UK Focused Article
This article is focused on sea bass fishing around the United Kingdom. For information on the many bass fish species in North America, check out our American Bass Fish Species Guide!
Bass (Dicentrachus labrax)
Big rod-caught bass can weigh up to 6.35 Kg (14 lbs) or more. The average bass weighs around 2.25 Kg (5 lbs).
Also known as
Seabass, mediterranean seabass or sea dace.
LC – Least Concern
The bass is a commonly caught fish in British waters; it has silvery sides, a blue-grey back and a cream/white belly. It has two distinct fins, the first with 9 spines and the second with 13 spines. It also has a large mouth armed with sharp teeth. Warning: Keep your hands clear of the dorsal spines as they can be sharp.
So how do we catch one?
Bass is a great catch because it can be caught with almost anything! Whole small fresh fish (sprats) or fish strips are great, with mackerel, herring and squid being the preferred choices. Sandeels, shrimps and hermit crabs with the claws removed can also work very well. Crabs (peeler or soft back), prawns and shellfish are more good examples of fresh bait which work for catching bass. Fishing for bass at night is a surprisingly common pastime, with ragworms and lugworms being ideal for this. In terms of artificial baits, rubber or plastic sandeels, plugs and devon minnows are good choices.
Luckily the bass can be caught almost all year round, with the best results being throughout May, June, July, August, September and October. During November the bigger bass migrate to deeper southern waters and return during May and June.
Favourite Feeding Places
Bass favour rough, turbulent inshore waters along rocky shorelines. They also feed over reefs and in fast tidal currents ripping along sandy shores. Interestingly bass often enter brackish and fresh waters and can therefore be found feeding in river estuaries, harbours. They can even be caught metres up tidal “freshwater” rivers.
Bass can be found primarily in the south and south-west coasts of Britain and the southern coasts of Ireland.
Best rigs for bass fishing
To catch bass from the shore use a running paternoster rig or a two hook running leger rig and cast from the beach. If you’re fishing at a steep sloping shore a spinning trace is advised.
Running Paternoster Rig
This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).
Two hook running leger rig
The 2 hook running leger rig is versatile and allows you to present 2 hookbaits on or very near the seabed. Two different baits may be also be used. The distance between the hooks and the 3 way swivel can vary, but should be at least 200 mm (8 inches). To present the bait just above the seabed, attach the weight to a swivel on the main line by a line about 1 m (3 ft) long. Alternatively, to lay the bait on the seabed, fit the weight directly to the main line. The distance between the 3 way swivel and the bead can vary, but should generally be at least 304 mm (1 ft).
If you’re boat fishing for bass, either a sliding float rig or a boat leger rig is recommended.
Sliding Float Rig
For this rig you want to use a narrow float. Tie a stop knot onto the main line at the position where you want the float to stop. Modify when necessary to account for the rise and fall of the tide, etc. A ball or barrel shaped weight is perfect for this rig, attach the smallest weight needed in order to cast the distance you are aiming for and hold your bait against any strong current(s) at the depth you expect fish to be feeding. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft).
Boat Leger Rig
This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.
- In estuaries and harbours, look for bass cruising near the surface.
- Gulls, gannets or terns which are feeding on torn fish leavings can be an indication of large bass shoals feeding.
- Patches of water broken by shoals of terrified small fish are often being herded to the surface by bass where they are attacked and eaten. This is an indication of an area great for bass fishing.
- Don’t cast too far! Bass are commonly found feeding in shallow water close inshore. A long cast may overextend past these hungry hunting bass.
- To catch BIG bass, use big bait!
Bass was one of the first fish species to be commercially farmed in Europe. Traditionally, bass was cultured in coastal lagoons or tidal reservoirs, techniques to farm bass on an industrial level were later developed and today bass is the most commercial fish and is widely cultered in the Mediterranean. In 2015 the annual production of bass approached 300,000 tonnes, as the farming focus shifted from invertebrates to fish.