I have recently returned from 8 days lure fishing in Ireland with Julian Fox. The fishing was challenging, but varying our methods and locations seemed to buy us more success. Yet the fact success does not come easily is no different from each of our 10 previous years of visiting Ireland. For us a flexible approach and willingness to make changes has always seemed to improve our results.

We fish a host of marks from Wexford to West Cork. The chosen locations are dictated by the weather:  too windy and we seek shelter (= clearer water); too clam and we chase the wind (= movement in the water). The methods we chose depend on the characteristics of the mark, the conditions and past knowledge – as well as our own specific whims and preferences.

A stealthy angler in Ireland

The stealthy Mr Fox: Julian Fox fishing on the edge in Ireland

There is one specific type of place we love to fish. These are shallow rocky marks at the very boundary between the sea and the land. We fish over kelp and wrack and along gullies, in the very places many anglers wade through so they can stand on a rocky pinnacle and cast towards the horizon. These are the roads the bass follow as the tide makes, allowing them to ambush various forms of prey.  Casting before we reach the water we slowly sneak up narrow gullies and along weedy foreshores. Crouching to keep off the skyline we advance, ever expectant for the sharp pulse transmitted from fish to braid to brain. Yet when the hit comes, it still shocks; briefly stopping both your heart and time itself. As you wind down you know this is the calm before the storm. In a second the line will tighten and all hell will break out. Hunter will realises it’s become the hunted and do all it can to escape this shallow grave.

It’s not only on foot that we fish these Irish shoreline marks: we also take our little inflatables with us and get afloat. In relatively settled conditions we can cover numerous gullies and inaccessible rocky section of coastline as we “kiss the rocks” with our unweighted soft plastics. It might illogical but, but when aboard the Zodiacs we do the complete opposite of the anglers on the shore: while they are wishing they could get ever further out to sea, instead of heading offshore we attempt to fish our lures as close as possible to the land. Cast your lure more than a meter from the edge in plenty of our boat marks and you catch nothing. The obvious fact that in many places at certain times the bass were tucked right in at the edge took a while to fully register but we got there in the end.

The stealthy shallow water fishing method is certainly addictive and is why personal whims and preferences influence what we do. Over the years its likely we would have caught a few more bass by trying different methods, in other places at other times. Yet the excitement resulting from the hit and the ensuing panic (both of bass and angler) when fishing at the edge so great, it’s difficult to always be completely rational  in  all our fishing decisions. But it could be said that the best fishing is achieved through maximising your enjoyment and not your catch… and to me they don’t always amount to the same thing.

Fishing the gullies in shallow water

Something dramatic about to happen: Fishing the shallow inshore gullies.

In Ireland I saw many more shore lure anglers than ever before. Many casting out to sea without reward. Some had barely caught all week. Julian and I caught over 50 fish between ( majority from the shore not the boat) so perhaps our methods did more than just maximise our enjoyment.

Things have been hard for many in Ireland this year (and over recent years). I won’t speculate as to why, but the reported trend is a worry. If however you haven’t fished there much or fully developed your own ideas as to what works for you, perhaps there are a few clues here that might just help you catch a few more bass AND increase your fun.

Words: Matt Spence,                                                  Images: Matt Spence & Julian Fox

4 Comments
  1. well written and very good read, …”Things have been hard for many in Ireland this year (and over recent years). I won’t speculate as to why, but the reported trend is a worry”………now surely this is a discussion that should not be kept under wraps if the stories are to do with underhand tactics etc then an open forum/discussion is surely in the best interests of bass fisherman and bass preservation?!

  2. Nice article Matt. I’m convinced that if the UK had half the measures in place that the Irish enjoy , we would completely eclipse Irelands Bass fishery. We do very well over here considering we fish for the ones the commercials miss (Slip the net so to speak )

  3. Thanks for the feedback John & Oz
    John, The reason for the “perceived” decline is complex and mulifactoral in my opinion. Given the seeming uniformity of the reduced catches all around the Irish coast factors varying by locality such as inshore poaching (although an undoubted problem) fail to explain everything. Perhaps this topic will inspire another blog soon. There is however research being undertaken in Ireland to help better understand the Irish bass population structure and growth – see: https://fishinginireland.info/news/sea-reports/esb-sea-bass-tagging-project-in-cork-harbour/ and http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/Projects/national-bass-programme.html

    Oz, I agree with you completely on the bass fishing potential in the UK with proper management of the resource. Unless we keep banging on to those that make the decisions we will never get what we deserve!

  4. The limited scientific research on the Irish bass fishery would back up your comments Austin. Recruitment to Irish stocks is very limited much more so than Uk stocks. If the same management of Uk stocks were implemented it is probable that your recreational fishery would match ours at the very least.

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