October 20, 2015

Seabass Fishing: Q&A with Berk "Legend"

On Monday I was sitting in a nice cafe with a view on the Bosphorus bridge. I went to meet my friend and fellow angler Berk "Legend" Ipek.
After the success of the interview on my blog we decided to talk more about fishing , of course, and we ended up by having a nice chat about seabass. The simple chat turned to a very interesting conversation that I have decided to keep record of and transforming it to a great Q&A.
Here is Berk, sipping his cappuccino and answering my question on a subject that is very important to every sea angler in the Mediterranean Sea: The seabass, the "Queen" of the sea, or the "Grey sea wolf" as Berk says. The fish that is a staple among anglers and that is chased every season throughout the seas. It ended up in a long session. Please enjoy :)

When I say seabass you think of...

A fish of thousand habits...
Sometimes a ghost of shadows...
Sometimes a furious monster of an estuary...
Sometimes so opportunistic doesn't even bother chasing its prey...
Sometimes wise as a fox...
Sometimes brave as a lion conquering the depths...
But mostly I think of shallow waters when i hear sea bass :)

I chase seabass because..

Why I chase seabass hmmm....Well there are many answers to that :).First seabass is the one predator you need to plan your approach, your tactics, your attack plan and your fishing techniques according to the season. "The wolf" I refer to seabass rarely gives up its presence or its secrets. Wind , temperature , season ,baitfish migrations and human activity plays a big part in habits of the sea bass.Newcomers easily get confused by catching small to average (500gr to 2 kg) fish easily on standard spinning lures.
But real story lies beneath the mark of 4kg the first proper catch to welcome you to the world of assassins club sea bass specialists.
From that, every angler wants to catch big fish up to records but catching a record isn't enough and limit is the sky: 6 kg 7 kg then 8 kg and 10 kg seabass angler always dreams of a dark night that reeling his/her lure and reel comes to the juddering halt.
When a big ghost engulfs the lure and rod buckles up they live eat dream for that moments.
"Don't expect big fights". Specimen and trophy sized bass tend not to fight hard.
Most fights end up 40 seconds to 2 minutes but landing and deceiving such a selective predator give such confidence that not many fish can give .......
Mostly two big runs lot of head shakes and kiting to left or right ends the fight..."But the wolf of the dark is beautiful... "

Seabass is a fish...
I mean it is the fish !
When you hear fish you imagine something similar to seabass 5/1 is the head all fins perfectly in the place dark blue to dark green even dark brown back silver sides and a well positioned mouth perfectly proportioned but gapes wide enough to engulf biggest prey fish.
You can see blotches of gold on the gills yellow to dark brown eyes even in some areas tint of orange.Razor sharp small spines on the gills. Both beauty, power and grace in the same animal...
Seasoned sea bass anglers know the hot spots seasons and bait they follow.
But those people have nearly a sixth sense feeling the sinister presence of the silver wolf in the area.Maybe knowledge leads to this, maybe there are tell tale signs i still don't know but we know when there is a big silver wolf around.
I can tell millions of reasons to tell you why we chase sea bass but I cant tell you one to not to !!
As I always say "a really big sea bass is the fish of a thousand casts ". Maybe that's why the challenge can be the answer :)

Day or night?

I can easily tell you big specimen bass are notorious for being nocturnal.Like sharks darkness lets them camouflage their huge bodies.They approach baitfish shadowing the shoals hugging the bottom and behind any obstacle.They can get into pretty shallow waters in dark without being seen even 60 cm of depth is enough "where bait fish try to survive the night "
Man made structures are magnets for big seabass jetties, harbor, walls, ports, piers all provides bait shelter and lurking places to bass to hunt.
If there is a little man made lighting they absolutely love it light contrasts the baitfish against surface easy kills possible for bass.
The day time...
Mostly time for juvenile and average size bass time to master their hunting skills.
They try to co operate and bust the shoals of small mullet or silver sides in river mouths , ports even beaches.
Without worrying about cannibalistic monster specimens they chase bait and roam freely around shallows. But moderate rain and storm conditions change the game.
That is when big bass uses the opportunity to come to shallows and attack in the waves like orcas or sharks. Deep gullies , rocky shorelines, breakwaters all used by big bass as ambush points in this conditions.
Small to average bass tend to avoid this places they hug the rock faces and sandbars in the white surf and get into river mouths or ports even shallow coves both to hide from big predators and feed on sheltering bait in those places.
If storm goes rogue big bass stops feeding and goes deep.They tend to hit shoreline after the storm in murky water and scattered bait dead or dying after huge storm waves.
And lastly a perfect specimen specialist lure fisherman can target specific areas like known snags, deep river mouth sand bars or wrecks for congregating big bass before they go hunting in shallows in the night.
There are some other seasonal and environmental tricks that differ from one place to another but impossible to tell in one answer ;)

When I see an heavy surf .....

I look for deeper gullies both in rocky shorelines and in beaches.In beaches there are wave built sand bars that waves break on.If you see a lack of wave breaks in a beach it the go to casting point.
Why ?
Because those are deep sand canals between sandbars and water pushed by waves flow to open sea from there that creates a out flowing current and a slope on the bottom.
This is the place for big wise bass waits against the current for passing panicked bait and ailing single bait fish or washed crabs to come with out flow :)
In rocky surf story is different rock islands always a place to look for the foamy surf behind them is like shelter from waves. Both big bass and bait loves to hide in these places.Deep coves especially with two headlands with casting distance between them.Prime big bass habitat !
Big bass go into the cove hugging the rocks and deep rock walls beneath the white foam and search for bait fish. When bait try to pass the deep water escaping from the washing surf they hit. If you look carefully into waves you can see the fleeing bait skipping on the surface that is the tell tale sign of a big bass presence :) But I must say after force 4 to 5 storms are not good conditions both for angler and the bass.
Don't risk your life in big waves and don't think bass are super power fish that can hunt in 5 mt high waves :)

Going light tackle or heavy...

I can easily say both. hehehe :)
Some venues like big commercial shipping ports or rocky headlands lighthouses and huge estuarine habitats I prefer medium heavy gear.
Because most of the out sized seabass live in such places also there are other big predators that will test your tackle to the limits in those circumstances.
Species like leerfish, dentex, snappers, big bluefish ,barracudas, bonitos even amberjacks ever present in those venues.
My usual approach is a rod I trust so much "Zenaq Plaisir Answer 99 RG Distance Cracker" one rod still technical but can handle big lures and heavy fish in rough conditions.
And according to the lure size I will use and species present a Daiwa Certate 3012 PE H loaded with Sunline Super PE 1.5 and a Shimano Stella SW 5000 HG loaded with YGK Jigman PE 2.
My leader material choice is of standards for using lower diameters for slim knots and for abrasive resistance the material I choose is fluoro coated copolymer in 0.35mm to 0.50 mm.
For lures choices are endless:

Long jerkbaits of 14/20 cm
Heavy minnows of up to 40 gr
Topwaters up to 21 cm
Softbaits of 12.5/20 cm
Are my main search baits after big bass in rough conditions....
Duo Tide Minnow series (Surf/Advance/Slim)
Daiwa Shorline series (Shiner/SSR/Z)
Jackson Athlete / Pintail tune and EZ
Smith LTD Saruna / Dragon Saruna / Haluca
Duo Realis Jerkbait 120 SP
Ima Gyodo series
Ima Skimmer SW
Ima Barbarossa
Shimano Silent Assassin 150-170
Ima Big Stick
Duo Rough Trail Blazing and Duo Aomasa
Jackfin Stylo 210
Tackle House Feed / Flitz / Vulture
Fiiish Blackminnow / Crazy Sandeel
Savagear Sandeel
Ecogear powershad 3D jighead
Eddystone Sidewinder
Duel Hardcore minnow 170 210
List is long but I named a few here....

For daytime and night fishing in shallow waters I use two different setups. For day and night for small to average fish I go light even into LRF range 7/28 gr. Summer shallows are the places when light tackle comes into its own :) Both for pleasure and presentation of lures.
There you can fight the average fish and play with the small sized bass and other small predator without getting smashed by big predators. First you must know your spot and what it can produce ! Then if its safe go light as you can safely. That's when wading type light range rods are very effective:

Zenaq Astra
Graphite leader Tiro
Jackson Chronotide
Yamaga Blanks Blue Current fitted with a Shimano Stella C2000FI or a Daiwa Exist 2003C is a perfect combination !
PE spool line of PE 0.6/1.0 is ideal and leader material of 4 to 6 lb is safely land any summer fish :)

Softbaits play a big role in this kind of fishing...
Jigheads worm hooks Texas and caro weights all has its place for using them...
For lures:

OSP Mylar minnow
Fish Arrow flash J
Ecogear Grassminnow
Nories spoontail shad
Savagear Sandeel slug
Delalande Lancon
Fiiish Black Minnow
Fiiish Crazy Sandeel
Marukyu Power Isome
Berkley gulp Sandworm

List is endless....

And those softbait will catch almost anything together with seabass.
For harbaits I favor topwaters and small jerkbaits.
Duo Realis Minnow 80
Duo Realis Rozante
Duo spearhead Ryuki series
Duo Tide Minnow Sprint 75
Duo Realis Pencil
Ima Sasuke
Ima Komomo
Daiwa Shoreline ssr vertice 95
Yozuri Crystal Minnow 3D and Longcast
Duel hardcore Lipless
Duel silver dog
Maria Pop Queen
Jackson Artist
Jackson Dead Float
Duo Bayruf Manic
Just named a few again :)

For night fishing in spring autumn and winter I prefer a slightly heavier approach.
There can be bass up to near 10 kg in shallows and also big bluefish and big barracuda follow migrating baitfish to the shallows. "Trouble can be everywhere in those months!"
That is when a light feeling rod with a serious attitude is my real weapon the Zenaq Plaisir Answer 89 RG "the technical surfer" able to cast big lures and handle big fish this rod is perfect for wading and i can still have the technical light element in my setup !
The Shimano Stella C3000FI is the reel fits the rod perfectly.
PE braid choice is crucial must be smooth but abrasion resistant and also must lay good on the spool for casting in the dark. Sunline/Varivas/Fins are my PE preferences for leader again highly absorbing very abrasive resistant and powerful in low diameter fluoro coated co-polymer is my go to material in 0.24/0.28 mm. diameters.
This way connection knots become slim as can be and safe effortless casting in dark is possible.

For lures ahhh again list is huge. Some angler swear their success by softbaits. Some says hardbaits are the key to success. I found my own percentages: %35 on softbaits %65 on hardbaits is my own catch rate!
Hope this helps everyone for their lure selection.
But I will go one step further and make things easier :)
Softbaits are more productive in winter months cold water is the key. Also lighted nights are productive with softbaits either moonlight or man made lights. On the other hand hardbaits work like a charm in total darkness. The rattling and vibrations seems very effective on big bass they easily home in on those stimulants and hit hardbaits with great confidence in pitch black !
Another technique i found very effective is silent slim wake baits especially in spring on venues that has marine worms and slim profile baitfish...
Big bass go ballistic on those lures most of the times I hear the splash before I feel the hit !!
Lets mention a few lures:

Nories Spoontail Shad
Fiiish black minnow and crazy Sandeel with shallow heads
Duel Dolce 125 and 95
Duel Hardcore minnow 110 to 150
Ima Ko 130
Ima Komomo 130
Tackle House Feed Shallow 110
Daiwa Shoreline Shiner ssr140
Duo Tide Minnow 140 surf
Duo Tide Minnow SLD
Duo Bayruf Manic
Duo Realis Pencil 110
Ima x DUO Nabarone 125 f
Tackle House Node
Eclipse Astraia
OSP Bent minnow sw
Duo Terrif DC-12
Jackson Deadfloat
Jackson Nyoro Nyoro
Ima Calm
I can easily make the list longer but let me keep some of my secrets to myself hehehe.
There is no hard retrieving or jerking in night fishing for big bass a steady slow paced retrieve is the best for most lures.
The rules are simple:
Don't cast constantly and to everywhere cast wisely
Don't make sound keep quiet and don't shine light at water
Fish will do the rest !!
When you feel a solid bump and resistance strike fluently but firm your drag must be 3 kg not too light not too tight is rule of thumb.
Fish must be played calm and slow never to be bullied!
And when it gives up victory is anglers hehehe ...

Thank you!


Oleksandr_adriaticsea said...

Hello Berk .
I am sure that this article will help many! for myself, I found a lot of answers there, thank you for that))
Last winter I started to catch sea bass, but without result ... This year, I tuned in to the season seriously, after your article I went every day to go fishing, on the 16th day I was cath my first sea bass, and I was very happy!
I fish in the Adriatic Sea, I have three spots for fishing:
- 1 beach by the river outlet
- 2 is also a beach at the river outlet
(all 2 rivers very small, there can not rise seabass, the bottom is sandy with stones, mostly small stones)
- 3 is the ports wall, there is a little freshwater creek, at the night there is a man made lighting
(sandy shore)
I have a question for you - better visit all three spots for one night/evening in search of the fish or focus on one spot?
Thank You , Oleksandr .

RC fishing said...

Dear Oleksandr

Its happy to hear that my article helped you in catching seabass .

Let me help you some about your spots ;

for the beach by the river outlet :
always check the outgoing freshwater direction as you know it changes with the wind and waves ..
small to medium topwater lures are way to go in sizes like 60 mm to 95 mm in wtd action preferably with some sound and rattle duo realis pencil 85 in white color is a perfect example .
and when waves are crushing slim jerkbaits of 110 120 mm is ideal in 30 to 60 cm dice depth in chartreuse/white/pink colors or redhead pattern those can decieve big bass in murky muddy conditions with constant slow retrieve ..

and at night try glow colored long slim softbaits with smallest jigheads possible let them drift with the current and twitch them slug go / savage gear sandeel /fiiish black minnow in small sizes are perfect and remember dont fully charge the glow with light just a little glow will do the trick ..

ports and harbor walls are a different story find the shallow boat landing places stairs and shallow corners bass like to push bait into those areas with other predators ...
also sunken boats or pilings are magnets for bass and other predators ..

another trick of mine in ports is finding the big mullets nearly always there are bass between them and u can sort bass out without scaring the mullet with lrf tackle and softlures ..

for lures in ports xrap rapalas 8 or 10 cm / lucky craft b freeze md / duo tide minnow sprint 75 / fiiish black minnow / duel hardcore shad 65 mm / duo realis jerk 100 sp / and last of all slug go type lures with darting jigheads all been my favorites ...

and keep that in mind in ports hits from barracudas groupers small amberjacks and leerfish nearly always happen dont go too light without necessary ..

always focus and plan for a single spot and prepare and search tour spot thoroughly for any activity before deciding to move on .
bass can be finicky and lure selection even retrieve rates and action can be crucial about catching and not catching ...
dont give up before trying everything

wishing you tight lines and best of luck ;)