THE KILLER METHOD FOR BASS.
When I first came to Ireland my car was loaded to the roof with fishing tackle and carpentry tools. I reckon it was an equal split. At that time of my life I obviously took fishing as seriously I did living! It was a good choice.
I had packed all my fly gear and carp rods and reels thinking more of Pike fishing than the sea. This also was a good decision, the 12 foot, two and a half pound carp rods were ideal for casting a bait into the surf and the big Shimano bait runners loaded with 12lb “Big Game line” were the perfect reel.
I made friends quickly with a lot of the local anglers and they shared their local knowledge with me which, to this day I’m eternally grateful.
The fishing was good and I managed a few bass in the last three months of 1996, even though I had missed September. I would be prepared the following season.
Sandeels was the choice bait and Doni Collins had shown me how to harvest them. It was back breaking work raking through the dry beds with a blunt scythe but we could get forty or fifty quality baits each in an hour on a good day of which, most would be frozen down in bags of sixes for use the following week.
That September of ‘97 and the first two weeks of October I fished like a man possessed, going most evenings after work, plus the weekends.
I kept a count and managed to land 76 bass in that six week period up to eight pounds. All on frozen sandeels!
Twenty years have now elapsed and sandeels are (in my mind) still the number one bait, although my approach is somewhat different. Back in the early days it was a four ounce grip lead pinged out into the surf with a frozen sandeel mounted on a 2/0 hook attached to a patanoster rig.
Most of my sandeel fishing now is done from the boat with live sandeels suspended under a float. The trusty carp rod has been, for the most part decommissioned in favour of seven foot lure rods and small 3000 class reels. It is a highly successful and entertaining way to catch fish. This is my approach.
This method is effective from either boat or shore. I have caught bass fishing open sea with this method but you really need a fast running channel for it to be truly effective.
Rods need to be longer fishing from the shore to mend and manage your braid. Eleven to twelve foot barbel style rods are ideal.
From the boat, seven to eight foot lure rods are perfect. Reels need to hold a minimum of 250 metres of fifteen to twenty pound braid. I have been in the situation a few times where I have hooked a fish at 100m range and it’s ran down tide a further 100m leaving the spool virtually empty.
In these situations I normally S##T myself, try to regain a bit of composure and either up anchor or run down the beach after it, trying to put line back on the reel. Don’t skimp!
The setup is simple enough. I use the Drennan Piker floats with the cigar shaped profile that come in four sizes. Number 2 and 3 are ideal. This is threaded up the braid after putting on a bead followed by a drilled bullet sufficient to cock the float, another bead and a small swivel tied off with a Palamor knot.
A short length of fluorocarbon goes on next of a lesser breaking strain than the braid (15lb on 20lb braid) 18 inches to two foot and then your hook.
Hook size should match your bait. A size 2 is good for a small eel and 2/0 for a large one. The Gamakatsu worm 36 are what I use personally. They are very fine wire and tend not to restrict the movement of the bait.
To set the depth I use a product called Magic Marker. This is also made by Drennan and is tied above the bead, above the float using the “Billy Lane stop knot”.
With your terminal tackle in place it’s time to bait up. Lip hooking the eel is one of your best options causing minimal damage to the bait and letting it swim freely.
The other advantage of hooking it in this fashion is that the hook is fully exposed and your bite/catch ratio is massively increased.
Casts should be feathered back just before the terminal tackle and bait hits the water to ensure no tangles.
Braid has to be mended immediately to get direct contact from rod tip and float and then left to run down in the current unimpeded. This last bit is vital.
Most of the channels that I know of contain sea lettuce. It’s that horrible bright green weed that suspends in the water and really is a pain. If you hold back on your float the weed will travel faster than the bait and eventually mask it.
This is where the float fishing tactics win hands down when properly presented as the weed and bait move in unison and the eel fishes weed free.
Varying your depth by sliding your stop knot up and down the braid can increase bite ratio but mid water is a good place to start. If you think you have ten feet of water in front of you, set the distance between stop knot and hook at five feet and you won’t be far wrong.
Another huge plus for this style of fishing is that you can cover a lot of water. I have no problem letting the float run for 100 metres or more. Also, try running your float through different lines of the channel.
Start off close in, then run it through the middle of the channel followed up with the far side. When you have done this, walk down tide the distance you’ve just covered and repeat the process. This way you fish the entire channel.
The channels fish at their best when the current is moving swiftly so spring tides and either side of them will be your best windows.
Eels can be harvested in various ways. Netting, digging the spawning beds or small lures (Sabiki’s) can work well.
On a good day bites come thick and fast and bass will even hit on the retrieve. We have had up to fifty fish on a tide but that was a few years ago.
We always get catches in the high teens every season. It also produces big fish too. Our biggest to date was estimated at thirteen pounds.
Acquiring the sandeels and then keeping them alive is likely to be the hardest part of the process. If you do happen to live nearby a channel keep a close eye on it during September. This is the month that the sandeels spawn and the channels make perfect spawning grounds.
Check them out at low water and look for bird activity over undulating coarse sand. If you see Rooks there too it is very likely you have found where the sandeels breed. A gardening fork is all you need combined with a lot of muscle. Get digging!
So that’s the mechanics of it. I do not believe in misinformation, I have never worked for the CIA or MI6. Everything in this article is true and, as long as you can harvest the eels you will catch. There are a few things that I have omitted which are really down to fine tuning but you must see it from my side of the fence too. I am a bass guide and if I “Tell All” my phone would be very quiet next season! Best of luck lads and if you’re having problems filling in the blanks you can always hire me for the day!