2013 has been a tough year (so far) for a lot of bass catchers. One could probably speculate a long time as to the reasons for this – from the cold winter, the late spring, right through to the commercial pressure finally taking its toll. Sure the scientists have eventually caught up with the rest of us and realised that the stocks are actually falling dramatically, but even so the science will always lag the reality so it can’t all be down to that.

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The hard year coincides with the increase in the number of anglers actually trying to catch our premier saltwater sport fish. This is good news of course. More people into the sport, more money for the tackle companies, more members of BASS (really?) more members of the Angling Trust (surely) and more pressure on the Government to recognise angling (we can dream), but it does highlight a dilemma in that these new bass fishermen need fish to catch. Let’s not forget that the very first rule of fishing is ‘fish where there are fish’. Of course sometimes (often perhaps) we don’t catch but I would hope that this was down to other factors rather than simply that there’s very few fish in the sea (although increasingly that seems to be the case).

So we have a double whammy – numbers of newcomers coming into the sport of bass angling just when the bass population really takes a nose dive. There can be only one outcome; those newcomers won’t stay in the sport. But is the fact that newcomers find it difficult to get into fish really down to the population structure. It would be foolish to argue otherwise in the light of recent evidence but it’s also probably not the whole story.

Fishing for bass has always been hard. When I was young these fish were almost mythical – at least I never seemed to see one however often my Dad used to go fishing to try and catch one. Large bass have always been elusive, shy fish and they remain so. It’s a fact easily overlooked as we gear up with our new rods and reels, good looking lures that are just ‘too’ realistic, and local knowledge about specific marks gleaned from hours spent on the internet studying maps and photos. Instant success is as unlikely as a politician actually taking account of some fisheries science.

Julian Fox and a hard won bass

Julian Fox and a hard won bass

But being successful at anything is hardly ever just down to your tools – it’s also about lots of other things too, not least how you use them. The newcomers to our sport would do well to remember that, but success does come (eventually) and success that is hard earned tastes sweet and lingers in the memory, now more than ever perhaps bass are a fish that one has to earn. They seem to be a fish not only that are earned but have to be kept on being earned perhaps to prove you’re worthy. When they lie in your hands glistening straight out of the water their gaze is often one of defiance, not defeat, like they are saying ‘go on, do that again – I dare you’.

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When they lie in your hands glistening straight out of the water their gaze is often one of defiance, not defeat, like they are saying ‘go on, do that again – I dare you’.

Of course what do they know they are just a fish with a tiny ‘brain’, but sometimes the hours spent searching for them, and the money spent on trying to catch them elevates them above the mere label of a ‘fish’, they are a goal, a quest, perhaps even a lifelong obsession. I hope our newcomers keep at the sport, there are few better. I for one am only too happy to keep trying to earn them.

Blogger: Julian Fox                                                                          (Images: © Matt Spence)

 

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