounder to the shad, then another and another. Every drift I was consistently catching decent bass on the shad, so I gave one of the original Sidewinder Sandeels to John to play with. The next drift produced an 8lb beauty to John and a 7lb 8oz cracker to myself. All the while Jim and Lenny were busy catching plenty of smaller bass in the 3lb to 5lb range.

It was clear that the Sidewinders were searching out the bigger fish today. What’s more, the bites were savage. The method of fishing these shads on a Portland rig is to drop the lot down to the sea bed then wind up ten turns and drop it stright back down and repeat the process.

When the boat got into the ‘strike zone’ I knew it was only a matter of time before I got hit, and that made it all the more exciting – I could actually pinpoint when I was going to get the rod wrenched from my hands by watching the plotter. These bass were sitting on top of a sandbank, in about 2-knots of tide. As we came up the bank I worked the lure harder, speeding up my retrieve and only working it for six or seven turns – then ‘wallop’, over went the tip and the line poured from the reel. it truly was some of the best bass fishing sport I’ve ever encountered.

A Glorious Day

Along with John and myself were crewman Lenny and of course my trusty cameraman Jim Midgley on board. We basked in the sunshine at 7am during the two-hour steam out to the mark, and as we talked I mentioned that I was going to give the shads a real go today if the water was clear enough. Looking back I don’t know I mentioned the fact that the water needed to be clear – I’ve caught plenty of bass in the Thames on these lures, which is anything but clear! I think that’s one of the big draws of the Sidewinder Minnow for me, they work well in all conditions – thanks to that huge vibrating paddle on the back end.

John soon slowed the engine as we approached our mark. There were a couple of other boats fishing, but they had only just started and were finding it slow going. Out came the frozen launce and fresh ragworm, which were quickly rigged up ready for our first drift.

Simple Tactics

Because we were fishing on ridiculously big tides (the best ones when drift fishing for big bass) I had brought along two set ups. My first was my trusty Veals Sure Spin MKII rod coupled with a Shimano Biomaster reel, the other was my equally trusty MTi 15lb Offshore rod couple with a Shimano Tymos 811 multiplier. Both reels were loaded with 30lb braid, and there was no need for a shockleader – I was going to be using a Portland rig on both rods.

I’ve been using the Portland rig pretty much all summer for all my drift fishing. It’s worked extremely well with livebaits and deadbaits for cod and bass, and as I was going to prove to the lads on board, it works very well when fishing artificials too!

Half Time Bait Session

A the tide slowed it was time to move onto another bank and try to catch some livebaits. I can remember saying to John and co that we didn’t need any, the shads were doing the business.

Well, as it happens, we fished for three quarters of an hour with various patterns of feathers and sabikis, only to catch two launce, a handful of mackerel and a couple of scad! Bait was proving very hard to catch and all the other boats that had joined us on the bank were struggling.

I didn’t mind though, because I had two packs of shads in my bag, and that’s what I was going to fish with!

Turn Of The Tide

Good old Mother Nature can play wicked games sometimes. The talk on the radio was that when the tide turned it would flatten off lovely – but the opposite happened! In theory, the water should have calmed down. We had wind against tide in the morning, and as the tide turned the wind should have flattened it down, but instead it whipped it up.

We had a few more drifts on the bank , catching bass regularly on the shads, with yet more fish in the 6lb to 7lb 8oz bracket falling to myself and John, while the live baits produced fish to 5lb for Lenny and Jim.

All too soon we decided to call it a day. We knew we would be in for a bit of a pasting on the way back in, and we would be limited to about 6-knots for a good hour or so before the deeper water could allow us to speed up.

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