The weather has been extremely frustrating with frontal systems sweeping in that seem to produce air temperatures more applicable to early Spring than mid May. Normally by this time we would expect that the summer visitors, such as the bass and smoothhound are well settled in our coastal waters. The signs are good with the fish showing in some areas, but they do not appear to be widespread on the East Coast at the time of writing.
I decided to chance my arm at one of my local marks for a crack at an early bass. It was to be an extremely speculative session lasting all of fifty minutes or so of actual fishing time. I had allowed myself forty minutes of travelling time, which was a bit optimistic with the Lowestoft Town Bridge a notorious traffic bottleneck to negotiate, but I managed it. The chosen venue was the Lowestoft South Beach, which is a shallow sandy beach bordered by a concrete promenade that stretches into the distance towards Pakefield. There is ample parking along the main road route. I would be fishing two hours from high water.
The weather during that early morning session broke the mould as it was windless and warm as the Sun’s rays broke through a thin veil of cloud. The previous day had been cold with gusty winds blowing from the North turning the sea into a churning vindictive maelstrom.
The tackle requirements were simple and I could travel a light, with a rod and all of my other tackle and equipment contained within a bag hung from my shoulder.
I chose to use my Anyfish Anywhere 12 foot lure and bait rod which will cast up to 90 grams and my small Akios 555SCM multiplier loaded with ten pounds monofilament line and a twenty pound casting leader. For a rig I used a single hook running paternoster with a two ounce Breakaway Flattie pattern lead and at the business end I tied a size 1 Mustad offset Aberdeen match hook. Bait was lively ragworm purchased three days earlier at the Gorleston Tackle Centre.
The moment had arrived for my first cast to catch a bass in 2021, and I lobbed the bait out thirty metres into the flat calm sea. The fish are often in the calmer water behind the rollers or they congregate in the vicinity of a feature, such as a gulley, depression in the sand, a patch of stones or a breakwater; all of which hold food. This being the case it is good practice to observe the beach at low water regularly, but be aware that storms can alter the topography of the fishing mark. When I fish using a light hand held rod I stand parallel to the surf line so that the line is at ninety degrees to my rodtip.
I did not have to wait long for my first take as the tip of the rod violently wrapped around, similar to the take of carp in a commercial fishery. A sharp strike and I was into my first bass of the year. It swirled on top of the water and made for the sanctuary of a nearby breakwater. After a delightful couple of minutes of furious swimming and thrashing on the surface I guided the fish onto the shore. It was small and plump, but measuring in at 40cm it was a very satisfactory result. A good point to make here is that this fish taken on a standard surfcasting rod would not have provided such enjoyment, as the fish would have been overpowered and not allowed to show it’s true mettle. Twenty minutes later I landed a second bass of a similar size and this fish was trapped because of its own curiosity. I always try to overcast when fishing light and gradually retrieve the end tackle by recovering a small amount of line every so often, and this is done not so much as to give movement to the bait, but to disturb the bottom raising a column of suspended sand near my bait. The idea is that the curious fish will investigate the disturbance. This tactic dictates my choice of the Breakaway Flattie lead as it is designed to achieve this effect.
After landing the second fish it was time to pack up, but it was a case of mission accomplished so I was quite pleased how things had worked out. The fish were in residence and I had caught a couple which had been returned to the sea, so roll on the next session.
The next session turned out to be four days later and again it was to be a short session of about two hours actual fishing time at the South Beach. This time the conditions were totally different and the weather had reverted back to its changeable pattern, and the wind was fresh and blowing from the South East. The sky was grey and overcast and that was no visible sign of the Sun’s warming rays. The sea state was choppy and surf was rolling in, hopefully providing perfect conditions for a bass hunt. I was fishing the middle part of the flooding tide. The tactics were exactly the same as during the previous session, but this time I choose to use a two hook paternoster with shorter snoods because I expected fish to feed freely in the prevailing conditions. I was quickly into fish taking one of 35cm the first cast on a cast of about twenty five metres. A short while later I hooked and landed a slightly larger fish of 40cm.
I started to get a number of bites which were distinctly different to the violent wrap around takes of the bass and these comprised of the lifting and settling of the lead usually following the retrieval of a small amount of line when displacing the lead. I ignored a couple of the bites expecting a bass to grab and swim quickly off with the bait, but nothing happened. I finally struck at one of the bites as the line slackened and was instantly into a fish which was not so dramatic nor vigorous in its attempts to escape.
The answer to the puzzle was a plump flounder in superb condition and this first one was followed by two more, with all of them falling to the slowly retrieved bait technique.
I was very pleased to see a flounder or two as I rarely catch them during my sessions on the open beach targeting the larger species. I have had good bags of flounders from this beach before during the late Spring and early Summer period but not recently.
I topped the session off with a fine plump bass that measured 49cm and probably weighing somewhere in the region of three pounds. The bass hit the bait hard and went ballistic when hooked, by first swimming quickly through the water one way and then running in the opposite direction as I played it and applied pressure. The rod took on a dramatic bend as the fish tried to escape taking a bit of line against the drag. Gliding it in with a wave was an exciting moment, as it thrashed about on top of the water before finally submitting to pressure. I carefully lifted the fish by hand and held it while admiring its beautiful silver profile…what a great looking fish! After a quick photograph the fish was carefully returned to the water, and after a few seconds of recovery it flicked its substantial tail and headed back out to sea. All the fish I caught were carefully returned to the sea.
I finished the session with the smallest bass of the day, and my two hours of angling bliss had ended, as it was time to head for home as promised. This light tackle fishing for bass is addictive and most coarse anglers who fish for tench and carp will have appropriate rods and reels amongst their kit, so it’s a great opportunity to try something different. For me, it won’t be too long before the sound and smell of the sea and the dreams of the silver bass tempt me to fish again; perhaps tomorrow?
Next week my fellow blogger Alan Stevens, will entertain you with his recent sea angling adventures from the shore in South Suffolk, and it is sure to be a great read.