This year is going to see a massive number of new recruits to the plugging for bass army. These anglers are hungry for information, but inevitably two questions will dominate. “What tackle should I be using?” and “What lures are best?”
Starting with rods, then the blank action is crucial. The rods need a tip section that will work a lure directly to maximise its action, but also lock up quickly to set a treble hook when fishing at range. This progressive fast taper steeliness throughout the blank is equally necessary to maximise casting distance, but also, in conjunction with a stiff butt, gives the power to dominate bigger fish when fishing in amongst snag ridden rough ground. The ideal length is 8’, and the rod needs to be light in weight as it will be held and worked for long periods.
If you fish mixed rough ground with no real snags, then a lighter action is okay, but again remember you need the power to work a decent fish, should one happen along, so avoid supple, bend to the butt type rods. The 8’Tidewater Bass Plugger is the rod for lighter fishing, but the ABU Revo Bass 8’ is the one for rough ground and big fish, and are the rods I fish with myself.
A mistake newcomers often make is to buy a fixed spool reel too big for the job, which unbalances the rod. For the above rod types, then a size 040 is perfect. They hold at least 200-metres plus of 20lb braid, but are light in weight. I like the Soron STX 040 reel, but the same size Penn Sargus and the Mitchell Mag Pro are also great reels for the Revo Bass rod. On the Tidewater Bass I’d go for the ABU ORA 040, or the Cardinal 174 SWi front drag reel.
Mono has too many disadvantages to consider when working plugs, not least diameter and stretch, which will affect casting range and lessen the hook setting power of the rod.
Braid is a good choice, especially Berkley Whiplash Pro and Firelene Crystal. It’s a choice between 12 to 20lb line, but when fishing over snags 20lb gives you the chance of getting snagged lures back, plus means you can pressurise good fish more. However, for my own fishing, I prefer NanoFil in the 0.20mm diameter. This casts extremely well and is a very direct line, feeling even more so than braid, but also handles a side wind better than braid. Being a direct, always in touch line, it also sets the hook very well even at maximum range. I also like a line with a lighter, easy to see colour when working lures in and out of rocks, around weed beds, and through other fish holding cover, and with NanoFil being a light colour it’s easy to see.
It’s essential to also use a Fluorocarbon leader. It separates the braid colour from the lure and massively increases the bite/hit ratio. I make my leaders the length of the rod, plus 4-feet or so. This gets enough on the reel to keep any casting pressure off the leader knot, plus gives enough of a separation between braid and lure. I use the same breaking strain of Fluorocarbon as the main line I’m using.
Plug choice is now huge with so many variants. However, way before Sebile where part of the Pure Fishing portfolio I was importing Sebile lures from overseas. They’ve caught me a lot of fish. The ones I favour are the Splasher, a surface popper that is deadly in the small and medium size for bass, also the Ghost Walker which leaves a wake on the surface and brings fish up from deep. I also rate highly the Slender Eel, which has been an incredible lure for me when targeting bass in a tide current as they heard sandeel. To get deeper down when the bass are feeding in the lower water column I favour the Koolie Minnow Medium Lip.
Some fishing tips to keep in mind. By far the best time to walk and stalk bass with plugs is dusk and dawn. Half-light conditions suit a predator well and they’ll hunt right in the shallow margins in these conditions.
Bass are not afraid of rough water. Look to fish when there is a bump and some agitation on the seas surface. Ideal conditions are a light onshore wind, but stronger winds and some surf can still fish well if you choose a plug that can punch through the wind.
Areas where a tidal current sweeps in, but especially where a shallow reef edges inshore and deflects the tidal current are always good holding spots. The very best areas are over rough, uneven, rocky ground, and casting from rock ledges where inshore boulders and rock fissures give hidey holes for smaller species.
If you’re not getting any interest to a surface popper, change to a diving plug. Literally search the water column until you find where the fish are feeding. If you can’t catch on a 90cm plug, change to a 70cm one. A plugs colour can also make a difference. In clear water use clear bodied, see through lures. In slightly coloured water with suspended silt present, use a brighter colour, such a white plug with a red head. At dusk and dawn, a dark coloured lure to enhance the silhouette on or near the surface is incredibly effective.
Another big mistake plug virgins make is to wade out to the very edge of a rock, stand upright and start casting. This is the very best way to scare any close by bass. Always cover the ground in front of you first, and try to keep as low a profile as you can. It is important to realise that bass will often be only a few feet out.
Don’t stand and fish in the same place all the time. Make a few casts, then move up the beach a few yards and cast again. Bass are like trout, they constantly move trying to scare up potential food. You’ll see a huge rise in your catches if you keep on the move.
Being mobile means carrying only what you need. A small rucksack with a few lures in a box, a few links, some spare Fluorocarbon leader, a pair of pliers, scissors and small weigh scale are really all you need. The rucksack can be worn when wading too, whereas a belt pouch cannot. If you carry a small camera, put it in a sealable plastic box, then if you slip and fall in when wading, the camera won’t get wet!
Two other essentials are quality polarized sunglasses, and a baseball cap. With the shade and depth penetration of the hat and glasses, you can often see hunting bass before they see you if your instincts are awake, but you will also see the flash of their flanks as they attack your lure.
A brief introduction then, to plugging for bass fishing! Its thinking fishing, a massive learning curve, but ultimately fascinating! And you’ve all summer and most of the autumn to enjoy it! Good luck!