Fishing Westward Ho!
No one knows why they spend their lives in the waves, for there is little natural food off Westward Ho! Beach, but the bass are there and in great numbers at times. If you want to see a Bass swimming in its natural environment walk to the water’s edge at sunset, look through the curling waves towards the setting sun and you may be lucky enough to see this powerful fish swimming through the curl.
There are endless theories on catching Bass but there is no doubt in my mind that the simple approach is usually best, the most effective technique may vary slightly from day to day depending on the conditions.
Remember all Bass 42cm or less must be returned unharmed to the sea. It is illegal to take undersize Bass your catch limit is one fish per day.
Let’s start our Bassing trip in the river at the little fishing village of Appledore, which lies in the estuary at the far end of Westward Ho! Beach. The Quay is most famous for its weekly children’s crab fishing contest but does produce some very fine Bass at the top of the tide.
Your bait will be plagued by crabs, but given that these are the basses favorite food means you are certainly fishing in the right place! When the Bass are biting there are few places to match this easy fishing venue. There are other marks worth trying in Appledore, the big anchor by the new slip or old lifeboat slip are both favorites with the locals.
Tipsy point at Greysands is a particularly beautiful part of the estuary, soft sandy beach sheltered from the west wind you can fish over the ancient mussel beds, which have all the ingredients for magical Bass fishing trip. The memories of catching my first Bass at the age if five (sixty years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday!) after walking with my Father the two miles across Northam Burrows at 5 o’clock on a summers morning will stay in my memories forever. All of the fishing marks so far can be fished using a simple running ledger, your bait will be attacked by crabs in the river so rebait often.
In July and August the basses feeding habits change, they become ferocious predators and hunt high in the water, chasing sandeels, by mimicking the sandeels, wonderful sport can be had. At Summerlands, we have the sandeel set-up using a big plastic bubbles and special artificial sandeels. The excitement when the bass hits your sandeel cannot be described.
Zulu Bank / South Gut
At the far end of Westward Ho! Beach lies the South Gut near the river estuary, before going on to describe the technique it is important you study a map, it is all too easy to walk across the South Gut onto the infamous Zulu Bank, as the tide turns the water runs up through shallow South Gut, at this stage it looks harmless but harmless it certainly is not for within minutes you have North Devon's equivalent of the rapids. So please be careful. Westward Ho! Beach is one of the safest in the land but swimming beyond the South Gut and around into the river estuary is not recommended.
So let’s describe to you in some detail how to get to and how to fish the famous South Gut, this mark can be approached by the following options:-
You’re on the way
1. By walking 1mile down Westward Ho! Beach timing your arrival at the south gut 1 hour after low water.
2. Driving to Sandymere in the middle of Northam Burrows. A toll is charged to use this road. Cross the pebble ridge, walk straight down to the water’s edge, turn right and walk 500yds, The gate onto the Burrows is locked at dusk.
3. Drive as if going towards Appledore turn left at Watertown and drive to the end of the road, walk to the walk along the fence and from there straight on towards the edge of the sandhills across the pebble ridge turn left and walk towards Westward Ho! rounding the black pebbles! There is also a toll on the road and again closed at dusk.
The South Gut
So now we are at the South Gut, tackle up with a Bubble float and eel and leave any of your belongings well out of the way of the tide. This is a place for just an angler and his rod and the Bass!
Walk to the point where the sea meets the South Gut. Do not cast your bubble to sea; cast it towards the seaward point of Zulu Bank just opposite you. As you wind in you will see your eel being swept up the Gut, be prepared as the line tightens and your eel turns for home, and your eel seems almost close enough to lift out of the water is often when the bass will attack.
Like a flash the Bass swirls and furiously takes your eel almost at your feet! Your heart races, the rod bends and is nearly snatched from your hands, the line begins to sing in the wind, and your arms begin to ache as your Bass turns for the open sea. The monster moves away from you with the power of a Polaris submarine your reel screams in agony as the line is ripped off against the clutch! Twenty long minutes later you land your first Wild Sea Bass from South Gut, it will probably only be 8 inches long which means you must return it unharmed to the water to live to fight another day. I hope I have given you a smile; a few pointers on how to catch a small Bass and how to then turn it into a Polaris submarines and don’t forget, make your friends green with envy with the story of how you landed a Giant Wild Sea Bass caught in Westward Ho!s famous South Gut.
To finish off our Bassing trip which started on Appledore Quay it seems only right that we finish on Westward Ho! Prom, it may seem an unlikely place to catch Bass and in truth, great quantities are not caught off the prom yet hundreds of anglers love the spot. Is it the Fairway Buoy pub, which is the attraction? Or the wonderful views of the sunset which make this the favorite evening mark or is it the fact that you can park your car within yards. Perhaps it’s the company or the chance to tell the submarine story about the Bass you caught down at the South Gut! So what’s the answer, why is it so popular, it’s obvious its closest fishing mark to Summerlands Tackle home of fine fishing tackle, tall rods, and even taller stories. Every fisherman has a theory, a secret technique or a secret hot spot, that special fishing story so let me finish this leaflet with a little Westward Ho! Gem.
A fishing story never to be told! I haven’t seen anybody do this for years but Teddy Bizzel, Westward Hos! first fishing tackle shop owner and a great storyteller and still telling whoppers into his Nineties used to fish this way! He would wade out into the waves until the water was nearly up to his armpits then cast a little ball lead with a bunch of fresh lugworms just a few feet in front of him. He would let the little lead bounce away in the current and he would follow behind walking slowly through the waves. On one such occasion some twenty years ago he had no sooner cast than he saw a huge bow wave bearing down on his bait! Teddy has often tried and to tell me what happens in the following minutes off Westward Ho! Beach but always found it all too emotional and to his demise never managed to relate the events of the following minutes! Sufficient to say it must have been a mighty Bass perhaps the daddy of them all to lay dear Teddy mute.