February 16, 2015 Last Updated 1:00 pm

* Winter Lures – Worth a blast for a bass?

Is it worth targeting bass bass on the south coast of Ireland in winter? Bass expert Pat O'Shea reckons while the results may not be prolific the satisfaction can be worth the chase!



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Winter Lures – Worth a blast for a bass?


Normally, I used to put away my lure fishing gear by mid November every year. November was always a transition period when I’d start to mothball the plugs, spinning reel & rod and, instead, dust down my beachcasters for some winter bait work. It’s always a great time of year with bass still showing in numbers and good cod starting to show on the beach marks and estuaries.

It was while on one of these cod shore sessions that a fledgling idea for targeting winter bass on lures was hatched. I had been out with a fishing buddy of mine, Mike, who like I, was an obsessive lure angler. The funny thing, though, we’d only meet up for bait sessions on various beach marks. Mike, was very secretive about those marks he’d target bass with lures, always venturing out by himself….but so was I, the more I thought about it. I’d very rarely bring anyone else out with me.

That night we had a cracking session with over a dozen nice cod upto 5lbs and three bass upto 4lbs. We had nipped out in a weather window between two winter gales and hit the beach at just the right time with a large surf still running but with conditions still quite fishable. Typical of any period following a storm, the cod were on the feed. This was the target species and armed with fresh peeler crab and freshly dug lugworm we got ‘em….but we also got bass! This had been about the third such session we had over the previous week and each time we had similar results. We both reflected on how lucky we were, living on the south coast of Ireland where bass could be targeted along the beaches right throughout the winter. In the depths of winter you mightn’t get many but you could always winkle out one or two….but why couldn’t we catch them on lures? Was it because the metabolism of bass had slowed down and they were now to be found lower in the water column scavenging on food-stuffs found on the sea floor? Were the bass conserving energy in the colder water and just not chasing anything down? Well the truth was we didn’t know; we’d never tried to catch them with lures. Maybe it was the case that they could be caught on lures through the winter!

 Hatching a plan…

This was going to be a challenge, but an interesting one….one I was certainly up for. We both agreed that, if we were to maximise our chance of landing a bass, conditions would need to be just right, almost perfect. The water clarity would need to be spot on; the tides would need to be right; and the weather would also need to be right. It wouldn’t be easy to get all these in line but sometimes in the winter you do get settled spells, we just needed to get it at the right time. We weren’t asking for much, were we?

Mike had heard of a spot which had produced a few fish to lures for some old timers close to Christmas, but that was years ago and it was only a rumour….and where was this spot Mike? Trying to get more information about this was like getting blood from a stone. Eventually, with a bit of teasing and cajoling I ekked it out of him….hey, that was one of my marks! It just shows you “there’s no such thing as secret marks, just favourite ones!”

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Usual winter fare – Codling from beach stretches.

For the next few weeks we watched the weather closely. Conditions were more suited to our regular cod trips as low pressure systems, one after the other, rolled in from the Atlantic, but then in mid-December our opportunity arrived. The weather settled. A few days of calm brought the sea state down and water clarity improved accordingly; just as the tides were increasing on the full moon cycle. Perfect!

With high tide coinciding with sunset we decided to fish the full tide from low water up. We agreed to meet at the mark. I arrived at my usual spot and parked the car. There was no sign of Mike. Was I at the right spot? Was it a different spot that Mike was talking about? After all, this was in west Co. Waterford and not exactly home turf for us Corkonians. I carried on, trekking my way over the fields, down through the gorse covered hillside until I was atop the cliff looking down on that favourite bay of mine….and there, making his way across the kelp strewn rocks was Mike. Game on!

I caught up with Mike as he made his way over the relatively flat, low lying reef. This particular reef juts out into the middle of the bay and covers quickly on an incoming tide. During the summer months great sport can be had with surface lures fishing over the shallow waters as the tide floods. On either side there were smaller bays with a mixture of rock giving way to sand over slightly deeper water. Mike opted to fish the bay on the right hand side, whereas I opted for the left hand side. I was happy with this choice as I was quite used to this spot. During the previous summer I had relatively good success here with soft plastics fished at the start of the flood, particularly, an SP code-named the ‘Wriggly Redeemer’ given to me by a UK BASS recruiter. Mike, obviously, wasn’t happy with his choice as he soon traversed back along the path he had come and trekked to a spot on the other side of ‘my’ small bay directly across from me. It transpired that this was Mike’s favourite mark.

As I set up my gear and prepared to start I was surprised that conditions were not as ideal as we had hoped or expected. Although, the sea state had, indeed, dropped down to quite manageable levels the water was coloured. It was that grey green or milky green colour that you often find in winter months. Nevertheless, I felt strangely confident. That confidence jumped leaps and bounds when, after 20 minutes fishing, Mike shouted over in fierce excitement….”fish on!!!” Sure enough, when I looked over Mike was engaged in a tussle of sorts with a nice bend in his rod. I stopped what I was doing and watched,…and waited until I saw Mike stoop down and….yes, that’s a silver looking fish he’d scooped out! A bass!!! Mission accomplished!!!


Working the water

The knowledge that there was bass there to be caught spurred me on with renewed vigour. It transpired that Mike had also being using Sp’s but of a smaller sort. He had rigged up an xlayer, which had been all the rage the season that had just passed. Set up on a jig head, Mike had deftly bounced the xlayer along the bottom. My setup and tactics were in complete contrast. The slug type lure I was using was rigged with a texposer hook completing a weedless setup. I had had great success using this setup with sluggo’s and had perfected an ultra slow retrieve with pauses and twitches. It was this approach I was using with the ‘Redeemer,’ a technique also recommended by my UK BASS colleague.

I worked the ground continuously in front of me, covering a wide span of area in an arc. Cast after cast I continued as the tide crept up around me. Big fronds of kelp had slowly drowned in front of me but I persisted. My confidence was up; I had this feeling that I was going to be lucky….and so it turned out. Shortly into a lazy retrieve I felt a bump, almost like a frond of kelp engulfing the lure and momentarily snaring it before releasing it once more as it flowed back to meet the incoming wave….but this time another bump, and in an instant the rod doubled over. With one of two head shakes all doubts as to whether this was a fish or not were blown away and combat was engaged. Mike had seen what was going on, and I must have inadvertently and excitedly made a bit of a racket, for as I glanced over I could see Mike already clambering in my direction. My drag was set perfectly and the fish stripped line from the reel as it kited to the right. With a few lively head shakes it turned and kited to the left. This was a handy fish and just as Mike arrived I was gliding it gently over the rocks in front of me. What a beauty! I laid it out on some kelp, got out my BASS tape, measured it, weighed it and then took a pic. Just over 69cm on the tape and registering a few ounces above 7.5lbs on the scales. What a great feeling; my first true winter lure caught bass and a cracker at that; and to think Christmas was just literally a week away! Just before we got the fish back in the water, Mike did the necessary and took a pic of me with my treasured prize.

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Once we had returned the fish it was back to the fishing. The pressure was off now, though, and anything from thereon in would be a bonus. However, there was still a few hours of light left and a bit of fishing to be had. Mike relayed that the fish he had earlier had come in just over 3lbs. We both felt confident now that we could land a few more!

Not long after, the tide pushed me off the stretch of reef I was on. I joined Mike on his perch. However, shortly after I convinced him to round the small headland close by and head around into the next small bay. Earlier, in the late summer and early autumn I had had good fishing here. Many of the fish I had were on a new lure I was experimenting with at the time, a feed shallow 105mm. Conventional wisdom would have it that larger lures are more effective as the season wears on but that year I had found this smaller lure to be most effective. As luck would have it Mike had also picked up one of these lures, even though, they weren’t readily available then. Mike used the pearl white version whereas I stuck to the ayu pattern, which had given me so much success. Unfortunately, on this spot the fish weren’t playing ball. Mike excused himself and trouped back to his original spot; I stubbornly stuck it out. An hour later my confidence here began to fade. I decided to join Mike.

As I traversed across the rocks and Mike came into view; he turned and came to meet me. I could see by his gait and excitable demeanour that he had had some modicum of success. In the terms of the original goals we had when we set out that morning Mike’s success was stupendous; in my absence he had had 5 more bass. Admittedly, they were all small, being the same size as the fish he had earlier but they were all bass!!! Wow, what a result; I was incredulous.

At his original perch, albeit further up the intertidal zone, he had found a school of bass. He could in fact see them, despite the lack of water clarity, as the spikes of their dorsal fins broke the surface. The small feed shallow had done the trick, retrieved at a steady but slow pace. Excitedly, I scrambled for the rocky promontory and cast in the direction Mike indicated. Mike, in the meantime, pointed to a few dorsal fins swirling around in the gentle swell. As I slowly retrieved the lure it was savagely hit and I had a fish on. After a spirited fight I landed a small bass typical of the size Mike had encountered. Isn’t it amazing how, sometimes, these smaller fish are so aggressive and seem to punch above their weight. Mike rejoined the hunt but I was soon into another fish; it seemed my ayu was more acceptable than his pearl white.

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Over the following twenty minutes I had another two similar sized fish and Mike had one, and then, as darkness descended the fish moved on. What a day, though; twelve bass in total. We had proved to ourselves that if conditions are right, tides right, and water clarity was not totally mank then catching bass on lures in the depths of winter is possible!

That great day is now several seasons ago and it has since inspired me to keep plugging away right throughout the winter. Getting conditions right is harder during the winter months but more critical if you’re to have success. The sport will, more than likely, not be hectic but any bass caught at this time is so much more of a success, in my book at least, than at any other time. Such hard earned bass give greater satisfaction. I have repeated such success in December of following seasons but in the months of January & February lure caught bass eluded me….that is until earlier this year when I landed my first January lure caught bass. More on that tale at a later date. In the meantime, I’ll be concentrating a lot of effort in the New Year in my attempts to land a February bass.

So my advice to you is think twice before you store away your plugging gear. You never know there may be bass on your patch willing to take a lure during the winter months; so give it a shot, you won’t know till you’ve tried!

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This feature was previously published in the UK Bass Newsletter in 2012


The Feed Shallow from Tackle House is one of the most popular lures in use today. It is an expertly designed and manufactured lure – of course you pay for the privilege of fishing with the best. The range has expanded over recent years to include a range of weights and sizes: 105mm – 16g 128mm – 18g 155mm – 28g There is also now a Feed Shallow – Plus. The “plus” is 128mm long but weighs in at 21g giving that little bit more weight for punching through the breeze! You’ll get feed shallows from most decent tackle shops if you have difficulty contact Dennett Outdoor dealers.

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