Lure fishing for bass in Wales during the winter months is never easy, but they are almost certainly still there and having caught a bass in early December 2020 I was determined to fish throughout the winter months. Coronavirus restriction have made angling difficult, along with life in general, but luckily living in Pembrokeshire, west Wales this means that I am not far away from a variety of venues (estuaries, surf beaches and open coastline).
After a few trips up the Cleddau I realised that the relentless storms and heavy rain had rendered the estuary dark brown in colour and exceedingly difficult to fish. Similarly, some of my more productive rock marks were beyond quiet and with zero action at these marks I decided to try my luck at a local surf beach not too far from my home. Having surfed this beach plenty of times and knowing the layout well I knew exactly where I wanted to focus my attention, and this is an area parallel to some prominent features and a reef with a powerful rip current. Having changed the treble hooks on my metals to singles I was eager to get that first cast out having caught my last bass of 2020 at this exact spot, albeit it being a small bass.
After a few casts I was hit by what felt like a small fish and within seconds of me thinking I was about to land my first bass of 2021 it had come off and left me somewhat confused as to how this had happened. I continued to fish with the wind and surf blasting me in the face, determined that the fish were there and that I was going to catch them. I did not have to wait long for that next fish to hit my lure and after a tussle which lasted a little longer than the first it also came off and, to say I had become frustrated is an understatement. Shortly after I opted for a quick tea break, which I had decided to take not just owing to my hands becoming numb from the cold, but also to collect myself and shake off the usual disappointment losing a fish brings to an angler. It’s important not to let it lead to a loss of focus and effort.
I resumed my fishing and within less than five casts using the Surf Seeker, a very popular choice with surf anglers… BANG! A fish had hit the lure. This felt like a sizeable fish and by the bend in the rod and the line that was coming off my reel I knew I had something decent on the end of my line. I battled with the fish for a couple of minutes and made the mistake of playing around with my drag, causing slackness in the line.
Before I knew it, everything had gone quiet and even the thunderous surf and 30mph + winds seemed to fall silent as I realised, I had lost another fish. That feeling you get after losing what you know to be a good fish is well known throughout the angling community and trust me, I was feeling this in droves. I later lost another small fish toward the end of the session, but this did not matter as I was solely thinking of the third fish I had lost. Losing schoolies is easily taken, losing a sizeable fish at the time of year where opportunities will be few and far between is a very different pill to swallow.
After a few quiet sessions at this venue, I returned when the conditions seemed to be favourable and I had brought a long some prototype metals that a friend (Sean Stevenson) of mine had made. I have great confidence in his lures and his Stevenson’s Eel landed me my PB in 2020 along with plenty of other decent bass. I cast the small black metal out two to three times and not only did it cast astonishingly well, it also felt great as it cut through the heavy surf.
I felt good going into this session and this beach and specifically this area of the beach is going to be my go-to surf fishing spot for the upcoming season. Anyway, once I was a few casts in and the tide had just started to reach the high water mark, it happened. A fish hit the lure with a ferocity and an energy I had not felt for a while!
I immediately started to go through my game plan and began reeling line in while the drag was set perfectly to allow the fish some line which it was now taking in abundance. I began walking backwards out of the water and kept the rod tip up and made sure there was tension on the line. This went on for what seemed like hours but in fact lasted no more than 5-6 minutes.
Suddenly, the thumps and head shakes had stopped, and there was no longer any line coming off the reel. I looked at my mainline and realised to my horror that the fish had gone into an area to my left which comprises of boulders, an area of reef, large rocks and deep gullies. I was snagged!
I quickly thought of ways in which I could solve this problem. I lowered my rod tip to take the pressure off the line in the hopes that the fish would bolt toward the open water or at least out of the snag. Nothing!
I did this several times and even released the bail arm to encourage the fish to make a break for it. The fish was gone and after luckily removing my lure from the snag, a small silver lining, I realised I had lost a fish but not just any fish, I had lost a very decent fish once more!
No bass for 2021 just yet, but I will have to settle for the beautiful pollock I caught recently at a deep-water mark. During these difficult times fishing is a great distraction from the chaos that we see around us and, despite my bad luck of late, I would rather be stood in the surf freezing cold in my wetsuit with my fishing rod in hand immersed in nature on the rugged west Wales coastline, going toe to toe with a wily bass, than anywhere else in the world.
Bass 5 Jonathan 0.