When it comes to the calendar year and bass lure fishing, there might be not be a perfect match between the end points, but things are approximate enough for me to now reflect on the season just gone. Looking back is more than just a luxury in nostalgia; it allows my plans and methods to be further honed for days ahead when the bass return to my marks. So what can I conclude through analysing my bass fishing in 2014?
To begin with, I don’t intend this blog to be an opportunity weigh up the pros and cons of various bits of gear (I will leave that to my better qualified, tackle tart fellow bass blogger if he so choses!) And while I undoubtedly believe fit for purpose, good quality gear is important in my bassing, it’s also my long held belief that investing much of my finite reserve of bass tokens in travel and getting afloat brings me greatest return of fish. This view has not changed.
The tools that enable me to get afloat: my 11 year old Zodiac fastroller inflatable and Yamaha 8hp 2-stroke continue to perform flawlessly. I have long meant to blog about the small boat methods of fishing (I will do in the New Year!), but for now I will just say just say its kit that will fit in your car, can be launched without slipways, allows you charge around after visible bass or between multiple areas of bass haunted inaccessible shallow ground, where shore anglers cannot reach and hard hulled boats fear to go. The bottom line is this set up is hugely fun, ultimately catches you far more bass and a decent second hand pairing can be acquired for around the same money as the high end lure rod and reel combos some friends fish with.
There is however a single item of tackle I wish to mention given I have (all too belatedly!) realised its high worth. I won a Berkley fish grip thingy several years ago and dug it out this autumn when I began a campaign targeting some large bass and I felt it would come in handy in the little inflatable should my plan succeed and I need to control a big bass if fishing alone. When I got to use the grip however, it caused obvious damage to the chin and mouth of first bass I used it on. I threw it in a bin on my return as it was clearly not fit for purpose for releasing a bass in a reasonably healthy state. Then the next trip out and the second biggest bass I have ever landed bounced out of my hands and over the side of the zodiac when I was attempting to photograph it. Operator error was undoubtedly the key factor, yet had I been fishing with my regular fish buddy Julian Fox and using his boga grip (to control it, not weigh it!), then even I might not have messed it up (but there again…) It might be a case of stable doors and bolted horses but in 2015 I plan to have a quality fish grip on board.
In terms of my other main strategy to catch more bass, namely travel, this year I again ventured far and wide to different venues at different times. Living in Bristol I don’t have a local patch of sea that appeals to me for lure fishing. Instead over many years due to a mixture of chance and choice I have come to know various areas of the English southern coast, of Cornwall of Wales and Ireland. Each year based on past knowledge my plan becomes further honed and I visit the different localities at what I see as their peak times. This year I set out to fish one area of the south coast until late May, Wales in the summer and another south coast area in the early Autumn and beyond with the specific target of bigger bass. There were also interludes for summer holiday fishing in Cornwall and a visit to Ireland in the autumn. The weather largely played ball until October and overall everything went pretty much to plan – even when a succession of autumn storms took hold the few trips out in the brief windows of opportunity saw me achieve my big bass ambitions. Amazingly most (bar my fantasy) catching targets were achieved this year.
Each year I discover the odd new mark or perhaps different knowledge of the existing areas in relation to possible optimum timings as to when to fish – this year was no exception and such knowledge will be added to the melting pot when my friends and I formulate our 2015 plans. When this growing knowledge is combined with the gradual evolution in my lures and my ever increasing ability (I hope) to use them, I seem to end up just about managing to catch as much as previous years – I guess it’s a case of my competence versus the dwindling available bass stocks. And while I would be lying to deny I am not driven by thoughts of catches of multiple bass or of individual big bass, it remains my view that it’s the size of the memories that are the truest measure of a days fishing (though admittedly they often coincide).
Well I can claim 2014 to be exceptional on this front! I spent various evening and morning sessions that were wrapped around nights of wild camping beside driftwood fires, on remote beaches. In Ireland I shared time with a bunch of great bass anglers. Our days were spent as part of a flotilla of small inflatables exploring new areas, while enjoying great banter and much excited talk of the quality of our lure fishing. Then more recently there was the BASS blog team meeting in France in November (obviously attendance wasn’t optional!) The weather was variable, the fishing challenging (but occasionally excellent), yet it was the wine, seafood and hospitality that stole the show (more on this trip coming soon!). All these days form sizable memories that far outlive the statistics of what we caught.
Other moments of time that I come to me are provided by the nature witnessed when fishing – even if I only occasionally manage to take the camera out to capture these sightings. This year at last I found time to capture the choughs, which with their aerobatic displays and crackling calls are to me the ever-present spirits of the Irish coast.
Then there were various dolphin encounters that culminated with sights like this.
I won’t dwell for long on the campaigning for better protection of our bass in 2014 as much has been written recently and things are moving fast. Yet it is my belief that although nothing has actually changed to date in terms of new regulations, there has seemingly been a significant change in mind sets both nationally at government level and regionally with (some) IFCAS. I am confident there will be significant changes in bass management policy in the coming year or so – the key will be whether it is anywhere near enough.
In relation to this, after the failure of the EU fisheries committee to agree any changes at their meeting in Mid-December, rather than get dejected, I resolved to write to someone every day on this for a month. In 15 days to date I am slightly behind schedule having only written 11 emails. On the off chance you are looking for a resolution for the New Year, you don’t have to get obsessive like me! A mere handful of quick emails (or letters) over the course of the year to the likes of the EU Commission fisheries person Bernhard Friess (Bernhard.Friess@ec.europa.eu), to George Eustace (the Fisheries Minister), or to your local IFCA asking each what they are going to do for our bass will certainly help add to the pressure for change.
Finally I would like to end these reflections by offering a huge thanks to anyone involved with campaigning for better protection for our bass. My gratitude however does not only extend to the few heroic individuals from BASS, the Angling Trust and other organisations who give so much of their time in their efforts to get proper protection for our bass, it goes to anyone who has done anything to contribute these campaigns. Without a weight of numbers behind the campaigns, we are far less likely to succeed.
So bass wishes to all who read this blog, we would love to hear your recollections on your own 2014 bass fishing, and may your 2015 bass fishing memories be huge!
Words and pictures: Matt Spence