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Sea bass hunting : advice (UK)

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Aquatic shopper...
Jul 3, 2003
There are lots of bass around at the moment.

Any tips on landing one ?

Is low tide better than high tide ? I have been seeing lots about an hour up from low tide, and less at high tide. Is there a general pattern with tides ?

Best environment
Do you mainly find bass on sand or on kelp ? What sort of depths ? I've seen them over kelp more than over sand, thought they were more of a sandy kind of fish - anyone got comments on this ?

What set up do you use to shoot bass ?
Reel or no reel ?
Powerful gun or less powerful but easier to track ?
Gun length ?
Band type ?
Average shot distance ?

Do you have better luck shooting them while stalking them or from lying on the bottom waiting (aspetto) ?
Is it better to drop to their level and try to get a parrallel shot or just shoot as soon as you see one ?
I came across some yesterday that were not spooked to see me and looking back I probably would have had time to exhale, drop quietly and take a shot from about 3 metres away at the same depth. Would this have been a good approach ?

Anyway - determined to land a few this summer - so if you can spare your safely guarded knowledge to help a beginner out I would be grateful.
Well here goes my limited experiance on the loverly bass!
I find same as you, low tide slack through to high tide is best to find bass i believe they feed on the up coming tide and are therefore more active. In my experiance they are usually found on rocky kelp bottoms sometimes surprisingly shallow (had an 8lb bass in under 2m of water last year) The bigger fish are often found alone and deeper, but smaller ones school and can be found most depths.. 10m is about spot on for a selection of bass but like most fish seem to be attracted to certain areas.. wrecks, reef structure food etc. Mullet.. similar to bass tend to be on sand more, and also like breaking waves and disturbed water around rocks etc.. sometimes ive seen a large bass in with a group of mullet. I use my basic all round UK setup, a 75cm picasso carbo gun with 22mm bands and think its a 6.5mm spear I use a reel but have an extra wrap of line before it so it is hardly needed i have fished for bass with guns up to a 130, but in the UK a 75 or a 90 covers all but the clearest conditions, most shots are surprisingly close, an one or two are obviously long ones, bass are quite easy to stone if you are accurate especially as many shots are presented head on followed by a side on swim past.. if you havent already kebabed him! I find the best technique is to drop to the bottom, smoothly wait a while then towards the end of your breath cover the next few meters in front, hiding behind rocks kelp etc, then end at a set point wait surface then start over from the last point. They are quite curious fish and will come to see what you are, try not to look directly at them as the sense this and will spook, also if you spot one on way down etc just stop and wait.. if it swims off follow it casually but more often than not it will stop or turn for a closer look. My all time best piece of advice is to go to well known bass spots, take your time and make one addition to your kit.. a squidy.. you know one of those rubber squid worm things fishermen use as artificial bait, attach a large bright one to the end of your gun.. these can grab a bass' attention and make him neglect the fact there is a human pointing a big spear at him! Where in the UK are you and where do you dive, let me know an i might be able to offer some other tips.. oh an while i remember some areas of the UK have bass hatcherys which are illegal to spear in, also the competition or rod caught size limit counts in some areas so dont shoot any under 30cm long, bigger the better especially as bass take years to reach sexual maturity.. give the little ones chance to breed! Good luck and hope this helps.
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bass hunting

Just yesterday I got one of these very tasty fish.. Have been hunting them only about two years, But I think I have figured out how to land them the easiest.. This is what I do..

Just very slowly swim on the surface, you will finally wil see one of these beautyes swimming under you... my suggestion is not to shoot from above.. too small of an target, although it is always good to keep your spear pointed towards your prey.. they just might want to be killed by you right there and come take a look.

If and when you have not speared your bass from above, make sure you notice in which direction it is travelling, or which direction it goes as you dive gently to the bottom and face the direction in which you saw the bass go.. then just do your sapetto, should not be very long.. aout 20seconds max and the fish will come back to investigate and will present you a good target, just dont make a move unless you really have to.. as they do get spooked by movement at this stage.. then just feed the beauty your spear.. usually close distance shot.. I have never needed longer gun than 75 here in Devon, but in Cornwall 110cm would be useful.

this is of course for bass at a depth you can see them in.. like 10feet to 18feet or what ever might be the visibility..

For bass at deeper water I would suggest working on your aspetto.. I have speared my deepest bass in -10m which obviously is not that deep, but considering that most of my bass hunting is done at -5m... just at the edges of the reef... when doing deeper hunting making little noise, perhaps by strumming your bands might be a good idea just to attract them to satrt with..

I think the best time for hunting these fish is either high tide and little around it both ways.. I have a spot where there is horrible tidal flow and betwee ntimes are very hard work.. so bang on high tide would be my suggestion..

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Just a few other things worth trying, flashers seem to work attracting their ettention. Another technique Ive just been told about, is to get a mesh type bag, collect about five shore crabs (soft backs if possible) put the crabs in the bag, swim to your fave Bass spot, crush the crabs and either tie them to your flasher or on top of an old spear so they are well off the bottom; move back to a well chosen clump of weeds point your gun at the bag and if there are any Bass in the area they will come. Quite a good idea that, Ive caught two out of the last three times out with that now.
Bass generally stay out by headlands on the ebb tide or low water and come into bays on the flood tide. Where I am, they are to be found on the join of the rock and sand, as well as over gravel beds. Youve just got to learn the habits of your local fish :)
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Okay here is the deal on bass. They are incredibly territorial. Anything remotely curious within their sensory range WILL be investigated.

Sea Bass will be on the hunt at sunrise and sunset and are ambush predators. They will run along the edge of kelp forests or rock formations. Also very common in wrecks.

The best time for normal spearos to catch them is on the rising tide as al the nutrients are being pushed towards shore which in turn causes the baitfish to be close to shore.

Sea Bass can be caught in between 0.5m of water to 30m. I ahve seen large sea bass swimming with half their backs out of the water like salmon.

The best technique is aspetto. Try lying on the sand motionless facing into the kelp forest. Also the other way around. Hide in the kelp and face the sand. See what your local bass are doing.

Their is no best gun. It all depends where you are going to fish. In my opionion a 90 is more than enough as, if the aspetto is done correctly the sea bass will come within a metre from your face.

No reel is needed as the sea bass will only grow to 10 kilo max, but I use it to give the fish a bit of slack if it is hit in a soft area. YOu are more likely to lose the fish without reel. I know fisherman who let go of their gun in this instance and let the fish tire before going to retrieve it.

Seems to work for me
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Cheers for the info - like the idea of a squidy thing ! Thought about that but thought it might be too crazy to work - think I might get creative and make a flashy-squidy thing with a little bag for crushed crabs.

Thanks - I'll get working on aspetto - not sure how happy I am doing this as I had a BO in a pool session a few weeks back - but I guess if I come up on the first contraction (about 3mins I think - pretty sure this will be less with 3m to 5m depth) might be happier about it.

Thanks - I thought about crushing crabs - but suspending them off the bottom is a better way. Saw alot of spider crabs (about 30 or 40) when I was out the day before yesterday too - is it illegal to use these as bait if they are small ? I assume it is. There are lots of shore/green crabs too.

Wow ! What a nice bass ! How heavy was that one ? Cheers for the info - and previously too on spearguns.
Now I know where some hang out I will revisit the exact location and practice a combination of aspetto with baiting I think.

From what alot of you say an hour up from low tide on the flood is a good time - especially if that coincides with sunrise or sunset.

Think I will try a Picasso Century 100 as I am hoping to head off to a warmer location for slightly larger fish at the end of the summer.

Once again - nice fish Shane !
I have never tried baiting myself but aspetto will always work in a bass area.

For bass it is better to do many shorter aspettos than real long ones. If a bass is there it will come quickly to your side.

Leave the long aspettos for Dentex and Gilt HEads

The bass in the picture weighed just over 4 kilos. It was caught sitting in a shadow under a rock waiting to make an ambush. Only I ambushed it first :D

BO should not be an issue with aspetto. 1 minute bottom time is more than enough for any fish, if you hide properly/keep still. So with your descent/ascent you should not exceed 1:15 - 2:00 depending on depth. This way you can stay fresh and keep from tiring yourself.

If you see a fish that is reluctant towards the end of your wait, turn around, swim for 10m to the other direction close to the bottom and diagonally ascend away from the fish. Dive back down and "crawl" to the aspetto point again and resume your 2nd aspetto where the SAME fish will usually come closer.

This is good where you locate a school of bass or mullet and dont want to scare them off.

Good Hunting

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Cheers Baur - what about a situation like this :

I saw a single bass, shot it - missed - then as I was realoading it stopped and looked at me while I reloaded ! I was trying to keep an eye on it but between reloading / trying to breathe / trying to keep an eye on the fish I lost it.
Would a better approach be to swim off slowly in the opposite direction / reload / then come back to the same spot and dive - then crawl in to where the fish was ?

Also a few minutes later I found a group of bass just as I was ascending from a slow swim along the bottom. Same thing - shot - missed - tried to look where they were going - tried to reload - lost them.
They were in no hurry to swim off.
Probably better to stealth-swim back away from them, reload then aspetto-crawl back to where they were last sighted ?

Oh and of course get more accurate at shooting them !

Cheers Shane / Baur on the aspetto - I'll keep it to a minute - need to get a waterproof watch or splash out for a D3 or Mosquito [seems like Mosquitos have better reliability than D3's but that is another issue...]

Cheers - Ed
My only advice is to stop swimmimng along the bottom.

Swim down along a few meters and aspetto. Only tread water on the surface. You will be way more succesful with the bass.
Hey there Ed

The "crawl" and "withdraw" aspetto technique I use when I want to take more than one fish from the pack, alerting them as less as possible. To locate the pack or a single fish to begin with a simple aspetto will do. Bass give great attention to motionlessness. So even if you lie still at the surface behind a rock youll see them come by if they are in the area.

Bass and Mullet move parallel to the coastline. They might go a bit deeper when scared but they still move parallel. So if you take a bass at aspetto lets say in heavy surf conditions IMO withdraw deeper to string the fish, reload, and then swim forward ahead of the fish to intercept them again in the course of their parallel movement. The trick is to be able to follow the pack discreetly as its moving even while stringing fish, and setting your aspetto ahead of its course.

For the situation you mention I would gently follow the fish while reloading and try to get a shot on the move as I doubt that it would come to aspetto again.

While aiming for schooling bass that come all together, choose the one you are going to shoot before it comes into range and focus on it. Deciding which to shoot once they are all in range will delay you, while the pack will have moved away giving you a harder shot.

Hope this helps

Hi Ed... I have had simillar problems with Bass wanting to hang around... the best thing is not to shoot if you dont have ideal shot... they are very curious and will give you a second chance... I tried once to shoot bass while swimming towards the bottom.. that one was one of the worst tries I have made to land one...
So just wait for the good target, they will present it..
and when you swim down, if you see bass swimming slowly away to say 4o clock, just dive down and point to the direction you saw your fish swimming.. it will come from that direction to you again.. very easy to nail then.. you even know where to aim.. very important with longer guns that swing slowly for target..

Good Luck

I am off to Norway hopefully nailng some Wolf Fish and monster sized cod and I dont know yet good time.. I hope

I'll be back hunting Bass in Cornwall in a weeks time.. I'll get some photos and stories..

Cheers Baur - some sound advice - saw a solitary bass the other day but didn't have a speargun (was out wrasse watching with my cousin - some of the wrasse hear are huge).

Pekka - how was your trip ? Back in Cornwall now ? Any fish from Norway ? I was there in January (Hemsedal) - bit chilly for freediving/spearfishing though !

Thanks everyone.
Got my first bass of the year (and ever) on Saturday.

All the help you gave me finally worked out !

Saw a solitary bass on the way in from an hour and a half session in the local bay. Hadn't seen any bass so was heading home as the water was making me shake.

Saw that familiar ghostlike shadow, waited on the surface for a bit to have a breathe up, then dove down and lay on the bottom, as a few of you mentioned the bass came back. They brought all their mates too - I waited until they were close and picked one out, tracked it quietly and finally got one. Very tasty too - much smaller than Shane's bass pic (about a 2 pounder).

To find the larger ones where would be a good place to look ? Are they deeper ? Presumably large bass move out of the schools and become solitary ? I don't want to shoot too many of the small ones - not sure on the impact it will have as they must be quite young ?
Mind you, over here they recently found a breeding site offshore and have dredged it to f**k. Bass in all the restaurants, in the fishmongers etc - seems a shame as I doubt there will be many next year and in the years to come...

So where do the big bass hang out ?

Hey congrats on the first bass.. I think im right in saying bass take YEARS to reach sexual maturity and i think bass over 6 or 8lb are all female and under that male? Could be wrong but sure i read that somewhere. Anyway i find big bass in all my bass spots, your right they do tend not to school though, and in my experiance seem to either lay in a gully or a hole and are real easy to miss or sometimes come in after and on the edge of a school of smaller bass. Mind you once shot a 9lb bass out of a school of similar sized bass, about 50 in the school.. was a pretty amazing site.. it was at about 12m, an sorry location remains a secret! but saying that my biggest ever bass, 10lb+ was shot in under a meter of water! as i was trying to remove my fins! Anyway good luck, and shame to hear about the bass grounds being dredged, some places on the south coast protct bass breeding grounds, shame more dont. (mind you dredgers wont dredge near wreckage, and bass love the structure.. of course im not suggesting you sink a shed load of old scrap anywhere but.... ;) Joe
I'm Back and well!

Hi Ed,

Yes I am back and had very good time, hunting cod... and got some awesome sized fish too.. although water was bit chilly.....+8C
I'll write a whole story soon on the website..

I'll be after some bass this week and hopefully nail some for food as I am not working and need to eat cheap food... bass would be cool!

and Congrats for your first bass! I love the feeling when you see them appear from the distance.. makes you feel all excited and ready to shoot, but you wait for that little bit more.. just to get the perfect shot.. where did you shoot? did you stone your bass? gut shot? head shot? (my favourite) :p

ickledevil/Joe - thanks, I'll see if I can find some of the big ones - not sure if there are any local wrecks close in enough, but having said that I did see a wrecked fishing boat off on a rock recently - totally exposed at low water so will have at least 9m of water on it at high (large tides here...strong currents too.. the Little Russell has some swift currents).

Pekka - cheers, glad you had a good trip. I shot the bass just infront of the eye, thought I had shot it through the eye when I first shot it but when I got closer it was just infront. Even the small ones put up quite a fight, had a bit of a tussle with it but nothing like I would imagine a larger fish would put up.

Am I right in thinking that the brain is about two inches behind the central point of the eyes ? Jabbed a knife in there but it still thrashed around.

Yes, Pekka it was really nice to see all those bass come gliding in. One minute they are ghosts then they are all around. Joe/ickledevil - yes, I saw a school of about 30 to 40 last week, larger than the one I shot (always the way ! Or maybe that's the long armed fisherman in me !), dove down for a stone to hold onto, looked up and there they were - amazing sight. Like a wall of grey glass sliding around you.

Anyway, good luck all of you - I'll post some more here on my search for a LARGE bass ! Who knows, beginners luck might just strike again.

(Talking of strikes - someone I know shot a ray that turned out to be an electric ray, got a few shocks while pulling the spear out - he was a bit uninformed as I don't think you are meant to spear them here - think he got carried away... anyway, a good enough reason not to shoot them for me is that they generate electricity...)
Glad to hear your enjoying it and watch those currents. Havnt been in for a long time myself but 2 weeks time and im wet again! Anyway, if from the top ot the head you draw a triangle between the eyes and about an inch or so back jab a knife in here and twist it. That should do the trick, sometimes i find it easier to cut or pull out the gills. I usually aim for the lateral line, as near to or in the head as i can. Often stones them.. a big fish WILL tow you so be prepared! I shot a spotted ray last year, found out after eating it it wasnt too far from the british spearfishing record, could even have been over. Anyway thought he was stoned until i tried to pull the spear out and he grabbed my thumb.. bruising took six months! to go down and took two people and three knives prying to get his jaws open! and a word for the wise, dragging a big ray on a weightbelt really makes a mess of your diving, he was like a huge brake! Good luck... and p.s if they come in head on.. kebabing them stops them fighting!
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Joe, Have you really managed to Kebab a bass? I cant make my self do it.. too cruel.. I cant shoot them right in the face... perhaps in the future I might..

And where do you aim? into the mouth or just anywhere?

Yup, i'll admit to kebabing at least three bass, one by accident as he turned, one BIG one perfect, in the head out the tail and one that was in a hole. I aim pretty much between the eyes. Almost guaranteed to stone them and next to no chance of the spear pulling out, also get it spot on and you dont make holes in the tasty fillets! Dont see how its any crueller than sticking one from the side?? Maybe because he see's it coming?!
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