Bass are one of our most popular and easily recognised fish. They can only really be confused with either the wreckfish or the black bream, though both these fish have much deeper bodies when viewed sideways on and misidentification with these species is unlikely.
The bass sports two distinctive dorsal fins, the front one carrying 8 to 9 sharp spines. The body forms a thin but powerful lengthways profile and is heavily armoured with large scales. The edges of the gill covers are also sharp and there are forward pointing spines on the lower edge of the gill cover too.
Bass typically sport a dark grey, sometimes blue/green back shading through silver sides to a silvery white belly. Bass can also carry a dusky patch on the gill cover. Juvenile bass less than 2lbs in weight tend to be more a pale silver on the back and flanks.
Good techniques to catch bass afloat are to drift over wrecks and sandbanks fishing live sandeel on long flowing traces. Aim to keep the sandeel a few feet up off the seabed or wreck for the bass to rise up an intercept as they pass by. The bass are usually just down tide of the wreck when the tide is flowing strongly, or in amongst the wreck when the tide is slack. You can also trot small live mackerel, pollack and pouting down in to the wreck and this is highly effective.
Another good technique is to anchor uptide of the wreck and cast or trot artificial shad imitations and weighted shads back in to the wreck and these are especially effective in deeper water. Either steadily retrieve the shads at slow to medium pace, or better still, bounce the shads along the seabed on the retrieve which can be deadly for the bigger fish.
The recognised season for bass is from April through to November, though in Wales and the southern coast of England fish can be caught throughout the year. In warm winters juvenile bass will stay in the estuary mouths and work the adjacent surf beaches continually.
Bass exploit every possible opportunity to feed. They can be found many miles off shore over wrecks in the English Channel and southern North Sea, on inshore wrecks, on offshore sandbanks feeding on sandeels, and especially on shallow water reefs close to shore.
When fishing over wrecks and reefs 12/15lb class rods are the best choice. Choose a longer type over 8-feet with a fairly fast action and power in the middle section and butt to work fish back against a fast tide, and to set the hook at long range. Match this to a modern lightweight low-profile reel such as an ABU REVO Toro Inshore or conventional multiplier such as a Penn 515 or Daiwa 7HT reel. Load with 20lb braid and add a short 8-foot section of Fluorocarbon leader.