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Bass fishing - exploding the myths - part 1

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by Henry Gilbey

If there is one species that swims in European oceans capable of crossing all the stereotypical fishing divides, then surely it has to be the sea bass. A magnificent predator quite able to live and feed in a huge variety of locations, a fish dripping with killing skills, and a worthy adversary for all kinds of fishermen, whether they be from the fly, coarse or sea worlds.

So many are the ways in which the bass can be caught that in truth I can see no reason why sea anglers should be getting in on all the action. I can not pretend that bass stocks are as healthy as they once were, but rest assured that there are still plenty of fish to catch if you know where to go...

Of course there are already plenty of forward thinking fly guys out there who regularly chase the bass, and often with good levels of success. From what I can gather, the regular hooking of big fish (5lb plus) on the fly is a rarity, but rest assured that not many "conventional" anglers catch stacks of 5lb plus bass either.

But in my mind there are so many rumours, myths and legends surrounding the catching of bass that I want to spend a little time breaking some of them down, in order to simplify what can be a very "back to basics" kind of fishing.

And do you really want to know what is going to help improve your bass catching chances? No, it's not expensive rods, fine reels and wonderful flies either.

Find a decent "conventional" bass angler and pick his brains as much as you can; read sea fishing books, look in sea fishing magazines, and strive to glean as much information as you can on the all important "watercraft", so vital to successfully catching fish in the sea.

All of us could learn so much by gathering advice and experience across the fishing disciplines, especially when it comes to dealing with the marine environment and all those important factors like tides, moon phases, pressure systems, wind directions, locations and safety. Fly fishermen for the most part have the best chance of connecting with a big bass in the exact same places where hardcore bass anglers go plugging (lure fishing).

So let's quickly explode a few myths before we delve deeper into the world of bass fishing:

Bass are hard to catch: No, they're not, in fact few fish feed so voraciously as a bass when they are on the hunt. The secret is knowing where to look for feeding fish, and learning about when they are likely to go on a feeding spree. Find fish and more often than not you are going to catch; like the bonefish, I would describe the bass as an "honest" fish.

Big bass are impossible to find: Granted, there are by no means as many large (5lb plus) bass as there should be, but finding them is a part of learning about how the sea works for us fishermen. They do exist and they are possible to catch on a fly.

The lure angler is always going to catch more fish because he can cast further: Whilst it is no doubt easier for a good lure angler to cover a huge area of water very quickly and efficiently, often at much further range than the fly guy, in truth you would not believe how close big bass come in to the shoreline. Many are the stories of bassing thigh deep in the surf and seeing fish swimming behind you. And many are the times when I have seen good bass hooked by the lure angler just before they lift the plug out to cast again.

Big bass only feed at night: Rubbish !! Anglers who religiously fish at close range with big baits often fish at night, but more because the areas they fish are conducive to bass moving in very close. But big bass will also hunt in broad daylight right in amongst rocks, gullies, and weed strewn bays, plus of course when the storm beaches are firing with the right conditions.

A big bass will surely smash me up: Bass fight hard and they will often give you a few heart stopping moments, but let's be perfectly honest here about our quarry: sure, they are fantastic fun to catch and they will bend rods and take line, but we are not dealing with some kind of leviathan. You should land most fish you hook if you pile the pressure on.

Next time: where to go looking for bigger bass.

Henry Gilbey is a full time angling journalist famed for his breath-taking photography. Henry has fished all over the world and is a contributor to many angling publications.

Henry also works as a tackle consultant for Hardy and Greys and is a presenter of the highly-successful fishing series, Wild Fishing. Visit his website at www.henry-gilbey.co.uk

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