Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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20 August 2004

Back to basics.

I used to do a great deal of 'bait' fishing in the sea. However, anyone who has read 'Operation Sea Angler' will be aware that the use of flies and artificial lures improved the number of decent fish caught so much that bait fishing gradually receded into the background. Nevertheless, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that if you want to catch big fish, natural bait is often the best way to do it. This was brought home to me last saturday when I met a friend of mine, Mark, for a spot of plugging/popping. We arrived, simultaneously, at dawn and set off to fish 'Flat Ledge'. After a period of wading in the heavy surf, casting and retrieving with no sign of a fish, I became restive and decided to walk on along the shore. I had known that there would be a bit of a sea running so I had stuck a couple of frozen squid in my bag - just in case!

It was almost high tide and the edge of the sea was full of weed from a recent storm. However, I rounded a corner in the cliff to find a flat, wrack covered ledge with only a moderate swell rolling in. I took off my spool of braid and put on another of fifteen-pound nylon, tied on a size 4/0 hook, impaled a whole squid and lobbed it out about ten metres. It proved easy to keep the line out of the breaking waves at the edge and I was quite happy with the free-lined squid. I had a couple of casts with no sign of anything and the squid was beginning to look slightly the worse for wear, so I progged the hook through it in one more spot, to make it more secure, and chucked it out again. After a couple of minutes I felt a pluck on the line and dropping the rod I waited with my heart beating twenty to the dozen (bait fishing can be really exciting). A couple more plucks and the line began to run out. Now I generally wait some time for bass to get the bait well into their mouths so I allowed the line to run out through my fingers. The run was powerful but quite slow and I began to have a horrible feeling that this might be a conger rather than a bass.

I flicked the bale arm over and waited for the line to tighten. As the spinning-rod began to bend I struck firmly and felt the weight of a reasonable fish. It took a few yards against the clutch and kited round to my right but after a minute or so it began to yield and soon I realised that it was no bass or conger but a fair sized wrasse. I landed the fish and noticed that the hook was well down (presumably because I had timed my strike as if it were a bass). I took a couple of pictures and (with difficulty) unhooked and returned the fish. No more bites and when I returned I found that Mark had not had anything on his lures.

Inspired by my bait fishing - a few days later, with the wind still blowing, I decided to have another go with the squid. This time I tried on top of a ledge. There was a strong cross sea (tide AND waves) so I put a small coffin lead, stopped by a little swivel, on the line. The hook this time was a 4/0 circle hook. I have fancied trying these for bass for some time. The whole squid was hooked through the tip of the tail three times for security and tossed out onto the smooth rocks. Even with my flat lead the whole lot was soon swept round to the right into the bladder wrack. Nothing happened for a while except that I lost one hook that wedged under a small boulder. I was standing knee deep in the waves in my chesties and the bait was in water of about the same depth. I tied on another circle hook and baited up with another squid. This time, as the bait swept round, I felt a bite. Quickly I opened the bale arm and the line began to stream off at speed (a real bass bite). I let the fish go for about ten yards then, closing the bale arm, I simply tightened into the bass and it was on. Old habits die hard and after I had played the fish for a few seconds I could not resist a strike but it was, I am sure, not needed. When I landed the fish the hook was neatly in the scissors. Great fun! I'll be giving it another go soon.

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 -


In my experience it is quite unusual for these fish to take squid baits.

Well hooked!

Because I was expecting bass I'd waited too long and the fish had got the hook well down.

On the ledge.

The water was very shallow and the waves soon pushed my tackle round to the right.

What I was after.

A nice bass taken in shallow water on a whole squid.

Properly hooked.

My circle hook was right in the scissors - just as it should be.  The mantle of the squid is still on the line.