Weather wise it has been a truly awful summer so far, on my home patch in North Wales. Both April and June proved to be the wettest on record, and July has not started too well either. We have had major flooding pretty much everywhere and acidic floodwater has been the main problem with the normally prolific estuaries being pretty much devoid of fish as a result.
But looking back on the fishing, when I have been able to get out in sensible conditions, then I’ve done pretty well fishing lures for bass, though the size of the fish is so far disappointing.
I started off in middle May when a warm spell brought rare flat calm seas. Two short evening sessions produced a fair few bass to 3lbs working surface poppers over the top of some rough ground. There was a gentle and wide, but steady swell pushing in and I sussed that the knack was to get the plug popping just behind the incoming breakers. It was great fun seeing the bass thrashing the water as they attacked the plug. Some of them plain missed, others had two or three attempts before they finally got the angle of attack right and successfully intercepted my lure.
Even though I tend not to rate the falling tides dropping towards the smaller neap tides on the ground I fish, excitement got the better of me and I fished one night which was flat calm with an incredible sunset, but conditions otherwise could have been better generally, but again I had four bass to 2.5lbs on the surface poppers, and one on a surface walker. This is an indication of how many smaller bass there are inshore off my coast this year.
The weather turned ugly again through most of June, but I did get a short evening session in with friend and local bass guide, Mat Rickard. We fished over an inshore reef in depths ranging from just a few feet to over 25-feet. We initially started with soft plastics sandeel imitations and caught both bass and pollack, but I quickly changed to one of my favourite Berkley Ripple Shads mounted on a light jig head and it was almost a fish a cast.
Eagle eyed Mat spotted a few birds working on the horizon and heading over there activity seemed subdued, but switching to surface poppers, walkers and shallow divers, we were quickly in to a succession of fish, again most thrashing the water to foam as they chased down the lures. Even on the boat the size was the same, and though we had well over 30 bass, all returned, the biggest fish on the night was a 3lber to Mat. Typically he bagged fish to 6lbs just a couple of days later when I was desk bound!
Everyone is keen to see what other anglers are catching on, and my personal successes so far this year have been the surface popping Sebile Splasher, and the Sebile Ghost Walker which works the surface and leaves a big wake that bass seem to find irresistible. The other surface popper that has caught a lot of fish for me has been the Abu Rocket Popper. In fact over the past three years this little plug has become one of my most consistent from both shore and boat.
The above lures all cast well and I do find that on my marks I often have to cast a fair distance to reach the fish. This is mainly because the ground I work is very shallow. Finding more than 6-feet constant depth is virtually impossible, and only if the water is a more constant depth with little or no swell will the fish come in very close. If the water is deeper, then generally speaking, I find casting distance is less important.
The other obvious reason why a long casting lure is good is that its simply fishing longer, therefore covers more ground and fish, which can only lead to improved catches. If I think the fish are close, I cast close, but favour the option of casting long when needed.
One of the reasons I’ve persisted with surface poppers is that often the water clarity has been poor, even during the better spells of weather. The surface noise and splash of the surface poppers has brought the bass in towards a target they could not see until the last minute. If I’d relied on sub surface swimmers mainly for sight attack, I doubt the fish would have found the lures, such was the poor clarity due to the persistent flood water. In fact so far, I’ve found plug colour irrelevant, it’s the action and splash that counts!
We don’t know how the weather will pan out between now and October, but it often happens that a poor summer is followed by an “Indian summer” sometime in September or October. If this proves the case this year, then I’m optimistic of some great plug fishing.
Currently food supplies inshore are low due again to that acidic floodwater. Once this clears and the crabs start peeling en masse again come mid-August, the sandeel return to the estuaries, and the smaller bait fish move back inshore, then I think the fishing will be very good as the bass were slow to return in the spring, and those caught so far have not been in the condition one would expect for the time of year. This means the bigger fish will be hungry trying to pack weight on for the winter spawning, and that can only be good for lure anglers.