Trolling for Bass

The continuation of the worst summer in living memory into a pretty rubbish autumn means that the options for kayak fishing have been limited. No loafing about offshore bottom fishing in balmy waters under blue skies. Like this:

It’s been a bit of a challenge to find a stretch  of open coast with clear water which is sheltered from the wind and not pounded by a swell. But living in West Devon means there is usually somewhere within an hour’s drive that should deliver in the bass department. If the north coast is no-go there is usually somewhere sheltered in the south.

My first recent effort was a rare visit to my local coast to the south of Bude . Rare becausethe weather has made it not very kayak friendly recently. My expectations were high as fish on this wild bit of coast are largely untroubled by lures and hooks. Although they are no doubt kept on their toes by the large number of seals….even though this one did not represent an immediate threat because it was fast asleep and snoring loudly:

‘bottling’ seal

I was rather surprised to encounter a  youngish seal pup on the rocks….I thought their pupping season was later in the year. Maybe you are born earlier if you are half badger….

Half badger, half maggot

The superb rocky and remote bay just north of Crackington Haven produced five bass up to two pounds on a jointed plug in about half an hour. The few times I have been here have always produced bass. No access from the shore and too rocky to fish by boat means the fish are never troubled apart from the odd kayak fishermen.

Bass plus snack

What a pity about all the rubbish on the rocky beaches.Mainly plastic but also quite a few car wheels which have probably come from all the cars that were washed into the sea during the Clovelly floods several years ago.

What a blooming mess

Next I trolled the relatively sheltered north facing coast at super- quaint Clovelly, the only real option given the howling southerly wind on that day. If I had chosen the day after I would have witnessed the worst flooding ever known in the village, remarkable as it is stuck on the side of a fairly steep hill.


I paddled west to Hartland Point , another hugely exposed and remote location which I treat with serious caution and respect. Not a place to linger on a dodgy day.

Anyway I managed another six bass up to about three pounds, and I made a lightweight attempt at a scientific experiment to see which lure was most successful. The three contestants were: Yo-zuri Crystal Minnow. Abu Garcia Floating Tormentor and Shakespeare Devil’s Own. The winner with three fish was the Floating Tormentor, the Devil’s own got two and the little Yo-zuri lure hooked only one. Maybe the little lure was just too small in such a ‘big’ place.

Little Bass caught on Tormentor in front of Blackchurch Rock

In my humble opinion the Tormentor came out on top because it is jointed and has such a vigorous action when trolled it makes the end of the rod vibrate. The more ‘noise’ the greater attractive power to a hungry predator. And maybe the silver colour, which more resembles the sprat type fish which are a great bass favourite, has the edge over the more mackerel-coloured…. If I was a bass I would be a bit wary about swallowing a mackerel whole because they have that nasty little spike on their underside near their vent.

But whatever lure takes your fancy, the key to autumn bass fishing is to paddle close enough to the shore to be able to see the bottom most of the time. Bait fish don’t like to stray too far from rocks and weed so that is where the bass are going to be hunting.

Teignmouth tea-break beach

My next short trip was to the attractive town of Teignmouth, and I rather fancied a fast paddle which clocked up a few miles so I selected my Paddleyak Swift as my steed of the day. Would I hook any fish if I trolled my Yo-zuri lure behind as I licked along at over 4mph? ( didn’t want to use a bigger lure as it would have slowed me down).

No problem. The fish weren’t put off by the supercharged lure and three mackerel and a couple of medium-sized bass  pulled line out of the reel in a very satisfactory manner. As usual all were returned to fight another day. I know I have mentioned it before but my Penn Pursuit reel does have an excellently clicky metallic -sounding clutch which provides much more excitement than the scrunchy rustedup-type noise of the cheaper reels I used to use. Or indeed the vague tugging of the hand line I used for my first couple of years of kayak-fishing.

Teignmouth Bass

And finally down to Fowey, my favourite seaside town, for a fast 12 mile troll again in the Paddleyak Swift. Fowey on a sunny morning presents a glittering spectacle:

Fowey at its best

I was absolutely certain I would catch another bass or two but only managed a handful of tiny pollack. Such is the challenge and enjoyment of kayak fishing. It’s funny how often you expect a successful day and catch very little, and then have a bumper day when you are not really trying.

The reason I like trolling, I suppose ,is that if the fish don’t bite you have the consolation of  a constantly changing scene. And the coast around Fowey on a misty morning takes a bit of beating.

Fowey misty morning

2 thoughts on “Trolling for Bass

  1. Thought seals were ‘Cottling’ when they slept like that? Ah well, good stuff as usual, Rupert, I’m somewhat dissapointed that I haven’t visited Devon and Cornwall this year, it has been dire for weather, and the nights are drawing in now, so it’s looking most unlikely. You have definitely inspired me to visit North Devon, looks really good, mind you, your photos at dawn would do anywhere justice.

    1. Hi again Frank,
      you may be right, it could be ‘cottling’ but it certainly looks more like ‘bottling’. By coincidence, just been watching your vid of Fowey taken last year. Top place and I love your commentary. Especially the bit where you hurl a bit of pasty (or whatever) at the turnstone and it ignores it and just goes on flicking stones over. I suppose if you are called turnstone that is what you’ve got to do. keep paddling, if you can. Regards R

      p.s exmoor coast IS really excellent especially around Lynmouth. Choose a swell free day so you can have loads of relaxed beach stops.

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