Tide line that is…..Though totally written at the wrong time of year, I’ll share these findings on “Sight fishing” for mostly crab hunting Bass, while a lot of it is still in the memory banks from this season. I realise it’s not every ones cup of tea, but if you enjoy a challenge that will bring out your hunter instinct then read on. Firstly gear, decent glasses a must, travel light with barely a handful of lures, & wellington boots, waders are a no, no, as you shouldn’t need them, & you’ll probably be coming in contact with barbed wire, briers, etc. Rods, are always a personal preference, but I prefer length for this 9′ 6″ is ideal, & I usually bring 2 rods, set up, & ready to go the second I spot a bass, your window can be just seconds to present whichever lure you select, you won’t have time to waste, BE READY !!
One rod set up with a small surface lure, LC, “Sammy” 90, or Sebile “Splasher” are ideal, I like to rig my single hooks as above to make the lure almost weedless. The other rod with a weedless SP, paddletail, or the SG Crab… Although they are on the hunt for crab, being ever the opportunist a well presented subtle lure will take them, for sure. Select something fairly subtle that’s not going spook them when cast, & something you can maintain a 100% control over it, eg slowing, stopping, turning (an advantage with a long rod is turning, & lure control at short range)…….
Next, time of year, & tide. I usually spot the first fish in the upper estuaries during May, coinciding with a surge in the estuaries temp, accelerated by the suns “radiator” effect on the huge expanse’s of mud, & sand flats when stripped at low water. They can be fairly “reliable” until the water temp in the upper estuary gets too warm around the middle of July….. So lets say, from mid May – mid July our best chance’s will come. I used to curse my luck when I’d often see the first one around May 15th (the start of our old bass closed season), but still I was intrigued enough to watch, follow, & learn from them…..
Tide, the majority of the cover, or weed where the crab will be taking refuge will be in the top 3/4 of the tidal range, so it’s no mystery then to concentrate your efforts around this time. Flood, or Ebb, I’ve seen, & got them on both, but they always seem in more of a hurry on the flood, & can pass through quickly, in comparison to being a bit more meticulous on the Ebb. Local factors kick in on different locations of course, you’ll have to find your own way on that. There’s also features where they pay extra attention to other than weed, eg rock amour, clusters of boulders, old stonework (quays/walls), freshwater outlets/springs, etc, are all worth a “Stake out”, each side of HW. The fish, 9 times out of 10 it’s a “lone wolf” of 60cm +, very occasionally a pair, with eyesight that’s every bit as good above the water as below, so be stealthy, very stealthy, consider your outline, background, etc.
Observations, they swim along the fringes of weed until it picks up the scent of crab, on which it often doubles back delving, & probing into the weed, sometimes using its tail to dislodge its prey, you can often see a plume of sediment, & debris created by the vortex from its mouth. I’ve only seen the large cock shore crab stand its ground in a defensive pose, any other smaller crab will try to make a dash for it, but bass are very persistent when they have prey in their sights, the crab will be sucked in, even if it is too hard, or too big at first, then it can be sucked in, & out 3-4 times, in this “Testing” process, before being swallowed, or rejected. Too hard, & too big are rejected, but its no secret all small hard crab are swallowed, & are common in the stomach contents of kept fish.
Bass don’t have it all their own way, & have plenty of competition from other crab hunters, otters, gull’s, hooded crows, & bait collectors, all take their quota. Any wonder the crab makes such a big effort to conceal itself, especially when it’s vulnerable. One of the big attractions for me in bass fishing is the many ways you can vary your approach to catch them, sight fishing is just one, you won’t get the numbers, but you’ll get a small insight into some of their behavior.