LRF Species Hunt: Cornish Tips

Ahead of any Cornish Lure Festival Species Hunt it’s useful to know what to expect and where to head for. Our guide introduces you to some of the most productive Cornish LRF fishing marks.

Hi everybody! By this time next week we’ll know who the 2016 Bass, LRF and Wrasse hunting champions are! While the bass and wrasse sections are more of a random expedition for most, the LRF Species Hunt is an intense and varied journey with competition fierce. Knowing the area can help, but a little bit of luck will always come in handy too. Josh Fletcher won the event with a total of 19 species last year, which is completely RIDICULOUS! 19 in 48 hours! All on lures! This year the potential for a couple more has been added to the table, with me separating Blenny species so that the much loved and slightly rarer Tompot has a higher, separate score.

So, I thought this year I’d try to help any anglers visiting the area in giving them a little bit of an idea as to where they may find some of these species around the county and maybe how to catch them. Obviously random species could turn up almost anywhere and my advice is just based on my own experiences. Hopefully this will give some of you an idea of areas to target if you need to catch certain fishies on an LRF species hunt.

Best if I keep it to a fairly simple list form:

Common Blenny

They like to hang about off the bottom, sticking themselves to the side of various harbour walls. Try places like Mevagissey (far right hand side of the outer wall, near the corner), Hayle (just over bridge where water runs in to the pool, hanging on wall on the seaward side) and Falmouth (along many of the town walls). They’re almost even easier to snare by wandering the rockpools though – north or south – because of the shallow depth and fact that you can sight fish for them more easily.

Recommended method: Split Shot rig. Marukyu Isome. Hold up against the wall (touching) – not on the bottom.

Tompot Blenny (my favourite LRF species)

Similar to above and one of my favourite LRF species, Tompots hang about around holes in rocky walls. Use slightly bigger lures than you would for the common fish. Not so many at Meva but Hayle and Falmouth will produce them. Rockpools certainly.

Recommended method: Split Shot rig. Marukyu Isome or EcogearAqua Straight. Hold up against the wall – not on the bottom.

Bream

Rare, but tiny Black Bream will show up in places like Fowey, Mevagissey and the general St Austell area. Near structure, but not right on it. Small lures. Couch’s Bream will show up very, very occasionally, again in places like Fowey and along this coast.

Recommended method: Dropshot rig so that bait is slightly off bottom. Tiny hook, Marukyu Isome or Ecogearaqua Aji Straight.

Dragonet

They like cruising over clean sand but you’ll catch them near to structure. Again, Mevagissey and Fowey, plus maybe Hayle (further towards the river mouth). They have tiny mouths so small pieces of Isome and #16’s best (like lots of these LRF species).

Recommended method: Split shot rig. Tiny hook, Marukyu Isome. Hard on bottom over sand.

Flatfish

The Fowey and Camel estuaries are both worth a look for Flounder. The Town Quay at Fowey is a popular spot. Plaice are in the Fowey too but like the deeper water further out. Turbot like the sandy beaches. Again I’d concentrate on the south coast, particularly along Whitsand Bay. The weird Topknot are different to all the others. They stick themselves to rocks and harbour walls so not only will you find the odd one in a rockpool, you’ll catch them mid water, against the walls at places like Mevagissey, Fowey and Falmouth.

Recommended method: Flounder & Plaice – Splitshot, dropshot or jighead. Slow moving bait bouncing bottom. Marukyu Isome of Ecogearaqua. Topknot – small jighead covering plenty of wal
l by regularly moving.

Garfish

Seem less common these days in some areas, but deeper water marks will be best. Around Rame Head in the south east always seems to hold a few though. Small metal jigs kept high in the water could potentially catch you one in almost any part of the county though.

Recommended method: Light casting jig fished near the surface.

Goby

Prolific little things. One of the harder places to catch them is actually Mevagissey, but you’ll find them generally close to or on the bottom around most harbours or rockpools. All species bar the Leopard Spotted version count as one (so don’t spend time on them once you’ve caught yours).

Recommended method: Split shot rig. Tiny hook. Marukyu Isome.

Gurnard

These will be more prolific as the year goes on. Fowey, Charlestown and the inside of Padstow harbour are known to throw them up though. Metal jigs will account for some on the first two while Isome at close quarters in Padstow have done the business in the past. This is however also worth trying around the floating pontoons in Fowey.

Recommended method: Casting jig for larger specimens, split shot rig and Isome for smaller versions.

Mackerel

They could be harder to catch than you’d hope. Still relatively few and far between at the moment for what should be an easy LRF species hunt target. Deeper water headlands like Newquay, Pentire, Rame and Trevose would be where I’d try though, along with Mevagissey harbour.

Recommended method: Casting jig. Cover lots of water.

Pollack

Again, like the Goby these are one of the two you should probably all find fairly prolific. They’re catchable on pretty much all of the usual spots. Headlands, harbours, almost everywhere. Deep water, rocks and weed usually help, but they’re everywhere.

Recommended method: Casting jig. Straight retrieve.

Poor Cod

They show a bit randomly but by far my most prolific spot is Mevagissey. Usually dragging a bait slowly along the bottom in the entrance to the harbour, casting from the left hand wall towards the right. That said, I had one last week down the wall on the right.

Recommended method: Dropshot rig. Slowly scraped along (just above) the bottom. Isome.

Mullet

They’re a tricky fish to tempt, but get a little lucky by dropping a bait on one’s nose and you might get lucky. Falmouth, Millbrook, Looe and Padstow are just a few spots to try.

Recommended method: Ultralight splitshot rig. Drop bait on one’s nose.

Sandeel

There were masses at Mevagissey last week. Mostly tiny though some come with tiny hooks. The odd better one among them. Tricky to catch though, it’s nice to know they’re around. Gorran Haven always with a look. Always easy to catch on north coast beaches like Harlyn or south of Porthcothan on calm days though.

Recommended method: Larger versions, tiny casting jig. Smaller ones, Carolina rig, tiny hook, Isome.

Scorpion Fish

A lover of rocky, weedy ground. They’re possible from the walls in Fowey, Newlyn, Mevagissey and the like. You’ll find this LRF species in rockpools too, especially on the north coast.

Recommended method: Jighead or split shot rig. Marukyu Isome scraping bottom.

Scad

Fowey is one spot for there. There are some really small ones to be had inside Padstow harbour too. Fish under the lights from dusk and in to dark.

Recommended method: Jighead. Small soft plastic lure.

Smelt

These show around most of the county’s harbours. They’ll begin to show as dusk nears and you’ll catch them around the lights.

Recommended method: Carolina rig, tiny hook, Isome.

Weaver Fish

Lovers of shallow, sandy areas. Hayle estuary and St Ives are two prolific places worth trying. Charlestown too. They’re tiny, mostly.

Recommended method: Larger versions, tiny casting jig. Smaller ones, Dropshot rig, tiny hook, Isome.

Ballan Wrasse

Along numerous south coast rocky marks you’ll find these. Smaller ones around harbours like Mevagissey. The rocks around the mouth of the Fowey estuary are popular too. There are loads and loads of rocky marks where you might pick one up though. The area around Tintagel on the north coast is one that is very much less explored than many of the south coast spots, but you would catch plenty of fish of varying species up there.

Recommended method: Jighead. Ecogearaqua or 2″ soft plastic.

Goldsinney & Corkwing Wrasse

From an LRF species hunt point of view you quite often find these two in similar places. Most of the rockier, weedier harbours hold both. Definitely try the north wall at Hayle, especially around the end. Mevagissey used to hold more than it does now, but they’re still there. Both like a moving bait – smaller for the Goldsinney.

Recommended method: Goldsinney – dropshot, Isome. Keep it slowly moving. Corkwing – tiny jighead, small SP or Aqua.

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Now, obviously there are stacks more to go at than that, but the truth is that a lot will (hopefully) show up almost randomly while you’re on your travels. Certainly there will be other places not listed that you may catch some of these species too. This is just an idea of where I’d be heading if I was fishing it myself.

It’s worth bearing in mind that we have the Marukyu Isome Challenge happening in Fowey on the Saturday evening (July 2nd from 6.30pm) so this is a good chance to fish down there. To make the most of the LRF species tally, you’ll likely need to pick yourself 3 or 4 venues to fish over the weekend. Maybe more if you feel like it.

I hope this helps! As an aside, there’s 10% OFF EVERYTHING at The Art of Fishing on the Friday sign-in day so hopefully I’ll see some of you there!!!

Click this link to view our full range of LRF tackle.

Ben

Cornwall LRF League – Round 4 (Mevagissey)

I felt a bit more prepared for this one. When this LRF thing first started properly for us in 2009, Mevagissey was the first place that I ever fished with this kind of tackle. I even remember the first session there, catching millions of pollack on 2″ Sawamura One-Up Shads. Even though I’ve only fished there infrequently over the past few years I feel like I know it reasonably well at least. So no need to stress about practising or rubbish like that.

This week I even tied a few rigs in advance. This is something I’ve been doing for almost the past 18 months now after discovering the Cralusso Fine Match Quick Swivel Snaps. I now tie one of these to the end of my braid, and simply switch rig types to my heart’s content – without having to re-tie or waste time while I’m fishing. Everything is done in advance. Apart from carrying a couple of spare swivels with me just in case I do lose the whole lot, I don’t even really need to take any extra line, clips or anything out to the coast with me. I have everything I need, already tied. I know some of our customers struggle with tying leader knots in very light braids, so these swivels will be your saviour. I just tie them to my braid using a Uni/Grinner knot (normally with doubled over braid and around 6 or 8 turns).

Mevagissey LRF

Anyway, with my rigs tied and a prior knowledge of what I might catch and where I might catch it, this was a very chilled out evening.

All of the guys were in good spirits as usual, and despite there only being 6 of us this week (which does nothing but add to the level of chilled banter and camaraderie). I’d some dressed expecting rain, head to toe in Shimano Goretex. Typically this had the reverse effect on what the weather Gods were supposed to be thinking and it stayed dry and mild all evening.

To cut the full story a little shorter, I got nicely lucky this week in the form of a couple of species that I’d not expected, or even realised were on my line. A mini bass showed up while I was trying for a mackerel, and a poor cod took a fancy for my Scorpion intended Isome. The latter didn’t feel the need to show any definitive form of bite whatsoever, so I just happened to find him on the end of my line when I went to lift off bottom. I fished a fairly heavy putty weight all evening and expect a lighter one fixed closer to the hook may have told me he was there a little sooner. I did rub my hands together a little bit once I’d hauled all 2oz of him up the harbour wall though. A nice addition to the four species I’d already caught at that point.

Poor Cod

To go backwards in time a couple of hours, I started with a little Ballan Wrasse on an Ecogearaqua bait, right down the inside on the outer wall. I spotted a little shoal of them and luckily caught this one on my first attempt at them. I was hoping he’d be followed by one or two of the other wrasse species, but they were weirdly difficult to catch during the evening, as we progressed.

Ballan Wrasse

Dragonettes are something that I first saw caught at Mevagissey during a Lure Festival evening that we had down there three or four years ago. Mostly out in front on the clean ground at that point, on tiny bits of Marukyu Isome, but it seemed that t
he likes of Luke, Simon, Will etc had since worked out that they could be caught at much closer quarters. Further along the outer wall from me I saw Luke land one so I followed suit under my rod tip doing the same and caught mine about 5 minutes later.

Dragonette

Funny, spiky little things (on top of the head), so be careful with these! With potential Mackerel, Pollack and Bass cruising the open water in front of us, I switched rigs and popped on a metal casting jig next, hoping for one of those mentioned. First cast I hit a pollack, so right about now I was thinking that maybe I’d do OK result wise.

Pollack

I forget the ins and outs exactly but with lots of laughing in between, eventually I decided to have a go at a Blenny next. I’ve never caught many at Mevagissey but I do know where they hang out. Luckily there were more about than normal even and I could see them drifting about on the wall – a long way off the bottom – perhaps just a few feet below the waters surface. The bigger one of the group I was watching was far more interested in my weight than the lure, but eventually I annoyed him in to having it. Job done!

Blenny

Then came the super-fluke Poor Cod and eventually… A BASS! A mackerel would have done just as well, but there’s something more exciting about the Bass. Tiny he may have been, but at least he was an intended target at the time.

Bass

With the tide ebbing I think we could all feel the fishing becoming a little harder as darkness drew closer. I was really happy with the end result. Mostly just because I’d had a relaxed evening and everything just seemed to work out for me. I won the round with my six species. 🙂

Luke Fox was second with 4 and Simon Knill just pipped Will Pender for third thanks to superior species points – both with 3 species.

Group

Top 3

  1. Ben Field – Centre (6)
  2. Luke Fox – Left (3)
  3. Simon Knill – Right (3)

Mevagissey

Cornish LRF League 2016 – Round 3 (Hayle)

I like these little LRF competitions. Chatting with Paul Godwin while we were down at Hayle this Wednesday, we agreed that organised evenings like this are just the motivation you need sometimes to drag yourself away from the rest of life and whatever it entails.

Going against nearly all of my own advice after struggling in round one, I just couldn’t find the time or motivation to pop down there for a practice beforehand. It’s just too tricky sometimes. Or at least too easy to make excuses not to. Although I organised the event and was here last year, I didn’t fish and hadn’t done so before – bar a little bit of exploration with Ben Tregonning (now at Farlows in London) about 5 years ago. Things were very much more basic then from an LRF point of view and I believe we were there solely for a go at the Gilthead Bream so ignored everything else.

So, this round was to be an adventure. I found a little time in the shop during the afternoon to sort through a few pieces of kit (and cut things back quite a bit actually) and felt happy enough that I’d got everything I might need.

Species Hunter’s Checklist

  • Split shot – check.
  • Small hooks – check.
  • Heavy dropshot weights – check.
  • Marukyu Isome………. ermmmmm…….. (more on that in a bit).

Hayle is a weird kind of place to fish. In the mouth of the estuary, you have to contend with absolutely insane amounts of current as the water gushes through a couple of bridged archways as it fills up the large saltmarsh type pools behind you. The Mullet love it here, as do the Gilts. Almost anything seems to turn up though. It is just so different fishing in such amounts of current.

From a competitive point of view, I think it became evident that you just need to get your timings right to make the most of the potential species present. Obviously you have the rising tide, the slack bit in the middle, and then the dropping tide (if you’re fishing over high). During the rise and fall you need to be picking your target areas carefully. Slack water is a chance to explore some of the previously unfishable bits (when the water is just gushing too fast). Some of the more difficult species need to be targeted at the right times too. For example, Luke Fox caught the only Ballan Wrasse this week (three actually!) over slack water in one particular spot that was unfishable with either a fast flooding or ebbing tide. Will Pender knew exactly what he was doing when he charged straight down to the sandier parts of the estuary mouth while the tide was flooding to quickly nab not just the Weaverfish he was after, but also a bonus Dragonette! This kind of foresight and experience is what separates the likes of Will from the rest of us on venues that they know well. Incidentally, I used Will’s example from last year; Not knowing how to fish the place, when we left the Asda carpark I headed straight to the spot that I’d watched him start in last year. Aaron and Simon were right behind me so although we missed Will’s memo about starting further out, Aaron assured me we were in the right place. Three of us standing shoulder to shoulder on one 6 foot section of concrete gives you an idea of how cosy this LRF malarkey can be.

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I wish I’d taken more photos to give you a better idea of the venue, but it was definitely one of the more fun evenings we’ve had at this kind of thing. The fishing was a challenge but I really enjoyed trying to figure out at the start how best to catch numerous Blennies against the wall in such a current. I’ll write specifically about what I worked out with this later as it’s as relevant for windy days as it was in the current). Apart from Will who’d jumped on to a four species total a
fter about the first hour, the rest of us were incredibly close for most of the first two hours with a variety of species being caught but none of us tallying any more than about two unique ones each.

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Despite the closeness of it all, I had a moment of temporary joy after listening to Will turn the air blue for fifteen minutes trying to catch one of the smelt he was following around the walls. I wandered over and had one first cast….. IN YOUR FACE PENDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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On to three species by now – adding the smelt to the Blenny (50 of) and Goby I’d caught – Luke and Bruce were over on the pool side of the arch fishing the slacker water. Luke had just had his third Ballan as was mid-explaining to Bruce how it was all about the way he wiggles his willy (or something like that) when I got there. As a prime example of how my luck was very obviously in on this night, I dropped straight down next to Luke and pulled up a Corkwing Wrasse. I’m absolutely rubbish with the Wrasse species normally so this one was a nice relief. I was doing pretty well.

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Oh, I should get back to my Isome mishap. Anybody who knows anything about these kinds of competitions – or just LRF in general – knows that pretty much the only lure/bait you need is Marukyu Isome. It catches everything. Well, it turns out that while I was sorting my stuff in the shop earlier I’d forgotten to put mine back in my bag! So I made it to Hayle without the one confidence booster that I really needed. I’d even left my big Ecogearaqua tub at home – full of all sorts of smelly goodness. It wasn’t ideal, but the one thing I had remembered to take with me was a pot of old Ecogearaqua Straw Tails and a fresh pack of the red Katsu Aji Straights. It wasn’t a complete disaster because I could split and create some fishable little pieces with both of these , but I would have felt initially more confident with the old faithful’s on the hook. Alas, evidently no need to grumble in the end. I caught numerous Tompot Blennies to add a fifth species and finish second overall! Like I said in the first blog post I wrote about round one, this type of fishing isn’t something I have much experience in really so by aiming for fourth overall in each round, the hope is that I’ll be disappointed less times than I’m happy.

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Will did the business again (like in round one) and had seven species for the win. Then me on five, followed by Aaron on four. Everybody caught and thanks to the lack of wind and comfortable temperatures it was the perfect evening for it.

As it stands, by some miracle I’m actually leading the league points table! It doesn’t really mean much at this point in time as bad results are dropped after round 5, but I’m glad I have two good results in the bank already to buy myself some breathing space and cushion the i
nevitably less lucky evenings I’ll have through at least a few rounds still to come.

The next one is at Mevagissey on Wednesday, June 22 from 6.30pm and all are welcome! I should have no excuses for that one since I’m pretty sure that Meva was the location of my first ever LRF session in what must have been 2009.

Second LRF Comp, First Win!

Three weeks ago now, a motley crew of us fished what was the first round of the 2016 Cornish LRF League. My report on that one is here, but jumping forward a couple of weeks we’ve now successfully completed round two.

group

Fowey is one of those places that I love for this style of fishing. It’s a beautiful town with numerous walls, pontoons and rocky outcrops. You can walk through the pretty streets, stop for a pint and catch a few fish all at the same time. The fishing can be absolutely brilliant too! The weather and atmosphere for round two was exactly as you’d want it to be. The evening was calm and quiet. No wind at all, hardly a “sole” wandering the town… It was dry, calm and peaceful. All apart from the nine reprobates that had turned up to catch some fish. Even Phil from Louvine in France had come over for a few days to see how we catch ’em. That was the plan anyway…

phil

To cut a very dull story short, the fishing was diabolically hard! The tides were good. The weather was perfect. The company couldn’t have been bettered. But the fish just weren’t there. We fish for three hours, and after nearly two of those I think Bruce Fisher was the first to finally catch a fish (a nice little Ballan). I think he probably danced a jig in his head, as he like the rest of us was probably starting to predict that that one fish would win it!

bruce

After round one when I’d annoyed myself by trying too many things and just spending way too much time faffing about, I decided in Fowey that I’d just stick to the one little area that I know best and really just try and stay comfortable and content. Just like last time, winning wasn’t really the aim (although a lovely bonus) but fourth place was a nice target to aim for against the guys who were there. This one was a “length” round (1cm = 1 point) with bonuses for species caught and for catching the largest of each of those.

polruan

Luke had headed off further around the corner to try for some wrasse, while some of the boys split to a different section in the town so the four of us who stayed on the wall we were on didn’t really know what was happening elsewhere. Naturally you just assume that they’re all catching fish though.

Eventually I had a massive run of luck. While I’m not a great species hunter, I can catch pollack. Over a 20 minute spell I eventually managed to land four of them – the first going a respectable 34cm. I’ve never played a fish so limply in my life! We’d all gotten to the point where just landing a single fish of any kind was all we wanted to do. A run of three more quickly followed and I was lucky in that nobody else on the wall was having any joy.

pollack

We’d all seen a few micro flounder but having them take anything was the tricky bit. Will James eventually caught the decent scorpion fish that he’d been trying for for a while. Obviously come the end I was happy that length wise it looked
like I’d topped our little group on the wall. Although right place and right time had a lot to do with it I think. Inevitably thoughts of how many massive wrasse, pollack, mackerel and bass, Luke had caught around the corner prevented a more intense delight at the time though.

As it turned out back on the quay afterwards, Luke had caught exactly the same as me. Length wise he was a touch short of my 89cm, but it turned out his biggest fish beat mine, so another 10 bonuses were added to his score. It was bum-cheek clinchingly close, but I’d beaten him by just two points at the end (99 vs. 97 once bonuses were applied). I was hugely relieved that I got a decent result on the board as I know already that the following species-hunting rounds will be my downfall. Hayle is the next one on June 8th. Just let me know if you’d like any more info – everybody is welcome. I should probably follow my own advise this time. Having never fished down there properly before I will go for a little play beforehand. Also stick to my preferred split-shot rig.

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Ben

My first UK Species Hunt Competition (Lessons Learned).

I may have organised a lot of fishing comps over the years, but until this Wednesday I’d never yet actually fished one myself on British soil! A few years back I travelled to a couple of one-off competitions in France but they were different to how we’re running our species hunt events here at the moment.

This was the first round of this year’s Cornish LRF League. After introducing the league last year, this year I’ve passed it to 2015 champ, Will Pender to take the reins. Not only did I always feel too busy to do a good job last year, but passing things over to Will means I can actually fish the thing without having to attend every round. He’s had more time than I to be very proactive in the run-up with organising this one so I’m happy we’ve gone this way.

Although I do feel a bit of pressure to get a good result or two during this league, the local anglers know that I am far from being a species hunting expert. I’m nowhere near as experienced as the guys who tend to fish this league or our Cornish Lure Festival when it comes to really going for the species tally. I love LRF but my own fishing tends to reflect back to my old match/coarse fishing days when I’d prefer to keep myself busy catching quantities of fish, no matter what the species, rather than making it hard for myself by going for constantly different fish (and ignoring the ones I’ve already caught). When LRF began we weren’t fishing such targeted methods and in the days when I was doing a lot more fishing, we never really got our heads down a lot and went for variety. Overall, LRF has changed a lot since then. I just like being busy, basically – so if that means plundering Pollack after Pollack, mackerel after mackerel, goby after goby, then I’ll be a very happy and content angler.

All that said, I really want to support Will and others who are taking the bull by the horns and running competitions like these. Being the organiser can feel like a pretty thankless task at times – although almost by definition, LRF anglers do tend to be some of the most chilled out there. It’s because of the fact that I’ve done the odd little TV thing or talked a lot about the topic in the past that I do feel a personal pressure to be able to mix it with the species boys on any competition I fish these days. It may just be something I needlessly put on myself, but there’s an obvious risk of sounding hypocritical during my days in the shop – giving advise about the topic if I can’t actually walk the walk myself! Anyway, I think most of the locals know that modern-day species hunting isn’t really what I do, but I don’t mean like that to sound like an excuse before I even get started…… 😀

The full report will be over at www.lrf.co.uk once I’ve uploaded all of the results so I won’t go in to all of the details for now but I will just fill you in on a couple of things I think I might have learned about species hunt competitions.

I finished up 5th overall. That was my target before the round really – although 4th would have been nice and anything more a very pleasant bonus. I felt like I didn’t fish well at all really and it was all down to inexperience in reality. Certainly having fished one species hunt competition in my life doesn’t quality me to write a how-to, but for the benefit of anybody who may find themselves in the same boat one day, here’s a bit of a rundown…

It mostly went wrong for me in the middle part of the three hour time period. By fishing away from everybody else I hoped I’d be spooking less fish while they all huddled round the end of the pier, almost shoulder to shoulder, dropping the same lures on the same fish, cast after cast. Turns out you can only spook fish if you can actually find them though! The wrasse species for example only really feed during the daylight hours, so the three main ones had to be nabbed before sunset. While I spent the hour chucking “experimental” rigs in to snags, some of the guys at the end were building
a decent tally of the things without my knowing. By the time I’d wandered up to join them I’d missed my chance pretty much. The Wrasse weren’t the be all and end all or the reason for my average result, but catching them when they were there, and to have been in the right place at the right time would have been an advantage. There’s certainly a point to be made about knowing a venue in advance of fishing a competition on it! I’d never fished Newlyn before in my life.

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I mentioned “experimental” rigs above too. From all my years match fishing on the freshwater side of things I should really have already known that during any competition (even if it is just a bit of fun) is never really the time to go completely off-piste and start chucking a load of new rig patterns that you’ve never used before. I ended up spending more time messing with unsuccessful, snag-magnet rigs during that middle hour than I’d like to remember. Luckily I did have a trick or two up my sleeve for when it came to re-tying in no time at all – which I’ll share in an upcoming post – but losing rigs and catching no fish becomes a bit annoying after a while. If I’d been fishing a pleasure session I’d have been happy either catching Pollack on the outer wall or blitzing the Gobies and being happy with any odd surprises inside, but having caught both of those species already there was just no point during this evening.

To take nothing at all away from the guys who are very good at this type of fishing, what they do to be successful is actually quite simple…. (and it’s not what I did):

1) Find your favourite rig style and stick to it. Between the top 3 or 4 guys in Cornwall you generally see either a dropshot or a split-shot rig almost permanently attached to each of their lines. Some prefer one; some the other. They don’t switch every 20 minutes. Admittedly, they don’t necessarily need to experiment on the night because their favoured rig choice has generally been decided with their differing experiences or just personal preferences. Having confidence in your setup is as important in an LRF comp as it is in any freshwater match fishing environment. While my evening in Newlyn broke this rule completely, I can now see the comparisons with the freshwater match scene quite clearly, even if I didn’t really think there would be any similarities beforehand. Naturally, if you decide to start chasing mackerel or bass then a switch to a casting jig or something is the way to go, but the point is that for most of your bottom dwelling species you will catch on just one rig setup (split/dropshot). Pick your favourite and make it work. It will.

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2) Know the venue. I mentioned it above and it’s a very obvious one. If you’re fishing against experienced guys who have fished a venue a lot of times before (and you haven’t), you’ll be up against it a bit. Not only will they know where they’ve caught certain species or the most fish in the past, but mentally they’ll be confident that they can do it all again – whereas you’ll already be thinking negative thoughts or resigning yourself to a middle of the road position as a result. Experienced anglers with the right rigs, a knowledge of where the fish are and a matching, sensible confidence are always going to be right up there in the prizes! The joy of a species hunt is that you never really know what will happen as a little luck can come in to it from time to time, but it helps if you can make some of your own luck too by fishing a venue BEFORE you rock up to try and compete
on it.

3. Marukyu Isome and Ecogearaqua rule! It’s really not a point that I learned about on Wednesday (since it’s been almost 6 years since we introduced both brands to the UK), but these lures will catch you 95% of all fish in any species hunting competition. I’d go as far as saying that EVERY LRF competition I have EVER organised have been won by anglers predominantly using them.

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Obviously to go with the above points there are other things that the successful anglers apply to their fishing. There’s that 10% that literally nobody can explain. Some people just have it. When you’ve caught a big variety of species over the years, consistently, you have patterns in your head about how you think it is best to catch each of them. I know a bit, but not enough to start telling you how to catch each of them. That’s where these guys excel.

Anyway, I left Wednesday’s competition not disappointed but really just considering how I could have done better. It’s not a serious event at all in terms of the competition itself as it’s one where you really just hope for a couple of decent results during the league, but it’s just nice to think you’ve fished decently for yourself. I’ve fished so little lately that I really just wanted to try a lot of new bits and pieces out – which didn’t suit the competitive environment at all – nor the venue. Or any venue. In fact, some of the things I did were just really, really rubbish. I enjoyed thinking about them in theory but I won’t be returning to most of them (and won’t bother explaining them).

You can obviously fish these things with a number of personal targets – whether you just want to fish with a bit of company, go all out for the win or settle somewhere in between. I’d say most of the guys are somewhere in the middle. Certainly I am. The winning isn’t important, but to win an event is a satisfying confirmation that you did things just right – and that’s my target for any social session really.

I’m yet to decide whether I’ll fish a dropshot or splitshot in Fowey at the next round, but definitely I’ll be picking one of the other and going with it. Although…… it is a “total length” round so may play more to my strengths of catching numbers of fish rather than variety. Hopefully see some of you there!

Ben

Reaching the Fish

After last week’s Pollack and Scad bonanza, this Tuesday evening I went back for a bit of the same. I wanted to try a few new tackle bits and also play about with some existing ideas. I wasn’t species hunting but really just wanted to catch a few fish. In hindsight I’m really glad that we hadn’t organised an evening like this for a Species Hunt comp as it turned out the weather was absolutely horrific!

My chances to fish are generally so few that I’ve given up even looking at tides or weather forecasts before planning trips. Bit stupid really. Last week the tide caught me out (although I still bagged a load of fish) and this week, after a dreary day sat in the shop the wind really seemed to get up in the evening. On getting down to Fowey it turned out to be the roughest conditions I’ve ever attempted to fish there. Most of the town stretches were completely unfishable in all but the very occasional corner where you may have managed a chuck with the wind at your back. So I had very few options.

I started out on one of our favourite walls casting under the lights. Always good for a few Pollack, I had about 15 feet of extra water here than last week thanks to the high tide. With the same Fish Arrow Flash J 1″ lure that I had on last week on a 1.8g head this time because of the wind I actually had a fish first cast. A Pollack (as expected) of about 8oz or so. I had a few more of these on the same lure before the rain really started blasting at me. I’d foolishly left the car coatless to beat a very quick retreat to a close by shelter. From here I could still just about fish but knowing where the fish were lying it would be a pretty long chuck across the wind. It was pretty much the only option I had though.

Pollack

Ultimately, it ended being a lesson in presentation – or at least doing what you’ve got to do if you actually want to catch a few… The other option was to change nothing, fish easy and catch nothing.

I already knew that fishing light and small was the way to catch as many of these fish as possible. I also knew where they were hiding – in the shadows at the end of the wall – just out of the lights. Fishing closer to me or in the shallower, sheltered waters to my left may have been easier but I wasn’t going to catch much (if anything) there from experience.

fowey_lrf

It was also my first time out with a new rod and reel combo. The rod being a new Gamakatsu AJ Master 76 I’ve claimed as my own! The specs just match exactly what I wanted, but being rated to only 5g I was aware I might need more weight than this in the wind! I only had three lure options with me that would be heavy enough to reach the distance and be heavy enough to keep me in control of the lure in the crosswind on the retrieve.

1) Xesta After Burner Mini 7g.
2) Spro Teppan 7g vibration bait.
3) A mix of 3g+ jigheads.

I wasn’t expecting to have been using any of these options at this time of year as I reserve most for the summer months when the fish are more active and aggressive and the top two options are obviously well above the maximum casting weight on the rod. They were only really in my bag as left-overs. That said, the Xesta jig was first on to cut across the wind. Surprisingly to me the rod handled it and the lure very easily hit the mark. With a straight retrieve I was chuffed to catch another fish first cast. Following that they weren’t having it every time and I wasn’t feeling any indications from the fish as soon as I got past the mark (so 80% of the retrieve was a waste) but considering the conditions it was better to be catching t
han not! I also tried the vibe bait and heavier jigheads with a couple of 2″ softies but didn’t catch a fish on either. The Afterburner was the way.

pollack_fowey

pollack_xesta

For next time I will have to get back in to the Caro tackle again. In hindsight this would have been absolutely perfect for this session (as a way of presenting a small lure at distance) and I think I could have retrieve this more slowly than the casting jig as well – which I’m sure would have caught me more.

Towards the end of the session the rain subsided a little and I ventured (slightly precariously – getting blown off my feet) on to the end of the wall where I started. There were obviously a lot of fish there to be honest and I’d not been able to make the most of them from my far off position. It goes to show what a difference good presentation can make. There were a lot of fish there all along but I wasn’t catching every cast from my far off position on the heavier jigs. From here I could fish lighter, slower and more easily and was having at least an indication every cast, if not a fish. It didn’t take long to put another half a dozen fish back but being so windy I decided I’d head home and warm up.

pollack

A real shame overall about the wind and rain but, regardless, I ended up with probably 15 fish or so in a couple of hours. Lovely playing about with new rods and reels (super impressed).

Old Skool LRF!

I don’t mind confessing that it’s been quite a while since I’ve had chance to get out and have a proper evening’s fishing. With opportunities generally slim, rather than winding myself up about those times coinciding with bad tides or rough weather I pretty much just told myself that I wasn’t going to fish at all in any real capacity for most of the past 6 months or so. However, with that sabbatical now over, I’m starting to get out a lot more regularly from now on.

While LRF has become very much about the species hunting aspect over the past few years, back in the old days (5 or 6 years ago) when we were really only just finding our feet with it, it was more about casting away from the walls and picking up Pollack, Mackerel, Bass, Scad and the like. We hadn’t really figured that we’d end up catching so much variety under our feet. I’ve fond memories of those early days, and it was very much a winter thing at the time – something to do when the bass weren’t feeding.

When the water cools the fish obviously slow down, and unlike the summer months when you’re better off fishing heavier and more aggressively, even simple fish like the Pollack are massively easier to catch by stepping your tackle right down and fishing as light as you can get away with. Last night was a prime example and a really fun couple of hours.

fowey_lrf

With the shop being closed on Wednesdays through the winter, Tuesday evening gives me a chance to get out late and have a go. After closing I headed down to Fowey. Stupidly I’d not even bothered checking the tides, so was a bit grumpy when I got there to find hardly any water. I had no plans for this session other than to catch a few fish, so although I parked at the ferry end of the town, it wasn’t long before I’d headed all the way through to the other side.

There seems little point down here in targeting the pitch blackness after dark as all the fish seem to head for the lights, so that’s what I did too.

Finding a favoured spot, from the very first class I was catching – even with there being a lot less water than normal in front of me. There was quite a lot of fresh water coming down the river with the tide as it ebbed so I was a bit surprised at the number of fish there to be honest. I caught pretty much every cast for the first 90 minutes (mostly Pollack up to around 1lb and a couple of Scad). Interestingly as soon as the tide reached its lowest point at about 9pm, I hardly saw another fish so I didn’t stick around for too much longer.

LRF Pollack

fowey_scad_lrf_aji

It was a nice chance to play around with some lures though. I caught on most things I tried, but definitely the smaller the better was lesson of the day. In fact, on the largest lures I tried I caught the smallest fish. For consistently larger fish – and more of them – lures like the Fish Arrow Flash J 1″ SW were the best. The Reins Rockvibe Shad 1.2″ and Tict Brilliant 1.2″ also caught a stack of fish.

Reins Rockvibe Shad

Fish Arrow Flash J 1" SW

Although we sell a lot of the Fish Arrow lures, I must admit that this is the first time I’d fished the 1″ size myself. While I expected good results, I didn’t actually realise how durable they’d be. The Reins and Tict caught me loads of fish too and I can strongly recommend them, but the two Flash J lures I used caught me 20 fish between them, and the last is still rigged on the rod now, ready to go next time! I’ll sound biased but it’s definitely a new favourite.

fish_arrow_flash_j_pollack

fish_arrow_flash_j_1

Overall I was really happy with the setup I took with me. For this style of fishing it was perfect. The solid tipped Slash Vision Blood 732 was absolutely perfect for this slow, straight retrieve style of fishing. This is EXACTLY the type of fishing that solid tipped LRF rods are made for (along with one or two other specialist applications). #0.25PE Tict Ash braid, a 5lb fluoro leader and 0.9g Reins Aji-Meba head was all I needed. I did mess about with some heavier jigheads and larger lures for a bit but they were completely ineffective all bar the two smallest Pollack I caught all night – even though the bigger fish were there. You could easily have missed them if you’d gone in with a bigger lure or heavier jig. This has tended to be the way at this time of year for me, all the way through the years that I’ve done this kind of thing.

Anyway, all in all a nice night to get out and catch a few. Now I have that one out the way I’ll start getting a bit more specific about trying different things in future sessions. There are a couple of things I’ve been working on that I want to share.

Over n out.

LRF: I’ve bought a starter kit, what now?

So, you’ve taken the plunge and invested in a small but perfectly formed collection of bits and bobs to get you on your way. Multiple species await but you need advise on where to start, right?

The way that LRF sometimes gets talked about, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a complicated thing to get in to. The truth is double-sided…

It is actually VERY easy to get in to, to try, and to catch fish. That’s why it is the perfect aspect of our sport to get more and more kids involved; dare I say it, even wives and girlfriends?! Jo would never consider bass fishing with me but is 100% up to the idea of catching fish from a comfortable harbour wall.

The only time that it potentially becomes complicated is… if you make it that way. It really is just as complicated as you make it for yourself – and by ‘complicated’ I really just mean ‘technical’. Not everybody will have the inclination to switch between 3 and 5lb lines for example to achieve perfect presentation of a small lure; set up a fancy rig; or switch from a size 6 hook to a size 8 for the same effect. We’re all different (despite the fact that we have a common goal) and my advise to begin would be to start simple and just see how you get on. If you call me in the shop and say, ‘Ben, I just want the minimal kit I can get away with so that I can give it a go’, I could pretty much guarantee that if you took my suggestions and put a lure in the right place then you WILL catch fish – without doing anything technical whatsoever! It’s child’s-play in all honesty, and that is one of the main appeals once you give it a go – it will take you right back to the good old days when you got really, really excited about catching fish – regardless of species or size.

Below I have set out some of the major steps I would recommend taking to get the best from your starter setup and to get you in among some fish. Naturally, some things will vary depending on your geographic location but on the whole, LRF’s simplicity means that these (or similar) should work for you.

TACKLE

Read my article titled “LRF: What tackle do I need to start?“. This should get you set up with the right equipment. We are always trying to find better products and improve the value of our starter kit, but I can’t recommend the tackle mentioned in the article highly enough. The article itself should explain why.

Whether you have chosen a fluorocarbon or a braided* mainline, with this loaded on to your reel, the process from here is extremely simple.

* if you are using a braided mainline then the first thing you will need to do is to attach a length of fluorocarbon ‘leader’. Just use around 2 feet to start – this will be fine. Here’s a good little link: Improved Albright Knot. One change I would recommend is to follow the knot as instructed, but do so by first doubling over the braid in to a loop (so that you are wrapping two strands of braid around the fluorocarbon rather than one). This will ensure that your fine braid knots tightly without slipping. It’s a little complicated but with practise should hold tight.

With reel attached to rod and line through rod guides you’re ready to attach your ‘rig’. You actually have loads of options, but I only recommend one to get you started – the jighead. This basically just involves you using a weighted hook with a lure of your choice (recommended around 2 inches in length). All you need to do is tie the jighead to the end of your line – and that’s it! With your lure attached, it’s just a case of casting out and using a simple style of retrieve. More on that lower down.

LOCATION

Where should you go for your first LRF session?

Look for easy access harbours, marinas or breakwaters to begin. Some
piers are also suitable, but not those that are too high from the water! Try to be fishing no further than 15-20 feet above water level. Ideally, get closer. Always consider what you will do if you hook a fish that is too large to lift (perhaps 1lb+). A bonus of such locations is that car parking can often be found close by which makes LRF far more accessible for a larger demographic of anglers than almost any other kind of fishing!

Water clarity can play a part. Clear water naturally makes things easier, but if your area lacks clarity, don’t be put off. All it means is that you may need to be slightly more careful with your lure selection and use those that are more heavily scented. This is where lures like the Ecogearaqua and Marukyu Power Isome come in to their own. Fish lures very slowly near to the bottom, and probably closer to structure and you will still stand a great chance of catching.

LRF can also be applied to deeper water rock marks, estuaries and some shingle beaches, but you will likely find that each of these will more productive in the warmer months. Tactics also vary. I’m sure I’ll cover more on those when things warm up a bit. LRF tackle can be fished in most locations around our coastline. Again, like I discussed in the ‘what tackle’ article, it just depends on the time and place as to what is most suitable.

If there’s water, fish it! And if you can grab a friend to go with you, do it! This is a super social way of fishing.

TACTICS

The best tactics to use do vary through the year, but in aid of keeping it simple, by far the simplest setup will involve is something along the lines of a size 6, 8 or 10, 2g jighead matched with half a Marukyu Power Isome worm (medium or large). With this you will be in with a great chance. What to do with it throughout the year varies, but I’ll keep it as simple as possible.

Winter:

In the winter, along with a slight shift in species (although we have been catching mackerel in January this year!), the fish are generally less active and the majority remain lower down in the water column (there are exceptions!). You may also find that the hours of darkness become the most productive. Day time can sometimes be hard – although you will catch. To begin, at night look for areas of water that are lit by streetlights. The lights will attract all manner of food and fish. The light isn’t essential but it will make your job easier while you find your feet.

So, let’s say you found a safe spot to fish and you’re casting in to say, less than 20′ of water with very little in the way of current…

1) Cast and allow the lure to hit the bottom – watch the line and the way it leaves your spool to judge when it is down – if you don’t feel it.

2) Pick up the slack line to regain contact with the lure.

3) With your rod tip pointing downwards and to the side, begin retrieving the lure as slowly as possible whilst keeping it from catching or tripping bottom. While fish are relatively cold and cautious, a straight retrieve (even with a straight tail lure that doesn’t appear to be doing anything) is often all that is required. Too much movement can be counter-productive. Keep it low and slow.

4) Should you feel a knock on the line, don’t energetically strike! Keep a cool head and keep slowly winding until you feel the weight of the fish, then slowly lift the rod and play the fish to the water’s edge. Small Pollack in particular have a habit of tail slapping a lure rather than eating it so you may feel knocks on the lure well before hooking one.

5) If the fish is small (you will have to judge this yourself) you may be able to swing it up and straight in to your hand. If it is larger then use either a landing net with a long handle, a drop net, or look for a safe position where you can reach it at water level.

Job done! Your first LRF fish is landed! This fish could be one of literally any species! It’ll be impossible to predict.

There are of coarse other things to try an
d another successful method could see you dropping a small lure vertically down the wall and to the bottom to tempt any number of bottom dwelling species. With time you will find that you are capable of targeting and catching multiple species from different areas of water in front of you – intentionally! Obviously fishing is of those things where you could really be doing one of any 5000 things, but the above should at least catch you a fish or two to get you started.

Summer:

In the warmer months, day time sport can be hectic. With the water temperatures higher, fish are more active and popular summer species like Mackerel, Garfish and Bass will provide good sport. Smaller species (and Wrasse) will also be active in close proximity to harbour walls and other structure. Night time can be equally productive – it tends to vary from place to place. Fish are more likely to attack faster moving lures and respond to more animated retrieves. A slightly quicker version of the winter tactic described above will still be very productive. This is the thing with LRF – you could easily just fish one single type of lure Ecogear Straw tail Grub or Marukyu Power Isome on a size 8, 2g jighead and catch fish all year round with one standard, straight retrieve!

Summer tactics can vary a little more because it will not only be the slow and gentle retrieves that work for you. Most things will! Better or more determined anglers among you will be capable of working out which methods catch you the better quality fish (more on that in a later article). Truth be told, even if you are inexperienced and are over-working a lure, active summer fish will often still be willing to play ball.

CONCLUSION

It would be all too easy to go in to numerous things for you to try. There are so many options, which is perhaps the reason why it can seem a little complicated before you give it a go? The UK is a big place and we all have our own different set of fishing conditions. The things that I have highlighted above have worked particularly well for me over the past couple of years or so and I believe the points to be a trustworthy starting point. Hopefully it all makes sense. Obviously everything here is aimed predominently at guys or girls that have very little LRF experience. Hopefully it will provide useful.

Ben

LRF: What tackle do I need to start?

This is just a quick article to explain to a friend the bits and bobs that come in useful when you first consider setting yourself up for a spot of Ultra light fishing. I will expand on it much more later. I’ve been reading more and more lately about people wanting to give light tackle and lures a try, but some of the recommendations coming from guys who haven’t tried it are just taking one or two people off track.

Moreso than with standard (bass) lure fishing, LRF equipment really needs to be quite specific if you want to get the best from it. That’s certainly not to say it’s complicated though! Far from it, it just needs a little thought and once you’re set up it is very, very easy.

LRF Checklist

  • Light lure rod (7+ feet and ideally with a maximum casting weight of less than 12g).
  • Small reel (1000 – 2500 size).
  • Mainline (braid or fluorocarbon. Braided mainline will require the addition of a short fluorocarbon leader. Fluoro straight through: 3lb. Braid: 0.4-0.6PE (6-10lb)(leader 4-6lb)
  • Small selection of jigheads and lures (jigheads from 1-4g with hook sizes between about a size #4 and #10. Lures from 1”-3”).
  • Drop or landing net.
  • An easy-access place to fish.
  • Preferably a fishing buddy or two.

Checklist in detail

The rod: Through experience, we’ve settled on rods that are around 7 feet in length but on occasion have found that longer and shorter rods can be useful. Just over 7 feet seems to be a very comfortable starting length though. Most of this type of fishing is easily done from harbours, pontoons and easy access rock marks where casting distance is not necessary and there are very few snags to complicate things. In reality, the shorter the rod you can get away with using, the more direct your line to the light lures will be. Ultra light rods sometimes come with solid tips for super sensitivity, but to get you started and in to a few fish, either a solid or standard hollow tip will be fine. Fast action (soft-tipped) rods certainly reign supreme, but just to get you out there, and light action spinning rod will suffice. With experience you will start to appreciate the differences and find your own way and personal preferences.

Recommended starter rod: Shimano Scimitar 7′ UL

Reel: Go for a small, front drag reel. It surprises many the things that you can do with a tiny reel, but I can assure you that small (quality) reels are more than capable of landing even 10lb+ fish! Small reels are better balanced with very light rods, and since you aren’t generally trying to cast a long way with LRF, even the smallest reel is likely to hold more than enough braid or fluorocarbon line.

Recommended starter/novice reel: Shimano Catana 1000

Mainline: If you ask me, your mainline (braid or fluorocarbon ideally) is perhaps your most important aspect of your setup. A fine mainline will ensure that your contact with lightweight jigheads (0.5g-5g) is much more direct. When I’m in the shop and talking to LRF newbies about their setup, the common concern that people have is with using lines that seem stupidly light. ”What will happen if I hook a big fish?” is a very common concern. As sea anglers we’re often pretty inexperienced when it comes to actually ‘playing’ fish. Of the guys I know, it’s generally the ones with a little coarse or fly fishing experience that most quickly become confident in actually letting a fish take line – they’re used to landing 20lb fish on 5lb lines. In reality it’s often not too much different at sea. Naturally it all depends on the conditions and ground that you are fishing over but assuming you are basing your first LRF attacks around harbours with clean ground and not too many snags, you will be amazed at how much pressure you can put on 3lb line! Set the drag on your reel and you will find yourself la
nding some very nice fish! I promise! Not every fish will be big enough to take line (don’t be a complete wimp when setting your drag!), but occasionally one will. Be prepared and take your time. The soft actioned rod will cushion your line against all of the fishes head shakes and you will be fine.

You have two options when it comes to choosing your mainline:

Braid: Slightly more costly, braid is thin and strong and is a great starter option if your budget allows. It’s thin diameter makes casting very light jigs infinitely easier and contact between your rod tip and your lure much more direct. I highly recommend not using braid above 6lb breaking strain for LRF. There is still a big difference between budget and quality 6lb braids, but whichever you choose, but not going above 6lb you should have the fine diameter essential for casting. I’m often questioned about this in the shop when customers think ”well, if 6 is ok, can’t I just use 10? I might hook a big one…”. the absolute truth is that there is a BIG difference between 6 and 10lb braids (cheaper ones), so ‘yes’, it does matter. You’ll still be able to fish, but i want you to catch fish and you WILL catch more with 6lb than 10lb. A 4lb difference when we’re talking about general plugging equipment would be almost zero but the lighter you fish in terms of jigheads and lure size, the bigger that difference becomes.

I would recommend uncoated braids in light breaking strains for this fishing, just because stiffer braids leave the spool in coils, and this will really reduce casting distance with light jigs. I’d also suggest using a bright colour like yellow, orange or bright green so that you can see more clearly where your line (and lure) are going. As you go up the quality scale with fine braids (all the way to the uber costly Sunline Small Game PE at the top), the braid becomes smoother, more supple and thinner – these features result in overall brilliant fishing efficiency. Starting with something like 0.6PE Gosen W (9lb) though is a nice step. I’d highly recommend starting with a strict budget to just get yourself out there giving it a go. Experience alone will guide your future tackle choices.

I would select a braided mainline if I were fishing a small jighead on or near to the bottom, or if I am hoping to provide some sort of specific action to the lure – with twitches of the rod tip for example. The lack of stretch in braid means that I (or you) should be able to feel through the braid when your lure bumps in to the bottom, or a fish picks up the lure!

With a braided mainline you will need to use a fluorocarbon ‘leader’. Unlike a ‘shock’ leader used for casting, this form of leader is much shorter. It’s function is two-fold. 1) Fluorocarbon is almost invisible in water so the addition of a short length between your braid and your hook will ensure that fish are not put off by the high visibility of your braid. 2) Braid can be easily broken if rubbed continuously over rocks. The fluorocarbon leader has a very hard surface so will protect a delicate braid from taking too much abuse. An 18” – 3′ leader will be enough to keep your braid out of harms way. If you get more in to the technical side then there are other features of fluorocarbon that will come in to play and you may want to lengthen your leader, but start short so that your leader knot (I find an Albright knot best) is below your rod’s tip ring and you should minimise problems with it choking in the small guides. On a 6lb braid for example, you would select a leader strength to suit what you are trying to do. If you want to fish slightly bigger lures and target 2lb+ fish, then a 5 or 6lb leader will be suitable. If you find that you are catching mostly small fish, or conditions are hard and clear, then even a 2 or 3lb leader will suit. By using braided mainline you can swap your leaders to suit. This leads us on in a second to your other option in a second – fluorocarbon.

Other tips for using braided mainlines: 1) Slightly und
er-fill your spool (3mm-5mm from the spool’s lip). 2) After casting, close the reel’s bail arm manually (with your fingers) – rather than winding it down. 3) After casting, sweep the rod backwards to pick up as much slack line as possible before you start retrieving. If you are to have trouble when using braid, it will 99% be due to slack line having found it’s way back on to your reel!

Recommended starter braid: Gosen W, 0.6PE. Recomended starter leader: Gosen Tiny Leader FC 6lb.

Fluorocarbon: Why fluorocarbon and not simple mono on my reel? Fluorocarbons have come a long, long way in the past 10 years. Originally they were stiff, hard to tie and practically impossible to load on a reel. They’ve always had their advantages though. Like I’ve said, fluorocarbon is almost invisible in water. It is also a very hard material so has great abrasion resistance for when you are fishing around rocks. There are a few issues with monofilament lines, and fluorocarbon gets around and improves on most of them (the list is long so I won’t go in to it fully). Mono; even though we’ve used it for years has less good abrasion resistance, generally more stretch and is also more visible in water. None of these are features that we require – if you are looking for better ‘presentation’. Modern fluorocarbons however are being designed now to be softer (so they don’t spring off of your reel), easier to tie and cheaper than they used to be. Fluorocarbon is still a few pounds more expensive than a cheap mono, but the benefits are many. Fluorocarbon also sinks! Mono floats. This may seem a tiny characteristic to worry about, but when fishing a 1g jighead and a 2” lure, this can make a big difference to your potential catches. The fact that fluorocarbon is ‘heavy’ also makes it a good option when fishing on windy days. This is where it can excel over braid. Light braids are easily blown in the wind, whereas fluorocarbon will generally be better behaved. There’s also no need for a leader when fishing fluorocarbon ‘straight-through’.

The down-side for many saltwater lure anglers wishing to use fluorocarbon mainlines is the realisation that to achieve that fine diameter required for casting such light jigs, fluorocarbon mainline choices should really centre around just 3lb breaking strain! 4lb is ok, as is 2lb for smaller jigs and winter fishing, but it is perhaps the psychological side that must first be overcome. Once you reach 5 or 6lb breaking strain, the thicker diameter brings a real downfall in your potential casting distance. It seems mental, foolhardy and impossible to use and catch fish in the sea on 3lb lines, but as the saying goes; ”don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”. We catch numerous fish to 4lb+ on 3lb lines and losses are very, very few and far between. I’m not recommending targeting 4lb fish on such light lines (the majority of fish around the harbours we fish average less than 1lb), but they do turn up by accident and 99% of the time they do get landed (quite quickly generally) and returned safely in good health. The theory of using light lines (before you’ve done it) can be scary. Once you’ve tried it you will find out exactly how strong 3lb line really is.

So, just to summarise the choice between braid and fluorocarbon mainline… Use braid for working or bouncing lures. Use fluorocarbon for steady retrieves (more than suitable for mackerel, pollack, scad etc) or on windy days when braid is being blown about. If I were to pick one, I would select braid and find myself some shelter on the windy days 😉

Recommended starter fluorocarbon mainline: Yamatoyo Spinning Fluoro 3lb – 150m or Sunline Siglon Fluorocarbon 3lb – 275m.

End tackle: LRF tackle is really, really simple. With the likes of the Ecogear ‘Pocket In’ sets available, you seriously do get everything you need to get you started in one little box. LRF lures may average about 2” long and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Lures like the EcogearAqua Straw Tail
Grub 2′, EcogearAqua Bream Prawns and the immense Marukyu Power Isome are pretty much all you will need to get you going on the soft lure front. For the warmer months absolutely add some of the Little Jack casting jig sets in 3, 5 or 7g! With some small jigheads averaging around the 2g mark and you will be out catching fish! I tend to recommend that beginners don’t try fishing with less than about 1.5g or 2g, just because by having that little bit of extra weight it will make your first steps a little easier and direct. 3g even will be ok to get you in to it. You will catch more fish in time by going lighter though. Saying that, if it’s windy and deep then even 5 or 7g may be necessary. It’s all about matching your tackle to the conditions, and not just fishing light for the sake of it. LRF excels in easy access areas where you may otherwise never consider fishing. Harbours, marinas, piers etc. are all great places to play. Weight of jighead is not the only important factor – you must also consider the hook size. You need small hooks! Most of the jigheads I use have hook sizes around a size 6 or 8 hook. By using smaller hooks, your tackle is balanced and you will hook and land small fish as well as large fish without issues. If you use large hooks, your presentation will suffer due to the weight of the hook and the smaller fish that you could be catching will remain in the water – rather than in your net! There is no better thing for learning than to be actually catching fish – even if they’re small. LRF is about making the most of EVERY fish that is in front of you. By fishing small your lure becomes food for fish big and small!

Recommended lures: as above. Recommended jigheads: Xesta Star Head, TT Head Hunter #6 and #4, Decoy Rocket Head SV-69.

Nets: A dropnet or a landing net should really be carried at all times – just in case. You’ll be able to swing most of your fish in (even on 3lb line), but occasionally you’ll hook something bigger. If you can get to water level to guide them in then, great! If not, use a net. A coarse/match style landing net and handle are usually ideal. A 3m+ lightweight handle and 20” net usually suffice. Of coarse, a dropnet is likely cheaper and bigger. It’s your choice.

And that’s it…! It really is simple. A small bag is all that’s required to carry such few bits in. Or even just use your pockets! Genius!

LRF is such a social side of fishing that I would strongly recommend trying to get a friend or two to fish with. You will catch fish big and small, and having a friend there to laugh at when he or she catches a proper midget is all part of the fun!

A few more tips before I go:

When playing fish on light rods, try to keep your rod at a 90 degree angle to the fish. This will ensure the rod and line can absorb any of the fishes runs.
When making the decision as to whether a fish is large enough to net or small enough to swing, if you have doubts immediately just net it. It will save faffing about or potentially making the wrong decision in trying to lift a fish and losing it with a hook in its mouth.
If swinging a fish in, be aware of the capabilities of your lightweight rod, reel and line. Do not over stress the rod or your reel. When a fish nears the shore and lies on the surface ready for lifting, wind the rod tip down to take up as much line as possible (so that you are standing with the rod almost pointing down at the fish), then lift in one smooth action. Do not try and crank the fish up using the reels handle. If it feels like there is more than a little strain on the reel then you probably should have net it.
Ultimately it is your decision whether you should be lifting or netting fish, but I’d just use a little common sense and wise judgement. Look after the fish and karma will treat you well.

Apologies for making this one such a hefty read. Things are developing so quickly with lure fishing in the UK at the moment that there is a very high possibility that if I come back to this article in 1
2 months time then parts of it will be slightly different. I’m still learning though, like everybody, and only time will tell where things go. It’s become apparent though that all of the rules we ran by for decades are quite often incorrect. A few days ago I counted how many saltwater species I have caught on lures this year. The answer was 29! TWENTY NINE!!!! All on lures. I know anglers who have had even more than that, and plenty of species that I didn’t catch that I should have done.

Please note: I only recommend light line in conditions and terrain that suit. Light tackle is great fun if used sensibly and at the right times and in the right places. Strong current, severe winds, very rocky ground or the regular presence of larger than average fish (you’ve got to be hooking/catching them rather than just assuming they’re there!) are situations where it would be wise for you to step your tackle up a bit. Whether you go just as far as 6lb or 20lb mainline and leaders is up to you and is a decision best made to suit the day in hand. It’s all about using a bit of common sense and actually thinking about what you’re doing to enable yourself to have the most fun possible – hopefully with as many fish landed as possible. One thing light tackle does do is enable you to consider fishing locaions that you usually ignore – inside harbours for example (if access is permitted). Lugging a seatbox and multiple long rods around may not be something you want to do in such a situation (people would think you were mad), but a small bag and a light rod enables you to keep moving and really explore different areas. This is one thing that I personally love so much about it. In such locations there are often very few snags (and a surprising number of fish/species – which is why it goes hand in hand. It’s a big mistake to think that LRF is all about fishing your current favourite marks with very light tackle. It’s about exploring pastures new and then applying what you will learn to other aspects of your fishing!

In conclusion LRF is not the complicated thing it’s often made out to be (by guys who haven’t tried it). It’s not something that needs to be forced on people, nor something that threatens all other forms of fishing with its righteousness. It’s just an extra string to your bow and certainly one of the most fun ways of fishing that I’ve ever tried.

Ben

Multi-Species Fun – An Introduction to ‘LRF’

Ever thought about targeting anything other than Bass on lures? Tradition says that bait is the way to go, but modern (mostly Japanese) tackle opens up literally hundreds of exciting avenues to be explored by the forward thinking saltwater lure angler.

Pollack, Wrasse, Pout, Whiting, Codling, Bream, Flounder, Plaice, Rockling, even Gobies (plus about a billion other species) are all catchable on lures! Step one is as simple as stepping your tackle down. Reach for the small baits, light line and rods and get out there and have some proper fun! Proper job meht! Take the kids even?! This is way different to spinning a jelly eel – which may still be effective on it’s day (much like anything) – this fishing puts the emphasis on light, balanced tackle and FUN!

Time and time again I have spoken to anglers who praise the enjoyment of fishing ‘light’, yet in reality hardly any actually do it! Shame on you I say! Fooool (Mr-T stylee)! People are really missing out on some of the best fun available to the UK lure fisherman. We’re talking 4lb and 5lb lines here by the way, not your old 10lb stuff. Think coarse fishing, and then lighten it! Picture yourself on a rocky headland with a 2lb pollack going balistic, a big cheesy grin on your face, your rod bent double and your reels drag actually doing what it’s designed to do (for a change)! You’d be surprised at what the tackle can handle. Targeting anything that swims can be a seriously addictive, great fun and massively rewarding in the techniques and theories it teaches you. For many of us I think it probably takes us back to our roots – before it got too serious and ‘samey’. Fishing light and with total respect for any fish you catch (no matter how small) brings an opportunity to try and beat your own personal goals without being overly serious.

Targeting mini species (and some not so mini) is about the best practise of lure fishing techniques that you will find – and believe it or not is highly relevent to your bass fishing – so don’t write it off before you’ve tried it! As an example, last winter I spent many an evening/night fishing a Cornish harbour for tiny pollack using 4lb lines and small soft baits. Catching fish on light tackle adjusts you mentally to feeling for the tiny bites associated with small fish and broadens your understanding of hooking techniques and bait actions. Being able to often see the fish under harbour lights at night really shows you what a small fish thinks of your even smaller lure, and how it reacts to each twitch you impart on it. Where am I going with this?!… well, as soon as you go back to your ‘bass size’ baits, everything feels GIANT. Lines feel so direct – a 7g jighead all of a sudden feels like you’re fishing with a 2oz bomb, and the bites you feel (even though small in reality) are far more obvious than you’ll previously have experienced. ‘Light Rock Fishing (or LRF as the Japanese call it) really is the best bass fishing practise youll get! Far from just being ‘bass practise’ though, it’s a massive, massive laugh in it’s own right, which, afterall, is what fishing should always be about.

Watch this space for more info in future, or check out Keith White’s blog (www.jerseybassguides.com) for numerous reports and valuable snippets of information on LRF. It’s very possibly the future of ‘fun’ fishing in the UK – so check it out. More doors are opening by the day so give it a whirl.

For a few bits to get you started you don’t need to look further than the range of Ecogear products. Check out the ‘Pocket In’ Mebaru and ‘Pocket In’ Kasago kits especially. These include a selection of baits and jigheads to suit all manner of species and conditions. Perfect for getting you started! Convenience to the extreme!