UK Sea Bass Fishing Guide (2021)
Bass are among the most sought-after fish species in the UK! They are prized fish that put up a spirited fight against your hook, that’s why bass angling attracts some of the top talents from around the country.
For a sports fisherman, catching a 10lb bass would be the highlight of the day, but there are smaller sea fish that will still give you a run for your money!
Let’s begin with what Sea Bass are and as as beginner sea bass angler, what equipment you need, and most importantly where you need to go to search for Sea Bass!
What are Sea Bass?
A member of the perch family, bass are distinctive fish with two dorsal fins on a body covered in big scales. They can be identified by their green-gray to dark-blue colouration on the back, which blends with a silver shading on the sides and a white belly. Bass can be found all over Europe, stretching as far as the North African coast and Norway and as far south as the Mediterranean.
In the UK, they are more predominant in the southern half, although their range has extended to the east and west coats of Scotland in the past few decades.
Nowadays, it is common to find bass angling expeditions as far north as Dunnet and to the Orkney Islands beaches. Bass also inhabit the southern, southwestern, and southeastern coasts of Ireland, as well as the north coast of Northern Ireland. The species is sometimes referred to as the “Wolf of the Sea” because of its hunting prowess.
The diet includes everything from crabs and shrimps to sand eels, shellfish, and worms. Bass will also predate on a wide range of fish including blennies, mackerel, gobies, squid, sprat, pouting, etc.
It’s also not uncommon for them to scavenge on human food wastes that have been thrown overboard such as like chicken bones and bacon. The breeding season for bass starts in late February and stretches to late May.
This usually happens in the deeper offshore waters from January to March, although some experienced anglers have witnessed adult bass displaying breeding behaviour in shallow estuary waters in mid-May.
Where Can I Find Bass?
Good bass fishing grounds are like a goldmine; not many anglers are willing to reveal where their favorite spots are. Nevertheless, bass like to hang around food holding areas such as estuary mouths, where sand eels converge in large numbers. You can also find them in any tidal rip, sandbanks, and rock ledges where the fish prospect for food in between crevices.
The best time to be out fishing is early in the morning when the children are still fast asleep and the ebbing tide offers a nice opportunity to catch the bass without having to worry about rising waters interrupting you.
Still, you need to be mindful of strong currents and watch out for when it begins to flood. While this can be a great time to fish, it is also easy to get too absorbed that the rising waters cover the route back to solid ground.
When fishing bass at the beach, two golden rules should interest you. First, don’t cast the rod too far; aim for the third breaker where the food gets churned by the wave and collects. This is where the bass patrol the beach while picking off anything edible they can come across.
In many cases, you’ll encounter the bass darting behind you when wading into the water. The second thing is to keep a hold on your rod! Bass generally hit hard and fast; you stand the chance of missing the fish if you take too long to pick up your rod.
What is the Best Tackle for Bass Fishing?
The ideal rod for shallow surf bass should weigh around 2-4oz and have a length of 11’6”-11’9”. This is a nice lightweight enough rod to hold long enough as you wait for the bass to take a bite.
Meanwhile, the action should be a semi-supple tip but have quickening power in the mid-section for the appropriate casting range. It should also be sturdy enough to drive the hook through the bony mouth of the bass.
This type of rod is best paired with smaller multiplier reels such as the ABU 6500 series. These have been a go-to surf bass reel for a while now due to their ability to cast with lighter leads.
Companies such as Daiwa, Akios, and Tronixpro also have similar reels. If you are looking for something simpler, like a fixed spool reel, then sizes 5500 or 060 with a 250-300 yards of a 15-pound line will be a great choice. A good example is the Penn range from brands like Clash, Slammer, and Spinfisher.
You can also fish for bass with a 15lb line paired with a 30-40lb shock leader. But if you use a 2-2,5oz lead, then a 20lb mainline straight should be adequate without a shock leader to reduce the force during casting. For clear shallow waters, using heavier shock leaders may put off some fish, so you want to get rid of them if it is safe. Normally, the lead weights will be 2-4oz and have grip wires in ordinary surf conditions.
Elsewhere, when fishing in deeper waters with heavy surf conditions, go for a standard beach caster with a length of between 12 and 13ft, rated to cast up to 6oz. Remember to pair this with a heavy-duty multiplier reel like the PENN 525Mag 3.
If you prefer something more heavy-duty than this, then you can opt for a European-style rod measuring 14-15ft, matched with a 7000/8000 fixed spool reel. This should be loaded with a 30lb braid, as well as a 60lb braid shock leader.
It results in a small know that easily flies through the rod rings and proves to be a better option than mono. Because of the additional length on the rods, the speed of the lead weight is enhanced, and this subsequently increases the casting distance.
What is the Best Bait for Bass Surf Fishing?
Ideally, lugworm and black or blow lug are the most consistent bait for bass surf fishing. Alternatively, you can go with ragworm, although it is not as reliable as lug when fishing in the surf. If you choose lug as your bait, be sure to nip off the sandy tail just as short way below the worm’s body and slide it down, starting with the tail end. This should position the succulent head of the lug to the hook point.
Some anglers prefer using sand eel, which is another reliable bass bait. The sand eel is hooked wholly with the tail and head removed and the rest of the body threaded over the hook.
This is then secured with bait elastic to help it stay put. Otherwise, you can use 3” sections of a bigger sand ell such as launce and this should also be held together by bait elastic so that it’s not lodged off the hook.
If you’re angling closer to rough ground, peeler crab will make for a reliable surf bait. However, it might less practical over clean sand. In this case, you want to use crabs around the size of a 50p piece.
Get rid of all the body shell then split the crab into two before threading it around the hook shank. Secure it with bait elastic so that you end up with a rough sausage shape.
Razorfish, as well as queen cockles, can be handy bait, especially after storms while in the autumn season, larger bass will go for mackerel heads hooked through the mouth and between the eyes. Finally, you can try using whole squids or sections of bluey. Whichever bait you use, always secure it with bait elastic to enhance casting strength.
What are the Best Techniques for Catching Bass?
Dusk and dawn happen to be a key feeding time for the larger bass. These will often look for food around particular areas, mostly behind the breaking tide and sandy beaches, as well as in rock marks and estuaries at the beach.
Generally, bass feed and hang around different depths of water. You’ll encounter them in shallow areas where food resources like shellfish, peeler crabs, and even worms tend to be.
Many fishermen consider bass to be a predatory fish that tracks down smaller fish species when hunting. While there is every reason to believe this, you should know that all bass are scavengers and will usually scour the seabed for any food available.
In short, bass can be caught using both bait and lures, but some of the largest caught in the UK are reeled in using bait as opposed to lures. The juvenile school bass will typically be found around estuaries and harbours, and tend to be less fussy than larger bass when it comes to taking the bait.
This means they are easier to catch and will make the bulk of your haul. Experienced anglers employ a subtle approach when catching bass, which involves specialised bass rods to allow the initial bites from the fish to be felt more easily.
These rods are generally lighter compared to standard beach casters and this allows them to remain in the hands of the fishermen long enough without becoming a nuisance.
Bass are famous for putting up a fight before going down. They will battle to get unhooked and if you have a well-balanced bass rod, this can make for an adrenaline-rushing sport that many competitive anglers look for. When unhooking the caught fish, be wary of the spiky first dorsal fin as they can easily puncture through your skin. The same goes for the sharp gill covers, which can cut your flesh.
Are there Any Regulations on Recreational Bass Fishing?
Since January 2020, regulations were updated to guide anglers fishing for bass in the British waters. Fishermen were required to catch bass on a catch-and-release basis from January to December. Later on, the rules were made more lenient and anglers were allowed to retain only two fish from their catch, provide they have a minimum length of 42cm.
The regulations persist to this day and are the least stringent imposed on anglers ever since the bass limits began. It was also the first time that bass anglers are allowed to keep two fish in a day since 2015.
The UK sea bass fishing guide above will give you the confidence to finally have a go at bass fishing. It can be an exciting pastime, especially if you have a knack for challenges that get your adrenaline pumping. So, wherever you are in the UK, use it to find the perfect spot for your new-found hobby!
What is the Best Bait to Catch Sea Bass?
Small fresh fish such as sprats make good bait for bass when still whole. You can also try fish strips from herring, mackerel, and even squid to attract the sea bass. Some anglers have been known to use sand eels, peeler crabs, and hermit crabs with the head and claws removed. Others swear by fresh bait like prawns and shellfish.
What Colour Fishing Line is Best for Bass?
According to studies, the colour vision of bass is most prominent in medium to light reds, yellow-greens, and red-oranges. However, it is weak for colours like blue and purple. So, when fishing for bass, keep in mind that deeper water is less clear water, hence there will be less light and less colour.
How Long Do Sea Bass Live for?
Bass are generally slow-growing fish species that need up to 7 years just to reach 42cm. From this point, they are more prone to overfishing; but if left to live out their life, bass can stay around for as long as 25 years. Unfortunately, commercial fishing ensures that most don’t get to reach this milestone.