HARD EARNED WRASSE
Updated: Feb 15
It was one of those weeks where the weather couldn’t be predicted. The weather men changed their minds continuously, dare I say more than the weather itself! We had reached the point where a decision had to be made. We needed our fix, we were going.
I had promised my buddy Darren, I would catch him a good Wrasse, the pressure was on. Me and my big mouth.
If you're like me you love the build up to a trip! The deliberation of what to take and what to leave out. This time the weather had served to focus our minds. We knew it would be hard fishing and the weather would make it harder. I find it best to keep rigs and tactics simple on trips like this. Travel light and conserve your energy.
Meeting in the car park, it wasn’t raining but heavy downpours were predicted. The wind was from the Southwest and moderate, so no problems there then. Waterproofs were donned and it was a 10 minute walk to the first mark. We were both keen to get there and along the way I took some scenic shots for my Youtube videos. Reaching the point which was to be our first mark, I explained that we would be fishing the Texas Rig and to hook on whatever lure he fancied. Lures can be pretty much any soft plastic between 3 & 5 inches long. If you can mount them effectively on a size 1 to 3/0 EWG hook you are good to go. Rods need to be rated up to about to 30 grams, give or take. Then attach a 3000 to 4000 size reel loaded with 20lb braid to which a 15lb Fluorocarbon leader is tied and you’re ready to rock and roll.
The open coast mark we fished was absolutely stunning, it’s rocky gullies and reefs are stuffed with kelp and an abundance of food for the Wrasse. At times your crunching shellfish underfoot as you stride across the rocks at low tide. It’s no wonder there are so many good sized Wrasse here. The clouds looked foreboding but shafts of sunshine broke through their rain leaden glumness to illuminate the clear water in front of us. Did it really matter if we caught a fish; it was just a pleasure to be here.
Focusing my mind, I pointed to where Darren needed to cast and l didn’t expect it to be too long before he connected with a hard fighting Ballan Wrasse. The trick with Wrasse is to not strike that first electrifying hit! They are simply stunning the bait before returning to engulf it. It’s better to wait until your rod pulls over. Then strike hard and wind fast, whilst attempting to keep the fish’s head up and prevent it from diving back into its rocky liar. Setting your drag to only give as a last resort, helps you to gain control and maybe land the fish.
Darren is an experienced angler, coming form an LRF (light rock fishing) background and I was keen to see him experience the raw power of a good sized Wrasse. His cast was spot on and before I could even set up myself, he was in. Of course everybody’s idea of a tight drag is different and Darren’s drag soon started to sing as he quickly tightened it to regain control. Realising what was required he quickly bent into the fish to apply more pressure, get the fish's head up and lead it towards the waiting net. A fish of about 2lb was quickly unhooked and to quote the man himself “Happy Days”. Not a big fish, camouflage green in appearance but still hard fighting all the same. The pressure was off and I had helped him catch a reasonable fish. A PB to boot.
Darren with his PB
He had caught it on a Zman TRD Crawz in bubblegut colour. Nice little buoyant bait that due to the “ElaZtech” material used in its manufacture can resist the attention of Wrasse teeth more than most.
It wasn’t long before Darren was in again. This time it was a Zman Pink Ticklerz that did the trick. Not quite as big, this one about a 1.5lb. Pink was doing the business. Could this be a pattern? It appeared to be as he was in again. This fish however, was stunning. It had a dark Brown back with vivid Golden flanks, which were almost as bright as Darren’s smile. Don’t get me wrong, I love catching fish but sometimes enjoying the elation of a fishing buddy is almost as good.
I couldn’t find the right size Texas weight so put on a Jika Rig. Bites were soon forthcoming but no hookups! It appears the Wrasse must have been feeling the lead and not pulling the tip around confidently. Darren on the other hand, had cheekily changed baits to one of my favourite green pumpkin stickbaits and whilst I had been rummaging around in my bag he had hooked another. This one was bending the rod but Darren was clued up by now; he knew what to expect and quickly gained control, guiding it towards my waiting net. Another golden bellied beauty to be admired and coaxed back into its watery home. So what was the pattern? Well it appeared to be anything Darren was doing!
Soaking wet but in again.
The rain came hammering down, the wind whipped up driving into our flanks, trying to remove any enthusiasm we had, but we weathered its spiteful scorn determined to stick it out. A side wind was making it unfishable due to the bow in our lines, so it was time for a move. We found a gulley where we could fish into the face of the wind to present our baits effectively. The weather worsened and by now we were a couple of drowned rats. We redid our rigs and I fancied a ZMAN Punch Crawz in black and blue flake. Texas rigged, I felt my luck had to change. The fish were biting, I just needed to do the basics right and a fish would surely be forthcoming. This is where confidence in your approach, bait and tackle is key. It proved correct as I was soon into a fish of about 2lbs. It was a solid orange mottled colour, a really fit fish.The next cast produced another fish, its dark brown back and golden flanks shone brightly, contrasting the damp, grey day.
I was on a role, the fish really appeared switched on to these craw baits. Straight out again and I thought I'd hooked some weed on the drop. Winding down to pull free; to my surprise there was a fish on. It was swimming in midwater and didn’t feel like a Wrasse. Could it be a Bass? As it boiled on the surface some 15yards out it was obvious it wasn’t, but a nice Wrasse all the same. Seeing the net, it made a final dive for freedom but it’s battle was lost. Now this fish was probably a good 2.5lbs and more stunning than the last. It had a green back and golden flanks. Even it’s gill plates were green with golden edges! I never tire of catching these beautiful creatures. Today none of them were real lumps but sometimes the smaller fish in all their unique finery are mini marvels of nature and just as worthy a catch.
I have for a while been really interested in some bulb tail lures made by rooneysfishingsupplies.co.uk over in Ireland. Being about 5.25inch they are a big bait for Wrasse but have a good profile. The problem with most thinner, longer lures is the tails can get bitten off. Now I am not going to lie and tell you this doesn’t happen to these but if there are large numbers of small Wrasse around it can even happen to my favourite stick baits. If a bait is a real Wrasse catcher and a fair price it is worth putting up with. I was really pushing my luck here as he had sent me some black with blue and silver glitter lures that had a shocking orange bulb tail! Surely that tail would catch the eye of a Wrasse and hopefully not get bitten off?
The weather had taken a turn for the worse again but we hardly noticed as we were catching. I had a hunch that as the tide was now flooding the fish would move into the gully in search of food. I would move further up, cast across and work my lure back under my feet. Near the end of my retrieve I had a savage thump! Would it return to engulf the lure? After a brief pause nothing materialised so I teased it further towards me and left it to rest. Just as I was imagining its bright tail waving provocatively in the swell, my rod hooped over and I was in. Neither the fish nor I were willing to give and for a moment there was a stalemate. My rod bent further and further as the fish pumped it’s tail trying to get back into it’s watery liar. Standing my ground the pressure finally told and the fish was enveloped in the folds of my net. It again wasn’t a big fish, probably a couple of pounds but it just goes to show the raw power these fish can generate, especially when they take right under your feet!
I have caught most species of fish in the UK but other than possibly a Mullet on light gear nothing comes close to the sheer power and intensity of a battle with a Ballan Wrasse. Several more fish fell to the Bulb Tails and some did bite the tails off. Karl who makes them has since altered their design so as the tail is now a plug which is added to the mould before the main body of plastic is added, thereby making it harder for the fish to bite off. Although no lure is immune to the attention of a Wrasses teeth they are less susceptible now than before. One thing I did notice though was how savage the initial hit was and how readily they wolfed these baits down. It didn’t seem to matter what colour I used other than dayglow orange which just produced a follow from a small Pollack. Problems with some cheap SD cards, I had bought off eBay, prevented me from filming these later fish, which was a real shame as it could have been a video in itself. Still it was a great trip in good company and we will be back for more.
Well I hope you enjoyed my little tale. Thanks for reading this and let me know what you think. Cheers.
Another stunning Wrasse of around 2.5lb.