One of the most sought after fish for sea anglers is the mighty bass. These sporting fish tick all the boxes for the angler; powerful, beautiful and tasty too. In recent years the Bass population has been fluctuating up and down in different locations along the Irish coastline and are now being caught on marks which were once thought to be barren areas for bass. With this in mind there is a lot more exploring going on by anglers, especially on the North and West coasts and with some fine fish being located along the way.
Once an angler locates a newly found bass haunt, the angler will try the best that they can to keep it quiet whilst also letting you know that they have caught a bass!
The rules and regulations of keeping bass in Ireland change every so often so it is best to check it out online on the IFI website before deciding to take one for the pot. At the moment the legal keep length must be over 42cm from head to tail and a bag limit of two fish per angler is allowed.
There are many different ways and methods to fish for Bass including lure fishing, fly fishing and bait fishing. The weather lately meant it would be the latter that would be the focus of our attentions.
After years on the hunt for bass and learning the right weather conditions, fish movements, the time of year and tides a couple of us seem to have got the finger on the pulse of some local marks. When all of these factors are put together this can lead to some incredible fishing.
There had been some chat lately about weather and tides aligning so the gear and traces were readied in anticipation. Then the phone call was made coming home from work, “any plans tonight? I’m thinking bass!” On the other end of the line a voice that was eager, but not confident, agreed and the decision was made to give it a few hours. A quick bite to eat, gear thrown in the car and a pit stop for bait we were on our way.
The tide was dropping when we arrived at our venue and the sea was flat calm. Not ideal, and unusual as the storm beach usually has 3 or 4 sets of rolling thundering waves. Baits were out by 8 o clock just as darkness fell. The beautiful amber Autumn sky was clear as the sun set behind the rods of the west facing beach.
Each rod was loaded with two hook flappers with a cocktail of baits to see what was catching. On the West coast of Ireland fish baits are a must when fishing for these fish. Freshly dug sandeel are a huge benefit when trying to tempt the predator that is already munching on these as they get thrown around in the surf, especially later in the year when the baitfish are in numbers. So with this in mind we spent half an hour with the fork and gathered enough sandeel for our session. Also in our arsenal were crab , ragworm and lugworm.
When fishing beaches and targeting a certain species it can be difficult to wiggle out the right one but with perseverance we were hopeful to get at least one bass for our efforts. First fish of the night fell to Mark with a signature tap tap slack bite. Not a bass but a lovely fat 35cm flounder broke the surface, still a great start with a nice sized fish. Then, like always, without warning and interrupting an in depth conversation (that I can no longer remember) my rod started dancing as I lifted into something more lively “bass on” I yelped as a bar of silver appeared running in line with the beach. Gently playing and landing the fish up the beach it was the first bass of the session. Measuring in at 47cm a quick pic and congratulatory handshake later, the fish was released.
The mood had changed and the silence between the two of us was enough to know we are not here to play games, but to catch bass. Mark was the next to hook into another fish and with a solid weight at the end of the line a trusty dogfish broke the surface. A welcoming sight to a match angler but a nuisance to a bass angler.
The night grew longer and the skies larger as the stars flickered above, when all of a sudden Mark’s rod got lifted off the rod stand… a big fish had hit his bait but unfortunately and painfully never hooked up!
Some choice language followed but all hope was not lost when he hooked into another fish moments later. “Fish on” was screamed as we made our way to the waters edge. A flash of silver was seen through the suds as our hearts stopped momentarily and it was evidently another bass. He was smiling ear to ear as it was his first ever bass. Mark was delighted with a beautiful 43cm bar of silver. These were not huge fish but considering they have been absent from our area for 20 years they may as well have been ten times the size.
We were feeling very happy with ourselves as all the homework had paid off when simultaneously both rods bent over and we were both into fish! Chaotic laughter broke out as we were crossing lines as both our fish ran in opposite directions when we both landed a bass, who would’ve believed it? A double hook up on the West coast. Measuring 42cm and 51cm respectively, these two fish were a very welcome sight.
As slack water approached an odd flounder and dogfish were keeping us busy before the tide turned. With the incoming tide, sea weed was pushing in so a last cast shout was made as a cold fog creeped in around our necks and down our fingers. I noticed a slack line on my own rod and decided to tighten up the reel as it was only cast out a few minutes prior, I couldn’t meet with the weight so I lifted the rod out of the stand and as doing so, my rod took off as I connected with a fish “here we go again” as I knew I was into a better fish.
Jumping out of the waves with sudden darts of energy the fish knew he was hooked and tried everything to shake loose, with aggressive head bangs like that seen at a music festival! The fish tired out after a short play and landed. This was the best fish of the night measuring 55cm and with bait levels severely depleted, it was sadly also the last fish of the night. A last and final picture was taken as we packed up for the evening to try and make it to a chipper before closing!
While we sat munching away on the chips we reflected on what had been a superb session for us. On the night we had plenty of flounders to over 1lb and dogs too but to have managed five bass really was the cream on top. Its a great feeling to have the effort rewarded and fair to say we will most definitely be back again.