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TACKLING SOME VERY MURKY WATERS
With the bass beginning to make an appearance, I decided to team up with my mate Lee Rackstraw. With two goals in mind, we wanted to get Lee’s first fish of the season ticked off the list, and in the process see if we could crack catching bass in terrible conditions.
We arrived at the coast on low tide, once again the sea was in a terrible state. A nasty shade of brown with little more than four inches of visibility in casting range. We hoped that as the tide rose and the water became deeper some of the colour would drop out, giving us a fighting chance. After days of extreme wind, it seemed unlikely to happen, but we were here and giving up doesn’t teach you a thing. Blank or succeed, fishing is a never-ending learning curve, and you only get better by pushing your boundaries and raising expectations. Bass are regularly caught on bait in similar conditions. So, with fish in the area, surely it’s just a case of being lucky enough to put a lure in front of one.
After an uneventful start, we decided to take five and think about our battle plan. Deciding that our best shot would probably come at high water, it was time to sit back, acknowledge defeat, and mess around with the lures ready for Round Two.
Edges. If I was targeting perch or pike in these conditions, I’d be looking for an edge. An extrasensory attractant. This could be scent, vibration, sound, or visual attractants. The same should apply for bass, picking the right lure colour is a great start. Bright, white and dark lures can all be effective in murky water, but on this occasion white seemed to fit the situation. The lures were fitted with rattles, so sound was ticked off the list. I went one step further with my Savage Sandeel, adding an underspin blade to bring extra visual and vibration appeal. We had two new lures to put to the test so I stuck with my favourite V2 Sandeel, while Lee rigged up the new Weedless Minnow.
Round Two. As I predicted, the water clarity did improve as we drew closer to high water. Our measly inches of visibility had probably turned into a foot or so, still very murky, but I felt confident that our extra-attractive lures would produce… if we could get them near a fish. We fished hard for an hour or so, covering ground, searching for a bite.
Suddenly, I struck silver! A heavy knock on the rod coupled with the scream of drag and braid singing in the wind, this fish felt good. I kept the pressure on, gaining ground, teasing the fish towards the shore. It would run again, stripping metres of line, putting me back to square one. The fight and raw power of a bass on lure tackle is an adrenaline-pumping experience. Runs so fierce and rapid you question the limitations of your gear at every turn of the handle. I have my drag set tight to keep the maximum control on a bass that I can, braid grating over sand and stone weakens quickly.
As the fish came close to shore, I released the drag, expecting a final run for open ocean. As anticipated, the fish made a dramatic final run, tearing yards of line from the spool. I regained control, steered the fish into the shallows, and waded into the surf to net my prize. In the process, I received a face full of salty muddy water. A beautiful big bass, fresh and silver, a stunning early season fish. I grabbed a picture and quickly released her. I felt entirely content after a great fish and battle.
I sat back as Lee persevered. It wasn’t long before Lee struck silver. His rod hunched over as he gave the fish some stick in the strong current. This one gave him a run-around, I leapt into action, ready to offer my netting skills. I charged into the surf taking a few pounding waves, and focused at the ready. Up popped a bass! Not the monster we were expecting, but a highly spirited schoolie. None the less, Lee was thrilled to get off the mark, knowing there’s a season of monsters ahead. A quick picture, and this one bolted off through the surf to grow big and return one day.
It was certainly a learning curve. Out of frustration, I fished conditions I’d usually leave alone, and water clarity poor enough to keep the beaches empty. Although my confidence in these conditions is not brilliant, feeling like we may have stuck lucky. I certainly feel confident in fishing terrible conditions.