(6) June, 1975, Beating Beach Bass, by Bob Alexander.
Bass fishing seems to be shrouded with mystique and looked on as something only to be attempted by the experienced angler. One of the simplest ways to start bass fishing is to spin from the beach. For me this means Chesil Beach, that long pebble bank that looks the same mile after mile. But to think it is the same is the first mistake many anglers make.
Visited at low spring tide the steep shelves of pebbles are high and dry and a flat beach gently slopes into the sea. The beach is hard under foot, as the pebbles are bedded into broken shell and shingle. There are small patches of sand and shell, but these have to be found. Find them by going along the beach at the bottom of the tide when there is a small swell of two or three feet blowing. The sea will then pick up the sand and become discoloured with a yellowish hue.
This is where the sandeels live and the waves will disturb them into furious activity. Just a few yards offshore are the bass, waiting for the sandeels to swim to them. If low tide occurs in mid afternoon so much the better. The afternoon sunshine seems to encourage fish to feed. The simple way to get among these fish is to rig up a light spinning rod, a one ounce lead and six-foot leader trace to a large-Redgill. Cast out beyond the breakers and retrieve at a fast rate. Judge the cast and retrieve so that the lure comes ashore just behind a breaking wave. Be ready for the fish to take just before or after the wave breaks. It is important that you are ready for the take, and that your reel clutch is set correctly.
When the fish takes before the wave breaks it will normally run along the wave and then make for open water. There should be no difficulty playing it out. To land it, bring it in just behind a wave keeping the line tight, to be washed ashore. Should the fish take as the wave breaks, things get a little more difficult. The fish will run in the water that sweeps up the beach and then down into the next breaking wave. Allow any slack line at this point and it will invariable get off the hook. After running into the wave the fish will either go through it, or run up the beach again. If it runs up a second time retrieve the line as fast as the fish is swimming. Slacken the clutch and let it run for the open sea before the next wave breaks.
The danger point is where the wave hits the beach. More good specimens are lost there than anywhere else. Avoid letting the fish get into that area and it will be landed with little difficulty. As the tide rises the fish will go off the feed. The best fishing is to be had at the bottom of the tide and on the turn.
When spinning from the beach it is essential to keep on the move until you find the right spot. As the tide rises above the patch of sand you are fishing move on and find a patch the waves are just reaching. During the summer, when the sea is flat calm, the time to go spinning is during the night. Once again a rising tide will be most productive, using the same tackle as for daylight. A full moon on a clear night is ideal and torch or headlight isn't necessary until fish are landed.
The bass will be found very close to shore, within feet of you, so stealth is required not to frighten them away. Keep the lure moving fast on the retrieve to give out plenty vibrations. Don't cast out to sea as far as you can. Rather cast out at an angle of 45° to the shore or closer, with an easy cast. Keep moving up the beach after each cast, but move up only about five paces at a time in the direction you are casting. I move after every four casts. A headlight is essential when the fish is hooked as the rod curve can be very deceptive in the moonlight in telling you where the fish actually is.