With the current travel restrictions and difficulties over the last year due to COVID, overseas fishing trips have been put on hold for most of us. However, living in Switzerland I have been fortunate enough to get away and make a few fun bass fishing trips to Portugal whilst visiting my mother this year.
It certainly hasn’t been easy arranging them between lockdowns and quarantine restrictions, but fortunately I did manage to get over a few times and this was enough to keep my fishing spirits high.
It’s actually been a blessing in disguise, as not only do I get the opportunity to spend some quality time with my mum, but also a chance to get back to the type of fishing I’ve always loved, and where it all started for me nearly 30 years ago, rock hopping up and down the wild coasts of Portugal in search of bass.
For me, it’s not just about targeting big bass, as any bass that hits my lure gives me a real kick! It’s more about being out in the nature and elements whatever the weather! Over the past few trips I’ve certainly had my fair share of very windy days, but this just makes the perfect calmer conditions all that much sweeter when they finally come around!
After an exceptionally good summer, landing two nice double figure bass, and an exciting autumn trip where I was again lucky enough to hook another two doubles after a big thunder storm, I was wondering how I would fair on a short New Years trip. With family commitments at home, only a short stay would be possible.
Just one week before my departure, a trip to Portugal was not looking likely, as strict quarantine regulations had been put in place. So when the quarantine mandate was suddenly lifted, It was just a case of my wife giving it the OK.
Initially the wave forecast was looking promising and I was looking forward to fishing some favourable conditions.
So when, just a few days before my flight I checked the magic seaweed surf report again, I was disappointed to see a far off storm developing that would be sending 4-5 meters of swell and winds my way!
With a smooth journey over I arrived around midnight in Portugal and It wasn’t long before I had collected my hire car and was motoring down to the beautiful west coast. With the storm fast approaching I was hoping to get out early before it hit and cast a few lures.
Upon arriving it was clear that the swells were well on the way and already getting up to over 2 meters, with 4-5 meter waves by nightfall. In these conditions you need to be extra careful as the chance of large freak waves is much greater.
I headed for a more sheltered west coast spot, and was more than happy to get off the mark with a nice little bass before I had to leave. With swells increasing fast I headed to the south west coast where smaller lines of swell were already starting to wrap around the headlands.
Fishing the south coast is a completely different experience, and the calmer conditions make for more relaxing and enjoyable fishing with a chance to use smaller lighter lures. The first session, although fun, was very quiet, and apart from a small spotted bass saving me from a blank I didn’t come across any other bass whilst fishing at this old favourite mark!
I decided to head out early the next morning, once again down to the calmer south coast to another spot I had often fished around 20 plus years ago that had accounted for some nice bass in the past.
On arrival I noticed the swell had increased and the conditions were looking great! I was already wondering how the spot would compare to the earlier days and I couldn’t wait to cast some of the smaller lighter lures out!
Fishing the majority of the time up on the west coast, it’s always a nice change to fish lighter easier conditions, and although the fishing started slow I was just happy to be fishing this spot and relaxing in the sense of safety I get fishing the south coast and just enjoying the moment.
As the sun came up revealing clear skies, I still had a good feeling that conditions were good and a bass was definitely a possibility. I clipped on a small 7cm 15g Sub Tweak Bait which looked an ideal choice over the boulders and reef.
Soon after, slowly retrieving the lure over some boulders along the point I was fishing, I was stoked to see that this place still held some fish! After seeing some birds feeding just offshore, I headed down a few hundred meters and stuck on a 49g fast sink tweak mullet to get out a bit further.
It wasn’t long before I was into another nice bass, but little did I know this one would cause an abrupt ending to my mornings fishing. Whilst holding up the bass for a quick picture, it jumped clear of my hands. As I reached out to stop it hitting the ground I felt the sharp trebles of the fast sink tweak bait sink even faster into my hand! For the first moments I was hoping it hadn’t gone past the barb, but this not being the first time, I soon realised this hook wouldn’t be coming out as easily as it had gone in…
Disappointed not to be able to continue, on what had been a lovely mornings fishing, I tried hard to pull the hook free. Unfortunately it was in deep and I was going to have to pack up and sort my hand out. In this situation you have two possibilities. Go down to the A and E and get it removed, which I wanted to avoid, or the other way, if it’s possible, is to push the hook through exposing the barb and snipping it off allowing you to pull the hook back out.
Yes, many people will be thinking, crush your barbs, or take the lure out off the fishes mouth for the picture, but I am aware of the risks when fishing with barbed hooks and as always will try to be more careful in the future! Fortunately it was possible to push the hook through, and it wasn’t long before I had it out of my hand and could go and visit the local tackle shop and pick up a few supplies.
With the west coast still raging, I decided for more of the same and headed back out early the next morning for another enjoyable mornings fishing. Once again, fishing started slow, but I did have that feeling you get when you just know a bass could hit your lure at any moment!
Sure enough a little schoolie soon obliged and I was off the mark. My next cast resulted in a better sized bass, this one again taking the little 15g airbrushed Tweak Bait.
With the sun now up high, and the tide pushing up fast, the conditions were deteriorating. I spotted some birds working further down the coast and decided to give it another 20 minutes before heading off. It was well worth the walk as I was able to hook into another bass, this time on the fast sink version of the tweak allowing me to cast out a bit further!
I had enjoyed the two mornings fishing the south coast but was now looking forward to seeing what conditions on the west coast would be like now the swells were calming down. The internet wave reports are extremely helpful and generally accurate, but I decided to get a first hand view of water colour and wave size and headed up to the west coast to check it out.
The west coast tracks are very rough and rocky, and Instead of a quick sunset fish, I ended up with a flat tyre as a rock sliced through the side of my rear tyre ruining it beyond repair…
Early the next morning I decided to take the risk and headed up the west coast without a spare wheel so I could take advantage of the dropping swell. The tyre would have to wait until the afternoon.
The mornings were chilly, with clear skies, but with the water colour looking good, I was excited to finally get a chance to fish again up on the west coast. In the winter, weeks can pass by without any opportunities to fish this coastline, so I didn’t want to miss out on this window.
Yet again, the early morning was quiet with just one hit on the gold airbrushed tweak bait. I fished as many marks as I could with the dropping tide, and managed to hop out to a few rocks that looked very promising. I had been really looking forward to using the enticer minnow new airbrushed mullet. It’s a lure I’ve had a lot of success with over the last few years and I was sure the mullet colour would be a great addition to the range.
Sending it out as far as possible over the rocky grounds, I worked it splashing between the surface and just below hoping to tempt any bass that could be around through the disturbance. It’s always an advantage to be able to reach out far and cover a lot of ground, but on this occasion the hit came around halfway in over some submerged boulders.
I did my best to keep it away from the sharp reef and used the big set of waves to bring it over the rocks out in front of me and soon landed a nice 11lb plus bass!
I had no more action that morning but was more than happy with how it had gone, and headed back up to Faro to sort out a new wheel with my thoughts set on tomorrow mornings last session before I had to go.
I woke early the next morning planning to hit a couple of spots at first light. It really was a chilly morning with ice on the windows, but the forecast was good and I couldn’t wait to get out and throw some more lures.
Now on a different location with lovely looking conditions, I decided to clip on a Stealth Glide which I like to work slowly over shallow reef early morning or as the sun goes down.
It only takes one bass to make a session and, as soon as the bass hit the lure and I felt the weight I had a good idea I was onto the biggest bass I had connected with in a very long time.
Not all big bass put up a great fight, but this one did not want to come in and gave me a tremendous battle and a few anxious moments!
As I scrambled down the rocks to grab the fish, a wave set covered over me momentarily, taking the fish back. Fortunately, I managed to grab its tail before the lure popped out, and I held up my long awaited prize for a nice picture!
At 18lb it was not quite a PB, but certainly the biggest bass I had landed in a long time!
As I made my way home I knew I wouldn’t be fishing for a while, and decided to check out one last spot further along the coast. By now, the sun was getting high, but with clear blue skies it was just a pleasure to be out fishing.
With low tide and small waves, I decided to work some of the lighter smaller profile lures, especially as the sun was up high now and I needed something more subtle. It was also the first opportunity I had to test the new 21g bomb. I had managed to hook a nice double on the 30g version during the summer and knew the smaller profile would be ideal in calmer conditions.
I didn’t imagine the day could get much better, but when I saw another big bass follow the Bomb splashing across the surface, and felt the line go tight, I knew I wouldn’t forget this day in a hurry! I first needed to negotiate the bass around a large rock between us before I could land it on the shallow reef.
Another 11lb plus bass was soon landed as a perfect end to the trip where, for first time, I had caught three double figure bass in a row and all at different locations! It’s been a strange year fishing between all the lockdowns and restrictions, and although I’ve not been able to get away to warmer climates to fish, 2020 has certainly been a year to remember!