Steven Neely is from Carrickfergus, County Antrim. Since he caught his first bass on a lure he has been hooked so to speak, to the point where he fishes nothing but lure now, and with a record like Stevens why wouldn’t you! He travels all over Ireland in search of fish with the South coast being his favourite. Steven runs his online tackle shop http://www.fishonlures.co.uk and his entertaining and informative blog http://www.rookiebassangler.com while he continues to be one of Ireland’s leading lights in lure fishing for bass, so lets go over to Steven now….
Me: How did you start fishing?
SN: My first fishing experiences were in my summer holidays in Co. Donegal. I was only knee high and we would spend the afternoons out on the rocks float fishing for wrasse or spinning for pollack – the usual mixed rock fishing. I also remember following my dad around many of the lakes chasing small wild brown trout before accompanying him on a night time session for sea trout on the fly. I was hooked!
Me: How did lure fishing for bass begin for you?
SN: It began with one very wet August week in Kerry. We had decided to make the trip in search of our first bars of silver. We packed the tent and set off for Waterville. It rained for five days solid and staying in a tent was rather interesting with wet gear and no where to dry it but it didn’t dampen the spirits. The first night we made our way onto a surf beach and starting fishing with the old Cox and Rawle bass bullets and then bang! My dad connected with one – I will never forget seeing it running along the inside of the wave before we finally landed it. Was a plump fish around 6lbs and that was it – we were hooked. I caught my first one two nights later on bait using a razor and lug cocktail.
Me: What were those early sessions like?
SN: As soon as we returned from Kerry our thoughts turned to another bass trip. With a bit of internet research we decided upon a trip to Wexford. After chatting to a few helpful people online via my blog we set off for a weekend in November. It was a complete shot in the dark and a very steep learning curve for us. Learning the tide states, the terrain and the lures etc. I loved it though – I enjoyed the challenge and the reward for your effort. There is no greater sight in angling than the sun glinting off a bass as you return it to the water.
We had our fair share of blanks and wash outs trying to get our heads around these stunning sport fish but it soon began to fall into place and with the help of a bit of local knowledge we soon were producing the goods.
Me: Which do you prefer, soft plastics or plugs?
SN: Tough question but I think it would have to be soft plastics due to their versatility. At the start I only used hard plugs because they were ‘simple’ to use so to speak. You whacked it out and retrieved it maybe mixing up the speed etc or adding the odd twitch and pause. It wasn’t until an early April session that I caught my first soft plastic bass on a Lunker City Sluggo in an estuary – since then I haven’t looked back. That fish gave my the confidence to fish more with soft plastics and now it is about all I fish with. 90% of all my soft plastics are fished with weedless hooks and then either with added weight for casting or holding down in current or in some cases no weight at all for shallow snaggy ground.
All my biggest bass have taken soft plastics – it proves to be deadly at night too.
Me: What have been your favorite sessions?
SN: The obvious answer would be those which I caught my biggest bass and yes, they have been awesome but sometimes those sessions which make make you scratch your head and just realise that no matter how well you think you know a species or a mark that nature can always out smart you. Some of my top water sessions will stick with me forever, hearing a bass smash a surface lure in the dark of night was pretty immense or some of the sessions we have had fishing super shallow bays in bright sunshine, wading around up to our waists – almost flats style fishing. It is very hard to choose. I think every time you catch a bass it is a privilege no matter what size it is.
Me: You also catch sea trout, do you catch them on the same gear or do you approach it differently?
SN: Sometimes we do use bass plugs for our sea trout fishing but mainly we use lighter rods and lines and the lures are often small high-tech metal jigs or small soft plastics. We do a lot of sea trout fishing up the North West around Co. Donegal usually a mix of open coast and estuary fishing. If truth be told sea trout would be my primary quarry throughout the year. They provide great sport on lure and fly with their acrobatics and head shaking couple this with light gear and you have great sport for most of the year. Occasionally when I am chasing bigger trout on the open coast I will use bass gear i.e. rods and lures but on the whole we down size all our gear.
Me: Tides and weather wise, what do you look for?
SN: Assuming I am fishing the South coast of Ireland say Wexford, Waterford and Kerry etc then we look for moderate SW winds (onshore) these are good for several reasons. Firstly, South winds are often warmer than the others, secondly, onshore winds push bait and food in tighter to the rocks and lastly, it creates that all import life and fizz in the water which bass love to feed in.
Tides – we usually try and fish just before or after spring tides when the tide levels are either building or dropping off. This is often when we have the best action. Neap tides have not worked so well for us but then again all marks differ and everyone has their own preferences.
Me: You enjoy your pike fishing, did you find it different or is the principles the same?
SN: I do a bit of pike fishing throughout the winter months. Nothing serious, mostly small water lure fishing. We get a nice number of fish but nothing greater than 10 lb but it is great sport on the lure gear. I tend to do a lot of soft plastic fishing for pike so in some cases yes they are similar although I switch my profiles and colour for fresh water – preferring paddle tails for my pike and usually silvers or blues. Pike like most predatory fish like hitting lure ‘on the drop’ as the lure falls down through the water – this is similar to how I fish certain marks for my bass.
Me: Do you ever bait fish for bass?
SN: My first ever bass was caught on bait but since that I have never picked up a bait rod since for them. I appreciate that bait fishing for bass can extend the season through the winter months but it simply doesn’t appeal to me as an angler. I love to stay on the move and explore new places always on the go and working lures – I am a self confessed lure junky!
Me: And finally what are your hopes for 2014?
SN: I recently set up my own online lure shop www.fishonlures.co.uk so this has consumed a lot of time to ensure it was set up smoothly and delivered the high level of service I wanted to my customers to have.
So the expansion and success of my business is uppermost on my goals for 2014.
From a fishing perspective I want to continue expanding my knowledge of lure fishing and explore new ground around the South coast of Ireland. I have a few trips planned to visit a friend and bass guide in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Not forgetting catch more and bigger bass!
Me: Well thanks for the chat Steven I hope you have a great 2014 mate which no doubt you will…
SN: Thanks Paddy talk soon