The average lure anglers approach to a very challenging date in any lure anglers diary… 

On Saturday 25th September, Mrs B and I headed to Cornwall. We generally go away in the camper van at this time of year as it ties in with my birthday and our wedding anniversary. Yes… the last day of the Cornish Lure Festival, Oct 03rd, was our wedding anniversary!

So, we made a compromise as we headed Cornwall bound. Our first stop was Widemouth Bay in north Cornwall, to check on the water clarity and weed situation. I’m a keen surf angler and this was one of our closest stops. Being in holiday mode, we parked up for the night overlooking the bay and opened some wine. The clarity was milty with suspended sand in the break zone, but with some tasty sets of about 4ft hitting regularly. 

The following morning we stopped off at an old friends, Nicholas Tops, for a coffee and a catch up. Many will know of Nicholas as an excellent bass angler, both with lure and bait. The talk soon turned to the week ahead, with the weather and surf forecasts influencing the possible tactics we exchanged, formulating a strategy for the coming days. 

As per usual, it was going to be a challenge. Big surf was forecast to be hitting the north coast on the run up to the event and extending into the weekend as it kicked off, potentially making the north coast a complete no go, with clarity and weed becoming major issues. Even so, I remained keen to check out some new ground I’d been keenly looking at on Google Earth, and whether it be for this time or next, it needed a look in person.

Cornwall is well know for big wrasse, but they wouldn't count for anything this week

With a couple of days set aside for site seeing, some fine dining and drinking, there was also some time to catch up with some more friends and chew the fat over the possibilities for the weekend. We found ourselves picking up with Dave Gundry, covering a few more options on marks to fish. This included a bit of out the box thinking, as the ever changing weather really gets you thinking and second guessing. 

On Wednesday, it was time to call into Lizard Bait and Tackle on the south coast, where I was greeted by Tony Portas, whom most will know of as the owner of this Aladdin’s cave of goodies! It’s an incredibly well stocked shop to say the least. After filling my arms with plenty of new lures, as you do, Tony and I got chatting away.

Tony was incredibly helpful, with some up to date information on a mark that had been producing the goods lately; albeit this was from a small boat casting towards the shore, with no certainty on access from the shore itself… It was, however, noted and one worthy of a little exploration. 

The Thursday was my birthday, and that night saw us enjoy a fantastic meal at Woogies in Torpoint. The chef, and owner, is one Amber Lau, an incredibly keen bass lure angler herself. She was somewhat gutted to be missing the event, but this was owing to this brilliant new business venture which we highly recommend visiting. 

The stunning backdrops paint a picture of the leg work we'd be in for accessing marks...

This had all bought us to the key date, Friday 01st October, the kick off for the Cornish Lure Festival 2021, hosted by the Art of Fishing in Wadebridge. 

I met up with my wingman for the event, Craig Evans, who we have developed a great friendship with through the sport over the past few years, and with the sign in at 12pm, we were both chomping at the bit to get going. By 12:15 we were out of the door, in the car and heading south, for a full 1 hour and 35 minutes to arrive at our first destination…

We arrived at a church with a car park, that Tony Portas had mentioned to park up by. We were buzzing with the excitement that always comes with the start of such an event. The weather was holding out, with a stiff breeze off of our backs as we hit the coast path and ventured further south, surveying the waters below that appeared of good clarity with very little sign of any troublesome weed. 

After 10 minutes or so of walking, we could spot a small reef below us. Was this one of the marks the boats were casting to? “Let’s do it” I said, spotting an old dried out waterfall path, that with a bit of careful following, took us down to sea level within about 10 minutes of scrambling. Unfortunately, half an hour of relentless lure casting yielded just one very small bass and a small pollack to show for our efforts, thus it was time to move on. 

Plenty of bass were wolfing down sandeel patterns all weekend, but few of the desired size

What took 10 minutes to get down naturally took 20 to get back up! Then after a little further venture along the coast path we clocked some serious looking reef below, the only problem was, there was little apparent way of getting down to it. I’m pretty used to climbing down to marks in Pembrokeshire, but this was going to be on a whole new level if we were to manage it. 

We spent 40 minutes of exploring various routes before coming across signs of a very old path, long since overgrown, and ‘path’ was probably too generous a word even before it was this overgrown. It was horrible. It was almost vertical in places, with a mix of gorse, hawthorn and bramble to contend with it was also a pair of waders worst nightmare!

We hadn’t come this far to be defeated though. After 20 minutes of slipping, sliding, cursing and sweating, we were on a rock mark overlooking the reef! There were many a swirl in front of us and evidently bait fish being smashed, so we got fishing immediately! Our lures were smashed as quick as the bait fish… by gar, after gar, after gar! 

Not getting too disheartened, we remained confident in the ground and the activity, and sure enough as the tide dropped and allowed us access to another section of reef, we were finally hitting into bass, a hit every cast in fact! There were an endless number of sub 50cm fish hitting anything of a sand eel pattern presented on a jig head. 

A change to a patch produced a better fish

Looking for something a little bigger, I switched up to a Patch 125 in 500G, instantly getting follows and swirls behind the lure. On the 3rd time of covering the same area, the fish committed a bit more and I was in, soon landing a slightly better bass at 52cm. 

As I continued to change up the lures in search of a better specimen, a few chunky wrasse and pollack threw themselves into the mix, but with dark setting in and knowing we had one hell of a scramble back up to the coast path we made the safe choice to call it a day and make the climb whilst we still had some daylight on our side. Around 2 hours later we had got back to our digs ready to assess Saturday’s game plan. 

With the winds changing direction by the hour, we knew it would be a gamble, but we opted for returning to the same mark. On arriving, we had decided to get cut off by the tide, which in the torrential rain and slight southerly wind was pretty damn uncomfortable to say the least! However, first cast I was into another slightly better feeling fish and I was soon shouting over to Craig that it was 50cm. 

It again proved to be absolute non-stop action. I wasn’t counting, but must have landed at least 10 bass in the first hour. Craig was also getting a few, but being hounded by wrasse. After a couple of hours the rain had eased off but the fish gladly kept coming, just a little more sporadic than the consistency of the first hour. With the ebb having fished better the prior day, we felt the best was still to come. 

Day 2 started well with a quick 50 on the board

Craig had spotted some really decent bass the day before, so we had a feeling it was only a matter of time before we would hook into something of a bigger stamp. Unfortunately, this just didn’t happen. A whole 6 hours of chucking lures saw us just wishing the tide out for the final 2 hours, so that we could get back to land and make that horrible scramble to freedom. 

Don’t get me wrong… We had over 50 or 60 bass between us at this point, along with some very hard fighting wrasse (the wrasse cup going to Craig who kept them entertained)… We just couldn’t get that bigger specimen we longed for. 

On arriving back at the car, we discovered the key had got wet and wouldn’t unlock the car! What a nightmare! Darkness was now hitting and the AA were advising it would be at least 2 hours to get out to us, following which we would have out 1 and a half hour drive, cold and wet! Fortunately, we managed to get the key apart and dry it out enough to work! Whilst driving back north and picking up signal, a few messages and phone calls came through that made it appear we had actually been doing quite well!

There were plenty of wrasse - Great sport if not catching them during a bass competition

We heard of a 71cm caught on the Friday, whilst Andy Davies had caught a fish of 53cm along with lots of the same sort of stamp of fish we were catching. Sean Jukes, fishing with Andy, told the same story. Nicholas Tops had been struggling, which came as a surprise, and a message from Charlie Garland simply said ‘just found a couple’. For Charlie to say this, I assumed them to be decent fish. 

Onto the Sunday… the last chance saloon, a 5am alarm had been set. We had decided to pick away at a north coast surf mark… but, the alarm hadn’t gone off. It was 8am, a coffee and off running! 

As we hit the mark, it was gusting enough to take you off your feet at times. 35g seekers were just about going 30 yards at the most and the sea was like a cabbage soup! News was in, however, that Andy Davies had just had a 67cm fish! A very good fish indeed!

We gave it an hour, in vain hope of improving conditions, but we soon knew it wasn’t worth carrying on. We returned to our digs for a long overdue shower, a set of clean clothes (to the delight of our wives) and hunted out a cooked breakfast. 

This gives some idea of the terrain we had to clamber up and down to get to the day 1 and 2 mark

Ahead of the 1pm cut off, we got ourselves back to the Art of Fishing, and I was the first to get a fish on the board with my best bass of 52cm, accompanied by one of 50cm and one of 49cm. 

Pete Williams arrived and recorded his excellent 71cm bass, followed by Charlie Garland, with a 66cm and 64cm fish – those couple were decent after all! 

Another visiting angler, Richard Lane, also recorded a 52cm bass and with just two minutes to go to the cut off, Charlie Garland pointed out to me that I was sat on the longest three fish, I was shocked, but couldn’t take this knowing Andy was on route and that he had smashed mine. Fortunately Andy arrived just in time before the cut off, recording two fish of 53.5cm each and his bigger specimen of 67cm. 

A nice bass making short work of a mackerel coloured soft eel

Even if Andy had of been late, there was no way on earth I could have taken it. It would have felt stolen, not won, already knowing what Andy had caught. 

The final results were soon confirmed, to bring to an end an incredibly well organised and run competition, that put everyone to the test. 

'One last cast before dark'

In 1st place, with the longest bass, was Pete Williams with his 71cm fish. Well done again Pete!

In 2nd place, with the second longest bass, was Andy Davies with his cracking final day fish of 67cm. Great effort till the end Andy!

In 3rd place, with the third longest bass was Charlie Garland, with his biggest fish of 66cm. Well fished Charlie!

The prize for best accumulated length of 3 fish went to Andy Davies, with his sterling effort giving him 174cm. 

This left the visitors prize, for the longest bass by a visiting angler (not already in the prizes). I was rather taken aback to jointly claim this alongside Richard Lane, each of us with a 52cm bass. Well done Richard, a pleasure to share this with you. 

Thanks once again to the Art of Fishing for such a great event, that should be in every lure anglers diary. I look forward to doing it again.

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