Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

Information Page.


An updated guide to spinning for bass

Every week I get emails asking me about the ins and outs of spinning for bass. I answer as best I can and some of the information is obviously general. Over the years I've done a few versions of this sort of guide so once more I'll revisit what I said and see how things might have changed.

Why spin?

Bass eat a lot of fish, squid, prawns and other active animals. The best way to deceive a fish is (still) to present a natural, live-bait on simple tackle. However, natural bait is not always easy (or cheap) to come by, so an effective artificial can be a life saver.

On those rare occasions when the bass are “mad on” or passing through at speed it is MUCH quicker to use an artificial (no fiddling about with bait needed). If the fish are scattered over miles of shoreline, it is easier to search for them by casting and retrieving a lure as you move along. Thirdly, and perhaps surprisingly, some types of imitation fish are less prone to snagging than most bait rigs.

Where and when to spin!

Essentially ANYWHERE that you think there could be bass; over sand, gravel, rock, weed or in open water; from the very MARGIN of the sea to offshore reefs, wrecks and shoals; at ANY state of tide. Obviously success will depend on whether there are any bass present (you may be surprised – I often am!). At any time of the year - although APRIL to NOVEMBER (inclusive) is the prime period - you may catch a bass. From my local shores big fish are most often taken at the extreme beginning and end of the season and big catches often occur in May and June.

As a general (but not hard and fast) rule, in Dorset, I fish rocky beaches, ledges and headlands on the top of the spring tides and gravel beaches and bays on bottom of the neaps. Any conditions from flat calm/gin clear to force eight/white water will be O.K. Even quite dirty water is not a total dead loss.

Tackle to use!

A medium sized fixed spool reel is, by far, the most versatile. The cheapest models are rarely ideal but anything with a smooth clutch and reasonable level wind will be O.K. I am not the man to ask about makes and models of tackle - as long as it works I use it. If you want you can give the reel a wash after every trip - I don't bother but my gear is NEVER put away in a bag, box or car boot. Made up rods and reels are in my little rod cupboard and even non-saltwater-proof reels last a few years under these conditions (although they don’t always look ‘nice’ after a few soakings in the drink).

I load the spool of my spinning reel with braided line. 20-30lb Whiplash or Dynon 3000 braid in my case but some other brands (Fireline, Varivas Sea Bass max power) are easier if your new to braid. Don’t overfill or you will have to cut a few yards off when it tangles on the cast. If you are new to spinning, want to use only big lures or think that your beaches are snaggier than mine (want a bet!) quality braid is for you. I attach a 1m trace of 15-20lb clear Amnesia nylon to the end of my braid, basically to avoid tangles should the lure fold back on the cast.

My favourite rod(s) in the days of nylon line used to be 11-12 ft, 1.75lb test curve, carp-type, through action blanks but these days I use custom made spinning rods which have a similar spec. (casting up to 50gm). Any spinning rod of your choice will do but remember it must be sufficiently powerful (=stiff) to set the hooks against the tough mouth of a bass and the drag of a bulky lure, this is much easier with non-stretch braid than with nylon. Personally, I feel that the longer rod gives me good lure/fish control amid waves, weeds and boulders but shorter rods are fine and less tiring on the arm.

Now all you need are a few lures. First let me say that these are not cheap but compared to the cost of bait (I used to buy 12 worms per week for mullet and bait fishing and it cost me about £50 per year even then - it was still cheaper and more convenient than going to dig my own) it should be no problem. Lures last for ages if you don’t lose them. Nowadays I generally tie my lures directly to the nylon trace with a non-slip loop knot (Rapala knot) which is quick and easy to retie when you want to change and avoids the risks inherent in clips, split rings and swivels. CHECK EVERY KNOT! Clip the lure on, SHARPEN THE HOOKS! and away you go. If you want to change the hooks use good quality trebles, not too thick in the wire (the idea is to sink them easily into a fish not to anchor the QE2). VMC trebles are good and reliable.

What lures should you have in your box?

I “like” to carry two or three of each basic type but rarely is that the case (two should be plenty). A good selection might be -

A couple of medium sized silver Tobys (or something similar ABU Tormentor, Dexter Wedge, etc.)for those RARE occasions when I want to belt them to the horizon or, more likely, to catch a mackerel for bait.

Perhaps two poppers (Skitter Pop, Chug Bug. Mag Popper, TD Pencil or what you fancy) for the excitement of surface fishing.

Big silvery Redgills (or similar) for fishing THROUGH weeds. Nowadays self weighted shads are probably as good or better and unweighted 'Sandra' or Slug-Go soft plastics can often be used in the shallowest, weediest conditions. The latter are virtually weedless but have no intrinsic action to tempt fish and must be worked by rod and/or reel movement.

Black/silver or blue/silver floating Rapalas J13(fishes deeper) and J11 sizes are most useful.

A couple of Maria Angel Kiss or Chase plugs. These are floating shallow divers with an internal moving weight system which makes them really long casting. The silver holographic versions are popular and effective but all colours are OK. Jointed Rapalas don't cast as well but they have a very vigorous action and may score at times in coloured water.

A couple of home made mullet spinners (for mullet and smaller bass).

A total of a dozen or so lures at (say) an average of £10 each. Total about £120

If you are happy with one of each then £60 or so. If you skip a few perhaps £40 worth of basic lures, and say £20 for annual replacements. Of course I realise that if you are new to bass spinning or covering new ground then you could lose two or three lures on your first session but my average loss rate is still about one or two per season (usually in snags not in fish). If you are hard up then you could settle for just a couple of Maria Chase plugs and not go far wrong. Or you could make your own from balsa at a fraction of the price (glue on a strip of metal foil and give them a few coats of varnish). DIY plugs have the advantage that you can customise the weight, shape, colour and depth of dive to your needs.

There are many other good makes of buoyant plug bait. Most reputable types are O.K. but there really is no need to carry a suitcase full of plastic and balsa unless you want to. If your personal coastline is steep and deep it may be worth experimenting with some deeper divers. Nowadays a couple of surface poppers are almost essential – they cast a long, long way and are difficult to lose even on the snaggiest, shallowest ground. Some of my pals use little else.To be honest I’d say forget most of the above because two plugs and two poppers and a couple of soft plastics – perhaps forty quid’s worth - will suffice for 95% of your fishing.

Just one or two more thoughts. Don’t be afraid to fish - In shallow water (1’-2’ deep), over rock and weed, in rough weather, CLOSE IN (stand back up the beach and flick the lure a couple of yards out at times), in clear water, in fast tides. Reel in just fast enough to make the lure work (say one turn of the handle per second - much slower than this against a strong flow or with unweighted soft plastics) THIS WILL CATCH BASS, then when you gain confidence you can improvise with fast/slow or fancy retrieves. You can reel faster if the lure is travelling with the flow - sometimes a good ploy. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of fish activity (splashes, flashes, swirls, tails, fins, shapes and shadows, explosions of little fish, diving - terns, gulls, guillemots, razorbills etc.). All of this still applies – the tackle might have changed but the habits of bass haven’t.

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 - docladle@hotmail.com


An old but effective mackerel lure that catches bass at range - but mind the snags!'

Rapala J11f.

Still a good reliable bass lure.'

Maria Chase.

A modern long-casting, shallow-diving alternative.  Note the simple loop-knot attachment.'

Surface popper.

Exciting bass catchers that are pretty safe even over near-surface kelp and rocks.'

'Weedless' soft plastic.

The Slug-Go has no intrinsic action but will fish through weed where plugs are useless.  See how the lure has slid up the line after the fish was hooked.'