One of the most iconic of our sea species the European sea bass is a true sport fish in every sense of the word and during the summer months, as they migrate northwards and inshore, they are a brilliant target for the saltwater fly or lure angler.
If you want to get to grips with them then check out Jonathan Tomlinson’s top tips and tactics…
Do Your Homework
A good knowledge of local tide times and weather is essential when you plan your trip to ensure you are fishing both safely and effectively. A number of excellent websites and apps are available to ensure you have access to all of the information you require to plan ahead, the BBC Weather and Tide Tables site is excellent, as is the comprehensive Tide Times.
Bass are often the first species to push in at the start of a flood tide chasing sandeels and crabs, so check your timings and be there waiting for them! Big tides tend to be better than neap tides and remember the fish will move with the tides – so make sure you do too, don’t be a static angler!
VIDEO: Join Sportfish fly fishing expert JT and his friend PJ out on the harbour waves as they offer up their top tips and advice for catching bass on the fly in our latest video guide!
The sea can be a hostile environment and one which can change from placid to violent in literally minutes so keep safe. A lifejacket is essential whether you are boat or shore fishing and make sure you have the appropriate footwear for your location, be it on deck, rocks or wading the shoreline.
Try to fish with a friend at all times and pop your phone and essential items such as keys, wallet etc. in a protective waterproof case.
If you are shore fishing get yourself an OS map of your chosen area and study it well. Key areas to fish include sandbanks, deep water rock marks, rips in the current, anywhere with a strong tidal push, kelp and snags.
Keep your eyes open too feeding gulls will betray the presence of bait fish shoals and rocky pools filled with crab shells will be bass magnets once the tide begins to flood.
Don’t write off any area, bass are present around all of our shoreline and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about dawn or dusk fishing either – bass will hit a fly or lure at any time of day or night!
The Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society (BASS) is a fishing club and an organisation dedicated to the conservation of the European sea bass and it believes that its members have the ability to encourage the conservation, research and protection of the European sea bass as well as to improve and educate others in the techniques of angling for a premier sporting fish. They produce a quarterly magazine, which is free to members and arrange social events and fish-ins. If you fish for bass you really should consider joining!
Be Legal and Respectful
Treat any bass you catch with the utmost respect. There is currently a maximum allowable limit of one fish per angler, but catch and release is recommended. The current size limit is 42cm to protect the species and to avert the collapse of declining stocks. – updated Feb 2016
BASS members are requested to observe the minimum size limit of 48cm, recommended by the Committee, in those instances when the occasional fish is killed for the table members are recommended to take no more than a maximum of 10 fish per year.
Get in Close
Bass, including the very biggest fish, are often caught very close in as they move in on the flooding tide to hit into prey fish shoals and crunch on crabs in newly-flooded pools and gullies. Don’t ignore the water right under your feet, even if it is shallow, and work your fly or lure right into the margins.
Remember to minimise disturbance when you are wading calm, shallow water too – the fish could almost literally be right around your feet. Wherever you fish keep it light and mobile.
Always vary your retrieve rate, a fast and erratic method mimics a sandeel far better than a slow and steady retrieve and will usually provoke a better response. Hits from small schoolies are often difficult to convert but with bigger fish you will often get an initial ‘knock’ before the hit.
If you are not catching, and think you should be, change your fly, try working a different depth or vary your retrieve – don’t forget bass will hit surface-fished poppers as well as sandeel imitations and Clousers.
Remember that the current shore caught record bass is 19lb 11oz 12dr – that is one huge fish and, despite the concern for the long-term future of the species, there are still monsters out there waiting to be caught, often in the most unlikely of areas.
And, if you want a headstart to your bass fishing, don’t forget we run courses out of Chichester Harbour throughout the summer with dates still available throughout August. View our bass fishing days page for further information and booking.