Almost Off The Top (a tale of logical problem solving)
As you are probably aware, I’m very much a lure angler, so this article relates to lure fishing, but can equally be applied to bait.
Recently, a couple of us were down on a local mark warming up for the forthcoming lure competition by pulling some very spirited pollock from quite a strong ebbing tide. The area we were fishing forms a bit of a trap for anything floating downstream on the outgoing tide and provides plenty of cover for lurking fish. It was about two hours into the ebb of a fairly big tide, the current was strong and the fish had really switched on, hitting our jig heads as soon as they swung into range. During a brief refreshment break, I heard some splashing and looked to the area we were fishing (which has some artificial lighting in the vicinity) to see lots of surface activity. There were fish feeding amongst the detritus that had gathered there. Some fish were jumping …. it all looked really exciting – except that this activity was just out of casting range for the gear we were using at the time. We decided that we couldn’t effectively fish for what ever it was creating all that commotion during that session. To reach them on the rods in use would have required larger jig heads, which in turn would have fallen through the water column too quickly. What was needed was a means of reaching the action and keeping the lure in the upper 18” or so of the water column. We left the mark discussing what the fish might be, our main suspects were sea trout, bass, suicidal pollock or over excited mullet …. I was rather eager to find out.
The first problem was what to put on the business end? Not knowing what the fish were, I decided that something with broad appeal on a small hook was likely to give me the best chance of getting some interest – so, a length of Isome on a #6 Manta would be the lure. The next problem was how to get this into the kill zone and keep it there. Had the current run parallel with the shore, I could have just free lined it down with the tide, unfortunately, the current angles inward and would take me straight into the snags. Thinking back to methods of old, I remembered using bubble floats and Jif lemon containers as weighted floats and attaching small Redgills to them when hunting for pollock and bass. This would solve the problem, but, as I am now addicted to using the Hi-Tech tackle, braided super lines and the latest in lure technology, using such archaic items would come into conflict with my inner tackle tart! A quick rummage through my lure bag presented the solution in the form of a couple of items given to me by a local tackle dealer to “have a play with”. The design, far from being new, is now produced using the latest in high density plastics of differing bouyancies – so looks pretty cool. Again, although an old technique, it is one that has only recently arrived on our shores …. and lastly, it is not a dance! The Bombarda float is an old Norwegian tackle item, created to allow you to use ultra light lures, such as flies, on hefty spinning gear when fishing for trout. The floats mimic the effects of different types of fly line, as they come in different weights and either floating, sinking or slow sinking varieties. Convinced that this was the answer, I set out to the same mark the following evening to try and solve the mystery of the excitable fish.
Returning to the mark the following evening, I was pleased to see the surface activity repeating itself as I quickly rigged up. HTO Rockfish Twin Tip 1-8g, coupled with an Okuma Ceymar C25 loaded with 5lb Nanofil was to be the weapon of choice. A 5g floating Bombarda float was thread onto the main line, followed by a bead and small swivel. Attached to this was about 7 feet of 4lb fluorocarbon terminating in a #6 Manta hook sporting 4 inches of brown Isome. I flicked this to the right of the area I was interested in and let the current bring it around before starting a slow retrieve. Four turns of the handle, the water erupted and the Isome got well and truly buzzed! Alas, no hook-up. Retrieved the tackle, straightened the Isome and launched it out into the current once more. This time the Isome was well and truly hit and a fish was on. Not massive, but showing good strength and using the current for all it was worth a schoolie of about a pound and a half fought every inch of the way to the net! Elated! I’d found out what the fish were, proved that my “new” technique could catch them and the Lure Competition started the next day.
That following night I was to be found on the same mark waiting for the tide to turn whilst the drizzle became rain, this time my set up was slightly heavier. Knowing that the fish in question were bass (and there is always the chance of the odd decent fish amongst the schoolies) I opted for the HTO Rockfish L Tube tip at 8’6” and casting 3-15g paired with an Okuma Trio SRS 30 with 10lb Nanofil. Same Bombarda as before and 8lb flouro ending in a 1/0 hook loaded with Gulp Sandworm in blood red. The casting with this set up was ridiculously easy, a quick flick sent the streamlined Bombarda sailing out over the water. Using the same tactics as before, I let the current bring the float around to the main area of interest and commence a slow retrieve. The first couple of casts had me doubting the wisdom of using the Gulp as the hook seemed to ignored, but my float was “mullered” by fish each time. The fourth cast was a little different. About half a dozen turns of the handle and the rod arched over in a very satisfying manner. The classic head banging of a bass could be felt clearly through the blank. I set the hook and commenced to bring the precious silver bar to the net. At least, that was the intention. As soon as I set the hook and tried to apply some pressure, the fish shot off down stream taking some twenty yards of line with it. Eventually I started to make some ground and brought the fish within a few yards of my feet – I think he’d just been taking a breather – as soon as he entered the pool of light on the mark, he was off again! This was repeated two or three times, with the fish even swimming towards meat one time and me praying that I could keep enough tension on the line to prevent my de-barbed hook from losing its’ hold. Eventually I had the fish netted and on shore, measured at 52cm, I tried to photograph the catch with the tape measure and my competition entry number, which proved to be a bit difficult as he was still full of beanz and flapping all over the place. Grab a couple of pics and safely returned the fish to fight another day. The following morning I set about uploading the pic for the competition …. imagine my dismay when I saw that the fish had flapped and flopped its’ way over my entry number so in essence had disqualified itself!
Did I try again that night? You bet! This time, I hooked into a slightly less intelligent specimen which spent half the battle swimming upstream against the current and using more energy in the process. Successfully landed, measured and photographed (including my entry card), I now had a bass to enter ….. and this one was a little bit longer at 54cm!
I continued to use this method over two or three different marks when ever I saw any signs of surface activity, and each time it resulted in bass being landed. Over the course of the competition, the technique accounted for nearly twenty bass and five pollock, five of the bass exceeding 50cm! It was enough to earn me the prize for biggest bass in the competition.
I am pleased with the experiment, it worked well and yes, I shall be dancing the Bombarda again! There are a few other local anglers who are experimenting with the Bombarda float – targeting mullet on the fly. I, for one, will be very interested to hear how they get on. Although this method is quite popular on the continent, I can see it being very useful around the British coastline, especially as we begin to refine it for use in our own waters.