Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

10 August 2007

Livebaiting tactics for bass.

Recently I've probably had more correspondence asking about my livebaiting tactics for bass than about anything else. The truth is that I don't know too much about it. To be fair to me I've caught a great many pike by using livebaits and over the years I've developed my own approach to catching these fish. Nowadays my standard tactic is to tie a circle hook (2/0-4/0) on a short length of 15lb knottable wire (no wire if I'm bassing). The livebait is liphooked on this and suspended under a slit (with a razor blade) cork adjusted to the appropriate depth for the swim. I often use my bass spinning rod and reel loaded with braid for this purpose. When I get a bite I simply tighten into the pike and usually the fish is lightly hooked in the scissors.

Those of you who have been reading my diary will know that last year I tried a similar tactic using live mackerel for bass. I started in mid-September and had two excellent bass in my first couple of (short) early morning, sessions. I was really chuffed because these were the first two biggish bass that I'd caught from that particular mark despite my pals and I having landed hundreds on plugs and flies. I vowed to give it the method a real go this year and I've now had several (biteless) sessions.

I like to hold the rod when I'm livebaiting so, unless someone else is fishing with me, that means that there is no spinning or fly fishing at the same time so, even if the bass/mackerel/scad/pollack/garfish are mad on very little is caught (I occasionally let the bait go and have a flick with the other gear - just to keep me sane).

Let me describe a normal session. I usually start off by fly fishing and in the gloom, if I'm lucky, I land one or two pollack - these are released. Sometimes I catch a mackerel and if I do, on to the other rod armed with a 6/0 circle hook it goes. The bait is lightly hooked through the tip of the snout. The little cork (about half a wine bottle cork) is fixed to my metre-long nylon trace and the lip-hooked mackerel is lowered, as soon as possible, back into the sea. The cork DOES NOT SUPPORT THE MACKEREL, it simply acts as a guide for me as to what the bait is up to. If no mackerel are forthcoming on the fly in the first ten minutes I have a go with the plug and this usually produces a suitable bait pretty quickly. I could catch one even quicker on a spoon but the plug also gives me a better chance of a bass.

I hold the rod and, with the bale arm open, allow the mackerel to swim more or less where it wants. generally it heads out to sea and then, after it has gone twenty or thirty metres (they are very well behaved and rarely go to ground) I stop it's progress by holding the braid between finger and thumb. The bait then proceeds to swim in wide arcs to the left and then back to the right. There is no problem knowing that it is just the bait on the end because the tip of the rod nods rapidly to the wagging of the mackerel's tail.

A bass take (I've only had a few) seems to consist of a sharp, heavy knock or two followed by the line running out (I let it slip through my fingers) swiftly, powerfully and STEADILY (no wagging now). After I judge that the bass has the bait well in its mouth (this is guesswork) I close the bale arm and tighten the line by steadily raising the rod. All I can say is that it worked for the two that I caught last back end.

I imagine that by now you're thinking that I'm crackers, dangling a livebait when I could be catching lots of fish. however, in total I suppose I've only fished the bait for eight or ten hours and it has produced the two best bass (by far) from the mark. Also, as I say, it was much later in the year when I caught my fish last season. Of course I may never have another bite on my live mackerel but only time will tell. In any event - that's my method for anyone else who's stupid enough to try it (or who knows that there are big bass out there to be caught).

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -


I hate the word 'rig' but it's a 6/0 circle hook on 15lb nylon and a split cork about a metre up the line.


A fly-caught mackerel ideal for bass bait.

Boredome relief.

A plug caught bass at the end of my last livebaiting session.

Close up

Nicely hooked on an Angel Kiss but not big enough to take a mackerel.

Time for breakfast.

The sun's up and the fish are long gone.