Metals – The Forgotten Lure?

This week we welcome South Devon Bass Fishing’s Marc Cowling to the VMO blog. Marc gives us his views on this forgotten gem that no self respecting lure angler should be without.

Most, if not all lure anglers will have a favourite type of lure – one that they’ll always ensure is in their lure box when they venture out onto the rocks, beach or estuary. I certainly have my favourites – lures types are consistent bass catchers and/or offer me flexibility in a variety of conditions be it rough, calm, light or dark. But there is one type of lure that is always in my box – a metal lure.

A selection of metal's. Have you got some in your box?

A selection of metal’s. Have you got some in your box?


There are a number of conditions or situations when I would be picking that piece of fluttering, shimmering metal out of my collection – here are some examples:

  1. Surf Beach
  2. Rough Seas
  3. Estuaries
  4. Headlands

Surf Beaches – The domain of the bait fisherman surely? Not necessarily! Imagine your stood thigh deep in the boiling surf and the waves are crashing, creating those lovely surf tables however, this is occurring a long way out in front of you. You know there will be bass out in the melee, but what could you use to reach or attract them? Step forward a long casting metal spoon or spinner that can be launched right out there into the mix.

Ultimately, a bass will probably be attracted by the flash (shimmer) as the lure is being thrown around in the mix and even more likely as it is bouncing around on the sandy seabed. Furthermore, because a metal is very dense (and will obviously sink) it is therefore, very stable meaning that it will be able to ‘swim’ in the rough.

Reach the fish with a wedge style metal

Reach the fish with a wedge style metal

Rough Seas – When the sea is rough, it is more often than not pretty windy! We’ve all been there – attempting to cast our beautifully crafted hard minnow lures (with ball bearings and weight transfer systems) out into the teeth of a gale that is blowing straight down your throat…This is when a metal lure can really come into its own.

I admit, 80 – 90% of the bass I have caught have hit the lure within 10 yards of the rod tip however, having the ability to cast into a known area of reef, weed bed or sandy patch can make all the difference when lure fishing for bass therefore, why would you want to limit yourself by not being able to reach that spot? Putting the odds in your favour is essential therefore, having the ability to ‘search out’ wider expanses of water makes sense; particularly when you might be even more limited with where you can safely stand when the waves are really pumping in.

When the sea is raging, heavy metal is the way to go!

When the sea is raging, heavy metal is the way to go!

AFAW rods are equally at home on the field

Anyfish Anywhere – The best rods in the UK?

Trading now for well over a decade, Anyfish Anywhere continue to excel in producing excellent shore fishing rods. The established market leaders of old, namely Zziplex and Century, have always produced highly acclaimed tackle, but the latest range from Anyfish Anywhere, including the all new Tournament Match Pro, is continuing to cause a real storm and establish even further still that there really are three main players in this field of the market.

Julian Shambrook, founder and face of the Torquay based company, is a passionate angler who regularly competes at national level. His understanding of what is required to do this has undoubtedly assisted AFAW no end in producing a range of rods to suit all occasions but, equally as importantly, all pockets too. This understanding relates to first hand knowledge of such practicalities as the physics of casting, tackle most commonly used and a whole host of other predicaments regular faced by the shore angler.

Julian Shambrook winds up a big cast

Julian Shambrook winds up a big cast

A wealth of knowledge is obviously important, but so too is the ability to listen to other anglers and understand exactly what their requirements are. It’s fair to say that this is what AFAW shines at and the current range is obviously a refection on the feedback gleaned through time ‘in the field’. The product’s speak for themselves with numerous records on the casting court including the current 300 gram casting record.

AFAW rods are equally at home on the field

AFAW rods are equally at home on the field

It is also interesting to note that over 90% of those anglers competing at the top in the highly competitive Penn Sea League, also use AFAW rods. With high quality carbon blanks finished to an excellent standard and featuring Fuji guides and real seats, it is little wonder that the AFAW range continue to cause a stir. The bottom line is that this is a highly capable range of rods designed with a purpose in mind and one that they fulfil to the nth degree.

We recently caught up with Julian on the windswept Bristol Channel coastline where he explained in detail the thinking behind each of the rods in the Pro range. Take a look at this video that you may find interesting and help you to make a choice of you are in the market for a new rod for this coming beach season-

It goes without saying that VMO carry the full range of Anyfish Anywhere rods and will consider a price match on any advertised price. But then you knew that!

Tearaway Tope Make The News

In the UK, the most desirable heavy weight sport fish would have to be the tope. These fast and ferocious members of the shark family have become the fish of the moment,  with many anglers now turning their attention towards what has to be the ultimate shore fishing experience.  Boat anglers are also reaping the rewards with numerous large fish being landed in many regions of the country during what has become a boom season.

Without doubt, the north and west coasts of Wales have produced the bulk of these shore caught fish, with boat catches off of Devon and Cornwall regularly making the angling news.

Dan Hawkins, skipper of Reel Deal based at Ilfracombe,  is no stranger to shark fishing but has seen a record number of tope falling to his clients baits this summer. Infact, the shark action here has been so good that Dan was recently interviewed live by Good Morning Britain on ITV!

A happy tope angler aboard Reel Deal

A happy tope angler aboard Reel Deal

Ryan Wingfield has spent a number of years specialising in land based tope fishing. His dedication to the species has been relentless with much thought and attention paid to location, baits and tackle in his on-going quest to continually better his PB. Only last week, Ryan ventured out on to one of his favourite marks on the West coast of Wales and landed a potential Welsh record tope of 64lb 8oz.

This would have been a goliath of a fish from the boat, but to successfully land a fish of this size from the shore is truly admirable. Ryan’s fish took a mackerel bait presented on a pair of Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks.

Ryan Wingfield - potential Welsh tope record of 64lb 8oz

Ryan Wingfield – potential Welsh tope record of 64lb 8oz

The Isle of Man, traditionally a favoured haunt of the tope during the summer months has also been on great form with beach loads of anglers hooking  and landing large numbers of tope during some frantic sessions. England International Julian Shambrook landed this fine example on a recent visit to the island.

England international Julian Shambrook in action of the Isle of Man

England international Julian Shambrook in action on the Isle of Man

Dean Booker and Gareth Griffiths of south Wales are known for finding the fish and stayed close to home in a recent bid to track down a tope. Dean landed a fine example that tipped the scales at over 37lb and Gareth a respectable fish of 27lb.


Dean Booker with a mean looking tope


Gareth Griffiths holds a long powerful fish for the camera

The thought of hooking a fish of this size and power from the shore is a daunting prospect so for anyone who is looking to chance their arm, Dean has provided an insight into the tackle that he and many other successful anglers use.

Terminal tackle can leave no margin for error and this is possibly the most crucial aspect of tope tackle. Hooks should be extremely sharp and stand proud of the bait to assist with a positive hook up. A wire trace of at least 150lb will offer sufficient resistance against the sharks razor sharp teeth that will cut through monofilament with ease.

a large bloody mackerel bait presented with tope in mind

Strong swivels such as the Varivas Power Crane add to the essential components needed to construct the rig, which as always, is a pulley. A heavier than usual leader of 100lb compliments the set up and will prevent the highly abrasive skin of the fish rubbing through the leader should it come into contact with it. Powerful rods and high capacity reels loaded with 25lb Varivas Yellow Sport complete this robust approach that will give you an excellent chance of a successful capture. Dean also stresses that even with all of this in place, you do still need luck on your side to be in with a chance.

Although no one can offer a definitive answer for the tope boom this season, it is more than likely as a result of the prolonged spell of incredibly warm weather that hit the UK during the early season. With this gradual increase in water temperature came the arrival of shoaling bait fish such as mackerel which in turn attracted the predatory species such as tope and other members of the shark family. It would seem that if you have yet to land a tope, there is a fantastic chance during 2017. Whether you choose to fish from shore or boat, there is no finer time to break your duck!

veals mail order tope fishing

Fishing At First Light

Early mornings and summer lure fishing go hand-in-hand and Mike Ladle favours no better time to work a lure along the Dorset coast.
Thanks to Mike for another inspiring contribution to the VMO blog…

I’d checked the tide table and found that my favoured mark wouldn’t be accessible ’til about 06:20. Not too bad! The alarm went off and I got up, dressed, grabbed the rod and the bag, put on the chesties and set off for the coast.

It was a beautiful morning (lots of them lately) and my spirits rose as I walked along the shore to the tide race. I was a bit early so I began to fish the (usually) less productive base of the ledge to start with. There was a strong ebb current well under way. There was already weed showing on the surface so I started with a weightless, weedless Slandra – NOTHING! After fifteen minutes I decided to switch to a popper which has caught me good fish from that spot in the past – again NOTHING! Now my pals would tell you that I’m not given to chopping and changing lures but after a further ten minutes I decided to try a small Mepps, having seen a couple of flash expansions of fry which suggested the presence of small predators – still NOTHING! The sun is now well up and the sea flat calm and clear with the tide still a bit too high to access the main race. “Nothing doing, might as well pack in Mike.” I’m thinking. As the thought crossed my mind another group of baitfish sprayed out only a rod’s length from where I stood. Then another and another. Out went the Mepps but it kept snagging the weed and the fish showed no interest.

Time for another change? I rooted in the lure box and picked out a green-coloured, weedless, EvoStix Redgill. First cast I had a pull and missed it. Two or three casts later I was in and I landed a nice little bass of about a-pound-and-a-half. A few more cast and another missed bite. The tide was falling fast I could probably wade to the ledge. It still looked tricky but I couldn’t resist, so I picked my way slowly onto the rocks. Now I could fish the race and there were fish splashing and terns beginning to feed. The current was roaring past and it was obvious that the lure was going to be far too light so I slipped on a small cone lead and tied on one of Bill’s white Slug-Gills which he gave me years ago. Out it went into the torrent and straight away I had a pull which I missed. The body of the lure was twisted up the hook shank so there was no doubt it had been a bite (I knew it was anyway). A few more casts and I had a three pound fish which fought like a demon in the race. Magic! I took its picture and put it back before starting again.

A bass from the race

A bass from the race

I tried a short cast and let the lure swing down over the ledge. Just as it reached the crease it was taken and a bass a bit bigger than the last one ripped line off against the clutch – it took quite a while before I could slide it ashore.

And again

And again

Now there seemed to be less fish activity and the birds had left so I opted for my regulation three last casts. On the fifth one I had a strong pull. This MUST be an altogether bigger bass I guessed – then it went to ground. Wrasse? I eased off the tension and it came free, it was on the move and then it wedged itself down on the bottom again – double wrasse? Ease off again – eureka! It came free and I pumped it to the surface – sure enough a fantastic golden scaled wrasse. Just another three casts without a bite and I packed in well satisfied.

4 Wrasse from a tide race on an EvoStix lure

A golden wrasse completes the session

A golden wrasse completes the session

My next trip was to a quite different mark. I like the hot sunny weather but it has two real downsides when it comes to fishing. Firstly, it often means a long, laborious trek in chesties and although it is sometimes possible to walk to distant marks in shorts and light shoes, this is the exception. Usually it’s a matter of sweating it out and trying to cool off by standing waist deep in the sea when you arrive at your chosen spot. The second, and to me more awkward problem is that to catch the first light it may be necessary to arrive on the shore by about 03:30 in the morning and at the other end of the day it doesn’t get dark until ten o’clock at night. On my local beaches the high water of spring tides always falls in the evening or the early morning so there’s nothing for it but a long stay or a very early start. To be honest I am a morning person and I prefer the latter.

The morning in question was the first decent tide of the present series. My pal Bill had told me that there was weed on the beach, so I set the alarm for 02:45, gritted my teeth and went to bed. It was dark when I arrived on the shore and at that time of day it’s not too warm so, picking my way over the rocks in the light of my headlamp, I trudged along for a mile or so until I reached a big weed midden. It was still pretty dark so I started with the spinning rod. For fifteen minutes I cast and retrieved with a whitish EvoStix lure. At first there was nothing at all then as the light began to increase I felt a couple of gentle nudges. “Schoolies” I thought and I changed to an Evo Redgill in the hope that the exposed hook would pick up a fish. Just more useless taps – all extremely close in and then I noticed one or two small swirls only inches out from where I stood. I walked back to the bag and picked up the fly rod. The cast was armed with a white Delta plastic eel (perhaps more appropriate, I thought, for the apparent size of fish present) so I began to cast and retrieve.

There was no need for distance as I could now see that the feeding bass were mostly at very close range. The slight cross wind made it a little more difficult than I would prefer but again I had a couple of gentle plucks on the lure. After a few minutes I had a firm pull and hooked a fish which wriggled a few times before coming unstuck.

I reeled in to examine my ‘fly’ and I noticed that there was a small shot nipped on the cast just above the eye of the hook. I decided that it was probably sinking too deeply so I removed the weight and cast again. Almost immediately I was into a fish and it went like a train. In one more or less continuous run it took the entire fly line and then it seemed to be exhausted and I was able to play it back to the shore without too much trouble. As I expected it was a bass but to my surprise it was relatively small, certainly no more than two-and-a-half pounds.

Maggot feeding bass

Maggot feeding bass

Still, at least it was a fish. I pressed on and every few minutes I would get a bite. In not much more than an hour of action I landed four bass and then a nice mullet. Apart from one foul-hooked bass all the fish had the little eel firmly inside their mouths and every one put up a good old battle before I could beach it. The most exciting specimen was a good mullet which leapt into the air no less than six times in succession before shaking free of the hook. Jumping mullet are a very rare phenomenon anywhere in my experience.

Bass on the Delta eel

Bass on the Delta eel

Thicklipped mullet on Delta eel

Thicklipped mullet on Delta eel

Just one interesting comment and something I’ve noticed before. When I could first see the fish feeding they were almost entirely bass and as time passed the proportion of surface skimming mullet increased. This fitted in with the pattern of the fish I hooked. With fish caught, fish missed and fish lost it was pretty much continuous action so it’s fingers crossed for some bigger stuff soon. This reminds me that I really do need a new fly reel, the old Okuma has now just about reached the end of its useful life. Oh, and one other thing worth mentioning. I had changed the hooks in my Delta to stainless versions which have a turned in point. I got the impression that I failed to hook more fish than I should so I’ve just straightened the points to be parallel to the shank in the hope that it might improve matters in future.

Three tides! – By Mike Ladle

Lure fishing guru Mike Ladle joins us once again to give his account of recent successes on the Dorset coast

My pals and I have just fished a series of ‘maggot’ tides.  Here in Dorset these are spring tides when, the beaches are stacked with maggoty weed. We fished three tides on the trot.  On the first evening Bill, Nigel and I went down.  The following morning I was there on my own and the next evening I couldn’t go but Bill, Nigel and Richard fished.

On the first evening Bill spun, mostly with a Slug-Gill (not a typo- but a hybrid lure devised by Bill using the body of a Slug-Go and the tail of a redgill)  Nigel, as usual, had both spinning and fly gear and  I’d rigged a self weighted float with a couple of polyethylene maggot flies as droppers. This set up was on my little Teklon Concept rod and Mitchell Mag Pro reel.  I’ve used similar gear before to combat the problems of casting flies in stiff cross winds. I’d also taken my fly rod and a lure rod.

Nigel had the first fish – a good thicklip on the fly.

Nigel is in first

Nigel is in first

A perfect thicklipped mullet

A perfect thicklipped mullet

Later on I lost a reasonable bass of perhaps three pounds, as it was being beached on my surface float tackle. Of course it would have been put straight back so apart from the lack of a picture it didn’t really matter.  That was more or less that for the evening apart from a beautiful bass pushing five pounds which took Nigel’s wet fly which he’d tried before we packed in.  Bill was fishless so it was a bit disappointing.

Mike plays a fish, but it was a short lived battle

Mike plays a fish, but it was a short lived battle

Nigel's bass taken on a wet fly

Nigel’s bass taken on a wet fly

The following morning I was alone.  I went to the same spot armed as before with spinning tackle, fly gear and a new set of float fished maggot flies. Unlike the previous evening there was no wind at all and the fish were closer in.

The morning after the night before

The morning after the night before

On only the third cast with my floated fly I was into a fine mullet which fought hard for perhaps five minutes before I was able to slide it ashore.  I reached down to pick it up and as I did so it wriggled free of the hook and slid back into the sea.  Naturally I continued to fish with the float tackle.  It was almost half-an-hour of ‘fishlessness’ with the float gear before I decided to change.

I could see lots of bass amongst the surface feeding mullet so eventually I picked up the fly rod and tied on a small, white Delta.  Straight away I had a school bass.  I took its picture, unhooked it and put it back before casting again.

A change of tactic yields a bass

A change of tactic yields a bass

The line straightened and I was into another schoolie, slightly larger than the first.  After the fourth bass I stopped taking pictures and simply unhooked the fish where I stood and dropped them back.

A second bass, slightly bigger than the first

A second bass, slightly bigger than the first

Bigger still...

Bigger still…

In not much more than an hour I landed seventeen bass.  No monsters but they ranged up to about four pounds.  An excellent couple of hour’s sport..

That evening Richard, Nigel and Bill went down again. All three of them caught fish but the total was three bass and one mullet – a 4lb 7oz thicklip for Richard on the fly.

Bass for Bill

Bass for Bill

A beautiful mullet for Richard

A beautiful mullet for Richard

What I’d like to know is – Why the fishing was so different evening and morning – the tides and conditions were similar.  We didn’t fish in the dark at all and between us we tested quite a few different approaches.  Roughly twenty angler-hours in all and, including the ‘two landed escapees, we had three good mullet and 22 bass.

Team VMO Go To Sea

On Sunday, the VMO boys spent the day afloat aboard Minehead based charter boat, Alykat, skippered by Dave Roberts. In contrast to the weather of recent weeks, the sun shone brightly, the wind was light and the guy’s were set for a very enjoyable day.

The west Somerset port of Minehead on the Bristol Channel

The west Somerset port of Minehead on the Bristol Channel

As the boat left port, the guy’s had twenty minutes to assemble their fishing tackle before they hit the fishing grounds. Little did they know that another more experienced fisherman was ready and waiting for them, but more about that later!

Andy prepares his tackle as AlyKat leaves port

Andy prepares his tackle as AlyKat leaves port

Before very long, Dave dropped anchor at a mark that was on good form for smooth hounds, rays and even occasional tope. The guy’s eagerly baited their traces, lowered or cast their baits, sat back and waited with much anticipation.

All eyes on the rods as the anchor goes in!

All eyes on the rods as the anchor goes in

It wasn’t long before Harry’s uptide rod signalled the presence of a fish as his rod tip sprung up slack and the line dropped away. After a spirited scrap, Dave scooped a fine looking smooth hound into the waiting net and all bets were off as to who would bag the first catch of the day.

Harry holds the first fish of the day

Harry holds the first fish of the day

Next, it was Daves turn to bring a fish to the boat, once again in the form of a smooth hound of a similar size to Harry’s…

Dave wastes no time getting in on the action

Dave wastes no time getting in on the action

But suddenly, off the back of the boat, a long sleek black shape was spotted. Although in this picture you might think it was a labrador, it was actually a large seal that was keen to see what all of the commotion alongside the boat was about.

A seal does its best labrador impression!

A seal does its best labrador impression!

For the remainder of the trip, the guys enjoyed some pretty hectic sport with smooth hounds and dogfish, made all the more exciting playing the fish against the ticking clock as time and time again the seal moved in for the kill!

The race is on to boat the fish before it becomes seal food!

The race is on to boat the fish before it becomes seal food!

All too soon, the trip was over and it was back to the pub for a few well earned drinks. But not before Harry finished how he had started.

Skipper Dave lands Harry's final catch of the day

Skipper Dave lands Harry’s final catch of the day

Early Season Sessions by Marc Cowling (South Devon Bass Guide)

This week we welcome south Devon bass guide Marc Cowling to the VMO blog and it looks like Marc is already putting his clients on some great fishing this year!…

In my experience, lure fishing for bass from the shore in the months of March, April and May (spring) is frustrating but also very satisfying. The ‘conditions’ such as the weather and its associated effects on the sea (swell, clarity and amounts of floating weed) appear to have a greater influence on your chances of early season success, than in say July or August – but why is this?

It could be because bass just aren’t inshore in numbers until the sea warms up beyond 10 or even 11 degrees and even then, their willingness to ‘chase down’ any food items present is likely to be somewhat reticent. Other factors such as the fish possibly being preoccupied with the crab moult, sandeel migration and (I hate to say it) stock levels can all make a difference to local catches.

My bass fishing diary, that I have kept religiously after every session for the last 7 – 8 years (detailing components such as tide height, flood/ebb, wind direction and speed, moon phase, sunny/cloudy in addition to the elements already mentioned above) has assisted me to build up a picture of when I’m more likely to encounter bass from my home patch and guiding base here in south Devon.

So how have I managed, in relation to a ‘guiding my client’s’ perspective and ‘my own personal’ lure fishing? Below is a summary of the past 7 weeks.

Bass on lures in March

Following a very pleasant and relatively warm spell of weather in mid – late March, a former client and a Facebook friend respectively had both been pestering (nicely) me for a guided session all winter! Despite my official guiding season being between April and January, the big spring tides and reports of huge bass shoals being reported in the area tempted me into facilitating two sessions in late March.

The first session was conducted in very bright, sunny conditions when the water was crystal clear. My client (George) wanted to learn about the types of marks in which bass could be found, the watercraft involved, lure choices for certain types of venue and to confirm that he was doing the right things. We had a great laugh that day and despite not catching anything, George went away a very happy client indeed.

George fishing

The following day the conditions were very different. Overcast, drizzly but still mild and with an increasing SW wind creating a 2 -3ft swell and that lovely bass fishing scenario of white, fizzing, aerated waves breaking over the reefs and around the rocks but importantly, still with a modicum of clarity to the water. It took the full 8 hr session and a lot of searching but James ultimately achieved something many lure fisherman haven’t – a 3lb+ lure caught bass in March, on the very first cast into a known bass ‘holding’ area. The successful lure being the Tacklehouse Feedshallow in Ochiayu. As the guide, I was delighted! The client? He was positively ecstatic!

James' bass in March

Calm and clear forever!

Bar a couple of short spells when the wind increased from the East, during April/early May we witnessed a spell of very calm, very clear sea conditions when the air temperature seemingly decreased both by night and by day!

With four guided sessions booked in during this 5 week period, at this time of the year I’m usually praying for clear water among the storms and subsequent murkiness! Yet despite landing a couple of small bass myself early in the month, the consistent clarity to the water (and possibly the low temperatures) contributed to a frustrating period of guiding; interspersed with some personal achievements.

The guiding first though – and luck was not on our side! During all of the sessions a bass either ‘followed’ right to rod tip, swirled on the surface right next to us or somehow managed to escape when hooked. The bass were obviously present but being extremely finicky hwoever, the wrasse were obliging! Weedless/weightless soft plastic lures such as the OSP Dolive Stick or Shad, paddletail lures (the 12.5cm Savage Gear Sandeel) and subtle surface lures (IMA Salt Skimmer) were the main weapons of choice.

Toms wrasse

Night bass and a monster pollack

With the conditions being sluggish by day, I took the opportunity to embark on some serious night lure fishing with a 6” white senko lure. A shallow shingle cove with a flat area of reef that I had identified during the winter saw me land the 4lb bass (below) in mid-April during a night of some savage hits. This is a fantastic way to lure fish as your senses are on overload! Brilliant fun – and something that I’m very eager to explore in relation to my future guiding activities (from beaches only though for safety reasons).

My white senko bass in April


During one very bright afternoon/early evening period, it was obvious that the bass just weren’t around therefore; I decided to concentrate my efforts on a particular area that is very rarely fished. The result was my PB shore caught Pollack measuring 65cm (6lb) caught on a Daiwa Shoreline Shiner 120F Vertice.

My 6lb Pollack

Onshore winds make the difference

With two more guided sessions booked in during the second week of May, I was delighted to observe the wind finally veering around to the West and strengthening – subsequently shaking up my marks for the better! My theory was that it would take some movement in the sea to disperse the sandeel shoals; that in turn would see the bass feeding with more vigour.

First up was Rob, an experienced and successful trout fisherman. The wind had been howling the previous evening and I was a little concerned it would be too rough however; upon arrival at the first venue it looked absolutely amazing. However, it once again took the entire session (and a few venue changes and many lure changes) to find the elusive bass – from a beach in very shallow water (1 -2ft). But the smile on his face says it all – his Wife had booked the session for his Birthday present.

Rob's Bass in darkness


Rob’s capture had come right at the end of his guided session but with the bass evidently ‘in the mood’ on this mark I decided to join him once his 8 hrs were officially completed, whereby I managed to land bass of 58cm and 61cm (approx 5lb) as darkness really set in. All three fish were taken on the brilliant Daiwa Shoreline Shiner (An exceptional sandeel imitation as you can see in the photograph below).

My 61cm Bass


Daiwa Shoreine Shiner Vertice 120F

Sunny skies and more happy clients

Finally, two friends (Ben and Dave) were my most recent clients (Mid-May) for a 4 hr session encompassing some very tasty ground. With a nice swell creating inviting conditions, and the water clarity excellent (about 18” -2ft of visibility) I was confident of finding them some bass. The small neap tide was being helped to flood by a stiffening onshore wind and it wasn’t long before Ben had this small by wonderfully conditioned fish on a Maria Chase lure (similar to the Maria Fakebait).

Later in the session and on another mark, Dave experienced a bass hitting his surface lure before wriggling off the hooks after being in contact with it for merely a few seconds – a real pity that they both didn’t manage one. But what really struck them both (coming from freshwater predator lure fishing backgrounds) was how close in bass could be caught over shallow, rocky weedy ground in relatively rough seas. But as I explained, these are the ideal conditions for a marauding  bass to take full advantage of anything being washed out of its lair.

Bens's small bass sunshine

Lovely bass ground

To conclude

Overall, it has been a satisfying start to the season – not huge numbers of bass admittedly, but some nice fish all the same. The most important thing for me is that my clients are walking away with their skill levels, learning and understanding greatly enhanced or accelerated – their words not mine. If they haven’t caught a bass, they’ve either caught something else (wrasse) or seen a bass (follows, swirls etc.) in its natural environment during the session.

Early season, they are notoriously difficult to pin down location wise, but it is tremendously enjoyable being out and about along this marvellous stretch of coastline attempting to do so.

If you would like to learn more about Marc Cowling’s guided bass fishing operation then please visit his website/blog at:

Mike Ladle On Early Season Bass Fishing

Once more, we welcome bass fishing guru Mike Ladle to the VMO blog. Mike shares his thought’s on his recent outings to the coast and how a different range of approaches can lead to varying results… 

With the onset of the new season, I’ve tried a spot of bass fishing recently with mixed results.  I have done no good with bait so when the tide and conditions seemed right, I opted to have an early morning spinning session.  The big mistake was that I neglected to take the fly gear.  As I trudged along in the dark to my chosen spot I passed three other anglers who said they’d been spinning for twenty minutes but hadn’t had a sniff.  Not very encouraging but I pressed on anyway.

After passing the other spinners I came to some small weed middens but I expected that there would be even more weed further along the beach (there usually is) so I continued to walk.  I’d already clipped on a Maria Chase plug as I anticipated the water being calm, clear and weedless, which it was.  It turned out that there was no more rotting weed but it was just about high water so I started to fish.  I began to cast and for half-an-hour or so I flogged away without result then I decided that I ought to walk back to have a look at the weed midden.  By now it was pretty light and I could see that there was weed in the water’s edge.  Out went the plug and it came back ‘weed free’ until it was close in.  This was repeated several times – cast, retrieve, clean the lure, and so on.  As I fished I was looking for surface feeding activity and suddenly I realised that ten metres further along it wasn’t weed that I could see in the margin but feeding fish.  I reeled in and hurried to the spot.

It was immediately obvious that the plug would be useless.  Most of the maggot feeders that I could see seemed to be mullet and I had no fly gear with me.  What to do? I rooted in the bag and found a size 2, silver Mepps.  In the past I’ve sometimes had mullet on these spinners wound in just under the surface.  I clipped on the new lure and cast just beyond a dense concentration of surface skimming fish.  I was in!  The fish went berserk and I played it for five minutes before it came unstuck.  ‘Foulhooked mullet!’ I thought.  The fish were still there so I flicked the little lure out again tug, tug, wallop!  I was in again and this fish seemed well hooked.  I played it in and it turned out to be a bass of about five pounds.  Fantastic!

A fine looking bass

Hooked nicely on the Repps lure

Hooked nicely on the Mepps lure

I’d like to say that it was a fish-a-cast after that but it wasn’t.  I lost two or three more after brief encounters and I landed two more bass, one similar to the first and another smaller one.  I did, however, see one or two very large fish with their heads out of the water.  At 07:15 as the tide began to ebb the fish disappeared and I packed in.  Why oh why didn’t I take the fly rod?  I met the other anglers on my way back but they’d blanked so at least I’d picked the right spot.


My latest attempt to catch a bass was less successful.  The spring tides had promised some good fishing.  Having missed out on a potential fly-fishing bonanza on the previous springs, this time I took both the fly rod and the spinning rod.  It was pretty calm and eminently fishable, what could go wrong?  As it turned out what remained of the weed was concentrated along a couple of metres of beach and the maggots had mostly turned to pupae.  I threw quite a few armfuls of stinking, rotting seaweed into the sea but it was futile and I blanked (nothing new there).  Ever hopeful and knowing that things can change dramatically in the course of half-a-day I went again on the evening tide with my pals Bill, Nigel and Dave.  Just to be different I decided to try float fished maggots or bread while the others stuck to either fly fishing with maggot flies and Delta’s or spinning with soft plastic eels.  It was much rougher and windier than it had been in the morning but there were a few more fish about, both bass and mullet.  However, my light float gear was a bit of a disaster – skating across the surface in the stiff breeze.  My pals all struggled a bit as well.  Nigel and I blanked, Bill had a couple of missed pulls on his Slug-Gill lure and only Dave had any real success. Firstly, using his fly gear, he landed a bass on a maggot fly – he says it took him completely by surprise, just as he was lifting off for a back cast.  Then, a bit later he had a slightly smaller fish, this time spinning a long, wriggly tailed ‘Baysand worm’.  The fish did not hang about so we packed in not long after high water.

Dave lands a bass

Dave lands a bass

And another!

And another!

It was a bit disappointing but I suppose it turned out better than I’d expected after my morning fiasco and it’s always interesting to see how conditions can change not just between series of tides, but even from one tide to the next.  With luck we’ll have a bit of a blow before the next series of springs and the seaweed flies will produce another crop of mullet/bass food.

We Fish With You?

In recent weeks we have been asked on numerous occassions, “What does ‘we fish with you‘ mean exactly?” Well, the short answer is that all of the guy’s here at VMO are out on the coast of the Bristol Channel and beyond or fishing afloat on average eighty hours a week. We are just as passionate about fishing as you;  our valued customer and for that very reason we know exactly where you’re coming from when you call or email us to ask for a specific piece of tackle or request some general guidance. 

Just recently, Harry, Jansen and Jeremy enjoyed some pleasant fishing in the Bristol Channel at Kingston Seymour on a stunning spring afternoon. As usual, Jansen had his camera to hand and you can read the full account of the session in the current issue of Sea Angler magazine (issue 544) on sale now.

Harry gets in on the action

Harry gets in on the action

Lift off for Harry!

Fishing for thornbacks

If you’re a fan of Facebook, please feel free to look each of us up and see what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, if you would like to share your good catches with us, drop us an email as we love to see what you have been up to over the weekend!

Tight lines for now and next time you’re out there wetting a line, remember that we probably are too!


Piscari Blue Water Adventure

Harry recently joined the guy’s from Piscari Sporting  on the island of Gran Canaria with a view to some rip roaring tuna action aboard their Puerto Rico based big game vessel, Cavalier.

Piscari sponsored vessel, Cavalier

Piscari sponsored vessel, Cavalier

The plan of attack was to try and get a hook up from a Blue Fin tuna, a species that can give you the fight of your life should you be lucky enough to hook one. Despite the best efforts of skipper Hafi, it became clear after a couple of days that although reasonably healthy catches of the target species had been made the week previous to Harry’s trip, these big blue water sport fish were going to play hard ball and even though fish were sighted smashing into bait balls, an encounter was never fulfilled.

Although it was more than enjoyable to cruise the deep and brilliant inshore waters that the Canary Islands have to offer, having travelled this far Harry was keen to get a hook up on something big one way or another and so did a little research into just what the islands shore fishing had to offer.

Despite best efforts, the fish failed to show

Despite best efforts, the fish failed to show

The following evening, armed with a 30/50lb Penn Rampage boat rod and a Shimano Saragosa 10000 reel, Harry found himself on the end of a long boulder clad breakwater. A selection of heavy mono traces terminating in 8/0 Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks had been prepared and a little bait gathered in the form of locally netted herring. The basic running ledger trace was baited and cast into the darkness. The reels clutch was checked and Harry sat back for what might have been a long wait. It wasn’t long however before a little line ticked off the spool and Harry picked up the rod to investigate. He adjusted the clutch slightly and waited. After a minute or two, whatever was responsible seemed to have moved on, but just as he was about to place the rod back on the rocks, the tip pulled round hard and line was torn from the reel. Holding the short  rod aloft, Harry was totally taken aback as a very large and powerful fish tore line from the reel, increasing in momentum as it went. A minute passed and with the reels line level now dangerously low, Harry realised that this fight was only going to end one way. An extremely large marauding fish that refused to stop, let alone be turned, finally got the better of him as the remaining line left the reel, the knot parting like a sickening pistol shot.

Slumped down on the rocks feeling pretty beat up, Harry vowed to return the following night, providing he could locate some replacement mainline. The following day afloat proved once more to be fruitless, but with the events of the previous night still fresh in his mind, Harry very much looked forward to another crack at landing the unseen giant.

That evening, joined this time by Piscari Sporting front man Oscar Knowles, Harry once again found himself on the rocky promontory, the sun dipping below the horizon before darkness fell on the quiet port. By torch light the rods were assembled, baited and cast and the two anglers looked on with high hopes. Half an hour passed by and it entered Harry’s mind that the previous encounter may have been a fluke, a one off…a blown chance. Suddenly the silence was shattered as Oscar stood up clutching his light rod which was arching over in his grasp as once again a large fish tore line away far below. But when it looked like this was to be a repeat of Harry’s encounter, for whatever reason the fish suddenly stopped and Oscar was able to get line back on the reel. With every few yards he teased back, the fish would once again move away, putting agonising strain on both Oscar and the rod. But this fight wasn’t over just yet and it soon became apparent that there was a real chance of getting this one ashore. As the reel gradually began to fill up and the leader came into view, Harry shone his torchlight on the water.

A huge flat shape began to kite up through the depths and it was clear for both to see that this was a ray. Sure enough, Harry was able to take hold of the trace and release the fish without harm (it is illegal to land rays here) as an exhausted Oscar threw his rod down and caught his breath. Estimated at over 80lb, this Butterfly ray was one heck of a shore caught fish, made all the more rewarding for it being landed on just a four piece lure rod.

Next it was Harry’s turn to make a hook up and as he played his fish shoreward, it was evident that this was a little more manageable. The fish ran left and it ran right, seemingly far more manoeuvrable than a ray. Oscar made his way down to the waters edge and was able to tail Harry’s catch- a surprise smoothound that weighed 29lb.

A huge smooth hound for Harry!

A huge smooth hound for Harry!

Further hook ups with larger fish ended in disaster as the unseen adversary would either run the mainline off over a sharp reef or pull all of the line from the reel, but despite this, Harry was pleased to have found some interesting shore sport to turn the week around. He is heading back out to the Canary Islands later this year so look out for a follow up to this story and hopefully an account of a monster capture.