Sea-Bass Fishing Methods: Legering Techniques
The basic aim of the sea angler must be to put the bait where it will be discovered by the bass. On a shallow storm beach the fish will probably be working the line of the outermost breaker, and this, as we have seen, will entail a long cast. If the sea is very rough it will not be possible to use a running; a fixed lead will have to be used at the bottom of the trace, with wire grips if necessary. The bait or baits will then be fished style on short links (long links, in stormy conditions, have an unhappy habit of tangling with the main line).
At the other extreme, on a quiet lee beach where there may be scattered areas of weedy stones, a light running leger can be employed; the bomb-shaped lead runs freely on the line above a stoppingand below the swivel there is a trace of a few feet ending at the hook.
Whichever way ofis adopted, however, it is of vital importance that the rod be held in the hand. Bass hit very sharply sometimes, and if the rod is in a rest there is a good chance that the strike will miss the fish. Bass bites vary, of course. School bass hit with an exciting rattle, but the bigger ones sometimes give no more than a gentle pluck, or even pick up the bait and move in towards the angler.
Playing a bass in the surf presents one or two problems if the fish is a good one, say over 3 or 3.5 kg (6 or 7 lb). There are two danger periods. The first comes when the bass decides to head directly towards the fisherman. It is of the greatest importance that contact with the fish be maintained, otherwise slack line may allow the hook to fall out; no reel yet made will retrieve line fast enough to keep up with a determined bass. What the angler has to do is to use the beach for manoeuvre, retreating up it, running backwards if necessary, and winding at the same time. The second danger point is when the fish reaches very shallow water, when it may start kicking and floundering in a highly hazardous way. The presence of a companion who canor net the fish is a great blessing at this point. If you are alone, try not to jerk at the fish but, if it is small enough, beach it with a steady motion. If it is a big fish that cannot be beached without hazard to the tackle, wade in and get on the seaward side of it before using gaff or net. Incidentally, the gaff is a much more reliable instrument in very shallow water.
Most anglers who fish the surf for bass are content merely to fish the tide in and regard fishing the ebb as a waste of time. Unless the beach is a particularly shallow one, however, this is not necessarily the case. Especially in night fishing, so long as there is water for them to swim in, bass can hit the beach and start taking at any time.
Most bass fishermen would agree that sandy beaches fish best at night. Crab fishing amongst the rocks seems to be an exception to this. Very often, especially where they are not over-fished, crab-feeding bass will take as readily in daylight as they will in the dark. Bass are certainly less choosy in the matter of bait after dark; I would have little faith in lugworm bait in the light, for instance, but I am much happier with it as a night-fishing bait.
Very good fishing is often obtained after a good gale of wind that has whipped up a lively surf. It is often not of much use to fish during the storm itself; the time to be present is when the waves are dying back to fishable proportions, but when there is still some life in the sea. Calm, clear seas are generally considered to be the worst possible for bass fishing, but fishing after dark will often cancel out this disadvantage. I have taken some very good bags of fish from beaches in Ireland which had never seen a rod before, when the sea has been quite calm and so clear that the bass could be seen moving near the surface off shore. I fancy that bass are made much more shy than we realize by our fishing activities.
A final word about legering. Find out the date of those monster fishing competitions. Hardly anything is ever caught in them, but large quantities of bait gets discarded after the match, much to the benefit of the angler who fishes quietly on the following day at that spot. He will almost certainly catch as many fish as were caught in the match by all the competitors put together.
Other fishing methods for catching bass: