Friday, 15 July 2011

Back on the bass

The freezer is getting close to capacity with the cod, pollack and mackerel we've been catching these last few weeks, so the time has come to start eating them and turning back to catching sea bass!  For Yorkshire the season is still just a little early for the best sessions to start.  The fish are there, as they are earlier in the year, but they don't shoal up and go into that fry feeding frenzy until late July / August.  The fish that are caught now tend to be solitary fish or one out of a small group.  The trick is finding a good mark that is getting plenty of visits from these wandering individuals or small groups of fish.

The week's swell and wind forecasts looked grim ahead, with the following day the only possibility for kayaking.  I decided it had to be done, even though my bass tackle wasn't fully prepared and I could really do with some new line and a decent coolbox for my catch.  Anyhow, after a slow start I got down to the sea in time to launch around 9am, just as the sun threatened to ruin the day by opening up a bright blue sky overhead.  Fortunately for me, the water wasn't crystal clear and by mid afternoon it began to cloud over, which really helped the fishing.

Sometimes, early in the season, I struggle with big noisy plugs such as Megabass Zonks.  They are dynamite later in the year, but this sort of plug can sometimes make fish shy away after following it to the side of the yak, and when that happens I usually try and go down a size and opt for something a bit quieter running, or even to use a soft plastic.  One plug I've found to be always reliable early in the year is the tried and trusted Rapala X-Rap SXR10 in  Silver Blue Mackerel:
Battered but much loved X-Raps SXR10 in Silver Blue Mackerel
Bass on our coastline love this plug, perhaps because there seem to be quite a few small mackerel in the same vicinity which are a perfect match colourwise.  The X-Rap SRX10 probably catches me more fish per year than any other (despite the influx of ridiculously expensive Japanese plugs that keep getting added to my tackle box!) and it catches in a wide variety of conditions.  They are cheap, easy to find (not always in the right colour) and tough as nails.  The plug's finish is mostly on the inside, so that expensive paintwork you see getting scratched off some plugs isn't an issue with the X-Rap.  This particular colour is the one that works best for me, I like the fact it's predominantly dark and of course striped, which I feel helps in bright clear conditions, but if you can't find it then the Sardine colour is good second best.

Fishing was slow due to the bright sun initially, but after a while I found a very bassy looking patch of ground.  My preference when fishing from the kayak is to be in about 10-15ft of water.  I like to be able to see the bottom.  Partly so I can judge what depth I'm fishing in, but also to be able to see what kind of cover I'm drifting over and how high up those kelp stalks are reaching!  Good ground for me is a mixture of bare, flat rock scars or ledges, seaweed and even a little sand.  The more varied the better, but sometimes drawing a plug over kelp forests covered by 6 foot or so of water can also bring results.  At this point in the article I had planned to post some photos of the various marks I drifted over, unfortunately without a polarised filter for the camera (rare for waterproof models!) you can't see anything but water glare.

After three or four small fish, I started to get one or two of a better size which I kept for the pot.  As the X-Rap was catching and I already had some fish to take home, I started to experiment with some of my other smaller plugs.  This year I've followed a policy of using two treble hook plugs where possible.  This results in a lot less incidental fish damage due to stray trebles hooking their eyes and gills, and also less fish lost due to them diving into heavy weed and hooking a free treble up against a snag.  My top baby lure for the day was the new Megabass Zonk 77 SW-HT SAYORI:
The bite-size Megabass Zonk 77 SW-HT SAYORI.  A great colour and really tight action.
This lure casts better than the longer X-Rap and has a really aggressive vibrating action, again similar to a tiny mackerel and the colouring is fantastic.  The lure has clear sides that reveal the moving weights inside and it's green back looks great in the water.  It wasn't long before I had a lunging take nearly pull the rod out of my hand and after an excellent tussle on my ultra-light plugging rod, I landed a nice bass around the 3-4lb mark:

I would have kept fishing for a while after this, but had to stop to go and pick up my little lad from nursery!  I ended the day with a tidy bag of four bass and a stray mackerel that picked up the baby zonk while I trolled it behind the kayak on the way back in.

While I always gut my fish at sea, I can never bring myself to cut the head off bass as I do with cod, probably as I like to bake them whole and they look a lot nicer presented like that to the table.  Cod just gets filleted before it goes in the freezer, so although it doesn't make for the prettiest photo opportunity at the end of a session, the heads can go to feed the crabs as far as I'm concerned, which in turn feed even more cod for us to catch!  Nothing goes to waste when fishing from a kayak, even if the gulls sometimes get the guts before the crabs have chance. 
Yet another fish-between-the-legs shot, must find a different angle to take the photos from!
The bass season is under way, and I'm hopeful better fish will be coming on board in the coming month.  Bring on those calm clear waters of summer!


  1. Hello Kester, It´s nice to finally find some-one interested in Spinning and Kayaks in England (even though I myself don't have one yet).
    I'm living in Galicia, where Sargoloco (Carlos) lives, and know him well. I'll be following your blog with interest. When I visit my family in Hampshire I'll be asking advice on where to go fishing.
    I also have a blog which is bilingual.

    Good Fishing. Frank (The English Dago)

  2. Hi Frank - plenty of interest over here in sea kayak fishing. We had a local competition a few weeks ago - quite a sight to see over 30 kayaks set off from the beach! Mind most of those were targetting pollack and cod. There's fewer people who fish only for sea bass.

    But sea bass lure fishing is becoming big over here - lots of people taking it up. If you need any advice kayak or spinning wise when you come over, just get in contact.

    BTW, nice blog you have there. :-)

    Tight lines.

  3. Thanks Kester will do.

    I presume you get big pollack over there. As far as cod they must few and far between based on an article I read about a year ago.

    Happy Fishing. Frank.


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