Bass spearfishing guide
The Bass! Few fish attract such controversy or such an avid following amongst anglers and spearfishermen alike. Even the name provokes controversy with the term Seabass being used in culinary circles and the term European Sea Bass being used to differentiate the species from the various other types of bass (including freshwater bass) across the world. We will refer to them as bass.
The bass is a beautiful fish, slatey blue grey at times, and white/silver with even a yellow tinge when over sand. There are few more impressive sites than the deep blue of a bass against the amber of the kelp in shallow sunlit water.
The British Record for this fish is just under 20lbs and they are known to grow bigger than 26 pounds. However, a 5 pounder is regarded as a good fish, with a 10 pounder being seen as an unusual and prized catch which many divers aspire to for a long time before finally catching. Fish over 10 pounds are unusual, but can be consistently found in certain places and conditions as described below.
The minimum legal size of a bass is 41cm. This is a decent sized fish so please be careful not to target or land undersized bass. We spearos do also attract some flak from anglers for our capture of large bass. It should be borne in mind that the big bass have always been and probably always will be one of our most aspirational spearfishing targets. They are extremely difficult to catch and the numbers taken by spearfishing are tiny and sustainable.
When to catch bass:
We’ve found the best time to catch bass is from March to December in the UK.
Where is best to catch bass?
We can catch bass all along the South Coast of England and around the coast of Wales. Particularly renowned spots are Bognor, Portland, Plymouth and Lands End.
Fish will tend to arrive at Portland and Bognor in mid to late March, being seen a month or two later in Cornwall and Wales.
They favour water over 10C but have been caught in colder water at times.
How to hunt bass:
Bass can be found in water only 1m deep, right down to depths below 25m where we have to struggle to reach them on a breath of air. They are quite temperamental fish, sometimes curious and relaxed, sometimes very skittish. The larger the fish, the smarter it is and the more chance it will see you first and bolt before you know its there- leaving you with the impressive memory of a big bass bolting for open water. Bass tend to favour choppy water and strong currents, but can also be found hiding in holes or swimming along shallow kelp gullys.
Shallows – Stringweed:
Stringweed forests are easily spotted from the cliff or boat and are found all along our coasts. The best time to look for bass in stringweed is around high tide. The depth is usually no more than 1-3m and a stealthy silent approach is required. You may wish to weight yourself more heavily for this very shallow diving. You can creep through the stringweed looking for little clearings and paths. Hiding in the weed is good fun, catching glimpses of the bass either hanging stationary or moving along their runs. This is up close and personal fishing and guns 60-90cm are in order. This represents an excellent chance for a beginner to get to grips with the species, without the need to dive deep or into rough or flowing water.
Shallows – Tidal:
Sandy beaches with rock reefs and large tides are a feature of Wales and Cornwall. These are best fished on a choppy high tide and again the depths will be 1-6m in general. The bass will often patrol the edge of the rocks and sand and will adopt a light colouration. Agachon works very well in these conditions and you can land a lovely bass in only 1-2m of water, if you lie quietly on the sandy bottom where it meets the weedy rocks. Hiding behind the rocks and weed works well too, as the bass are often actively hunting. Choppy and rough water with patchy vis is exactly the right weather for this sort of spot. This is very active hunting and once you know the reef you are fishing well, you can use the cover, sneaking along the bottom and looking into the various runs the bass can use. Guns 70-100cm are ideal.
Shallows – Kelp:
Kelp forests will hold bass at low tide. The fishing is often excellent on a low tide rising, with big bass hanging in the gullys between the kelp covered boulders. A stealthy approach and use of cover is essential. On spotting a gap in the rocks, assume a bass is in there until proven otherwise! Depths for this sort of diving are 2-15m with bass hanging below the kelp amongst the stalks, in the gullys or in open water moving from one hiding place to the next. A combination of agachon to ambush them in a likely run, or actively creeping along gullys and cover works well and provides varied and fun hunting.
Medium and deep – Holes:
In some spots, for example Bognor reefs, Kingmere and Portland, bass will hide in large holes. These are usually in depths 6-20m and are characterised by large holes and ledges with big dark overhangs and more than one entrance. The fish will usually face into the current. A stealthy and methodical approach to the holes is required, with a short gun, 70-80cm and often a torch. This will often produce a chance to find a big bass. On the other hand there is an awful lot of looking in empty holes to be done, until you find a favourite spot and mark it. Once you find a good hole where you saw a fish, its worth taking time to look for landmarks on shore, or call the boat over to GPS mark it if you are boat diving.
Medium and deep – Ledges and currents:
Bass are active in currents over ledges. They will be found cruising the ledges or hiding behind them to stay out of the current. The best technique is to dive down, get into cover, and hide. The curious bass will often come and have a look, giving you a chance. Beware sudden movements or noises- they will bolt! This is how most big Portland bass are caught- in depths 14-24m.
General tips for catching bass:
- Avoid eye contact
- Using a muppet on the end of the gun can work sometimes
- Camo and stealth can help
- Avoid sudden gun movements, let the fish swim across your line of fire if possible
- Look for turbulent water
A dive report:
“I dived down in the flowing tide off Portland. Seeing the bottom at 21m I got into cover behind a huge boulder. After about 10 seconds a beautiful gleaming 12 pound bass came round the corner and did not see me in my hiding place. I kept perfectly still as it came past, knowing the slightest movement would spook it. The fish did not see me and turned to lie looking into the current, crossing the path of my RA carbon 80 as it did so. Without moving the gun I fired at the correct moment…”
Cooking and eating bass:
10/10 – you cant go wrong! Sashimi, baked, grilled, fried, poached, filleted or whole.
Weapon of choice:
We advise you use a Rob Allen Carbon 80 with 20mm rubbers and 6.6mm spear
Click here to browse Rob Allen Carbon Spearguns in our shop!