Sea-Bass Baits and Fishing Tackle
Baits forfor bass are thus fairly numerous. The bass fisherman’s choice will depend on the kind of context in which he is fishing, the time of year, and the time of day (or night). Let us consider the best of them (in alphabetical order, not in order of efficiency).
I have had my best results with crab fishing near or among rocks where crabs may be found. This is not to say that crabs won’t take bass fished in the middle of a sandy bay, but while in this latter context they are not specially effective, they certainly are in the former. As most sea anglers know, crabs periodically outgrow their carapaces and then shed them and grow new ones. Before the old shell is cast, a new one, very soft as yet, forms underneath. This is the ‘peeler’ stage. Peelers are detected by gently pulling and twisting the lowest segment of one of the crab’s legs. If the hard outer casing comes away, leaving the coloured flesh of the leg itself, the crab is a peeler. If the segment breaks off entirely and cleanly, the crab is a hard-back.
When the carapace is shed naturally, the crab is quite soft for a short time; during this period it hides under a stone or in a rock crevice, where it is sought by the angler. The degree of softness will vary, of course; in my locality we grade them from ‘jellies’ to `crispies’. Peelers have to be peeled, naturally, before they are used on the hook. Some anglers prefer a single-hook mounting for crabs, the bait being secured by a few twists of elasticated thread around it, while others use a treble hook so that the shank is pushed up through the crab itself. Then again there is a patent double crab hook which I am not altogether happy about myself since it seems to give too much of a margin of error in the strike.
In my experience, crabs are most effective for bass in fairly calm conditions when the fish are nosing about the rocks looking for what they can find. It should be noted that bass, especially big bass, often pick up a crab very delicately and nose it before moving off with it. It pays therefore to use a free-runningso that the bass can move away feeling only a minimum of resistance.
It is vital that the rod should be held in the hand, so that as soon as the first tap is felt, the rod top can be lowered and slack line given.
Once the bass moves away confidently, an equally confident strike can be made.
These are widely used by bass fishermen. They are effective enough for small bass when fished on to sand or mud, but, although bigger fish sometimes take them, I feel that they are chiefly to be regarded as a second-string bait. I have found them to be more effective at night than in daylight fishing.
Mackerel and Herrings
These have accounted for some very big bass, especially in the autumn. Half a herring is by no means too small a bait for a good bass and the long fillet from the side of a mackerel is effective also. Small cuttings of fish bring little success.
A very killing bait, especially in daylight.
When they are inshore in large numbers these provide deadly bass bait. (For our present purposes, cuttlefish can be considered under the same head.) In fact, in these circumstances, big bass will scarcely look at anything else. A squid cutting has several advantages as a bait : it is attractive to the fish, it can (these days) be fairly easily obtained, and it is a very firm bait that will stand up to vigorous casting.
Razor-fish and Clams
Excellent bait fished over sand. Like king rag, they are especially effective in daylight.
Small fish of various kinds will take bass legered dead on the bottom. I have a distinct preference for the little three-bearded rockling that can be found in rock pools. Blennies and gobies, in my experience, are not so effective.
Among miscellaneous baits, prawns, and sand-eels are better float-fished or used from a boat or projection on a drift-line. A useful bait is a small FLOUNDER of the kind that is often marooned in sand pools or can be scooped up in shallow estuaries. Many bass that I have opened, especially in the late autumn, have contained them.
Before leaving the subject of baits for bass, I should like to underline the efficacy of using a bait which is either unknown to, or unused by, the locals. This does not apply, for instance, to a rocky area which is clearly made for crab fishing; but the introduction of razor-fish or ragworm on a beach where they were previously unknown as bait is sometimes a killing tactic.
Most bass taken along the British coast are victims of legering in one form or another, but the variety of contexts in which they are taken makes it difficult to generalize. Ideally, the bass fisherman would be equipped with a variety of tackle, but most of us are compelled to compromise. Let me begin then by describing tackle that will be satisfactory in most situations.
What is expected from a legering rod for bass fishing? Its first function is to throw a bait and a lead as far as possible. In most shore-fishing circumstances, distance casting is not required; bass may be taken within a few metres of the shore. But on many occasions, also, the bass may be feeding very far out, a hundred metres or more in storm beach conditions. Unless the bass fisherman is capable of using tackle that allows of a hundred-metres-plus cast he is often under a severe handicap. Sometimes even a few metres extra distance is all important when, for example, the angler does not happen to be equipped with chest waders, which would give him the extra metres necessary to drop the bait just beyond where the bass are feeding.
A 3.3 m (11 ft) rod with a 90 cm (3 ft) butt, made of hollow glass-fibre, will be at its best throwing a 75 g (3 oz) weight, though at a pinch it will throw 100 g (4 oz). With it I suggest you rise an American surf-casting multiplier of the kind that can be put out of gear so that a cast can be made on free spool. For a variety of reasons it is best to use a monofilament nylon line of about 9 kg (20 lb); heavier line is unnecessary, and line much lighter than this is liable to part under the shock loading which sometimes comes about if there is a check to the cast.
As far as hooks go, it is clearly vital that they be very sharp and fine in the wire; very often a strike has to be made when there is a distance of more than a hundred metres between fisherman and bass. For the last few years I have used only those eyed hooks that are sold for tying low-water salmon flies. They are expensive but very efficient. There is a multiplicity of shapes in which leads are available to the sea fisherman, but in legering there is no need for more than two (in various sizes, of course). The first is the simple bomb weight for running free above the, the other the torpedo lead with wire grips for use in very strong tides, or when the sea is very rough