Ask many sea anglers which is their favourite species and my guess would be that many would answer bass. This would come as no surprise as the species ticks many boxes. Bass certainly look the part with their streamlined bodies silver flanks and defiant spiky fins.

They are also reasonably prolific and can be caught from the warmer waters of the South West throughout the year. Their biggest attribute is perhaps the fact that they can be caught using a wide range of tactics that suit different angling approaches.

            Bass can be caught from a wide range of terrains across the region from deep water rock marks, shallow, rocky beaches, harbours, estuaries and those classic sandy storm beaches. The topography will to a certain extent determine the methods employed to catch bass and of course what is currently on the menu. Bass and all fish will go where the food is so this is ideally where the angler should head choosing bait that matches the hatch.

            My own bass fishing approach is to some extent determined by who I fish with, what method is likely to bring results and what I enjoy most. In recent seasons lure fishing has to some extent been my go to method producing good numbers of fish over shallow rocky shores.

            But to some degree I have always associated bass with shallow sandy surf beaches inspired years ago by the writing of Clive Gammon and others who fished the famous surf beaches of South West Ireland. The evocative picture of a loan angler stood in the surf holding the rod whilst waiting for the electrifying tug of a silver bass hunting in the third breaker.

            Whilst this approach has its appeal the modern angler tends to fish in a lazier yet perhaps more effective way. My good friend Kevin Legge has fished North Devon’s surf beaches for several decades and I always enjoy a session with Kev whose confidence and experience always inspires. Kevin’s approach is in some ways similar to that of the modern carp angler anchoring baits far out in the surf relying upon the large sharp hooks to self-hook the fish against the breakaway lead.

            A brisk westerly breeze was blowing when we arrived at the beach to coincide with a rising tide and the onset of night. A moderate surf was pushing in and at times it surged up the sand making fishing a little difficult. Kev doesn’t relish a surging push like this as it seldom results in good catches. But persistence can pay off in fishing and with a bait in the water you never know what is lurking out in the dark.

            We fished fifty yards or so apart each anchoring two baits out in the surf. I had elected to use joey mackerel on each rod casting out as far as I could and then walking back as the tide flooded until depleting line on the reel forced a recast.

            After a couple of hours Kev wandered over with a smoothound estimated at 8lb and tempted on a squid bait. Apart from this the baits had been untouched throughout.

            The brisk breeze drove spells of rain and drizzle into the beach and I pulled up my hood whilst I watched the rod tips for signs of life. The distant lights of seaside towns and villages flickered from across the bay and ships lights shone from out on the sea. Standing alone on the sands was liberating immersed in the natural world. Bright eyes shone in the headlights beam as a fox approached. Ever resourceful they have learnt that anglers bring bait that makes a tasty meal. For this reason, a tough bait box is essential to repel their efforts to steal from the bags left away from the incoming tide.

            As I removed old bait from the hooks the fox showed little fear and came right up to me despite my initial efforts to drive it away. The fox was certainly persistent and at times sat patiently behind me on the wet sand like a dog waiting for his meal. Eventually I warmed to my companion and allowed him to take the discarded bait each time I reeled in to refresh.

            The best time for bass is often close to high water which was at 01:40am. We decided to call time at around 1:30am and as I watched the rod tips intently a gentle nod of the tip caught my attention. I picked up the rod and felt a slight tug followed by a slight slacking of the line. Another slight tug followed and I suspected a dogfish. I raised the rod and began retrieving not sure if  anything was attached. A few lunges on the line as the tackle was brought into shallow water indicated that a fish was attached. A pleasing silver bass of around 3lb 8oz was dragged across the sand. I despatched the fish, descaled and gutted it as it was a perfect eating size. I return all bass I catch of over 6lb keeping the occasional fish for the table as it is one of my favourite eating fish.

            The larger bass are valuable breeding stock and their flesh is often riddled with worms that although harmless are not very appetising. The minimum size for bass is 42cm though I would return any  bass under 45cm. Anglers are permitted to take no more than two bass per day full guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bass-industry-guidance-2023/bass-fishing-guidance-2023


As I packed away the tackle Kev walked over to show me the smallest ray he had ever caught. A tiny ray that sat in the palm of his hand that had fancied a whole mackerel.

            It had been an enjoyable session made memorable by a visit from a wild fox and by just being there as the tide flooded as we puzzled over the pages of natures never ending script.


Putsborough 2023 – A ray and hound bonanza

Before proceeding to the results and write up Combe Martin SAC would like to thank the sponsors of the event : SAKUMA, QUAY SPORTS and BRAUNTON BAIT BOX the sponsors provided a superb prize table that I feel sure those fortunate to collect prizes can testify to. The club would also thank the owners at Putsborough for permitting the club to hold the event each year. And of course a special thanks to the anglers who come each year and support the event.


Ray and hound bonanza

As I share in the organisation of this event with Combe Martin SAC I always set out on the evening of the event with a degree of trepidation. Having set the date back at the start of the year there are always unforeseen circumstances that can cause issues on the night. The weather is always a major factor and this year it proved to be ideal for the venue with a light  North Easterly breeze coming over our shoulders. We had also managed to miss any major clash with sporting or national events that have conspired in the past. The FA Cup Final, Derby and Cricket Test all completed well before competition start time! I remember one year when England qualified for a major football event! Now how could we predict that ! Fortunately, King Charles had scheduled his Coronation a few weeks early unlike her majesty who forced us to reschedule a few years ago with a golden jubilee celebration weekend.

The event is of course dictated to by the tide times with a small window of opportunity in early summer or late Spring when Low Water falls at a reasonable time coinciding with darkness yet not too late allowing everyone a few hours’ sleep before embarking on Sunday life.

I and CMSAC are always very grateful to the sponsors who invest in the event each year donating a wonderful array of prizes.


I must give special thanks to Craig of Braunton Baits who sorted the top ring of my rod at very short notice. On driving away from home; I noticed that the insert was missing from the top eye of my rod. I rang Craig who offered to repair the rod if I popped into his shop and workshop on the way to the competition.

I arrived at Putsborough and exchanged cheery greetings with Trevor on the gate commenting on how quick the past twelve months had flown past.

Club secretary Nick Phillips was already in place at the bottom of the car park greeting the keen early arrivals. As entrants trickled in it was good to catch up with familiar faces. It was surprising how many stated that it was their first trip out to the seashore in several months some even saying it was the first time since last year’s event. This surely highlights the importance of these fixtures in the local angling calendar. Fishing is of course highly contagious and enthusiastic trip plotting spread amongst the growing groups of anglers.

As the sun slowly sank beneath the horizon cast off time loomed and participants set up their stalls along the beach. At 10:00pm thirty nine anglers launched baits out into the retreating tide.

Nick and I had set up in the unfavoured zone close to the west end of the beach. On the first cast my rod tip nodded setting the scene for the rest of the evening during which I would reel in close to a dozen small dogfish.

The tide ebbed down to low water shortly after midnight and rumours of good fishing further along the beach started to circulate via mobile phone chatter.

Tony Gussin with 5lb 8oz- small eyed ray

It was a perfect night to be on the beach a gentle breeze, a flat calm sea and a strawberry moon rising above the hills behind illuminating the waters of the bay.

What’s in a name? That which we call a strawberry moon, by any other word would smell as sweet.

June’s full moon, also known as “strawberry moon,” is coming up Saturday evening, reaching its peak at 11:42 p.m. ET. It’s expected to be big, bright and golden — a fine way to celebrate the beginning of summer.

         High on the hill above Woolacombe a ring of lights shone brightly and music from a Spring Festival event drifted out across the vast sandy expanse of Woolacombe and Putsborough. Anglers’ headlights twinkled at the water’s edge and I wondered what had been caught this year.

         Put forty or so anglers on a beach and each year the results are different with the occasional surprise. I well remember one year when Kevin Legge caught a tope of over 40lb that I was privileged to help him land in the surf.

         There is always the concern that few fish will be tempted but fortunately over the years there has never been a complete blank.

         The species caught do fluctuate a lot and a regular event like this is useful in monitoring change in the marine eco system. When we first held the event close to forty years ago smoothound were seldom weighed into the match with small eyed ray and dogfish dominating. Surprisingly bass have seldom featured in results.

         Nick and I made sure we were back at the meet up point before fishing was due to end and I hurriedly assembled the prize table layout.

         As anglers arrived back the buzz was apparent and cheerful banter indicated good fishing had been enjoyed by many.

         I always find the collection and sorting of results stressful. This year the entry forms flooded in with fish galore written hurriedly upon the crumbled forms. It was immediately apparent that this had been a fishing bonanza. Each fish had to be checked against its relevant specimen rating. Not made easy when some had registered their weights in metric ounces! Fortunately, everyone at least adopted proper pounds and ounces.

         With close to forty anglers eager to get the results and get home to bed there was a certain pressure as we filtered the results from highest to lowest. I am fully confident that we got the top three right but concede that there might have been one or two minor errors as we announced the descending order. Apologies for any but I feel sure everyone entitled to a prize received one and all bundles were great value.

         We have learnt a few points for next year’s competition when we hope all will come together as summer arrives once again.

The top seventeen anglers received prizes: –

Full Results :-

1st – Steve Liddle – Smoothound 10lb 4oz – 102%

 Recieved £100 plus a choice of prize and £39 pool for best specimen.

2nd – Antony Smith – Smoothouind – 8lb 10oz – 86. 25%

Recieved £50 plus choice from the prize table.

3rd – Craig Mcloughlin – Blonde ray – 10lb – 83%

4th – N. Penney – Smoothound – 8lb 2oz – 81.25%

5th – Daniel Welch – small eyed ray – 8lb 1oz – 80.625%

6th – Ross Stanway – small eyed ray – 7lb 13oz – 78.437%

7th – John Johnson – smoothound – 7lb 11oz – 76.825%

8th – Daniel Welch – small eyed ray – 7lb 10oz – 76.25%

9th – Ross Stanway – small eyed ray – 7lb 7oz – 74.375%

10th – S. Springwell – smoothound – 7lb 5oz – 73.125%

11th – John Johnson – smoothound – 7lb 5oz – 73.125%

12th – Martyn Hunton – small eyed ray – 7lb 5oz – 73.125oz

13th – J. Sendell – blonde ray – 8lb 12oz – 72.917%

14th – T. Honeywell – smoothound – 7lb 4oz – 72.5%

15th – Steve Liddle – smoothound – 7lb 4oz – 72.5%

16th – John Johnson – smoothound – 7lb 2oz – 71.125%

17th – Daniel Welch – small eyed ray – 7lb 2oz – 71.125%


Putsborough Open Competition –

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Combe Martin SAC host their annual Putsborough Open on Saturday, June 11th. The club would like to give a special thank you to the sponsors Sakuma Tackle, Quay Sports, High Street Tackle and Braunton Baits. Their generosity has ensured a superb prize table with prizes for the top 15 to register fish on the night. If less than 15 fish are registered prizes will be split accordingly. The club are hoping to see a great turn out for this event after a couple of strange years.

The event is a catch and release event with fish to be weighed witnessed and photographed before being returned to the water.




Small-eyed ray



Blonde ray



Spotted ray


4lb 8oz

Lesser-spotted dogfish


3lb 8oz

Bull Huss

































Smoothound (common/starry)





















Rockling, all species



All rays minimum 16-inches across the wings. Mini species do not count. Some commonsense weights have been applied to species such as dogfish or conger.
In the unlikely event of any other species being caught CMSAC sizes apply. If need be, retain fish in water and seek a member of club. Wayne Thomas mobile 07818 631 811 for photos.

For the purpose of this competition two rods and four hooks may be used, with a pennell rig counting as two hooks. CMSAC size limits apply. Please leave a space of approximately 20 yards between yourself and the next angler, it’s a large beach. When you catch a fish, please have this witnessed by a member or steward, complete the capture form and bring the form back to the weigh in, this is a catch and release competition. Fish may be brought back to the weigh in, but only up to two fish per species.

Please respect the beach and do not leave litter, discard line or old tackle behind and do not start fires. The Clubs decision is final. All complaints must be in writing to organisers before the scales close.

The winner of the competition will receive £100 Cash and a choice from the prize table. Runner up will recieve £50 plus a prize from the prize table.





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Liam Loveday tempted this stunning 13lb bass from a North Devon surf beach. The fish took a peeler crab bait presented on a 4/0 Chinu hook cast 30yards into the surf an hour before high water. The fish gave a strong account for close to ten minutes before being beached safely.The fish measured 87cm.

This is an encouraging catch from the surf early in the season.


What a night for Dave !

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Combe Martin SAC member David Jenkins enjoyed an action packed session at a North Devon Beach

“So what a night. Trip to a local beach a packet of 10 large sandeel and 5 joey mackeral in my bucket resulted in 14 fish. Non stop done right in now. 13 small eyed ray 8lb 1oz new pb from shore 7lb 14oz 6.3 6.1 5.14 5.13 5.10 the best plus an autumn codling fantastic trip local in north Devon. Between 3 of us 20 ray 5 bass and a sole. “

Hounds are still about !!

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Late October but summer species are still about. Kevin Kirby sent me this report of smoothound caught from a North Devon shore mark. The hounds scaling 10lb 6oz and 8lb 9oz were tempted using whole squid baits. I have noticed that each autumn the hounds are staying later with some specimens showing light up until Christmas they also seem more inclined to take squid baits at this time of year.


Spring ray bring hope of summers nights ahead

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Dan Waklbridge was delighted to catch this small eyed ray from a North Devon beach as dusk and low water coincided. Such catches bring optimism that results will be good in the popular forthcoming Putsborough Open.

Combe Martin Sea Angling Club

Presents Our

Putsborough Sands

Open Fishing Competition 2019

Saturday June 1st

Fishing From 10.00pm to 2.00am

Book In From 8.30pm to 9.30pm

Weigh In By 2.30am

Cash Prizes Of £100 & £50

Sakuma, High Street Tackle, Chillcheater

And Many Other Donated Prizes

2 Rods, 4 Hooks, Specimen Sizes

Entry £5 plus £1 Pool Best Brace

Phone Nick 814703 Or Wayne 850586

For More Details Please Check www.cmsac.co.uk Or Our Facebook Page

Please Respect Putsborough & Remove All Litter