Frank Murphy also known by his internet nick name Rockhunter, is one of the well known faces of the Irish Bass scene. Frank loves fishing full stop but is well known for his great love affair with bass. Frank catches with serious consistency right around the year and when the bass start thinning out he is just as happy catching cod. He know lives in West Waterford and I’m sure this year we will be seeing many more of his excellent catch reports. So over to Frank now…..
Me: How did fishing begin for you Frank?
FM: I started quite late, only about 7 years ago in 2007. One Sunday afternoon the girlfriend and I were walking around Courtmacsherry bay and we spotted a shoal of fish feeding amongst the kelp close to the shore. They were obviously mullet but at the time I had no idea what they were and knew nothing at all about fishing. I said to herself that I must get a fishing rod some time. My birthday was coming up shortly and she was undecided about getting me a new phone or surprising me by getting a fishing rod. She decided on the phone thinking that I would get better use out of that but when she went into the phone shop there was just one member of staff and a queue of people so she got bored waiting, changed her mind and went to the fishing tackle shop and bought me a very basic lure fishing set up. After she gave me the rod the first Saturday we headed out along the shore around Seven Heads in South Cork. I tried a small rocky bay first then moved around a headland and found a deep pool. On the first cast I hooked a 3 or 3.5 lb pollock using a small cheap metal lure!!! I had two more of about the same size, another four pollock between 2-3 lbs and a solitary mackerel. From that day on I was hooked.
Me: You are one of Ireland’s top Bass anglers, what is it about the bass that makes you tick?
FM: I wouldn’t class myself as one of those. There are far better bass anglers than me such as Pat O’Shea from Cobh and of course Arthur Daly who could nearly pull bass out of a muddy puddle in the road. There is something special about catching bass, I do target other species such as cod in the winter or pollock and wrasse in the summer but none of those have the allure of bass. I caught my first bass bait fishing in December 2007 about six months after I started fishing. It was a well-conditioned fish of 6.5 lbs which fought very strongly all the way in. When I hauled it out of the surf I was in awe of its magnificence and amazed that such a fish was feeding only 30-40 m off the shore. From then on I became dedicated to the pursuit of bass.
Me: You are living in a prolific part of Ireland for shore fishing, what’s your favorite evenings fishing?
FM: There are two memorable sessions in particular. The first was lure fishing on a shallow rock mark in September 2009. It was just my second time to fish there. The previous weekend I had discovered the mark from studying aerial photographs on the Ordnance Survey website and thought it looked a promising spot for bass. I found a route to the mark, got there and found the water to be highly coloured. I fished it for a while and managed to get one bass. I returned a week later armed with my first packet of Xlayers that I had just received in the post. The conditions had much improved and there was good clarity in the water. I can’t remember if it was on the first or second cast when the lure was hit by a bass. There then followed an onslaught of bass. I was connecting with a bass on every third or fourth cast. I landed a total of nine and dropped half as many again. They were not big fish, ranging from 38-52 cm but it was the first time I had such success from lure fishing.
The second session was bait fishing on a good bass beach. It was a neap tide with a fairly weak surf. I wasn’t too hopeful of catching anything at all. I arrived as the tide was starting to push in at dusk. It was quite for the first three hours. Then a shoal of bass moved in. It was an absolute frenzy for an hour and a half. No sooner would the bait hit the water when it would be snatched by a bass. I landed 17 bass that night, again they were not big; the largest was only 50 cm. But what made it especially memorable was my lack of expectation that evening.
Me: Do you prefer bait or lure fishing?
FM: Both have their attractions but on balance I would prefer lure fishing. But I will fish whatever technique I think best for the conditions. In general I would concentrate on lure fishing in the summer but if the water is highly coloured and sea fairly rough I am going to get the bait rods out and try a beach rather than waste my time flogging a dead horse.
Me: What’s the best advice for someone starting lure fishing for bass?
FM: There are four main factors to consider: Location, Conditions, Tides and Lures.
Location: If you are just starting lure fishing for bass and don’t know where to go I wouldrecommend trying some shallow rocky ground close to a beach that is known for bass bait fishing. Ideally a wave cut platform with lots of gulleys and holes, boulders and some kelp. Once the tide starts flooding over this bass are likely to move in. Undercut ledges are good and you could find bass right under your feet. I use the closed season as an opportunity to do some reconnaissance at low tide. Bring a camera, photograph the shore at low tide and familiarize yourself with likely bass holding spots.
Conditions: While bass can be caught on lures in rough and coloured seas its tough going so if you are new to the sport wait for some relatively calm conditions, with good water clarity. A light on-shore breeze is good as it puts a bit of fizz in the water.
Tides: It’s best to fish a rising tide, particularly a spring tide. The big tides close to a new or full moon are the most productive.
Lures: There is a myriad of lures available which is no doubt daunting for the novice lure angler. It is best to start with the proven bass catchers. The Tackle House Feed Shallow is probably the best hard lure for fishing shallow ground. It generates its own motion on the retrieve and doesn’t require any fancy technique other than slowing down/speeding up the rate of retrieve. The Zonk Gataride is another excellent hard lure and is suited for deeperwater of 2-3 m. Soft plastics are excellent for fishing over very shallow ground when rigged weedless.But again there are so many to choose from so it is best to stick to those that are known to perform well. I have caught more bass with Xlayers than any other lure. Slug-gos, SavageGear sandeels/paddletails and stick senkos are others that fish well. The Fish Black Minnow is one that has a great reputation but it hasn’t performed for me yet although I used them for the first time last year when the bass fishing was so poor so that was not a good test of their effectiveness.
Me: What was your favorite catch?
FM: I would think that would have to be my first bass in December 2007 that I mentioned above.A stocky 6.5 lb fish in pristine conditions. It was caught on crab, no more than 35-40 m from the shore. Another good one was an 11.5 lb painted ray. I was targeting bass in a strong surf and casting no more than 40 m out. A ray was the last thing I expected!!
Me: You also catch more than your fair share of cod each winter can you give any tips there?
FM: Fish the estuaries with big crab baits on pennel pulleys with at least 4/0 hooks. It’s a misconception that you need very cold frosty weather. The cod usually move in after the first big autumn storm with strong southerly/southwesterly winds. To get the bigger fish you need to fish the deeper channels in the estuaries particularly on bends in the channels. However,unlike bass fishing it’s best to fish the weaker tides. On a big tide the current is too fast in the estuaries, apart from making fishing difficult by dragging your line and bringing up a lot of weed, the fish are probably just been carried along in the current and not in feeding mode. My best cod fishing has been closer to neap tides.
Me: If you were to fish any destination in the world, where would you go for what species?
FM: That’s a difficult one – I saw one of those discovery channel fishing programs a few years ago, I can’t remember who it was but he was fishing in Mongolia for the “Mongolian Terror Trout” or Taimen. That would be a great fish to catch.
Me: What target would you most like to achieve?
FM: A specimen bass, I have caught a few in the 8-9 lb range but have not got a 10 pounder yet. A few years ago I caught a 79 cm bass. A bass of that length should have been about 11 lb but it was just after spawning and was very thin with a weight of about 8.5 lbs.
Me: What’s in store for Rockhunter in 2014?
FM: There are still many local East Cork-West Waterford marks I have yet to fish so I aim to get to some of those during the year. The winter storms have caused big changes on many of the beaches so may have affected how they fish. There is a lot of work to do to fish those over a range of tides and conditions to rediscover the optimum times to fish them. Last year I did a bit of lure fishing for wrasse which was great fun, so I am going to be doing more of that.
Me: Thanks for your time Frank
FM: Thanks Lads anytime…..