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  • Writer's pictureThe Constant Angler

My obsession with Wrasse

Updated: Mar 17

Having a fishing mad father growing up led me to regularly fish for wrasse and bass on my local coastline. My father passed on his passion for fishing and the outdoors to me. We were always fishing a particular mark for bass, pollack and wrasse. We generally used float fished peeler crab and prawn in the gullies of our local rock marks; consequently we caught several large wrasse and bass.

Fig1. To old warriors together. Dad with a near 5lb wrasse caught on a lure. The last time we were to fish for them together. Great days. Dad was a tough old buggar and by the looks of things so was that wrasse.🥲

One particular balmy summers day we had decided to fish our local beach Mansands and its adjoining headland. I had been daydreaming all week about fishing it and really wanted to have a go in the gulley we would collect large prawns from. Very often we would hunt for prawns and velvet swimmer crabs for bait. Turning over the rocks beside the headland we found the crabs to be moulting and collected more than enough for bait. I then nagged my father to fish the headland. I would have been about 10 and my nagging eventually dragged him away from the beach where he was fishing for bass. It was a decent hike down to the beach and then onto the headland. As we walked across the field that lead to the headland dad would regularly stop to point out the local wildlife; buzzards swirled above us, dunnocks hopped around the hedges and skylarks tried to distract us whilst we trudged through the coastal braken.

Arriving on the rocks the sea was an emerald green, swirling and caressing the shoreline. I could clearly see the kelp beds in the gulley and every so often what looked like a wrasse ghosting across it. Setting up a simple float rig and with lungs full of sea air, I lowered my rig and crab bait into the gulley. Now the waiting game would start. Just as my attention span was waning my float shot under and my old green Milbro spinning rod bent double. Dad! Dad! Help! I cried. God knows what he thought at first but he was relieved to see me doing battle with an obviously large fish. I was struggling to stop it reaching its snag ridden lair but eventually with a little help from dad I coaxed it into our homemade prawn net. This wasn't an easy task as it had a wooden broom handle pole that ran down the middle of the actual net head, making it difficult to squeeze a fish either side of it. Their laying in the folds of the net was a brute of a wrasse with red mottling all over its flanks and cream belly. Dad quickly unhooked it and weighed it on his rusty old spring balance, announcing that it was a smidgin under 6lb!! How could I not be obsessed with wrasse after this stunning fish.

Many a year was spent trying to better that fish and although some real beasts followed I never had anything bigger until I was a young lad of 19. Having just passed my driving test I was mobile and had got into beach casting for wrasse. I and a good mate would fish another local headland no too far from Mansands for big winter wrasse and bullhuss. Hardback crabs on fixed paternosters for the wrasse and large squid/pout baits for the huss. Real hardcore fishing in January, February and March for big fish in-deep water. It was here that I learnt the really big wrasse come closer inshore during the colder months. I guess they are feasting on the food the storms rip up from the bottom? If we could get to the coast as the water was clearing after a good blow we could fill our boots with large wrasse and huss; the wrasse going regularly larger than 5lb, with 6 and 7lb fish a distinct possibility. My mate had them to 7lb 2oz and myself to just under 7lb but we had a dozen or so fish over 6lb between us! Oh did I mention the Bullhuss went to over 13lb!

Here is a video I did on the mark above. I am still to crack lure fishing for wrasse here.

Over the next few years I became obsessed with fishing for cod and ray from the Bristol Channel shore, interspersed with lure fishing for bass. It was whilst lure fishing for bass one day at the mouth of my local estuary that I managed to catch a 5lb wrasse on a J11 Rapala plug. It took me totally by surprise but set my fishing brain in motion.

Fig2. The awesome jointed J11 plug; still to this day a wonderful Bass lure but it also catches the odd wrasse.

I wish I could have sourced some of the awesome colours above back then. I would have thought Firetiger would have caught a few. Surely I could catch them more often if I fished smaller plugs with colours more akin to crab etc? The thing was they were difficult to source but I think it was a company called Harris Angling that stocked a few lures such as the Rebel mini Crawfish amongst others. I must give a shout out to the wonderful & inspirational Mike Ladle. I had been watching some lure fishing videos or seen an article where he suggested using these for wrasse and bass. They worked but not as regularly as I would have liked.

Fig 3. The Rebel mini Craw

I managed to source some cheap but rather bright knock off lures from Trago Mills and by removing the belly hook I could minimise snagging and subsequently loosing them. I learnt bright lures worked better than dull lures and I would usually plump for yellow and orange flanked lures whenever possible. Although not catching as many wrasse as we do on soft plastics I was consistently catching reasonable sized fish, all the while loosing far too many plugs. Most of these fish were caught over shallow ground from the estuary or local reefs.

Probably more than 20 years ago now I had a new fishing buddy who regularly went on holiday to the USA; he would invariably return with with some items of tackle for me. Around this time he bought me back some Texas weights and small EWG hooks. I looked at them as if to say what am I going to do with them? He explained that they used them for bass fishing but didn't know how. Bare in mind there were not many soft plastics around then, other than a few curly tail grubs you could sporadically pick up from various places and there was certainly not easy access to the internet and YouTube. At that time I was obsessed with Carp fishing and thought the weights were ideal for a flying backleads. They were quickly lost and the hooks remained in my tackle den for several years. I often wonder if I had thought to actually pair the lures, weights and hooks together or even realised how they were used in the states wether I would have made the wonderful leap of faith that the White brothers had in Jersey, which led to us all enjoying what is now such a wonderful way to catch wrasse. Cheers lads my bank balance may not appreciate it, but for all those wonderful days I have spent lure fishing for wrasse I am truly grateful.

At some point in the last 15 years or more I did make the connection between the EWG hooks and soft plastics, but only as a means of loosing less crankbaits for wrasse. All I did was switch out an EWG hook for the treble on the back of my crankbaits and Texas rig a small curly tail grub to it. Much like I have been doing with Toby lures for bass. I caught quite a few wrasse doing this and lost far less lures. If your going to give this a try you may have to add an extra split ring to ensure the hook is sat correctly.

It wasn't until I like many saw the articles by the White brothers and later the likes of Danny Parkins and others that the penny dropped. Why hadn't I put the two together all those years ago. Good on you lads. I was all in by now but my time was limited due to work and having a young family. Being time bound I went whenever possible and generally used the excellent Lunker City Sluggos and any other soft plastic I could lay my hands on. Initially it took a few trips to work things out but once I had caught my first fish it almost seemed easy. I quickly caught a 5lb fish and returned to all those wonderful marks throughout the South Hams I had fished with my father. New lures were becoming more readily available and more was being written about it. It wasn't long until I caught my largest wrasse to date on a lure; A fine 5lb 12oz beauty. It was about then that I joined a couple of Facebook groups; Lure Fishing for Wrasse UK and Evil Wrasse Cult. The former of which I have become a moderator on and made a couple of good mates in Mike Wethersbee and Steve Butler. Steve lives in Cornwall and was one of the original lure fishing for wrasse anglers. It is through the likes of Steve and anglers like him that methods have been refined and anglers inspired to lure fish for wrasse. We owe these pioneers of the sport a great debt and I for one am truly grateful. Cheers guys.

So wind the clock forward to 2019 and inspired by my late wife and son I started my very own YouTube journey. It only seemed apt to start off with a video about Lure Fishing for Wrasse. To my complete and utter surprise it was a hit. Here I am some years later with over 4000 subscribers and close on 700,000 views. I know it's not that much in terms of YouTube but I still have to pinch myself about it. If it hadn't been for my lovely wife persuading me to do it and my cracking son setting it all up for me it would never have happened. I am a lure angler of many genre from freshwater to saltwater and they have all intertwined to make me the wrasse angler and angler I am today. So many of the skills in one genre can be applied to the other; take for instance wrasse and perch fishing.

Relatively recently I have got into BFS (Bait Finesse System) fishing; basically LRF(Light Rock Fishing) but with a baitcasting setup. Hook a reasonable size wrasse of a 1-2lb or even smaller and they will test your nerve and tackle to the limit. Great fun but be cautious if there are large wrasse around, you may not land them. I now have a Power BFS outfit and use it in and around my local harbour and breakwater to catch slightly larger fish with small senkos and craw lures. I'm loving the fight you get from these fish; each and every one is different.

So here I am in 2024 still obsessed by wrasse. Not an expert by any means, there are others I have previously mention who are more deserving of that title, but a chap who knows a thing or two about it, catches a few and is still totally obsessed by them. I can't get on the rocks as much as I would wish due to dodgy knees but I'm not ready to quit yet. Below is my first video.

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