I was recently in Courtmacsherry, Ireland and had been out with skipper Mark Gannon for the day aboard the Lady Louise. We’d enjoyed some great ground fishing including pollack, ling, wrasse, conger, cod and much more. As we’d motored out that morning we’d seen quite a few bass swirling as they moved up in to the estuary. In conversation during the day it was suggested we should keep some mackerel for bait and have a go for these bass that evening. The timing was dead right, for as we were heading in the tide would be nicely on the flood and the bass moving in.
We dropped anchor in the main channel, anticipating one of the main routes the bass would take as they worked inwards. The depth was about 10-feet or so.
The best technique for this type of fishing is to float fish a whole mackerel. The set up is simple. Use braid line as your main reel line, then add a shock leader of 20lb Fluorocarbon about twice the length of your rod. On to the Fluorocarbon, slide on a 5mm bead, a large 8-inch cigar shaped float capable of carrying 3ozs of weight, a ball-weight about 1 to 2ozs, and slide on another bead. To the end of the Fluorocarbon, tie on a size 4 rolling swivel. Above the top bead tie on to the Fluorocarbon a 6-turn Grinner knot from Powergum to act as a sliding stop knot. This allows you to adjust the depth the bait will fish at.
The hook trace is tied to the swivel and should be 10-feet of 20lb Fluorocarbon. Some anglers use too short a hook length of 6-feet or less. Go long to give the mackerel more movement. You can use a single large size 6/0 hook with the hook passed through the nostrils of the mackerel. However a better form of presentation is by mounting a treble hook in the nose of the bait with the two exposed hook points facing forwards. If the bait is moving in the tide, the bass will hit from the tail end, mouth wide open, and try and swallow the bait whole, so the treble hook is perfectly placed.
The ideal size for a bass mackerel bait is somewhere between 6-inches and 10-inches long. If you use mackerel bigger than this, you will start to see your hook up ratio fall. That said, even a 3lb bass will try to take in a 12oz plus mackerel…and sometimes do.
The fishing is easy. Drop the bait in to the water, let the tide take the bait and pull the hook trace straight, then drop the float in. Aim to use a weight heavy enough to fully cock the float leaving about 2-inches showing above the surface. Let the tide and bait trot the float away from the boat, hold the rod with the reel in free spool and thumb on the spool, and let the tide take the float and bait where it wants to go.
Float fishing for bass in in my part of Wales is called, “Bass on the bob”, and this is a good description as the float will bob along drifting slowly, then suddenly slides away as a bass hits the bait. As the float disappears, leave it for a couple of seconds, allowing the fish to take a little free line, then strike. You need to give it that couple of seconds to let the bass fully take the bait in. If you strike too quick you can pull it out of the bass’s mouth without the hook ever making contact.
If the bait is not moving much in the current, keep lifting the rod tip to pull the bait back towards you and lift it in the water, then drop it back. This simple trick can often trigger an attack from an otherwise disinterested bass.
I was fishing with my Irish fishing buddy Mike Hennessy, Sean Gannon, Mark’s son and crewman, Jim O’Donnell skipper of Mark’s second boat, the Lady Patricia, and local lad Kieran Kelleher.
It was none stop action with bass hitting the baits every few minutes as single fish came passing through. Twice Mike H and I were playing fish side by side. The bass ranged between 3.5lbs and 6lbs. I had five and dropped two other fish, my best being between 5 and 6lbs. Jim had a fish that looked better than 6lbs. In total we had around 15 bass in just a couple of hours.
In current times, we chat about bass with much of the fishing inevitably revolving around lures, but the simple old fashioned techniques of presenting a big natural bait in front of a hungry fish will still work every time.
Mark Gannon – Lady Louise – Courtmacsherry, Ireland
Tel: 00 353 23 8846427
Mob: 00 353 86 8250905
E-mail: Submit through website
Mark runs two boats, the Lady Louise and the Lady Patricia. The fishing on offer is varied with quality ground fishing for cod, pollack, coalfish, conger, wrasse, common skate and many other general species. There is also excellent wreck fishing available, and shark fishing.