As the summer comes to pass and there is a distinct freshness to the autumn air, north Devon angler Kevin Legge has for the last few years turned his attention towards surf fishing for bass. With most anglers heading for the local rock marks in pursuit of conger and maybe a tope, the surf beaches are for the most part devoid of anglers and Kevin, together with a couple of friends, has enjoyed some tremendous fishing. Although his personal best bass from the beach is 15lb 12oz (the current Bristol Channel record), it is rare that he goes a season without seeing a fish of specimen size.
This year has been no different and recent sessions have been extremely productive for both Kevin and regular fishing partner Dave Brook.
Only last night, Kevin and Dave had planned to tackle their regular stretch of beach but were a little uncertain as to whether it would be fishable. With the forecast onset of strong winds, Kevin realised it would be highly probable that there would be an onshore swell developing as a result of a weather front developing out in the Atlantic. Such conditions often bring with them rafts of weed which make the beach near impossible to fish, so the decision was made to try a little further along the coast at Putsborough. The prominent rock peninsula of Baggy Point would offer some protection, at least that was the plan, and so Kevin and Dave headed off across the sands, the roar of the ocean ever present.
Kevin’s approach is a little different to that of the regular surf angler who historically has fished with as light a lead as possible. Kevin fishes with 7oz leads on regular pulley rigs. A pair of 6/0 Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks complete the set up and are baited with a fillet of blast frozen Ammo mackerel. Mackerel is rarely in short supply in Devon, but Kevin has experiment to great lengths with both fresh and frozen mackerel and it is interesting to note that the blast frozen bait out-fishes the fresh bait by a considerable margin.
Tackling up some hundred yards apart in order to give each other plenty of space, Kevin only had to wait ten minutes before a small bite registered on his rod tip. Before too long, the tip began to pull over and a steady rasp of line was pulled from the reel, the ratchet singing out in the wind. Making contact, it was evident that this was a big fish and Dave came over to assist Kevin in the surf. Sure enough, a long bass came into view and was guided onto dry land.
Kevin’s fish was admired, weighed at 10lb 7oz in a light sling, photographed and returned, but whilst this drama was unfolding, his second rod that had been neglected for the last ten minutes was also paying out line to an as-yet unseen adversary. Once again, Kevin was into a fish, but despite his initial thoughts turning to a second bass, it soon became clear this was not the case.
Dave looked on inquisitively as both anglers awaited the fish to come ashore. Soon, all was revealed and as suspected it was not a bass but a specimen size small eyed ray of 9lb 12oz.
This was a spectacular start for the dynamic duo but Dave was more than aware that his own rods were all alone further down the beach so after taking further photos of Kevin with his ray, he made his way back down the beach to see what the state of play was.
Both rod’s were there on the stand, but one was not as it had been left… in fact it was as straight as a needle and the line was blowing about wildly in the buffeting wind. Dave wound down into the slack and and lifted the rod, not knowing just how long it had been like this. As luck would have it, the rod pulled back in his grasp and the fish was still there! With plenty of head shakes as the fish swam parallel with the beach, Dave was certain that this fish was a bass and sure enough in the beam of his lamp a black back emerged from the froth and a prime bass was slid up the sand.
Dave’s bass weighed in at over 8lb, but the two anglers weren’t done just yet. Over the next two hours they added two more small eyed rays and Kevin found another bass of just over 7lb.