Bass fishing with a twist

Being the avid deep sea and light tackle boat angler that I am, many anglers wouldn’t view me as a bass angler…

…but this would be a massive misinterpretation if it were the case. At the tender age of just 4, my dad started teaching me how to fish. What better way than in farm dams, for bass and tilapia – the perfect start for a youngster keen on angling. A fresh water sports fish like bass will give an exciting acrobatics show – good enough to send a 4 year olds senses in divergent directions, helping them reach maximum excitement levels and get them hooked on fishing!

Since that first day I went bass fishing with my dad, it has stuck with me and become a favourite pastime. Especially when you have 2 hours to spare in between a busy university schedule and feel like catching a fish or two. I may not be the most professional bass angler around, but I enjoy targeting big fish in farm dams, particularly big fish that have the whit to outsmart me on occasions, using my own methods I have come across over the years.

Catching the bass

Bass fishing is very technical as anglers have to know all the different artificials to use in various conditions. Artificials are the conventional way to target bass, but I like to shake things up a bit. My secret for big bass in farm dams is live bait, my favourite being your common platanna (aka the African clawed frog), which I net in the farm dams prior to fishing. If I can’t get hold of platannas, I try to net baby tilapias or baby bass, which also work well. The adjacent diagram illustrates my hook placement, which is just through the skin in the thigh. I prefer using a wide gap hook, about size 4/0 or 5/0, attached to my main line (I use double X 4kg IGFA rated tournament line in a clear colour) with a bubble float above it to prevent the frog from diving into structure. Once the frog is rigged up, I throw it in near structure and leave it until the float is taken under water, indicating a bite. In the interim I throw in top water lures, mostly poppers. The sight of a big bass smashing a top water lure out the water is one that many bass anglers live for and I often end up in a sticky situation with a fish on the top water and a fish on the live bait rod.

Cooking the bass

Many anglers would never let the thought of cooking bass even cross their mind, but – in actual fact – bass tastes much the same as any fish out of the sea. Bass have white flesh and don’t have the distinctive muddy taste of a freshwater fish.

After filleting your bass (if cooking it after catching it) or taking it out the deep freeze (first allowing it to defrost) salt it lightly with ground salt and leave it to firm in the fridge for around 45 minutes. This allows the salt to soak into the meat and the flesh firms up for the braai. After taking it out the fridge, coat it with fish spice. Take a bowl with some butter and garlic and microwave it for around 1 minute to make a garlic butter.

Next, you’ll need to take a whole lemon and squeeze it into the garlic butter so that you now have a garlic lemon butter. With a coating brush you need to baste both the meat and skin side of the fish before placing it into a fish grid to place it on the braai (don’t forget spray and cook on the fish grid if you don’t want it to stick to the grid!).

Allow the fish to cook skin side down until the skin starts to bubble and the skin turns white (indicating the fish is nearly cooked) which takes around 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the heat of the fire. Continue basting the meat side of the fish as the butter cooks into the meat. When the skin starts bubbling and the flesh turns white, coat the meat side once more with your garlic lemon butter and turn the meat side down to the coals. Leave it for around 2 minutes to allow the meat to brown.

You can now serve the fish with bread and lemon slices… enjoy!

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