With over 25 years experience fishing for bass (and still learning), I would have to say my favourite places to fish and my favourite conditions to fish in are over rocky ground while there is some surf (or current) running. Over rough broken ground areas, bass can be present at all times from flat calm conditions right through to heavy swell. Many anglers, however, tend to overlook the bigger surf days, when the fishing can be outstanding. That is not to say that smaller seas can’t be equally as productive – and they are generally safer to fish in, allowing you to access more spots. But rough seas can be more fishable than they look and by not taking them on, you could be missing a lot of fish. So, if you’re new to lure fishing for bass in more turbulent seas, here are a few tips I’ve put together that I hope will help you pluck out some fish from the surf!
Surf conditions make it easy for the bass to move into very shallow water, where they can typically be caught right in the zone where the waves are breaking. Bass are excellent swimmers and can drift through powerful surf, picking off weaker prey items unable to resist the turbulence. I’m never surprised now at just how rough a sea you can hook up with a big bass in! I have found that when bass are present, they will often hunt around areas of white water either waiting to ambush bait fish or searching out food under the cover of the waves. This is also the area various other forms of marine life can be feeding, making it a perfect hunting ground. In these conditions, it’s quite possible to catch bass throughout the day, although mornings and evenings are generally the most productive times.
One of the key differences between lure fishing and bait fishing is in the amount of ground you can cover. Good bait fishermen are often experts in knowing which gutters to put the bait out into, having long established the bass’ patrol routes and knowing what state of tide they are likely to be present at. With lure fishing, you also build a good knowledge of spots that could hold bass but, because your cast times are that much shorter, you also have the option of running your lures over a wider range of ground. The bonus is that you can do this without much risk of missing passing fish snooping around the banker spots. Of course, it’s a good idea to always make sure that you’re putting a greater percentage of casts over those proven spots that tend to produce the bulk of the fish though. If a spot looks okay but has not been so productive over the years, I will always give it a cast or two, just in case, but I always put more time in on the proven marks. After all, fish are creatures of habit and these habits are maintained year after year. If the hot spots are not working, again, I find it better to move on covering more ground and perhaps giving it another go a little later at a different state of the tide.
Over the years I’ve caught bass anywhere from right under my feet to as far out as I can reach with a lure. Naturally, getting the lure out a good distance is half the battle in bigger swells and there’s often a wind to contend with too. For that reason, using rods, reels, line and lures that can cast a good distance will only increase your chances of covering the water effectively and optimising your catches.
It’s very important to cover shallow areas (depths of, say, 20-80cm) with at least a few casts, as these are ideal hunting grounds for bass, especially with the cover of the breaking waves. Another effective method is to cast parallel to the beach, working the zone where the waves are breaking and also into the white water in front. This allows you to cover a lot more ground in the prime feeding zone where the bass are most likely to be. In heavy seas, it’s a good idea to focus on areas with rocks acting as a natural breakwater, allowing the bass to sit behind them without getting continually pounded by the waves. I have found spots like this certainly have a better chance of holding bass and they will be sat there, just waiting for your lure to flash by them. Another feature I look for, especially in the winter, is an area with a deeper channel allowing fish to come right in even with big waves.
Obviously in these situations, extra caution needs to be taken and I always make sure that I’m wearing a flotation device. This will not only help if you get washed in but can also offer you some protection against the rocks should you fall. The standard safety advice such as wearing suitable footwear and never turning your back to the sea all very much apply in these high energy surf situations. It’s always worth watching the sea for a while before starting to fish too. This will help you get an idea of the rhythm of the swell and when the bigger waves are coming through.
After spending many hours lure fishing in a wide range of different areas, you will build up a better feel for which spots hold fish and in what conditions.
I certainly have spots that are ideal on smaller, flatter days, as well as marks that really need some swell to be at their best. It’s horses for courses and only by getting out there and doing a bit of searching will you find patterns that you can start to use to hone your fishing and spend your time more efficiently.
I hope these tips help if you’re just getting started with lure fishing, particularly if you are intrigued by the idea of targeting bass in bigger surf conditions. This is a challenging form of angling but it’s a pretty unique prospect in UK saltwater fishing. There really aren’t any other species that can be regularly targeted in these shallow, high energy environments with lures around our shores. The excitement of hooking a good fish in these kinds of situations and the thrill of the battle are second to none and will leave you wanting more.