One of the common misconceptions, when you tell somebody you work in the fishing tackle trade, is that you always have the time to go fishing or that you, as a collective, are always fishing with your colleagues. Sadly, that is quite far from the truth. Working in a fishing tackle company is the same as every other office/warehouse/production style job – the only difference being, you’re working with rods, reels, and other tackle.
Although we all go fishing individually as much as we can, we rarely go fishing together. The last get together was back in October of last year, where George and Chris spent a day chasing spurs, rays and eels aboard Littlehampton based Spirit of Arun 2, skippered by Martin Donald. After this trip, George booked Martin for a few days throughout 2021. As usual, the weather killed off a couple of the first trips. However, with bright skies and little wind a couple of weeks out, we were all optimistic this trip would go ahead.
For George and I, it would be our third day afloat in a row. As sponsors of the Sea Angling Classic, we were invited to fish the inaugural event, designed to iron out any creases before the main event kicks off in 2022. We left Hayling Island on Sunday wet, battered, bruised and with our kit in complete disarray! In the 30+ years I’ve been boat fishing, I don’t think I have ever seen so much rain and such ferocity in a downpour at sea as we saw that day. It was biblical! Despite this, we were both excited at the prospect of getting in amongst a few bass the following day.
Thankfully, for the morning at least, we woke up to golden sunshine, the chance to dry off some kit and hopeful for a good day fishing. Unfortunately for us, the weather gods did not look to be on our side. Although it was going to be sunny for most of the day, the serene calm of the morning would later be replaced with strong winds, which would present some difficult fishing conditions as the day progressed.
Unperturbed, we set out to make the most of the situation, with a crew consisting of myself, George, Chris and local angler Shaun Brown – Martin would be doing a bit of fishing too!
Boat lure bass fishing
The trip would be bass fishing with lures. While this is nothing new, the gear available and the tactics many anglers deploy to catch them have moved on recently. These developments have made lure bass fishing highly efficient while extracting maximum fun!
We’d be fishing with soft plastic lures and light rods. The rod of choice would be the HTO Nebula SP. This dedicated soft plastic rod has enough backbone to work lures up to 160g vertically. It has plenty of power with bags of sensitivity too, allowing you to know what is going on as you work your lures.
Matched to the rods are 4000 sized reels loaded with Nebula X8 braid with a short section of 15 to 20lb Nebula FC fluorocarbon as a leader. To the end of the leader, an HTO Lure Clip completes the setup, allowing us to change the lure quickly when required.
Let’s get fishing
After a 45-minute steam, we got to the first mark. We’d end up sticking around the same general area for most of the morning, trying different spots to find where the fish were held up.
For me, the first part of the day would be behind the camera. These trips don’t come around too often, so we try to make the most of it and get as many pictures in the library as we can.
For the other lads, though, it would be full steam ahead as they released their bass fishing lures through the water column to the bottom. Fishing with braid, in most conditions, it is relatively easy to feel when the lure hits the deck. The wind, though, had already picked up by this time, accelerating the boat drift a little making it trickier to feel when the lure had hit the deck. After some practice, everybody was into the groove, and it was Shaun who was first into a fish. Lifting the lure on short lifts as the lure was on the drop, Shaun felt a quick tug and his Nebula was soon bent into a feisty bass that snaffled his Eel Tailz Boru Head combo. It wasn’t long before the fish was brought onboard for a quick photo and release.
The drift finished, and Martin swung the boat round to have another go. Once again, it was Shaun who was first into the fish. While the other crew were using longer lifts on their lures, it was obvious that Shaun’s short lift technique was proving the winning combination. Soon after Shaun landed his fish, Martin was into his first fish, another bass around the 2lb mark.
Swinging around for the third time, it was Shaun, clearly, in the zone, that connected yet again with another bass, around the same size as the previous two he had already caught. As Shaun was releasing his bass, Martins Nebula bent into a much bigger fish than the others already caught. Stripping line on the initial run and putting a tidy bend in the rod, the fish worked Martin hard for a few moments until it began to tire. Bringing the fish up to the surface, a nice bass around the 5lb mark showed. So far, so good for the guy’s fishing on the starboard side, as the stern, it was very quiet!
The next drift was quiet across the boat. There was some nipping of the tails using the bigger lures as they were worked over the ground. Switching to the smaller AXIA Mighty Minnows, the first part of the drift was quiet, but as the boat moved up the bank, George and Chris had a double take on the smaller lures boating two lovely looking bass. And of course, Shaun got in on the action, too, keeping up with his fish a cast so far.
The wind by now was starting to pick up, making bass lure fishing conditions more and more challenging with each drift. Martin decided to move closer inshore. As we travelled back, we came across some frenzied activity with birds crash-diving into the sea and the tell-tale surface bubbles of baitfish just below the surface. You can bet your house that there will be bass working under this melee of nature at this time of year.
With plenty of photos in the camera, I picked up the rod for the first time, excited to see what this new spot would yield with all this activity. Tactics were quite simple, cast the lure away from the boat, let the lure sink, then retrieve it back to the boat. While most of us were fishing with soft plastics, George went for an HTO Slow Jig, and it wasn’t long before he was into a fish, a perfectly conditioned schoolie. It wasn’t long before the rest of us were in on the action, too, all boating a bass apiece.
Turning the boat back to the mark for another drift, I was being hit by fish all the time but couldn’t connect. A change of pace in the retrieve soon sorted this, and it was fish on once again, as the rest of the boat all had rods bent into yet more bass. It was frenetic action on each of the drifts we fished over this ground. It was practically a fish a cast with a stamp of fish between the 1 and 2lb mark, all hitting smaller lures such as Mighty Minnows and HTO Slow Jigs.
The frantic fishing action was the perfect time to dig out a prototype light jigging rod. This rod we’ve been working on for a while, rated to 40g and coupled with a suitable slow jig, provided some serious fun. The trio of George, Chris and Shaun all had a play with it, and all came back with beaming smiles as even the smallest of the bass caught put a serious bend in the blank. It was also a joy to work the lures, responsive and giving plenty of feedback to the angler. We’ve got a bit more work to do, but hopefully, it should be ready for late 2022/23.
With the fun over and everybody on board having a few fish under their belt, time was moving along at a rapid pace. For the last roll of the dice, Martin took us to another mark. Not a prolific mark but one that would throw up a big bass if there was one around. Sadly, despite trying over several drifts, we didn’t connect with anything bigger, and it was time to head back to Littlehampton.
We’d had a fantastic day bass lure fishing, and it was nice to have a social with all the guys. We’d all managed to get some fish in, and we’d had a good laugh along the way. What’s more, we finished off the day the right way, with an ice-cold pint and a curry!