Sunday, 8 December 2013

7/12/13 Colourful Clowns Of The Sea.

My mate Brian was keen to have a bash at vertical lure fishing with soft plastics and as the water clarity 'out there' was still very good, I suggested that we give it a try  on the inshore reef marks again hunting wrasse. Of course, there was always an outside chance of stumbling across a bass shoal.
We did take some bait with us, just in case, but the general consensus of opinion locally is that we need a good blow to stir things up a bit, and improve the general bottom fishing for cod and whiting , which has been rather poor of late.
The  6m tide meant staying in the general area of a mark( #9) that actually benefits from the larger tidal movements, and still allows vertical fishing with s.p lures with a manageable (up to 3oz) nose weight.
I tend to avoid expensive jig heads, and opt instead for a plain drilled bullet on the short 2ft mono trace  tied direct to the braid. The bullet is fixed  against the lure with a silicone rig stop. The lure is rigged 'texas' style with a 'worm' style hook (lure guru Pete Cook recommends 'Nogales Monster Class 'and they're excellent) tied direct to the trace. The rig is fairly snag free but, as your fishing tight to the bottom on sometimes,  extremely rough terrain, losses must be expected.
Rod and reel wise, I prefer a short bait caster style rod (mine's a 6ft 6in jigging rod rated at 40/60g) matched to a tiny Abu 4501 multiplier loaded with 20lb braid, though any light spinning gear will suffice. This outfit means that even the smaller wrasse, bass and pollack will give good sport, and it is great fun.
My lure choice leans towards 4-6 inch green or purple (anything dark) worms for the wrasse, moving to lighter coloured shad style lures IF a bass shoal is located . The bass , if feeding, seem to be less fussy but, size of lure seems to be important and if its possible to 'match the hatch', for example, if you know that small sprats are about, then do so with something about 4in long and silver or white.
 When going for the wrasse, pinning the lure on the sea bed seems to be the way to go. I leave the multiplier out of gear with my thumb resting on the spool and am constantly feeding line to achieve this, retrieving should the depth reduce.
Rod action is so subtle that it's barely noticeable and the rocking motion of the boat actually needs to be counteracted sometimes . Prior to going out I rigged a worm bait in the marina and watched how it behaved. Even a slight 4in movement on the rod tip made the lure look very realistic and enticing.
I find that keeping the lure as vertical as possible underneath the boat enables you to hook more fish , and the nose weight should be adjusted accordingly.
When rigged with a heavy, say 3oz bullet weight, the rig appears to look 'wrong'. However, it doesn't seem to put the fish off at all and in fact, I believe that the disturbance caused by the heavy weight bumping the sea bed actually attracts the wrasse.
Again, with the bass, albeit if they choose to feed, the action seems to require less subtlety and in fact at times by simply retrieving the lure slowly, they can be induced to take up in the water column.
Wrasse takes sometimes need a little bit of time to develop, especially when using a 'shrouded' hook but the bass will more than likely hit the lure quite hard and will be hooked at the first indication.
As soon as we arrived at the mark it was clear on the sounder that pockets of wrasse were present and we hit them straight away and before long, lost count.
 The wrasse came steadily throughout the day .Most were in the 2lb bracket, with the odd better fish, in a variety of colours and a couple of stray bass also turned up to add variety. A short move to my 'basking shark' mark gave Brian the biggest of the day with a new personal best fish of 5lb on the nose and indeed, this mark did seem to produce bigger specimens but in less numbers.
As darkness approached I did notice some bird activity over our original mark and suggested a return. On arrival, the sounder 'came alive' with a small dense shoal of  what was obviously bass and we were immediately amongst them taking a couple each , Brian got a good'n, before we lost the shoal after the second drift.
We continued to scan the area but to no avail and although,I'd been  careful trying to skirt around where I thought they were located when returning to re-drift but, I either spooked them, or they were moving extremely fast because no sooner had we located them, than they were gone-vanished completely.
By then it was completely dark and time to return home but we'd had a good session and Brian commented how much he'd enjoyed doing something a bit different which I found personally, extremely satisfying.
This sort of fishing does provide an welcome winter alternative to conventional bait fishing methods when conditions suit, and does have the capability of producing a cod or two as my marina neighbours brothers Clive and  Kim Hodges have recently proved.
Wrasse, probably because they aren't usually considered to be a table fish, are not everyone's cup of tea granted, but they do provide superb sport on light gear and, as Brian pointed out to me, are a bit more fun than hauling up doggies and channels whilst waiting for the conditions to improve for cod hunting.
Personally, I enjoy fishing for anything (doggies included) but will be curious to see how far the wrasse fishing can be pushed and just how big we can get them locally.Pete reckons they hang around all year and there are 'monsters' out there with 8 pounders being caught in nets. An 8lb ballan wrasse...wouldn't that be something.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

4/12/13 Jupiter's Moon...One Year On.

I've now been running my Warrior 175 Export 'Jupiter's Moon' for just over a year , have completed nearly 50 trips  in her, and clocked up close to 120 hours of engine running time, so it would be a good time to reflect, and try to give an objective appraisal on how she's performed.
The biggest problem when trying to source information about boats prior to considering a purchase, is getting objective information from owners. Everybody, it would seem, loves their particular boat and in some respects ,why shouldn't they.They have ,in all likelihood, spent a considerable amount of hard earned cash on their 'pride and joy'.
Reputation goes a long way in the boating world particularly in the small fishing boat sector. Our local manufacturer is Orkney boats of Arundel, their factory being just a couple of miles from the marina where I park my boat. They're a very popular craft round our way and, rightly so, because  despite being expensive, In my opinion they do build some very fine boats to a very high standard , 'word' gets around, and similarly, by their very nature boats frequently get passed on second hand and stay in the locale.
I did come very close indeed to buying another Orkney. It was the price that prevented me from doing so, and the fact that I'd discovered Warriors. Well, I'd seen one on the water and plenty of photographs and spiel about them on the internet!
There are no Warriors at all in Littlehampton but, in other parts of the country they are  extremely popular.They have a very high production rate, have enjoyed a long production run,and command  high second hand prices on the boat market. It was mainly for these reasons that I chose to buy one myself. Surely, all those Warrior buyers couldn't be wrong....could they?
Buying 'new' is a considerable financial gamble, and will only be of benefit if I choose to keep the boat long term.I'll let you know on this score.
 I did go for a test ride in a standard 175 at the Southampton boat show but, in reality, this was a meaningless exercise and I probably did it just because I thought I should do so before agreeing to buy. In truth, I'd already decided to buy one anyway. I remember leaving the show feeling very impressed with the 175 but, in reality a ten minute spin in any fast fishing boat on flat water would have impressed me on that day.
The only prior decision I'd made about what type of boat I was going to buy was that, despite keeping her on a mooring at a marina, I wanted a boat that could be trailered . This , as you'll see from the fun I've had travelling to catch sharks this year, did indeed prove to be the right move but there is also the fact that being able to easily recover the boat myself to carry out maintenance and repairs has also been a big advantage.
Which leads me conveniently on to the first major problem I had with 'Jupiter' . Very early on in my ownership, in fact after she'd only just  had her first ten hour service, my fuel line fractured. Luckily, I'd noticed the petrol spilling on the surface water whilst still on the marina so I quickly dragged her out and investigated the problem.
The main fuel line had been very badly routed causing it to be restricted and eventually split. Not only was the Suzuki design very poor, but the fuel line material wasn't really up to the job so I replaced the whole line myself with something much stronger, chose a better route and have just kept a close eye on it. Not really something you'd expect on a ten grand motor.
To be honest, I couldn't be bothered messing around with the warranty and as it was such a quick and easy fix I just did it myself. At least it had been an excuse to get a good look under the engine cowling and see what was what with my engine.
This leads me nicely on to servicing. The engine comes with a three year warranty but, you have to have it serviced by an 'approved' Suzuki dealer and get the book stamped to maintain said warranty.
I've no complaints at all about the mechanic that services my engine but, like all marine engineers, his services aren't cheap, especially when you consider exactly what he does and this is compounded by the amount of use I'm giving my engine, which in itself is no bad thing in as all things mechanical benefit from being used. It just means that the service interval occurs more frequently.
 After nine months of use, i'd had two services already at a total cost of about £600. At this rate, I could buy a new engine soon enough.
Now I accept that for those of you who aren't mechanically minded you're probably happy to pay the price but personally, I'm not and, despite the perceived risk, will in future service the engine myself at a fraction of the cost, bin the warranty and accept the consequences. However I would say that, unless you're quite experienced with wielding spanners and know your way around engines in general, leave it to someone who does. I'll let you know in two years time if this has been the right decision.
Apart from the fuel line fault and a very slight vibration at 4000 r.p.m which I've grown used to, the main engine has performed very well so far, returns an overall fuel consumption of about a litre per nautical mile, is smooth and quiet and has more than enough power for my needs.
The 6hp auxillery engine has not been used in an emergency yet, but is started and properly warmed up regularly, pushes the boat as well as can be expected and despite sitting on the back for a year still looks like new.
 I do need to remember to drain the carb before removing for transportation however as it does leak and gives one a bit of a headache when stored inside the van on long journeys. To be fair, it does advise this procedure in the handbook.
Ah, the handbook, yes! There's a thing.
 You would have thought that in this day an age you'd be able to rely 100% on the information printed within a handbook for an outboard engine costing a grand, wouldn't you? Not in the Suzuki 6hp one I'm afraid.
It mistakenly misleads you into thinking that the flushing plug is in fact the engine oil drain plug! There's even an incorrectly annotated diagram to accompany the text. Follow the instructions and the least you'd do would be to create a terrible oily mess, and for those with less savvy, you might even flush your oil ways out with water-definitely not good for your engine.
 Luckily, I spotted it immediately but, in all honesty, its a poor show.
 In similar fashion to the main engine, I've chosen to abandon the warranty on the 6hp too. Its simple enough to do myself and the cost of paying a mechanic to do three full services would pay for a new engine!
Right, I've torn the outboards to pieces, what about the boat.
First of all, don't be deceived into thinking that it will be an 'easy ride' launching and recovering your 175 using your average family saloon as tow vehicle. The package weighs close to a ton and a half without an auxillery, some fuel, and a bit of fishing kit on board. It can be done, but you will need to choose your slipway with some care. A 4wd vehicle would be a big advantage with a boat of this size.
 I manage with my 2WD VW T4 van but it does take some 'learned' skills,careful use of my van's clutch,  and forward thinking. I must say that, the roller trailer is a work of art and actually getting the boat on and off  is very easy process indeed, and you only need to just get the bottom of the tyres wet to do this.
I've no complaints about the 'on road' manners whatsoever. The 'rig' stays exactly where you want it to-safe and sound and my van has coped admirably with some very steep, and tight Devon and Cornwall back roads. A little bit more power would be nice but I'm not going to change vehicles and will just live with it nursing my clutch in the process.
I do have some minor criticisms of the boat itself.
 Warrior supply a rod rail/bait board as an optional extra but when fitted, two of the rear rod tube holders are unusable-doh. The bait board gets in the way and takes care of that. With hindsight, it would have been nice if Warrior had told me this and I'd have repositioned the holders from new. Luckily I've got eight more to choose from.
A piece of trim continually falls off, one of the switch panel backlights has failed, and the seat boxes allow deck water to get underneath the seal but these are all easily remedied issues albeit, a tad shoddy.
When originally specced up, I wanted a search light fitted and this has proved to be invaluable on really dark nights although, when there's a moon, I allow my night vision to naturally adapt. However, the lamp fitting bracket is painted mild steel and has rusted. Again, a bit shoddy.

All the above are , in the grand scheme of things,  minor critisms that can be easily remedied-others may not feel the same way having bought a brand new boat  but,'each to their own'
  The overall build quality of the Warrior  and its fittings , especially when compared to other boats(Orkneys excepted) is excellent. Mine still looks like new, apart a few tiny knocks which must be expected, and its quite common to see old Warriors still looking very good indeed after some years of use.
On the sea which is, I suppose where things really count, I've got no complaints. Apparently , the heavier standard 175 handles better according to those 'in the know' because of the extra weight. I'm not 'in the know', so can't comment.
 This boat is certainly fast enough (I average 20kts-she'll do 30 plus if I've got the balls for it),and is  able to maintain a good speed when things 'kick up' a bit and feels very sure footed.
She planes quickly and easily and holds a 'level' ride , keeping things very smooth. Slamming? what slamming? I drive her so she doesn't slam. Go get a 'cathedral' hull if you wanna 'slam'.
Freeboard is excellent, which is extremely important for someone of my dimensions , and in fact one guest crew of normal stature actually commented that it was a bit too high for him and would make returning his bass a little awkward.
She sits well at anchor and behaves herself in a following sea though its rare that a following sea can catch me up
Beam and head seas are just brushed aside and, from my experience, despite popular 'forum' opinion, she's a relatively 'dry' boat  compared to many I've ridden in, though the excellent optional folding canopy is a massive boon and provides good protection from weather at both ends of the spectrum when fishing as well as motoring.
The seats are a brilliant design,and  driving position(custom fit) and visibility are all first class. In thick fog, I can stand to helm  and easily get the best  possible vision over the cuddy roof. I could fit a wiper to one of the screens and indeed this has been suggested but personally, I don't think it will be necessary. I can see out fine-Rain-X sees to that.
Its fashionable on the forums to 'knock' Lowrance electronics. The standard package has proved to be easy to use and it's caught me plenty of fish and got me where I wanna go so I've no complaints.
Anchoring through the hatch is easy though, if you're any wider than me it might become an issue.
A cushion on the forward seat, which you kneel on when hauling, would be a welcome addition.
Choosing the Export version mainly for the removable fuel tanks and uncluttered deck has given me a huge , usable 'working' space which I've begun to really appreciate. I've fished three people with no problems on two occasions, one a long distance 28nm shark run,  though obviously two anglers would be more comfortable. Weight distribution is nowhere near as critical as you might think on a boat of this size and the final testament-bigger boats on the marina don't go out any more, nor stay out any longer than I do and believe me, I'm careful.
Despite the high original cost, and to be fair, she wasn't cheap, the first year of ownership has really broadened my fishing horizons and I've been able to do a lot more than I expected mainly because, with the speeds available to me, long distances are no longer an issue.
Boats are very personal things and most people tend to go with what they have, and learn to love them. I actually believe that , with notable exceptions which are generally widely known about, there are very few 'bad' boats manufactured nowadays.
I've tried to highlight the 175's faults in this 'review' , and also attempted to be objective but its been tricky as I've had so much enjoyment with her this past year. Long term ownership is beginning to look more likely. What's unlikely, unless I suddenly become very wealthy and get bored of catching sharks, Is that I'll want to 'down grade' to a bigger boat. There's a lot to be said for being happy with  your' lot'.
Overall, I'm very happy indeed with 'Jupiter', in fact, as a truly functional 'fishing machine', glitches aside,
 I cannot find fault with her..............but I would say that wouldn't I.......after all.......she's mine!

Don't forget...Got anything to say??? Leave a comment or drop me an email. ''

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

2/12/13 Big Pigs.

Today's plan involved a dual approach of both drifting with lures, and fishing at anchor with baits. One of my marina neighbours Mark, had inspired me with a tale of a 6lb wrasse that he'd caught, albeit on ragworm,  and that, as well as the fact that there was still a chance that the bass shoals would  be about, and it was a BIG 6m tide with plenty of (clear)water movement had me digging into my collection of soft plastic lures.
By the time I reached mark #6 ,my starting point, the ebb tide was well and truly underway, and  with up to 2kt drift speed I was soon looking to increase nose weights to keep the lures fishing relatively vertical. It was immediately clear from the sounder , that fish were present although in small numbers and, first run through produced a ballan of about 3lb on a Fiiiish minnow so , a good start.
Strangely, that was the only take on that part of the reef so I gradually headed west scanning the rocks and continually searching with my lures until I reached mark 9.
I've got a lot of confidence in this mark primarily because of its rugged nature, but also because I've picked up so much from here in the past and once again fish were showing on the sounder. To begin with I was getting a few bumps and a dropped fish or two but , a change to a darker green home brewed shad seem improve things with a couple more decent wrasse to the boat and a Pollack.
A change again to a very dark (purple)grub worm lure, and things really kicked off. The wrasse took the smaller lure much more confidently and I soon lost count of the chunky 3-5lb ballans that were coming up punctuated with the odd Pollack.
Occasionally, I managed to locate a  bigger shoal of 'something' that showed no interest whatsoever in ,whatever I literally, dropped right on their heads. Judging from what I've seen on the sounder before, and caught in good numbers, I'm pretty sure I'd located bass shoals but despite re-drifting them several times, they just were not interested in anything I showed them.
Perhaps the 8 degree celcius surface water temperature was having an effect on them.
 I later discovered that a fellow marina bass enthusiast had located the same the previous day, but had to wait for the tide to flood before getting a take.
I wasn't too bothered with the lack of bass as these ballans really give a tremendous account of themselves fighting all the way up to the boat especially on the light baitcaster outfit I was using.
Despite my continued enthusiasm at (trying) to catch them, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that, given their undeniably handsome good looks, sometimes, our beloved 'labrax' can be a bit lacklustre in the 'fight' department. I can't comment too much on their eating qualities because most of mine go back,but the words 'overrated' and 'fashionable' spring to mind.(That should stir a few of you up)
Eventually takes on #9 slowed down so I moved west yet again to some really interesting ground near #7 and found my colourful friends in attendance yet again on the small worm lures this time getting a really good fish at 5lb 12oz- a new personal best for the specie. That's a 24in landing net frame.
As the big tide reached its slack low period I noticed , what at first I thought was a basking shark fin in the distance. I must have sharks permanently on my brain because I immediately shot over to investigate only to discover that the 'shark fin' was an abandoned black pot buoy marker uncovered by the big tide.
Quite by accident , on reaching the buoy I spotted a flash of green on the sounder , had stumbled across yet another piece of interesting ground to add to my mark list and yet again, it produced a couple more nice wrasse.
As darkness fell I decide to call a halt to the lure fishing, it had  been great fun, and head over to #28 to anchor up with baits and wait a couple of hours for the tide to flood enough for me to be able to get across the bar safely.
I really enjoy night fishing and always soak up the atmosphere when I get the chance to do some. Once the tide had turned a few decent sized whiting took my small baits along with the inevitable dogs and fat pout but my big strip of cuttle was pretty much left to soak, untaken. Still, it was a pleasant way to pass the time and I soon had enough  whiting for tea, and water over the bar to get home, making good use of my spotlight to safely navigate without tangling with any hidden fixed gear on a very black night indeed.