I recently fished with Matt Rickard from Tywyn in mid Wales. He is one of the new breed of small boat bass guides that are entering the world of charter fishing by starting small and specialising in one or two species with boats capable of taking individuals or two man teams.
In my opinion this is the best way to feel your way into chartering. It’s obviously much more achievable financially, but the long term benefits go much deeper. By working small boats closer inshore you learn quickly the value of spotting good marks and learning the movements of the fish as the tide ebbs and flows. Also, by specialising in one or two species, especially bass, you learn how predators shift station to hunt, and realise quite quickly that this knowledge applies pretty much to all species and can applied outside the laws of bass. In short it’s a great learning curve that creates a thinking skipper that adjusts quickly to the changing conditions and keeps his customers generally catching fish.
Matt’s mooring is in the scenic port of Aberdovey at the mouth of The Dovey Estuary. Jumping aboard the boat a quick glance confirmed she was neatly stowed, very clean and well rigged out. Although most anglers prefer to use their own gear, Matt is equipped with any tackle required should you be on holiday and prefer to use his gear.
I grew up in this area and have fished pretty much all my life, Tywyn being my home ground, in fact I used to live just a couple of miles away, so I had a good idea exactly where Matt would go. We cruised out of the estuary and turned north for the Bwch Reef.
This is an area of shallow boulder reef covered in weed, but the bass are not always widely spread and are often concentrated in small areas where the baitfish collects. It was obvious from Matt’s approach he knew exactly which mark to attack first and we set up the first drift to take us across shallow ground dropping in to deeper water.
We were only interested in fishing artificials and I set up with my favourite ABU Revo Bass 8’ matched to an ABU Soron XTS40 reel loaded with 20lb Nanofil and a short 20lb Fluorocarbon leader. I chose a dark grey Slugo lure with a light 10g lead head to start. Matt was on a Hart Bloody Offshore rod and reel, again with a soft plastic sandeel imitation, with the emphasis on the same fishing light principle.
Flicking the lures out and letting them sink a short distance, the retrieve is a simple twitch of the wrist to pull the lure forwards, then let it sink while you take a turn of the reel to tighten the line. Second cast Matt was in to a fish that had gobbled up the lure. He had another next cast and I got a small pollack.
Moving back for another drift I picked up two bass in quick succession, but these were smaller fish to 1.5lbs, but still fought well on the light tackle. We tried a couple more areas and again caught bass, but the fish were well spread and difficult to locate.
A skill for any guide is to be aware all the time and Matt spotted a few birds working far off on the horizon that my tired old eyes couldn’t see at first. Birds mean bass, and we fired up the engine and motored out towards them. This was no feeding frenzy, but birds were sat on the surface with the odd one going in. We elected to give it a go.
I switched over to a Berkley Ripple Shad and started hitting bass every cast, but then we noticed fish skittering on the surface, so quickly changed to plugs. We both chose just sub surface workers, me going for a Hart X3 Pencil and immediately I was into a bass that after a brief fight, came off. But no matter, it was a fish a cast after that, but again none of the fish were over 2.5lbs.
There was one spot that typically seemed to have the bulk of fish and we could suddenly see them flashing just under the surface. I changed plugs again going first for a Sebile Splasher, and taking three fish in three casts, but I only had the middle size with me and I dropped a couple of fish as I think the lure was too big. I switched again to an ABU Rocket Popper which is smaller and took fish after fish. The best I could muster went about 2.5lbs, but Matt topped the day with nice plump 3lb fish.
Judging the day as a whole we had well over 30 bass in just a short three hour evening session, all on lures and all safely returned. Typically a couple of days later Matt mailed me to say he’d had several fish over 4lbs and the best a 6lber, but that’s bassing.
Matt also targets tope and bream, and has had some storming days on the reef. With the ground being generally very shallow, the tope on light tackle fight to their maximum and provide thrills and spills aplenty. Also the numbers of bream on the reef are excellent and again you are encouraged to fish as light as possible for them.
Chatting to Matt about his hopes for the future, he’s considering a bigger 21ft craft, a Pirate 21, and a make I know well having reviewed it for TSF mag a few years back. It’s a great choice for the seas found of this stretch of coast. It will give him the opportunity to take at least four anglers out and allow him to offer a great all round package for smaller parties.
Name: Mia Moo
Engine: 60hp Mercury Outboard
Tackle: Hart Bloody Offshore Rods, Hart Reels and Hart hard and soft plastics.