Jersey Bass Festival 2015

43 miles of coast line, 8 metres of tide, an angle from any wind, headlands and surf beaches and lots of reefs. Jersey has it all and we couldn’t wait to explore and see what it had to offer. After the Cornish lure festival this year me and Tim where keen to see if we could do another. As we approached the channel islands via the ferry from Poole we couldn’t help but get excited.

The water movement around the islands is something else. Tide rips everywhere with scattered islands and submerged reefs. The place screemed bass. We arrived on the wed afternoon, first port of call was to head to MrFish to see Mick and get the low down on Jersey. Unfortunately he had ”gone fishing” who can blame him? Though there was a fair wind blowing today…

Driving through St Helier at rush hour is not recommended! I honestly don’t think I have ever been sat still in traffic for so long and this wasn’t even due to road works it was ”normal”.

We didn’t want to waste any time trying to find some fish so we headed out that night for a quick go. We had to hit two marks as the first was seriously blown out and unfortunately the second mark was a little blown out too and the moon was already on show when we started fishing. The ground looked pretty good though and had a certain resemblance to a mark we fish near home. We liked the look of it and decided it would be a good spot to try and fish the rise to high in darkness before the moon comes out one evening. We retreated to the car to get a good nights kip, get up early and find somewhere to fish first light. The daylight would help us see the conditions and clarity before climbing up and down cliffs on new ground.

In the morning we moved to check out another spot, we really wanted to cover as much ground as possible to see what the coastline looked like. You know some places are just going to give you that positive feeling and buzz as soon as you see them. We eventually managed to find a way down to the spot we liked the look of via google maps. Tim was straight into action with a smash on the surface but no hook up. After an hour we called it a day and moved on. We checked out a few more areas on the drive to MrFish and collected a few essentials…

We couldn’t help but purchase a few lures when we got there, 150 Austrie’s, Vulture, Patch some essential weedless jigheads for fishing new ground and a Mark special… The Sebile magic walker ”The banana”. With lighter pockets it would be easier for us to move over the rocks anyway. Mick and Chris gave us a low down on some marks which is always interesting to hear. As expected though there wasn’t any ”real” special ones, a double had come off of all of them! We wanted to avoid the crowds but that might have meant avoiding the fish as well… We chatted for ages but we had to get out there and find some fish.

We headed back to the first mark and went to to fish it on the rise. Topwaters in daylight and then into the darkness but it had coloured more than the night before. We didn’t even bother with the climb down and decided to leave it. Carl had kindly tipped me off with a mark where him and Rod had some good fishing one year. By the time we drove across the island and had some food it would be time to fish it…

We where lucky as we had some cloud cover this night, we didn’t know were the feature was that we where trying to fish over and only had a rough idea from google maps. Tim had a hit early on before hooking into our first Jersey bass. He hadn’t been fishing in a while and said it was a good fish. A little shocked when a 52cm fish popped up but still happy none the less. It was a start and all important to get off the blocks.

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He missed another fish before I finally managed to get my first fish. Taken on a do live shad with a 2gm bell weight. By now the feature was just visible and we weren’t quite in the right place to start with. Well at least that’s one spot in the bag and a 50+ to boot so big thanks to Carl! We hit the hay and was up for the crack of dawn hoping for a topwater session.

We ventured to a tiny little cove on a headland but had no idea what to expect… it looked stunning with lots of shallow reef stretching out and one serious reef break. Not sure I’ve ever seen a wave look so good in all my life and I don’t even surf. Tim saw some movement in the water and big fish smash something further out. We tried but it was difficult. The tide was really pushing in and along with the swell it was hard to see any spots that really looked worth making the effort to get to. So after 45mins we called it a day and decided on a move. We where at the top of the tide now and I dropped the idea of following the tide out on the south coast through the gully’s.

I have to say the ground here to me just looks too perfect. There was a strong southerly wind blowing but it was far from blown out and I guess it gets a fair bit of shelter from the thousands of small islands that inhabit this area. The water had that lovely green colour to it and there was still a bit of swell rolling in creating plenty of wash. Add to that the movement of the tide and it looked fricking awesome! Nearly everywhere we fished looked like a river… We had already stopped and checked this place out at low tide so had an idea of what we where fishing over. Tim swung a fiiish minnow in the current through a small gully ahead of the pool that I was fishing. Tim dropped a fish and missed a couple hits while I landed a couple schoolies. It was difficult in the 40mph Southerly and we had to fish heavy which wouldn’t have given us any advantage other than distance but we needed that weight even to cast 30yards… We followed the tide out until we reached a really big gully. It looked like the exit from the motorway, the place that all the fish or food would be leaving through. Tim dropped a fish while I took a 46cm on a fish minnow sink and draw.

This was better fishing and lifted our spirits with a good bit of action. We signed on later that day at the shakespeare hotel and the comp was on. One of the chaps mentioned a spot while we where talking to him and said that some visitor had done well here in the past. We kept it in the back of our minds but we already had a plan set out.

We decided to try a slightly different mark to start with. We had a rising tide upto high in complete darkness. We picked a nice looking cove surrounded by lots of features and as the tide flooded it filled a nice big gulley. We only managed one schoolie though and a few pollock. Though we did miss a fair few bites, we got the feeling it wasn’t happening and decided to head to the next mark.

This is where we really needed some cloud cover from the full moon but it never came and this was a mark we had really hoped might have produced a fish to get us off the mark. Tim did manage one but it wasn’t good enough.

We called it an early night and aimed to hit first light but where?? We where a little lost now and hadn’t really picked anywhere. For us though the rising tide upto high in the morning was ideal, we picked a place close by. It was a small cove on a headland with plenty of mixed ground and reef further out. On arrival there was fish movement in the water and something made one hell of an eruption further out. We launched our surface lures around but failed to get a rise. We really noticed how quick the tide comes in here and it was a real struggle to keep yourself safe in a place you could get a good cast. There was a big swell rolling in off the reefs and we just couldn’t get in a comfy position for more than a cast or two before having to move position. Features change all the time and your always looking for that spot that looks right…

It was hard work and left us a bit baffled. This wasn’t the start we where hoping for. We decided on a completely different area and somewhere new again. Another gamble but we had to try something.

 

 

This was when we decided to check out the mark that had been mentioned to us. This hadn’t even crossed our minds but it had to be worth a shot. We followed the tide out on the drop until we could access the area we wanted. The ground here was more our style and we instantly had a good feeling about it. We did some deep wading to access a certain spot we liked the look of. It was the middle of the day and the water here even though it was flat calm had a really milky tinge to it. I fished my Sammy 105 knocker hoping to draw something up. We where actually in deeper water here but we could just make out some underwater features. I was just working my lure super slow over the top of a rock when a big grey ghost appeared. My jaw instantly dropped as the fish sucked my lure under and headed for cover… I struck the rod but it never connected as I watched my lure pop back to the surface. A few soft words left my mouth at this point and I was left in shock. Gutted, just gutted. My theory is that I was actually perched quite high up from the water. Maybe 6ft or so… This didn’t make working the surface lure very easy and created a lot of slack line between jerks of the rod. For one it is quite possible that the fish saw me at the last second and didn’t quite fully commit and two the slack line didn’t set the hook and also delayed my reaction time to setting the hook myself… I can’t say how big this fish was but I will never forget it that’s for sure. You know those fish that just look really quiet and docile, the ones that feek really patient with there every move. It was nearly white in the face and reminded me of the big fish we used to see around our local harbour that just sit there, look at you and then gently cruise off in complete comfort. How I would imagine a ghost to move…

We fished on with more hope than ever and landed a couple more fish just shy of 50. I took mine on a Duo realis 110 fished really slow in the murky water using the loud rattle to my advantage. The tide turned and we decided on a move. We had our plan for the night and wanted to make sure we where ready. We bumped into a couple of familar faces on the way back the cars. It was Rob and Callum and we had a quick chat before we all realised we needed to fish.

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We where going to fish the gully’s we had some success at last time on the rise knowing we could get cut off on an island for a few hours until the tide turned. The wind had dropped for the night so we knew we would be safe. At arrival and just as I started cooking some dinner Tim realised he had misplaced his phone, he headed back to the last mark and raced the tide out there and back to look for it. I watched the sun set over the gully’s gutted we couldn’t have been out there in the daylight to fish some topwaters before darkness… He made it back with just enough time for us to reach our island for the night. Tim was pretty quick in on the action taking one near 50 and a small fish. I finally managed a small one too. The tide was flooding in all around us and created just as much of a river as when it ebbed. It was weird to think that in a couple of hours where we were stood would be about 15ft under the water… We really thought we would have landed something good here on the rise with no moon but it didn’t happen. I managed another tiddler just before the moon made an appearance. After another quiet spell we decided it was time for some food. We set up the stove and started cooking the sausage and beans… We whipped up a coffee and sat back to watch the Halloween fireworks going on all over Jersey. It was quite surreal being sat on our own little island looking back at Jersey but it was pretty cool. As the tide started to move again we gave it another good shot. With only Tim getting a couple hits and missing them…

Finally we where free of our island and we where pretty knackered at this point. We decided on a few hours sleep before getting up and heading out to the other mark for first light. We where a little slow getting out of bed and the tide nearly had us as we tried to get to our mark. These Jersey tides wait for no one and it’s seriously impressive watching it come in over the shallow ground. We started fishing around the islands and in the gullies with topwaters. The wind was quite light this morning and we where fishing onto a sheet of glass though we had no idea what the clarity was like. My first lure on was a sammy 100. Small and more subtle I thought. One fish didn’t quite agree with my choice though and it must have only been my 5th cast or so before I saw some unusual movement behind my lure. As it got closer the swirl got bigger. I got down on one knee to hide myself but I doubt the fish would have seen me in the low light. I worked it until I beached the lure in front of me, the fish swirled one last time but not to strike the lure and only turn away. It must have followed the lure for about 20ft. We fished away as the sun came up and edged our way back up the rocks but we didn’t have another sniff. We just sat down to get the breakfast on when Callum and Rob turned up.

We had a good chat over a coffee and properly introduced ourselves this time. We had a little fish over the top of the tide before they moved on to another mark. Me and Tim stayed put and carried on. As soon as the tide turned the place came alive. Ok so it was only small fish but I landed a few and missed a few bites and so did Tim. It was encouraging if anything and kept the spirit up. I switched to a White 4.5” Xlayer on a 10gm xorus weedless jighead and started fishing it sink and draw with an extra flick at the top of the lift to make the rattle work.

I could feel I was fishing over some pretty rocky ground but I knew the bite when it came and struck into the fish. It stayed deep under the ledge I was fishing on before trying to bolt off. Ok so it was no monster but finally a fish worthy of a ruler shot at 54cm. I really thought it was going to be a tad bigger. All the fish over here where so healthy they fought twice as hard and always looked a little bigger just because we are so used to our skinny devon bass…

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The tide really got going now and the islands started to appear again, back to topwater it was and distance was wanted. Tim had remembered where a certain patch of reef was and worked his way along it so he could get right out there. He was launching his new Austrie 150 to the moon. Certainly nothing subtle when this bomb lands down but it get you where you want. He missed a couple fish while I moved further along and where I could see the water flowing through a small channel and into a pool. It looked perfect but I tried everything and nothing was happening other than a lot of weed was finally collecting here.

We flogged away before we could reach the rock where I saw the ghost… I claimed my little spot from Tim and started fishing. Though today I took a slightly different approach and chose the Xlayer over the Sammy. Tim covered topwaters while I went to work with the rattle. Today I noticed a few shoals of baitfish and one shoal in particular were sat exactly where I missed the ghost. I worked the xlayer back and as soon as it got to the face of this rock, WHACK! I took a few fish to a couple pound in quick succession and a couple wrasse to top it off. The action slowly died here and we moved along the shore once more.

Next stop was another Island, this was only accessible probably an hour either side of low water. We hadn’t fished here yet but thought it had to be worth a shot. As we made our way to the front of it there was a nice bit of movement to the water and some more reefy features just off of it. The water was still cloudy here and without knowing what to expect I clipped on a Fiiish Minnow 120 on a big bite 12gm weedless jighead. Cast out along and past the point of the reef. Just a slow straight retrieve and the 30mph Southerly wind wasn’t helping with any feel on the lure. First cast and I just caught a glimpse as a rather nice dark looking bass dived in and swiped at the lure at my feet. Tim was fishing across the reef and landed a fish pretty quickly after I saw the last. I shuffled around to get a better angle at casting across the back of this reef. I tried topwaters first but I couldn’t make anything rise. My xlayer just wouldn’t reach the spot so I started looking at my sub surface lures. My old favourite the Duo DC12 just starred at me. It was exactly what I needed and I had brought a brand new one just in case such a situation would arise. I cast it out well past the point and started working it just like I used too. A couple hard jerks with a pause… first cast and it went solid. Always after the pause, but I felt almost instant slack line. This happened again in the next few casts before I finally managed another fish. After this it went quiet, I really wanted to put a softy back in the mix and pulled out a Savage gear 16gm weedless which I quickly stuck a savage gear body on. This was getting me the distance. I fished it back sink and draw pretty quickly to keep it off the bottom. After a good few casts and a missed bite I managed another schoolie. Tim re appeared, he had been round the corner and said he missed a good fish that came up for his surface lure right under his feet as he worked down the side of the rocks. He said there was a barely a ripple on the surface from the fish as it torpedoed it’s way vertically up and just as quick back down without a sniff at the lure.

The action was good and we would have liked to have fished on as the tide turned but we weren’t sure what time we had to sign off so headed back to the shakespeare hotel for around 4ish. Apparently we didn’t have to be back till around 7ish so that was a bummer. Still I had managed a fish to register and we ended on a high.

Wading back through one of the gullies though I did manage to clip a rock and water just went over my waders. Which in turn was enough to kill my iphone. So Jersey had swallowed two phones now! We had to laugh though and it was another epic adventure on new ground.

Sunday evening it was time to relax and we got a well deserved shower at the hotel before a wicked night with the Jersey boys and Rob at the presentation. To my surprise I had managed to take 1st place in the visitors section as well and was presented with a 100 pound voucher to spend at Mrfish.

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We spent the next morning just hanging out with Mick in the shop and spending a few too many pounds and coming away with more quality gear so big thanks to Mick!

Can’t wait to head back next year!

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