Long spined sea scorpion, scorpion fish, lsss, bullhead, sculpin, this is a fish of many names. I have written about them before for the website, Fishing Tails, here. I have caught plenty of them this year though so, not being one to waste photos, while also loving this mean little fish, this is my guide to catching them.
If you know about LRF then you have seen a scorpion fish before, they are the fish you associate with the scene in the UK. They are aggressive, common around harbours and piers and are incredibly photogenic. These traits make them a popular species but in some circles at least, they are a little misunderstood. With them being one of my favourite species, I feel its important to do this fish justice and hopefully to convert any unbelievers to the scorpion fan club.
Firstly, it is important to note, these fish are not venomous. They are spiny, spikey, rough around the edges but absolutely will not cause you any lasting harm if you touch one. The only venomous fish you need to be careful of are the weever fish, of which our scorpion fish have no relation. Obviously the many spines of these fish can break our skin with enough pressure, but with gentle handling you will never have a problem. I have caught many of these awesome creatures and not one has ever drew blood.
In the south west of England, the long spined sea scorpion is a fairly common fish. You will find it in rockpools, gulleys, harbours and on beaches. I have found them to be prevalent where there is decent cover like seaweed, large rocks and sea walls. This fish is an ambush predator, it wants to be where it can attack prey with minimal chasing. If you ever get the pleasure of watching a scorpion take your lure, this ambush tactic is clear to see. The fish darts out of cover and engulfs it, often taking lures as large as itself.
With lure choice, I find them not fussy. Worm imitations like the classic Gulp and Isome account for most of my catches. Even a large blob of scented worm that doesn’t look like much will tempt them. If you want to get fancy with them though, prawn and shrimp imitations do well, as do any straw tail varieties.
If I’m targeting a scorp’ deliberately, I will keep the lure moving, slowly up and down. The occasional jig off the bottom will get their attention too. I like to keep the lure in the strike zone, preferably in some sort of clean ground next to a feature like a boulder or weedy outcrop. I’m always trying to keep the lure swimming just off the bottom, as a little prawn or tiny baitfish might do.
Most of my scorpions are caught when I’m scratching around for species though; taking me by surprise as I’m expecting a goby or wrasse. I often get them taking pieces of Isome rigged on a dropshot, you get one solid thump! Then the fish will try to swim away with it. Due to this you rarely miss the strike when they bite as they have engulfed the lure in their huge mouth. As always, make sure you keep some forceps with you just in case they have taken it deep, they are a greedy and aggressive fish.
Scorpions do not fight really, they tend to use their size and puff up to make themselves more intimidating. They can’t be called a sporting fish, it’s more about the looks and excitement of catching such an awesome little predator. Not being a big species, with the record standing at just under 10 ounces, they are also no trophy but I think they look more impressive up close than any bass.
Handling wise, scorpions are tough and can survive being out of water a long time if they stay wet. If you are gentle with them they will pose for you, rarely trying to flip away; with all their spines they must think themselves invincible! As you can see, I like to lip grip them for photos. I find the lip grip is the most secure way to hold them and they puff themselves up beautifully. They have a strong bite but have no teeth, so you are safe to hold them this way.
The variety of colours they come in never fails to surprise me. I love them when they are bright red but they come in all colours from deep purple and blue to green and brown. The combinations of stripes and spots varies from fish to fish too and of course the environment they live in. You are most likely to come across the males in their red spawning colours in spring and early summer.
Another bonus of this species is that they do not migrate large distances. If you can catch them from a mark in summer, they will be there in winter, day or night, making them a reliable target when the going is tough! In some places you can catch the same fish repeatedly. I once watched my good mate Richard Salter catch one, chucked it back in and caught it again on the next cast! Obviously completely unfazed by his capture and very hungry. Their aggression and boldness are endearing qualities. They are stubborn though and if they aren’t in the mood they will sulk away into cover and ignore all lures.
In the UK, there is also the much larger cousin of the long spined, called the short spined sea scorpion. These can grow to over 2lb but are very rare in the south-west. That is a species on my wishlist though!
Thank you for reading. Scorpion fish hardly need a guide to catch them but I love celebrating these little beasts. For further reading, watching and contacting please click on the following links. I would really appreciate if you can take the time to ‘like’ my page on Facebook too, it really helps me get these blogs out there.
There is a Plymouth local who is pretty famous in our LRF scene, Mr Maurice Mitchinton. Maurice helped me out a lot as I started my Light Rock Fishing journey, giving me advice and showing me some tricks that are staples of my fishing. I wanted to sit down and interview him for my blog, which was a slightly awkward thing to ask a friend! Luckily he said yes and, as the wise old man of LRF, I knew he would be entertaining and have some strong opinions; he didn’t let me down. I have tried to capture his unique style as much as possible. His one instruction to me was to make sure he didn’t come across ‘flowery’, as apparently that’s how he thinks I write… Constructive criticism taken! Please read on and I hope you enjoy the interview as much I did.
BB – Hello Maurice, tell me a bit about yourself, how old are you now? MM – Oh, I’m aged 44… BB- (laughs) MM – No I’m 74. BB – And you are from Plymouth? MM – Yes, well not originally, no, but I have been here long enough to be a Plymothian now. BB- Oh really? So where are you originally from? MM – Lincolnshire BB – What brought you down here? MM – Mother and father in the army and I had to follow them, I didn’t have an option! BB- Some people know you as Dave is that right? MM – Dave, Mitch, cos where I worked before, there were two Maurices, so they said what can I call you? So I said Dave. Some people who worked with me then knew me as Dave, others from before know me as Mitch, Maurice, Silly Old Sod, whatever…
BB – So how long have you been fishing? MM – About 8 off of 74! BB – So you started fishing when you were 8? MM – Yes, seriously. I think my cousins up in Lincolnshire fished in the rivers and drains; dykes they call them in the fenlands, and somewhere along the line that stuck in my mind. Because I come down here when I was 4 years old, so that stayed with me. When I got to a certain age, we moved to Ernesettle, I believe it was, and I saw these little tiny bass in a pool. This was behind Bush radio, that then went to Toshiba. When the tide went out, there was these like, lagoons left behind, tiny ones. I started off using little bits of breadflake, digging up worms, winkles and catching these bass. Only 4 inches long on a tiny float. One I made up with a quill and a bit of cork… BB – Makeshift fishing? MM – Yeah that was all we had back then. BB – So that was the first fish you caught? A pretty good starter fish. MM – Yes and little tiny flounders.
BB – So, when did you get into lure fishing? MM – Well I have always lure fished in a way, even in the early days. Not lure fishing as you know it now. A lot heavier rods, a lot longer rods, 11 foot. Spinning off Queener point. I used to ride a bike over to Whitsands, all the way, then leave the bike at the top all weekend and it would still be there Sunday evening, then jump on it home. BB – So what years we talking here? MM – Oh, late sixties. Then I took up freshwater fishing in a big way early seventies. I got into fly fishing for trout, got into salmon fish on the river Tavy; which back in the seventies was like a £100 a season. I was only earning 11 pound and 10 shillings, so that was a lot of money to pay out! BB – So how were you earning your money? MM – I worked on the buildings, I worked all hours, because I loved my fishing. I knew Simon’s dad (Simon Kingdom who runs the tackle shop, Osborne & Cragg in Plymouth), I used to give him some money now and again until I got what it was for the licence. And away I went. Got big into reservoir fishing at Siblyback when they started stocking bigger trout, farmed fish. Yeah, fly fishing I did that for a number of years. I also had a licence to fish the river Plym. BB – So what was that like back then? MM – Brilliant, I had salmon to 12lb, I have got photos somewhere. BB – You used to take photos on Polaroid right? MM – Yeah but I went to get them out of the box the other day and they are all blank and faded! Because they had no fixings for any length of time. Some of the one’s I had nice fish on, someone wrote in biro on the back and that’s gone right through and it’s all on the front! BB – So they are ruined forever? MM – Pretty much.
BB – So when did you start fishing LRF? MM – I was getting on in age, basically. I did a lot of beach fishing before, catching bass, in fact my biggest was just under 11lb down near Portwrinkle (Cornwall). Back then the rods were a lot heavier, firing out 6 ounces and didn’t do the fish justice. So LRF came along and I just saw it somewhere, I can’t remember where and I thought I fancy having a go at that, so I did! I went down to see Simon (at Osborne & Cragg Tackle Shop) and asked him what all this LRF stuff was about? Then I read up on the Jersey Angler’s book and realised LRF was from Japan. Now I have a few friends in Japan that send me ideas, I don’t always understand them! When it comes through translate, it doesn’t always make sense and you get a lot of rude stuff! Basically it was that and it was to me like fly fishing, I think that was the thing. It was more of a touch and a feel, rather than trying to hammer out a big lead.
BB – So what is your set-up these days? MM – Everything, I’ll do everything, I don’t stick to one basic thing, I have just put a split shot rig on tonight. BB – What rod and reel are you using tonight? MM – I have my Calzante (GOCAXS-762UL-T 0.6-8g) that I have snapped and repaired. My reel is a Daiwa 2004, rather expensive reel, loaded with 8lb Nanofil but its very low diameter. BB – How do you compare the fishing now compared to how it used to be? MM – Umm, if you are a good angler you can still catch plenty of fish but there’s not the amount there was. Now you have the trawlers sucking them up by the thousands of tonnes. No, it doesn’t compare in no way. I remember walking to where the long room is, you know the swimming pool (Devils Point Tidal Pool), when the tide has gone out. All the Stonehouse women have come out of the flats and they have been loading buckets up with, either sprats in the winter or mackerel in the summer. There would be massive shoals of mackerel; they used to say you could walk across the Tamar (river) on their backs! Back then they would go right up the Tamar, you very rarely get that now. You know how we get them in the corner some nights here (in Millbay)? That’s how it was all the time. Going back then, things have changed in another way. We didn’t catch scad, or if we did they were few and far between and we didn’t know what they were! BB – And things like triggerfish? MM – No we didn’t get them, but I remember hot summers like this when we would see sunfish in the Tamar, massive things and the seagulls would come land on them. Unbelievable.
BB – What advice would you give young Maurice if you could, fishing wise? MM – I don’t know really, I don’t think I would give him any advice. You have got to progress, to become good at something you have got to actually do it yourself. It’s a good thing with all the modern technology, you can just ask somebody, that’s if they want to tell you the truth! Which I’m quite guilty of not doing… BB – I know, I have been a victim! MM – (laughs) It’s good, technology is good but it makes people lazy, they are not learning the hard way for themselves. BB – That leads me onto the next question, you use social media a lot, what benefits do you get out of it? MM – The benefits are sharing your experiences with other people. Some youngster might see it and there might be an older person who might think, ”oh he can do it, why am I sat here moaning?”. If even just one youngster takes it up then I haven’t wasted my time have I? BB – And you have Instagram accounts..? MM – You been following me around?! BB – You follow me! MM – (laughs) I do sometimes.
BB – There are not many 74 year olds that have Instagram accounts, that’s pretty forward thinking of yourself? MM – Well, yeah, it’s the way to go isn’t it? You can find out who’s where and who’s catching what. I’m getting older! So I’m getting like the youngsters now, I’m using that more than having to walk miles and fish it for a week. I can’t afford to waste time now, I gotta get there and get a fish. So if they put it on there I’m gonna use it! BB – (laughs) Fair play! What would you say is your favourite LRF technique, if you could pick one? MM – I don’t particularly have a favourite because I think I mix and match. I don’t stick to things in books etc, I change it around. BB – OK, so how would you go about fishing here today at Millbay? MM -Like I say, if I do something for 15 minutes and it’s not working, you have to be pretty stupid not to change somehow. Colour of your lure, Isome etc, it’s common sense. You don’t have to be really clever to fish.
BB – Do you have a favourite unscented lure? I know you are a fan of Fiiish Black Minnows. MM – Yes, in the 90 and 70 sizes, I lost a very good bass the other day on one that snapped my rod!
BB – Ouch! So what’s your favourite scented lure? MM – If I’m after big wrasse, you can’t go wrong with the big Gulp Sandworm or the Lugworm, that’s really good, like a real lugworm, they (wrasse) absolutely hammer that! The trouble is the smaller ones chomp the tails off. BB – And how do you store your scented lures? MM – I just chuck it in a tub together, all this rubbish about how you can’t mix them, I chuck everything in. It’s a mixture of Gulp, Isome, Ecogear lures.
BB – Favourite mini species? MM – I would say corkwing (wrasse) really, for the size, puts up a reasonable fight and look like a tropical fish. You get them when they are in their mating colours, they are a fantastic little fish. Or a little bream, which I had in just this very spot and lost the bugger! BB – Favourite of the larger species? MM – I love my ballan wrasse, it’s just sheer power innit? BB – Definitely! What’s your biggest? MM – About 5 and half pounds, that was at Stoke Point (South Devon).
BB – A good fish, it used to be really good fishing out there. MM – Yes me and Simon went there the other week, it was poor, like it’s been everywhere. All the big wrasse seem to have gone. I get only the small ones really. BB – That’s weird because that’s the size that they are supposed to be taking to the salmon farms (in Scotland), we should have only big fish? MM – Yes, but I have noticed that in the pots they catch the big fish too. I’m wondering if they are killing them as well? Using them as pot bait. They are supposed to be putting them back but if there’s money to be made I can’t see them putting them back. BB – It’s been a hot topic for a couple of years now, I have seen a difference in wrasse numbers, have you? MM – Yeah, definitely. The worst thing is, they take them and once they are past their sell by date they get rid of them. It’s devastating, it’s money, it’s what it is all about. Since we are talking about this, it is the same with the bass. As we speak now there are big trawlers out there scooping up millions of tonnes, buggering off to Spain and Portugal with them and we are allowed one! BB- It’s heartbreaking, although do you think you have seen more schoolies around recently? MM – Millions, which again, doesn’t make sense. We should have just the bigger fish but maybe the little ones are moving in to the space left by the big ones. Last year I got fed up with catching them! I had about 150 up to 4lb in the end.
BB – Finally, many people in their seventies have given up fishing, what’s your secret? MM – Never give up mate, I could have given up when I had my bad knee two years ago but last week I was up and down a cliff! BB – Any plans for the future? MM – Just live longer! Keep going and not just sit down when I feel unwell, I have had that and I have thought, I will just go down the docks. It stops me worrying about everything else and to chill out. BB – Brilliant! Well thank you Maurice. MM – My pleasure.
As always, thank you for reading.
For further reading/watching please check out the following links.
Recently I have made more of an effort to target one of my favourite species, the tub gurnard; in the process I also caught a few of the grey variety too. This blog will be about how I go about that, particularly as I have been asked the question a few times on social media recently.
TUB GURNARD are a member of the sea robin family, triangular shaped fish that have large, butterfly-like pectoral fins. Tubs are usually orange or red with blue spots or markings on their large fins. They have a shovel like nose and a large toothless mouth. They use adapted fins on their underside to ‘walk’ across the bottom. Using their large eyes and surprising speed, they attack prey from below, making them an aggressive and fairly simple to target fish.
I have caught lots of tubs but the majority have been tiny, cute versions of the adult fish. At this size they are plentiful in sandy areas, particularly in Cornwall. These beautiful miniatures tend to have a large blue spot on each fin and feed on everything from small fish to crustaceans and worms; this means you can catch them on pretty much anything. I catch them at this size on dropshot rigs mostly, reeled in slowly across the sand. A size 8-12 hook rigged with half a white Isome worm is killer, I give it the occasional lift and bounce to attract attention, gurnard love movement. Carolina rigs with similar sized hooks and lures also work really well. Another way is the ‘baited spinner’, the bait in this case being either Isome or Gulp worm, the vibration from the spinner being worked slowly across the sand really pushes their buttons.
For the larger fish, they will of course take soft plastics, but recently I have loved catching them on shore jigs. For me there are few more evocative ways to LRF than to fish the open coast, flinging a metal as far as you can and working it back. Knowing that the next hit could be a colourful, prehistoric looking creature is the buzz.
So how do I get them? Gurnard are not fussy, they want to eat fish, all you have do is imitate one. The biggest trick is getting the lure down near the bottom, that’s where they live and hunt. I think lure choice is pretty simple, anything silvery with a decent flutter will catch them. I’m a tart with my metals so I like the fancy stuff, see my blog about them here for evidence. With my tartiness in mind, my favourite lure for them is the Zetz Slow Blatt Oval in 10g, it’s a little beauty of a jig. I let it fall to the sand and wait, you will often get the hit on the drop. I like to imagine the tub watching the jig fall seductively and it just cant resist. That is the most satisfying way to catch them.
If the jig doesn’t get hit on the drop, then it is time for the retrieve. I bring the lure back slowly, flicking it off the bottom and letting it flutter back down, repeating this until I reach the shore. It is about bringing it back slowly but with a lot of action, giving the tub the chance to hunt it down. When they do take, these fish have a pretty solid mouth and this can lead to lost fish if the hook doesn’t set properly, this can make shore jigging the best option as you tend to hit them hard on the strike.
As with most predatory fish, as the sun starts to set the gurnard switch on. These fish have big eyes and use the dark to their advantage. The witching hour is definitely my favourite time to target them, just as you start to lose the light. Having never targeted them in heavy seas I can only speak for fair weather, although they have no trouble finding lures in murky, stirred up conditions.
Tub gurnard can be surprisingly good fighters on light tackle, they are no bass or mackerel but they still get you smiling. I think it’s pretty clear I’m not catching them for the fight though, it’s all about those looks. For me I think they are one of the most photogenic species around and remain a firm favourite of mine.
GREY GURNARD have been the biggest surprise to me this year. I thought them as a tiny fish that would require real finesse tactics to catch them on lures. The reality is that although they are quite a small species, they are quick! I had my first one take the lure mid-water and I briefly thought I had hooked a small mackerel. They are very active predators who, despite their size will attack big metals.
Greys are seriously pretty too, like the triggerfish, calling them grey is a disservice. They are more pink really with the distinctive spot on the dorsal fin. I also love what looks like a brushstroke of reddy-brown on their tail. They are famous for ‘croaking’ which you have to hear to believe and lack the huge pectoral fins of the tubs. Quite distinctive and spikier than their cousins, they also have beautiful rays decorating their armour plated cheeks.
Again, targeting them is very simple, if they are there they will find you. Being a little more agile than a tub gurnard these fish will chase a jig higher up in the water. I caught mine on the exact same lures that I had the larger tubs, so my advice is don’t be afraid to fish bigger for them. Thanks to social media, I have seen plenty of them caught on the scented worm lures too, in quiet harbours where they are prevalent, this can be a great tactic. As mentioned before, I think it’s all about location. If you have heard of them being caught at a particular mark, then it’s definitely worth a try on lures.
As always, thank you for reading this blog. I’m certainly no gurnard expert but my recent joy with them inspired to get writing.
For further reading/watching please check out the following links.
Like so many, I’m a sucker for a Cornish getaway. The golden beaches, secret coves and charming harbours aren’t just for the armies of holidaymakers, it’s for the ‘lerfers’ too. With LRF keeping tackle simple, it’s easy to sneak a rod (or two) into the boot of the car, just in case opportunity strikes. That is exactly what happened over the weekend, with a trip down to the west of Cornwall. It led to a couple of surprising catches.
West Cornwall is always a surprisingly long drive from Plymouth, taking about two hours depending on traffic. Abi and I had set off late and it was clear we weren’t the only tourists heading towards the sun. Stop-start traffic was frustrating but once we got past the Newquay junctions the road became clearer. I was born in Truro and raised in Plymouth and Looe, so I’m Cornish but a bit ”Cornish-lite”. It means I still get excited to indulge in the rugged beauty of deepest, darkest pasty land.
Our intention was to explore Prussia Cove but being midday when we got there, the car park was rammed. We figured the next car park along would be a good shout at Perranuthnoe. We paid our £4 to the woman who owned it and parked up, a bit relieved. The sun was beating down, you couldn’t ask for a better day. I was fully expecting to leave the rods in the car but Abi insisted I took them just in case. We walked in the direction of Prussia Cove along the coast path, away from the busy beach.
The path along that coast is a mixture of farmland, meadows and dense, overgrown brambles. When you are clear of the bracken though the views are stunning, out to St Michael’s Mount and Penzance across the bay. Prussia Cove was still around the corner. We came across part of the path that descended onto the rocks below. The tide was low, exposing the barnacle encrusted gulleys criss-crossing below us. It was too tempting and we decided we could briefly stop for a dangle.
I quickly set the rods up, knowing we wouldn’t be fishing long. I had only brought along my two 2-10g rated rods, the Daiwa and the Snowbee travel rod, as I thought we would be casting metals. They aren’t ideal for poking around shallow gulleys and rockpools, but rigged with 2g flexheads and jigheads they felt acceptable. The water clarity was stunning and you could clearly see pin sized sandeel and tiny pollock trying to stay off the menu. The weed was thick though so I had to fish cleverly through it. The first pool produced nothing and I moved on, with Abi sunning herself on the rocks. I was just counting myself lucky to have a line in the water.
It wasn’t clear how easy the fishing would be so I had rigged up my comfort blanket, a pink Ecogear Aqua Shirasu. I felt confident that any self respecting resident fish wouldn’t pass on that. There was a clearing in the weed right under my feet, it looked the perfect ambush spot for a mini-predator. I lowered the lure in, let it settle briefly on the sand, then raised it and had a solid thud on the rod tip. I struck on the second and felt snagged. I pulled some more and it gave way – with little fight up came the culprit. I was expecting a scorpion fish but it was something even cooler, a topknot!
A topknot in glaring sunshine too, what a result! I swung the strange looking flatfish into my hand and marvelled at its ugly beauty. It had completely engulfed the lure but the barbless hook came out with the persuasion of the forceps. I gave it it’s customary photo shoot and released it back into it’s weedy lair. Topknots are not a common catch for me and this was my first in Cornwall. They are unusual for a flatfish, in that they live amongst rocks and use their shape to stick to the flat surfaces. They are a ridiculous looking creature and absolutely one of my favourite LRF targets. It was a great start.
The topknot has piqued Abi’s interest and she wanted to get involved. I gave her the Shirasu to use, changing my own lure to a Maryuku Crab. The sun was still shining strong and the gulleys started to come to life. In amongst the kelp we could see a bright green ballan wrasse hunting. I bounced the crab off of the weed a couple of times and the wrasse pounced on it. Completely engulfing it in front of me in less than a metre of water, I struck. Classic wrasse chaos ensued, diving for the weed. I bullied it and, after a brief scramble, reached into the water to lift it out.
Not a big wrasse by any measure but it was a glorious green; obviously at home in the weed I had pulled it from. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a crab down there, this wrasse had smashed my imitation one! I returned it to it’s home and we decided we could fish for a little longer. It was time for a hop across the rocks to the deeper channels.
The gulleys just seemed to get better and better, we found one that was deep and clear; it looked perfect! I was hoping to show Abi how tropical corkwing wrasse can look. We both had the crabs on and I showed her how to work it across the channel. She had decided to leave it in one spot and to have a sit down, as it was seriously hot. There seemed little much interest in mine, despite how good the water looked.
Abi said she had a bite and lifted into a fish, the rod tip bent over and slowly thumped away. The angle she was sitting wasn’t good for putting any pressure on the fish, so I intervened a little to lift up the rod. It wasn’t yet taking line and came to the edge of the weed, I then realised this was a decent fish. It saw me and instantly bolted down, burying itself in the kelp. Locked down, there was nothing Abi could do so I took the rod for her, stretching my arms out as far as I could to winch it out. After giving the wrasse a little slack it shot out, ripping line from the reel! I passed the rod back to Abi and she played the fish well, getting it’s head up so I could attempt to land it.
The ballan was a good size, easily 2lb and I was nervous it would shoot off one last time at the last. Of course it didn’t though, being a typical ballan, it was knackered. I reached my hands underneath it and lifted it from the water. She was buzzing, her first ‘proper’ fish as she called it. A real warrior of the gulley and a fine first ever ballan wrasse, especially on only slightly beefed up LRF gear. I definitely felt proud. During unhooking it revealed the hook had nearly snapped in the fight, totally bent out of shape. We gave it a minute to recover in the shallows and returned it to the deep.
We gave it another twenty minutes but nothing came close to the feeling of that fish. What had started as a quick opportunistic session ended well; a red letter fish for Abi and a favourite flatfish for me. We had fished for no more than an hour and a half in stunning surroundings and sunshine.
The rest of the day was spent at Prussia Cove and then, as the sun set, we took the BBQ to the Loe Bar near Porthlevan. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of fishing there, but that’s for a different post. If you are making your way down to Cornwall this summer, this is a tiny slice of the quickfire fishing that’s on offer, don’t forget your rods!
For further reading/watching please check out the following links.
When the pelagic shoals flood in, winter or summer, it’s time for me to get the metals out. I have written about these fairly recently here, so with that in mind I’m going to expand on the particular metals I fish with regularly.
What follows below is a selection of my current repertoire of metals/shore jigs and a few that I currently don’t own but seriously recommend. A lot of these are a bit ‘tackle tarty’ and with that in mind I wanted to make the following point: expensive jigs just give you confidence, fish don’t care either way. If you can work a budget spinner right you will catch fish. The legendary Dexter Wedge will catch as well as anything here, these metals just catch me (plus the fish), so that’s why they are listed below.
Majorcraft Jigpara slim & regular 5g/10g – These metals are phenomenal; the quality, the action and the finish are all top notch. The regular sizes fall with a lovely fluttering action. The slim have a wider arching descent. Both versions in the 5g and the 1og sizes catch me loads of fish. I particularly found the the 5g version below to be killer for the sardines that filled Plymouth Sound in January this year.
Zetz Slow Blatt Cast Oval, Wide, Cast Up & Long 10g – The Zetz range is one of the most varied and best looking of them all. Quality colours and a variety of actions, so inevitably I bought the lot! Being made of zinc, these lures are pretty large for their weight. They also fall nice and slow. I’m only just beginning to cover all the uses for these beautiful looking lures. My particular favourite is the Slow version, it has a lovely flutter and the finish is great.
The HTO Frolic 8g – This metal has surprised me more than any other recently, it’s pretty cheap (around £3.50) and casts like a bullet. My only issue are the assist hooks, fish just bounce off them, you have to add a trailing hook so you don’t miss hits.
The Xesta Afterburner 7g – A classic, high quality jig. It’s similar in action to the lures above. Super reliable, a bit pricey, definitely one I want to have in my locker when the going is tough though.
The Savage Gear Psycho Sprat 5g – A great value for money metal. They tend to come in three packs of multi colours. You have to work a lot more action into them but if you are fishing snaggier territory, these can be a God-send.
Xesta Micro Bee Slow 7g – This is one of the stranger shore jigs I own. It’s tiny as you can see and falls in a lovely slow manner. It’s certainly an odd shape but it definitely works. My only gripe with it being that the finish knocks off it easily, it seems to be made of quite a soft metal.
Sebile Fast Cast 4g – One of my lighter jigs, this is seriously cute with a really detailed design. I love using this for scad and herring, being light it has a graceful fall and really sells itself as a wounded baitfish. When more finesse is required, this lure does the trick.
Ecogear ZX Shrimp Blade 5g – I do not use vibe baits too often, this one caught my eye though. It was designed for the bream anglers in Australia, although I have found it great for schoolies around the harbour at night. The vibrations are irresistible and can’t help but give you confidence as you feel it vibrate up the line. Bass are simple fish sometimes and can’t resist it.
A no brand Spinner Blade Bait 7g – I bought this from Wish for 50p, surprisingly the action is fantastic. You can subtlety work it through the water column and it really attracts fish in. It’s not a wonder lure, but when you can get it so cheap it doesn’t have to be. I chuck this in where I wouldn’t dare send others and it’s worked so far.
The classic Mepps Spinner – take those trebles off, replace with a flouro hooklength and bam! You have one of the most versatile lures in the business. I add beads and Isome for flounder and gurnards, I also fish it up in the water for thin lipped mullet and the inevitable schoolie bass you catch at the same time.
Ripple Ash Baby Jig 8.5g – The last one of these I owned was the one in the garfish’s beak below. It’s on my list here because it left an impression. Like all good jigs, it casts a mile and works a dream through the water layers.
The Shimano Soare 7g – A metal so good I don’t actually own one currently. I have included this one because if I had unlimited money I would own every colour. At £7.99 a pop though, for something you can stick in a snag in no time, I only buy them when I’m feeling particularly flush. The reason they are great is that they are tiny but heavy, being made of tungsten. They pick up everything and cast to the horizon, lovely lures.
So that is a short summary of my current favourite shore jigs. Shore jigging is looking like the element of LRF that remains the most popular and I see why. I think we are all suckers for casting to the horizon and feeling that rush when a turbo charged pelagic fish hits the metal. I look forward to getting more use of the jigs above over the summer ahead.
I’m interested if you think I am missing out on any jigs, please get in touch if there’s one you think I should try. In the meantime please follow me on Facebook and Instagram, it really helps keep me inspired to write and share more.
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Lures… The bane of the angler’s wallet! If you are a dedicated or even casual lure fisherman then, at some point, you have spent far too much money on them. There’s a reason why there are giant companies like Savage Gear, Fox Rage, Fiiish etc. We are more like magpies than humans sometimes. I am no different, but over the years I have worked out what works for me and what doesn’t. So, this is part one of my summary of my favourite lures for LRF, the ones I think it’s worth spending your money on.
I will start at the more contentious end of the LRF lure selection: the scented lures aka the ‘fake baits’. Isome, Gulp! and all the various imitations are synonymous with the UK LRF scene. The reason being is they work! They catch a huge amount of fish and give a lot of confidence to the angler. All of these lures have their origins in either Japan or the USA, they have to be kept in a liquid to stop them drying out and are biodegradable. There’s some contention in certain puritan circles, this is because the scent and taste of these lures can be so good they are essentially bait. I’m of the opinion that they are still artificial and are still lures, so crack on to anyone who wants to use them. I do think it’s good practice to not get too reliant on them though, especially around the summer months when the water’s warm and the fish are hungry.
So, here are my favourite liquid-packaged scented lures.
Ecogear Aqua Shirasu (Around £5.99 a packet) – One of the more expensive options, this lure has caught me over 25 species. My favourite colours are the white, pink and orange versions. The scent and texture are obviously great and the tiny ball tail seems to attract all species, so much so, that when you lose the ball the catches go down immediately. Being an ‘Aqua’ lure, it will pull off the hook quite easily by an enthusiastic bite, so it can quite quite expensive if you find yourself plagued by gobies and small wrasse. I fish these either in open water for the pelagic species or on the bottom for the gobies, wrasse and scorps’. They work fantastic rigged on jigheads, dropshot, Carolina’s and even scaled down Texas rigs.
Marukyu Isome Worms (Around £6 a packet) – Sometimes labelled as Power Isome with different packaging, depending on where you find it. These are the most popular go-to LRF lure. Available in XL, L, M and S sizes and a variety of colours. These worms are an incredible imitation of a ragworm species, also you get a lot in a pack so they also are better value for money. My preference is for the large and medium sizes in white, red, brown or pink, pink having the advantage of glowing in the dark. I fish them as a whole worm or in little pieces for the smaller species, even using just a couple of millimetres for the species like two-spot gobies. I have used them for pretty much every technique. Like all of the liquid scented lures, you can fish them completely static, sometimes ‘dead-sticking’ is the best way, especially with shy biting species.
Berkley Gulp (from £4-£11) – The Gulp range is broad and super effective. I started off using the ‘Alive’ range of Sandworms (priced around £10), which come in their own liquid and container. I have used that container ever since so I feel it’s good value for money. The ‘Camo’ colour is particularly good for wrasse and looks exactly like a live ragworm. I was recently put on to the ‘Isome’ range (around £4-5 a pack), which are made of the same material as the Marukyu worms. These are very supple and catch a lot of fish. The other Gulp lures I use regularly are the ‘Angleworm’ and ‘Fish Fry’. Both of these lures are tiny and come in a small pot which is full of liquid attractant. From big wrasse to the tiniest gobies, the Gulp range has been very good to me, fished exactly as I would with the Marukyu Isome.
The Crazyfish soft lure range (Anything from £1 to £5): In my opinion, you will not find better soft plastic lures than those produced by Crazyfish. The plastic they are made from is so supple and the whole range comes loaded with scent. For the LRF angler they are irresistible, whether it’s creature baits or fish imitations. I get all of mine from AGM Discount tackle, who I think deserve a mention here because it’s a true treasure trove on there. My personal favourites are the Vibro Worm in any size or colour, using the smaller sizes for schoolies and the larger ones for wrasse and pike in freshwater. The tiny Allure creature bait is a fantastic little lure for scorpion fish. Although they are scented, you do not need to keep these lures hydrated and they are not biodegradable.
The Majorcraft Mushi (around £5) is one of a big range of little worm/crustacean imitation lures I have used over the years. Like many of these little lures it’s got a great action. I’m looking forward to using it more over the summer as the fish get more aggressive. I use these on a jighead, fished either mid-water for pollock, smelt etc or on the bottom for the gobies and scorps.
I would be amiss to not mention one of the most popular soft plastic lures around… The now legendary Fiiish Black Minnow (£6-8) It’s impossible not to love these lures. I don’t need to tell you they catch fish, although I think it’s pretty telling that I only ever have one of these at a time, as weedless as they are they still find the snags! Not cheap either but a proven wrasse and bass catcher, my favourites are the smaller sizes.
So that’s a brief overview of my favourite soft lures at the moment. Like everyone I go through phases and there’s so much choice. I’m going to be reviewing a few different lures over the Summer, if there’s any you think I’m really missing out on please get in touch. Part 2 will come next week, all about the metals and hard lures.
Thanks for reading as always and give me a follow on Facebook and Instagram, all support is really appreciated and keeps the conversation about LRF up.
Fishing is fishing, big or small, it’s been done by humans for thousands of years. So, it’s natural that we have all found different ways to go about it. Even within the same technique and scene there can be huge variety and LRF is no different. With that in mind, what follows is not a ‘how to do it’, it’s a ‘how I do it’, so whether you are new or just want to compare notes, this will probably be of interest.
I will talk lures in a separate post, for starters lets talk hardware…
Currently I have three set-ups. These are not ridiculously expensive combinations and you can find all for around £100-£150, depending on whether you buy new or second hand.
My heaviest rod is a Daiwa Gekkabijan 83ML-T – a tubular model with a length of 8’3” and rated 3-10g casting weight. It’s quite a chunky rod by my usual standards and fishing under 7g feels a bit numb with it, but it can launch metal jigs out an amazing distance and even handles decent wrasse with backbone and ease. I pair this up with a Daiwa Ninja 2500A, loaded with 9lb braid to ease my worries about crack offs when casting. I use this set-up for casting out 7-10g metals to fish at distance and also for targeting ballan wrasse in snaggy gulleys.
My medium rod and possibly my favourite inanimate object I have ever owned, is the Majorcraft Firstcast FCS-T762L – again tubular but slightly shorter at 7’6” and comfortable casting the tiniest splitshot to 7g dropshot weights or metals. What haven’t I caught on this rod? It’s tamed wrasse, pike, carp, trigger fish and bass while also being sensitive enough to target two spot gobies and clingfish. It’s been so reliable I haven’t needed to upgrade to anything ‘tartier’ in years. It’s paired with another Daiwa Ninja but in the 1500A size with 6lb braid. I use this set-up for everything to be honest, with only recently having felt the need to branch out.
My lightest rod is a recent purchase… The Majorcraft Firstcast FCS-S732UL – the solid tipped baby brother of the T762L, shorter again at 7’3” and casting 0-5g. I bought this from a friend recently and I have enjoyed using it so far. I have been using the 1500A Ninja with it, with 6lb braid but I will be pairing this one eventually with braid a little lighter. I wanted a rod that was more sensitive for fishing tiny jigheads and getting the most from the likes of scad, herring and the various minis. This one certainly fits the bill.
The love of both Daiwa and Majorcraft (in it’s Firstcast range anyway) is due to them being great value for money and for their responsiveness and reliability. I’m an absolute sucker for a fancy reel or rod just like anyone, but I just haven’t felt the need to stray from those brands just yet. I’m sure time will change that of course.
So that’s the hardware, what about the rest of it? For braid I use 9lb J Braid and 6lb Varivas Light Game. Attached to that I use anything from an 8lb down to a 4lb leader of around 4-6ft. The leader material absolutely has to be fluorocarbon in my eyes. Fluoro doesn’t stretch like Mono, it’s super abrasion resistant and it disappears in clear water. For me there is no alternative. I tie my leader to the braided mainline with the FG knot, this knot is low profile and super strong. It can be a bugger to tie on cold windy days though! Don’t just take my word on it, here’s Henry Gilbey’s take with a video on how to tie.
There are a few ‘rigs’ that are a mainstay of my fishing. First is the simplest – the jighead. The original, the Don, the easiest way to fish LRF. From size 10 and 0.5g for rockpools to size 6 and 3g for rigging paddletails for bass and pollock, you can’t go wrong with a jighead. There are a million different types but my favourites are the Decoy Rocket 1.8g size 10 and any of the Ecogear range, 1.4g size 8’s are pretty great but will bend or snap under a lot of pressure. The Decoy’s are actually surprisingly strong, I have never had one fail me and I have caught triggers on them!
Slight Tangent… A cool variation on the jighead is the ‘flex-head’, a ball weight that has a removable wire inside so you can rig a hook of your choice on it. This gives a few advantages: You can downsize the hook easily if you are missing bites, it also leaves you the option of switching to a weedless hook if needed and you can use a heavier weight/smaller hook combo then you would ever find on a shop bought jighead. Of course you also get more ‘flex’ in your lure as it’s able to move side to side, due to the hook not being fixed directly to the weight.
The next is the dropshot rig, what a simple, yet genius invention this rig is. I use it two ways, firstly if I need to anchor my lure down in deeper or rougher waters, places where a jighead wouldn’t give you enough accuracy. In this case using up to 7g weight to combat waves, wind and tide. Secondly I use it to present a lure above the sand/mud on a cast and retrieve technique. This can be killer for flounder. I vary hook sizes depending on my targets, size 8 for species like gilthead bream, size 12 as an all rounder, size 16/18 for small mouthed species like goldsinny wrasse. A tip that might seem obvious, is to vary your weights depending on the mark you are fishing; a 7g weight will sink right down in the mud in a harbour or estuary, so try using lighter weights to combat that.
Two other favourites of mine are the Texas and the Carolina rig, both variations of the same tactic really. I use the Texas when targeting wrasse species, varying hook sizes and weights depending on the mark and species. I love combining the Texas rig with small size 10 weedless hooks for corkwing wrasse, it gives you the confidence to chuck the lure in some seriously rough terrain.
The Carolina is my go-to rig when I need a heavier weight to get distance or to hold bottom in the tide but I want zero resistance when the fish bite. It’s great for keeping the lure close to the bottom and can be used weedless or not, although I prefer the Texas for the snaggier venues. It can be deadly for targeting the smaller species like dragonets, who really prefer the lure on the deck, with a small hook and lure combo.
The other tactic is the ‘splitshot rig’, I have used the inverted commas because it’s hard to call this a rig really. The splitshot rig is just a hook and some splitshot. I often see people online saying it’s the best way to start LRF’ing. I couldn’t disagree more. The splitshot is great for sight-fishing or for getting a tiny lure into little crevices in rockpools, but for me that’s where its use ends. Fishing it blind will just lead to missed strikes in my opinion, as the fish will feel the weight that is clipped onto the line before they have even registered a bite. It’s a tiny margin but even small fish can be wary at times.
If you are a newbie, leave the splitshot in the tackle box at the start, pick out a jighead instead, it’s far superior in my opinion.
In reflection, I think it’s clear that I don’t have the fanciest rods and reels, I keep things simple. For me, LRF is exactly that, simple and fun. In further posts I will talk lures and tactics, so please revisit the blog for those when they are uploaded. In the meantime, I thank you so much for reading. You can check out my previous blogs at http://www.benbassettfishing.blogspot.co.uk and you can get in contact by searching benbassettfishing on Facebook and Instagram.