Bass fishing: Midi-Pyrenees, South-western France
Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to bass fish in countries such as China, France and South Africa. Despite the uniqueness in each of those destinations, nothing could come close to what I’ve seen in the hills of the Midi-Pyrenees, South-western France. Armed with the knowhow of locals, Illex (France) tournament angler Sylvain Garza and Luckycraft (France) field-staff David Mailland alongside, I chanced upon this rare opportunity to experience bass fishing in a semi-private pond in the picturesque Lot valley with positive results.
As a matter of fact, most anglers outside France wouldn’t even consider the Midi-Pyrenees as a bass fishing destination. But, as of the past few years or so, that’s not quite the case. All thanks to the diligence of Sylvain Garza, he’s managed to create something which the average bass angler in Western Europe could ever dream of. A few years ago, he found this pond in a semi-rural village and stocked it with bass from the south of the country. At present, the pond is home to a healthy population of Northern strain largemouth bass. As for Sylvain, the pond is currently his ‘unofficial’, private sight fishing playground.
In terms of conditions, the pond is pretty much dominated by floating vegetation of mostly lily pads and reeds along the shoreline. Clarity isn’t that great (as shown in the picture). But, a decent pair of polarized sunglasses could simply add a foot to your vision and that’s good news if you’re sight fishing on the bank.
My first Midi-Pyrenean bass
To me, bass fishing in Sylvain’s semi-private pond is all about sight tactics and anyone with the correct tackle and some bass fishing experience won’t find the fishing tough. Though I’ve sight fished for species such as peacock bass and snakehead in Malaysia, this was actually my first shot at sight fishing for bass. Though I don’t claim to be an expert in all things sight fishing, I do know that a pair of decent quality polarized sunglasses is a vital piece of equipment that’ll enable you to spot fish before you can even catch them.
With the correct gear in hand, sight fishing in Sylvain’s pond was a pretty straightforward affair. In fact, I was there during the height of the spawning period and it didn’t take long for me to catch my Midi-Pyrenean bass. Dialling-in an effective pattern for such a small pond wasn’t a big deal and it was an occasion where finesse jigs and Senkos would rule the water.
By midday, we’d switch up to weightless soft plastics as we continued our search for bigger fish in deeper water. Though the pond hasn’t really seen much pressure from other anglers, the big bass in the deep water don’t just fall for any bait and one of the most effective ways to catch these finicky fish is nearly always the ‘flick shake’ or ‘wacky rig’.
To me, wacky rigging for bass is all about the Senko. Instead of using a Senko, Sylvain prefers the Jackall Neon Flick worm. Although both these baits are made of 'salt impregnated' material, I noticed several differences. On freefall, the Senko with its end tapering cylindrical cross-sectional body sinks in a horizontal-like wavy fashion. In contrast, the Neon Flick worm has a curved body for better squirming action. Although the Senko has long been ‘THE’ go-to bait for wacky rigs, on that occasion the Neon Flick accounted for most of the quality fish. In my opinion, its durability was a tad better. For the record, I caught all of my quality Midi-Pyrenean bass on just one Neon Flick worm. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember catching that many fish in one day on any wacky rigged 4” Senko that I’ve used.
Though the largemouth is officially labelled as an invasive species in France, their value as a game fish is well and truly understood by the small population of enthusiast bass anglers in the country. Compared to the U.S.A, bass fishing is still in its infancy in France.
Introduced in the South of France in the late 1800’s, even after more than a century, bass fish stocks aren’t really great and it certainly can’t fulfil the current angling demographics of the country. For a start, there aren’t that many public bass fisheries. Furthermore, due to immense angling pressure, anglers would usually keep all those good fisheries, which are usually private waters, all to themselves and their small circle of like-minded counterparts.
In truth, decent bass lakes are scarce and non-French speakers, such as me, would often find the language barrier difficult when it comes to access to information on bass fishing topics in France. Though I felt honoured to have received an invite to fish with Sylvain in his private pond, I’d to promise not to divulge its location for all good reasons. In that, I do hope that the situation of bass fishing in France would improve in the near future because I look forward to a return trip for more big bass action in this rather ‘exotic’ location.
Until the next time, fish hard, fish well and god bless.
I would like to thank Mr. Bill Siemantel at theBBZ for giving me this opportunity to present to you this short feature on bass fishing in the Midi-Pyrenees, South-western France.
About the author
Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D., is freelance writer and international columnist for SA Bass (South Africa) and Rod&Line (Malaysia), Lurevision (Shanghai, China) and mechanical engineer by profession. He is also a field-staff for Sunline and Majorcraft (UK and Ireland) and TCE Sports Daiwa (South East Asia). He has published more than 60 feature length articles in angling magazines in countries such as South Africa, Malaysia, England, France and China.