Saturday, 21 February 2009

Can't sleep - some more French bass thoughts

  • My head is swimming with an information overload out here, and with all that going on I woke up at silly o'clock again. Kinda feels like being out on repeated night fishing sessions again. Only a few hours now until the Nantes show starts again, and today I am going to try and learn a whole load more than I did yesterday.

  • I wanted to try and find a principal reason why French bass fishing has become so technically advanced. Fishing trends and markets are driven by different things, but there had to be a reason to explain the explosion out here in fishing modern soft plastic lures generally close to or on the bottom, plus the increasing acceptance of vertical jgging as a killer method for the bass in deeper water.

  • The main reason I have found for all this modernisation is that there are literally so many French bass anglers continuously casting "conventional" hard plastic surface and sub-surface lures at the fish that the bass are basically getting spooked and moving out from inshore and are congregating more and more in the deeper, often very turbulent water. Fishing for bass is huge out here, indeed I was quoted figures yesterday that at least 50% of French sea anglers are active bass anglers. And bear in mind that sea fishing is really big out here.

  • Of course there can be some excellent shore fishing out here if you know where to look and can get away from the crowds (the same the world over with all kinds of fishing), but it is far more of a boat-based bass culture in France than it is in England. The guys are using these generally smaller, faster boats (loads of RIBs, perfect for fishing close to rocks and rips) to access the deeper water often way offshore - but bear in mind that a lot of the west coast of France is littered with islands and rocks that give so much varied bass water for the boat angler. Many of these offshore islands are where the keen shore fishermen go as well.

  • So the French anglers have had no choice but to keep developing more and more refined techniques and gear to catch these fish. The guys seem very happy with the actual numbers of bass or stock levels that they have around here, but they are being forced to literally "adapt or die". Either learn new methods or suffer a drastic reduction in your fishing returns. This is a very interesting philosophy to find so close to home on the saltwater fishing side.

  • It goes almost without saying that the range of what we would call hard plastic lures is about as refined as I have ever come across - more "please buy me" shallow diving and surface lures than you could believe, and I want to own them all, in all the different colours as well !! There is some stunning new stuff from brands such as Sebile, IMA, Tackle House, Duo, ILLEX etc. I watched a new Duo lure being demonstrated yesterday and had to stop my mouth opening all the time in a really intelligent "hang dog" look - the lure was insane, and the guy working it simply made it come alive. I was gobsmacked at how slowly and deliberately the guys fish some of their hard plastic lures. OK, so there is plenty of stuff that likes to be cranked hard and fast, but there is some really interesting stuff that likes to be worked closer to how you might work a soft plastic lure like the MegasBass XLayer or the Slug-Go.

  • And on the soft plastics front, this is what I find most staggering out here. I said earlier that the bass are tending to vacate the more pressurised inshore areas, and the guys are often having to fish deeper water to catch them. It is how they might fish say twenty to forty metres down that is really opening my eyes. The amount of different kinds of soft plastics (worms, shads, minnows etc.) and the variation in jig head weights, shapes and patterns is what has got into my head big time. Watching these soft lures being properly demonstrated in the tanks is blowing my mind. The lures look better than the real thing, seriously. I know we can use a lot of these methods in our waters, from boat and shore.

  • I was talking with a really well respected bass angler out here yesterday, and he was talking me through a specific soft plastic lure that was being demonstrated. It was a kind of worm, fished on a tungsten weighted jig head. The best results they get from this particular lure is to let it sink to the bottom in a bit of tide and literally allow it to sit there, nose down, while the body of the soft worm literally shivers and flutters in the tide. From time to time they will move it a bit, and these movements practically had me jumping into the tank to grab the lure myself. Even in a tank with no current you could see what was going on when the lure sat nose down, and the angler said the hits off the bass could be off the scale savage on the static worm. I am often guilty of cranking my lures too fast (too overexcited half the time), but these methods the French are using often require huge finesse, patience and skill.

  • I have been showing a few prints of my bass photographs to various people out here, and the reactions are fantastically positive. We might be lagging behind the French when it comes to modern bass fishing techniques (and we are, there is no point trying to stick one's chest out and deny it), but they really like the way we photograph and film our fishing. Interesting. Time to go and find some coffee......

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