Monthly Archives: May 2017

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!