The most productive, yet very much ignored technique for catching summer bass, is spinning. But you can only be successful by understanding some basic rules realizing the importance of correct timing. It's only worth using spinners when the bass are actually feeding on small baitfish close inshore.
Serious spin fishers should concentrate their efforts between the North Kent coast and Colwyn Bay in North Wales. Sure, there are some bass taken on spinners in certain parts of the Northeast around Cambois, and along the North Norfolk coast, but there is no consistency to the catches, and the middle sized fish that give the best sport are far thinner on the ground. Like most UK fishing, the best is in the west.
Putting some flesh on the last paragraph, the reef country along the Sussex shoreline, particularly around Seaford, Peacehaven and Beachy head has suitable ground.
Real spinning country starts as you come to the Dorset border where the rocky beaches dominate and carry on through Devon and Cornwall as far as Avon. Give the Bristol Channel a miss, but get the lures out again as you approach the Gower Peninsular in Southwest Wales, paying special attention to rocky ground through Cardigan Bay, the Lleyn Peninsular, the Menai Straits, Anglesey and rough ground around the Gt Orme and Colwyn bay.
The season is quite long. Dorset fish may show as early as late April. Then come the Cornish and West Wales marks simultaneously during mid May, followed in early June by the Kent and North Wales marks.
Fish remain willing to take spinners right through until the end of September, just prior to their moving fully over to seabed feeding in deeper water.
FISH HOLDING FEATURE
Bass are a supreme predator and take advantage of any situation that allows them to ambush smaller baitfish. Your key to success is to locate specific areas where the baitfish are concentrated.
Rough ground beaches made up from boulders or areas of broken rock are good starting points. Better still if these are broken up by numerous weed beds, and have shallow rocky fingers or reef running outwards. Aim to work the spinners over and around the edges of the weed beds, across the tops of the reefs, around surface showing boulders, and across any deeper holes you may have located at low water.
Estuaries offer huge spinning opportunities. Locate mussel beds often found around the mouths of smaller estuaries and spin over these. Again, any rock or boulder patches will hold fish. Pay special attention to areas where the main channel is condensed, or bottlenecks because smaller fish get swept in to these and are overpowered proving easy meat for the more powerful bass. The entrances to small mud creeks have the same holding quality when the tide is in full flood.
Harbours, breakwaters, old landing stages, all prove excellent fish holding feature. Possibly best of all are the rocky fringes of the inner estuary where the knotted wrack weed is dense. Here, spin across any small bays a few yards across and along the weed fringes for the best results. It's this type of ground and the rocky beach terrain that gives the bigger fish with most consistency.
These are one of three important ingredients along with ground composition and weather pattern that must be observed and understood, then brought together to create the correct formula for successful spinning.
Over rock and boulder beaches, around the estuary mouths, piers, breakwaters and inside the estuary proper the bulk of the bass move in on the bigger tides. Avoid fishing small neap tides. The odd small school bass will be taken on neaps, but fish over 3lbs are very scarce indeed. The occasional exception would be when fishing bottlenecks or other areas where the flooding tide is tightly condensed. Shoals of sandeel get trapped in the tide race here and bass of all sizes have a field day picking them off at will.
The first two hours of a new tide are good providing this partners with the late evening when the sun is very low in the sky. However, you'll quickly discover that the best fishing and most takes occur in the last 30 minutes before full dark. This certainly applies to the rocky beaches.
Likewise the high tide period. When this combines with the late evening, fish each hour either side of high water, even if this goes into full darkness. This would also be the only time to spin the inner estuary marks, though bass do not stay to feed these inner edges when the tide turns outwards again. As soon as they feel the first of the ebbs push, they start to fall back to the main channel.
Dawn fishing organized around the same stages of high and low tide are also good, particularly in harbours and around breakwaters. You tend to get fewer fish by dawn, but the average size is much better.
The middle hours of the tide are not useless, but are nearly so, as is full daylight. Bear in mind that baitfish are always looking for protection in the form of camouflage and can't afford to be exposed.
A spinning rod capable of casting between 2 and 3ozs will stop any bass that swims. What is an advantage is a blank with a length of at least 10ft, many experienced bass spinners prefer 11ft. This helps the angler to work the lures around obstructions, gives a more supple action to the blank to control the wild runs and lunges the fish will make, protects the line from sudden stress, and aids casting distance.
For the lighter 1oz lures and for plug fishing a rod suited to weights of 1 and 2ozs is the better choice, but try to pick a rod with a faster tapered action, rather than one that's all through bending right to the butt.
Fixed spool reels are the only choice. Those with a line capacity between 200yds of 8 and 10lb line will balance nicely with the above rod. Ensure that the line level does not fall too low, otherwise you will lose casting distance.
Proven favourites are the ABU Toby 28gr, Dexter Wedge 28gr, ABU Krill 28gr, Shakespeare Slither or any other wedge shaped lure. Choose any of these in a chrome or nickeled finish and, sooner rather than later, you'll take bass. These are best over rough ground and from breakwaters.
Always carry a range of artificial sandeels from 3ins to 8ins. Don't go overboard on colours. Stick to white, red and black. These take fish with unbelievable ease when used in estuary bottlenecks and when cast in to tide races.
The real technique is in picking the right ground and working it thoroughly with the lure. When it comes to working the lure itself, just use a steady retrieve. Don't listen to romantic stories of varying the speed of lure retrieve and making it stop for a split second at intervals. A steady medium speed retrieve takes 95% of the fish without further complication.
Plugs can be either sinking or floating patterns. Try the floaters over low water and the sinkers and deeper divers over high water. Plugs are especially affective around weed beds.
When fishing a tide race or bottleneck, always cast the sandeel uptide and let the current bring it back downtide as you retrieve. It will swing in an arc towards you. Expect fish to hit the lure only as it gets level with you and below.
HOW TO FISH ARTIFICIAL SANDEELS
Three way or three eyed swivels are the best means of lead and lure connection. Tie the end of your reel line to the upper eye of the swivel. Now add a small split ring to the middle offset eye. This split ring now takes a suitably sized lead weight, usually 1 or 2ozs. The hook length is tied to the remaining swivel eye. This system allows the lead weight to lead the sandeel during the cast. This gives more casting distance, less likelihood of the sandeel wrapping it self around the main line, and excellent presentation once in the water.
Also, when fine green weed and general seaweed contaminates the water you are fishing, the lead weight picks up the weed creating a clear path for the lure to swim through. Providing weed quantities are not too great to drag the tackle down you will continue to take fish at such times.
To get the best from artificial sandeels they need to be fished on a fairly long hook length. One about 3ft gives the best compromise between presenting the eel to the fish correctly, yet remaining practical to cast. The breaking strain needs to be kept light to further enhance natural swimming action. Between 8 and 10lbs is a sensible compromise.
The hooks supplied with most artificial eels are too thick in the wire and not sharp enough. Change these for Mustad Vikings. Use a 2/0 for 3 and 4ins eels, and 4/0s for the larger 8ins eels.
Artificial eels should be cast uptide and retrieved at a slow to medium pace between mid and surface water as they swing back in an arc towards and downtide of you. They will not catch fish when retrieved against the tide.
Fish the lure right to the rod tip for bass will often follow, then hit the lure at the last minute.
Don't make yourself stand out against the sky or shoreline. Use some cover to break up your outline. Bass scare easily. Dark clothes also help. And don't wade unless you have too.
Never spin against the tidal current. This is not natural sandeel and baitfish behaviour. Bass get suspicious and shy away.
When water clarity is poor choose a jointed plug, or a spinner that has an eccentric action. This wild movement is felt by the bass through their lateral line and gives them something to home in on.
Try to time your trips to periods of calm weather and offshore winds. These draw the baitfish very close inshore. The bass are duty bound to follow.