Guide to catching sea bass in the south of england

Views 564 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful

My guide to catching Sea Bass in the south of England.

Hello and welcome to my guide for catching Sea Bass in the south of England.

Please could you comment on this guide afterwards, there is a yes or no  button to say if it was usefull or not at the bottom of the page, Thank you.

 First of all is a brief intro about me and my fishing I was brought up in Brighton, East Sussex and have fished regularly all of my life. In and around the south coast. In season i only fish for Sea Bass apart from catching a few Mackeral for Bait. I mainly fish in Sussex and have done so for nearly 25 Years.  I do not pretend to be an expert but i do have some good results. This year i have had 8 bass over 3-1b the best one being just over 5-1b from shoreham harbour (east arm) + the usual schoolies early on. But now is the time for the bigger bass to show. I have not managed to get out on a boat this year but i am in contact with two small boat owners who share there local knowledge with me so i can give out a few tip on this.


BASS (Dicentrarchus Labrax) BIOLOGY

The bass that we catch locally are the same species that are from the Mediterranean, But the bass down there grow fast and do not live as long.

Uk bass live to a good age, Growing to a large size. Spawning takes place between  April & early July. Warm settled Weather is a must for spawning, cold rough weather will cause the eggs to perish. Some seasons of good hot weather will effect the fish so much that maybe 70% of fish caught in 10-15 years time will have been born from that one year.

Immature Bass which are bass under 3-1b or about 1 foot long are called "School Bass" or " Schoolies"

The Minimum LEGAL size you can keep the Bass is 36cm 

However it is best to return any bass under 3.5-1b in my opinion to fight another day.


How to Catch them: (Harbours, Piers)



First of all a 10 foot sea rod is more than enough for any harbour or pier. Casting is not important as the Bass will be feeding close to the arm to pick small fish and crabs, The lighter the Tackle the more fun. Your reel line is important, To lose a big bass is heart breaking just because of damaged or old  line. When you come home before you sling it in the garage, rinse the spool under some fresh water and keep it out of the sun.

Check your line every time you go fishing for abraisions caused by the line catching on the harbour wall. Also that the line has not been badly stretched by snags.

Bass can be caught in many ways. Without writing a book on the subject i will try to keep it simple. The first rig is a running trace this is good rig, Bass like to suck the bait in before they swallow, this rig will allow that as long as you adjust the settings on your reel. You will know when the bass is there for sure. Keep calm pick up the rod slowly tighten the brake, If the bass is pulling hard against you let out some line. Do this for as long as neccessary to tire the fish out and enjoy it. Baits can vary a great deal, however use baits that the bass will expect to be there. Don't be shy with the bait, it is best to fish for less time than be tight with the bait. Ask locals but more than one and build up a picture of good spots and baits to use. Also ask in your local tackle shops or even ask me!

Do not be shy with the bait, Bass take large baits on this rig. If fishing at night add 50-75% more bait than the day. Invest in  a drop net they can  get too big to just to flip out with a rod. You never know just how well the hook is in. Present you bait with care. You can cheaply pick up elastic which will hold the bait neatly in place without it slumping into a ball as soon as it hits the water. When to fish is a tough question but as a rule get to where you are going and be set up and fishing 3hrs before high water and fish for 2 hrs after high water. Dawn and dusk is a great time but so is the middle of the night with a flat to medium sea.

Dont expect to catch them all the time this simply does not happen. Only keep the bass if you really want it to eat. A simple picture with your  mobile will prove it to your mates and the fish can swim for another 10yrs. Lecture over..

My other recomended rig for harbours is a float. First light or at dusk can be deadly, The best bait to use on float is live prawns.


 These can be collected at low tide from rock pools simply with a kids net and a bucket. These are best kept allive by using a air pump that you can buy for about a tenner or less. If the weather is warm part change the water regulary or they will die. I always add some seaweed to the bucket to help with the air and to keep the sun off them. Hook them onto a fairly sturdy hook 2/0 or 3/0 through the tails back to back, This will make them rattle in the water. Only fish this rig on fairly calm sea when the water is clear. The larger prawns the better as they produce more vibration and  will live for longer. Change the prawns every 15 min or so. 

Aim the bait to be about 4 - 10 feet deep depending on the overal depth of the sea.

Sandeels and mackeral strip can also be used on the float.


   How to catch them (From the beach in surf)

There are many different ways to catch bass from the beach. first i will describe fishing in the surf. Your rod needs to be no more powerful than an a 11-12 foot fast action rod. Casting weights are normally 3-4oz. The water to look for is a surf with a pattern of heavy breakers. This is often found when the water starts to calm down after  a heavy storm. As a rule on  a storm beach (which is a beach that has fast moving shingle) is only good for bass when there is a surf. This is the case in the day but at night the bass will move in very close to the shore, even in flat calm conditions. 

The bass genarally (in the day) prefer to be in the waves that are more gentle rushing over the sand and shingle as the tide comes in. Cast 60-120 yards out, this is where a band of food will be (small crabs shrimps etc). Use a leader line 251b is fine with a lighter main line about 181b. Keep the rig simple to avoid tangles in the surf and excess weed etc. A simple paternoster is fine with hook size 2/0 or 3/0. Bait the hook with lug, rag, razor fish, crab, or mackeral etc depending on what is likely to be in the area. Use elastic to help keep the bait on and well presented.

 A running ledger rig is also good to use but you will increase your risk of tangles if casting over a long distance in rougher weather or fast tides. Where possible try to cast at a angle to the surf, This will help keep the rig from getting in a tangle. Use a grip weight to hold in place. 

When the tide has just turned (on the way out) and the water is flat and clear,  float fishing from the beach is another good technique, Keep the tackle light. Use a 2/0 or 3/0 hook with mackeral strip, prawns, crab etc. A chemical light can attached to your float for fishing at night. Keep the rod in your hands,   

If there is lots of mackeral in the water try and catch a small one. Have a simple trace about 30cm long, a 3/0 hook one end and a swivel the other end. Just tie on the swivel to your main line, hook on the live mackeral (joey) through the lower jaw or through the skin just before the  dorsal fin but not too deep or it will die. Then let it swim this method is called "free lineing".

How to catch them (From the beach in rocky areas)

Again there are many techniques but i will keep this down to my favourite way. Use shock  leader about 25-301b and a stronger reel line about 201b should be fine. Use a strong trace line about 301b. Use  a running trace but keep it short. Use a hook size of about 3/0, A small section of weaker line can be added just above the weight about 20cm. This will break if badly snaged and you will only lose the weight and still get the bass. The bait i prefer is peeler crab, remove legs but dont discard them (it's a waste) tie in the body of the crab with a large amount of elastic but keep it as neat as you can. Don't let go of the rod if the bass runs off too far with the bait it could cut the line on the rocks, Keep the rod tip high to minimize the amount of line in the water. Long casts are no-no the large bass will quite happily feed in 2 feet of water. If you prefer not to make your own rigs or are  not confident in making them i am selling a rotten bottom running trace rig in my shop. This is suitable for all rough areas where you tend to lose a lot of tackle.

You also don't  need to use expensive weights if you think you will lose them. Improvise with nuts & bolts, old spark plugs, stones with holes in them, they all work-the bass don't care!!

Float fishing again is great for rocky places and helps to avoids snags, see details in the beach surf guide.

 How to catch them (Fishing from small boats 0-2miles offshore )

Best say a bit about safety first, It is essential to check the weather, not just the tv. Special reports for small boat holders are broadcasted on radio 4 on 198 kHz LW at  0048 , 0520 , 1201 and 1754.  Weather forecasts and gale warnings are also avalable by coast radio.

Make sure you go with a freind and tell somebody you trust what time you will be back, |Do not trust all the gadgets on your boat if you have them e.g. GPS, Radios, etc , these things can fail,  Take warm clothes for emergency's a blanket a first aid kit, mobile phone and a flask is also a must. Don't drink excess Alcohol it it as important as driving a car, and no doubt soon be illegal to do so, at the moment it is a local by law. There is a lot more you must know about safety on small boats so it is well worth taking a course or at least buying a book

Take a compass or use you GPS, if you find a good hotspot bass feeding ground you will no doubt want to go back. It is easy to take a compass barring from two landmarks that you recognise on land.

Now the bit you want to read!!!

A force 2 wind is good fishing, thats a light breeze 4-6 knots about 6inch waves. Dawn is the best time, Ask other anglers for hot spots. in your area. I found that drifting between  Brighton and Newhaven can be good very close in to shore where the ground is rough.  If you have a larger boat and have to fish further out use your echo sounder to look for ridges and gullies or any other areas that may contain food. You can buy sea maps which will help, also have a look at google earth or windows live maps etc. These show the sea bed  in some amazing detail in places. I think the best time is later on in the season when the mackeral start to thin a bit, this is when you can get the better sizes. After a storm is always good inshore when the water still has a bit of colour but the weed has settled down.

The rod needs to be short but responsive and the line can range from 151b to 251b dependng on the conditions, Lures can be good for bass drifting behind the boat but i like to use fresh bait as a personal choice. On the way to your chosen location pick up a few fresh mackeral for bait. But always take bait with you just in case.  If fishing after dusk double up on your bait size. Make sure you have a mixture of weight sizes with you to cope with fast tides and currents. Once you have droped anchor spend the next 5 min baiting up and have a cup of tea, this will give the boat time to settle into position. The rig to use can vary but a simple running trace is fine with a trace of about 1m. Also a paternoster rig with the hook a about 1m above the weight is fine. If you are fishing over rocky area where you could get snagged, use a smaller trace but not less than 50cm (running trace). If using a paternoster tie a weak section of line from the weight to your trace, this way you only lose the weight. Hook sizes are around 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, depending on bait you use. Always take your time to present your bait correctly, if using mackeral try to mimick a small fish etc. Use bait elastic to keep it in place, tie the elastic around the mackeral by the hook eye, this will allow it to hang correctly without slumping into a ball after 5 min. If you are not sure how to make up the rigs they will be for sale in my ebay shop, if they are not just ask me.

 I hope you have found this guide of some use, don't forget to tick the box at the bottom if this guide was usefull or not.

Comments can also be left  in my guest book.

I will be adding more info soon, but have to go fishing now, good luck.

Please don't forget you have to put in the time for bass, but will be worth it when you land one.

Any other advice please ask me. I will always have bass rigs for sale check out my shop or search for my account, details listed below.

Rigs can also be made to order and size, type, amount. 

My shop is

My Account name is: louaccount









Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides