Hello Essex Anglers and thank you for inviting me to write for your site. My name is Ben Bassett and I’m based in Plymouth, Devon, fishing ultralight with lures for a myriad of sea species. I’m hoping my fishing may help inspire yours, whether that’s based locally in Essex or across the UK.
Recently I enjoyed a really varied week using LRF tactics to catch everything from well known species like bass and mackerel, to obscure unknowns like the topknot. I will delve into that week and introduce you to my passion – LRF or Light Rock Fishing.
I recommend you checking out this blog I wrote for Street Fishing London as an introduction to LRF – https://www.streetfishinglondon.co.uk/post/an-introduction-to-lrf
To sum it up, LRF is ultralight fishing in saltwater using a variety of lures to target anything that swims – from tiny gobies to big bass and wrasse. I have lived and breathed this type of fishing since I discovered it in 2016, catching some really special species along the way. Now I have that basic summary out of the way, lets talk about the week I had recently.
It started with a mullet, one of the most frustrating fish in UK waters. These large powerful fish are a common sight around our harbours and estuaries, yet they can be disturbingly difficult to catch! Often turning their nose up at any lure or even bait you use, a lot of anglers consider fishing for them pointless or too difficult. Occasionally though, particularly in the summer months, you can find them in a different, more obliging mood.
In my hometown of Plymouth, mullet are a regular sight cruising lazily around the harbour. Most of the time I’m ignoring these silver torpedoes, as they just love to ignore me! Yet, the morning I found myself fishing was different… Me and my brother, Olly ended up fishing next to a chap who was using a monstrously huge beach caster and home made float with two hooks below it, baited with bread. He was certainly getting plenty of interest, despite his crude set up. There was quite a severe language barrier between us but it was clear he was fishing for dinner. I certainly would never recommend eating a mullet from a busy harbour, and that’s without saying how old an eating sized mullet would be. Each to their own though I guess.
I did notice that every time this chap struck and missed, the mullet would go crazy munching the freebies left behind. This gave me an idea… I clipped on my lightest jighead, an Ecogear Shirasu 0.6g size 10. Onto the jighead went about an inch of XL Marukyu Isome in Pearl White – which if you squinted looked just like a pinch of white bread. Using my ultralight 7g rated Apia Grandage Lite 74 rod and 6lb rated Majorcraft Dangan braid, I flicked the tiny ‘lure’ over to the feeding mullet.
I kept in touch with the jighead, feeding the line down until it was just out of my sight. The rod tip instantly pulled over and I struck. I couldn’t believe it when I felt serious resistance! In fact this mullet wasn’t playing games as it shot out below me, trying to find cover under the moored boats. From a high vantage point I used my leverage against it, yet still the fish ran and ran. I turned it’s head and watched it shake viciously side to side like a bass. I was loving life, hooking up to a mullet being so rare.
I worked the fish along the harbour wall to the steps, the deep water working to my advantage – the fish kept running but couldn’t make it into any snags. After a few more headshakes, my brother netted the fish for me. In the net rested a fine thick lipped grey mullet, caught on an artificial. What a moment.
I followed that fish up with a bigger one two days afterwards, in the exact same circumstances. Being a bigger fish of over 45cm, this mullet ran me ragged, burning up my drag with it’s lightening fast runs. I couldn’t believe my luck. Considering the fact that I also spooked the shoal for the chap taking the fish to eat, I also saved a few lives that day. Not great for him but something all too pleasing to me, mullet deserve respect – not a bash on the head!
The next big session I had (see the September edition of Hookpoint magazine for the full story) proved to be another action filled jaunt. I drove two of my LRF partners in crime, Richard Salter (search Devon Lerfer on Youtube and Facebook) and Joe Mole (search Dawlish LRF on Instagram), down to Cornwall for a day’s fishing. Conditions proved difficult during the day, with strong south west winds writing off a couple of marks. We mostly stuck to the quaint tourist town of Fowey, which served us well in the end,
The first catches were giant gobies, a protected species and a rare catch for most of the UK. In the warm waters of Cornwall and Devon though these fish can be quite common, although very localised. You can find them in rockpools and they often turn up as surprise catches when we are targeting other intertidal species. They are a huge fish by goby standards, maxing out at 30cm. A true brute of the rockpool, these fish take most small lures, anything up to 8cm will be attacked with venom.
The next catches of real interest were common dragonets. These fish are are bottom dwellers, preferring clean sandy ground. To catch them you need to fish hard on the bottom with small worm imitations. The fish I had that day were small even for dragonets, although I did finally tempt a better fish out of around 15cm.
A top tip when handling these innocent looking fish, is to watch out for their gill spines! This species have razorblades for gills, easily slicing through human skin if the angler isn’t cautious. They are a beautiful and not very common catch, so catching three in a row that day was a real bonus.
We had to wait until the evening for the fishing to really switch on. The tide had started to push right in and that led to big shoals of mackerel hunting around the harbour. Every time they appeared in front of us it was easy pickings, any lure from soft plastic paddletails and pin tails, to metal jigs were taken with glee. Joe and Richard tempted out a small flounder each by bumping a whole Marukyu Isome worm along the sand.
The highlight was yet to come. Under the lights of the street lamps, I fancied the chance of a bass. I rigged on an LMAB Kofi Perch 7cm onto a 3g jighead, casting out into the darkness beyond the glow of the lights. Bringing it through the illuminated water it wasn’t long before I had the satisfying smack of a bass. The fight was bullish and head shaking, classic sea bass fight. Richard ran the net underneath it, after almost bumping it off!
Around the 2lb mark I lifted it up for a couple of pics, then quickly returned it. It certainly impressed the holiday makers boozily making their way around the harbour. Richard followed that up with a fine fish of his own.
To finish the evening we found a spot under a bright light. We all knew this would be a chance for scad – or horse mackerel as they are called. On LRF tackle these fish fight so hard, it didn’t take us long to find them. Bumping small soft plastics along the bottom made it easy, the scad picking up the lures with real aggression. Richard had a real beauty, as you can see below. With all of us tiring, we called it a night.
My next chance to fish came a few days later, giving the rather famous Plymouth mark called Mount Batten Pier a go. This breakwater is a real treat for ‘Lerfers’ like myself, with massive exposed boulders at low tide, in amongst them hide a vast array of species. It can be snaggy going, but with light tackle and a bit of feel for the gaps in the rock, you can avoid the worst of it.
I rigged up with the ultralight jighead again, all 0.6g of it, with a Berkley Gulp Baby Sardine, hoping to tempt out the weirdest flatfish around. Looking down in the dark crevice below me, it looked a likely place for a shadow loving mini-monster. I lowered the tiny lure down into the shadows and watched as the white ripple of a topknot’s underside came into view. My heart started racing and I knew what was coming… Tap tap on the rod tip, a quick strike and very little fight came the topknot.
Topknot’s are very unusual for flatfish because they don’t live on sandy or muddy bottoms, these fish use their suction cup shape to hang onto the underside of rocks and boulders. They ambush their prey with a large extendable mouth. With big bulbous eyes that can see almost 360 degrees, a wonky looking mouth and mottled skin, they are truly unique. No matter how many I catch I never tire of finding one.
The rest of the day was steady as I worked through my collection of scented and unscented worm imitations. I even had a couple of casts out with a little blade bait and caught what seemed to be the only mackerel of the day. In amongst the rocks I found goldsinny and corkwing wrasse, both beautiful little fish. The trick to catch them is to fish very slow, let the bite build before you strike. I even had the pleasure of a real thumping bite, from what turned out to be a tompot blenny – the biggest blenny in our waters. You can tell a tompot by the two thick tubercles on it’s head, plus the orange colouration.
Last up was one of my favourite species, although a tiny one… I received the most minuscule tap on the rod tip, striking to find a baby long spined sea scorpion on my hook. These spiny predators look mean but are harmless, unless you are another small fish or shrimp! Very aggressive, they will take lures as big as themselves. Just like the topknot, they are always welcome.
So that was a week Light Rock Fishing, proving the variety that can be found and caught on lures. In 7 days I caught 15 species, ranging from tiny gobies to hard fighting bass and mullet, all on the same rod and with a range of different tactics.
If you want to read more there are loads of fishing tales and tips on my blog – www.benbassettfishing.home.blog
You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram by searching ‘benbassettfishing’.
Thanks for reading and tight lines!