(Toulouse, south-west France)
Urban Bassin’ in France
Unlike North America, the majority of anglers in literally hundreds of bass fishing locations across South-western Europe do not necessarily have the means to fish on large bodies of water, so to speak. With the high cost in boat ownership and differences in the region’s geographic makeup whereby bass is neither abundant nor widespread in Europe, anglers of this part of the world end up with shoreline fishing as their only option. Toulouse, south-west France, is a good example. Instead of big water fisheries, the urban ponds, small lakes and canals within the city limits, forms the core of the region’s growing bass fishing industry.
In this instalment, please allow me to share with you the story of my day at one of the many urban ponds within the city limits. Thanks to my host, David Mailland (field staff for Luckycraft, France), I chanced upon an opportunity to bass fish in the city’s ‘Aerospace Valley’. More precisely, let us talk about ‘sight fishing’ in muddy ponds and how you face up to the murky situation in summer when bass in the region move onto beds.
The Murky Situation
I have bank fished for bass on many occasions and have had tremendous success in quite a few urban ponds in Toulouse. But, for every pond that I have fished, one particular condition is common throughout the region and that would be muddy water. With the ever increasing angling pressure in the region’s fisheries, muddy water is no doubt another challenge seasoned anglers would need to overcome. Though the average angler would give up and head back home as opposed to trying to make the most out of the murky conditions, for me as an angler from overseas, going back to my hotel room is clearly not an option.
To start with, as a bank angler, your options will no doubt be limited. Alternatively, you could either look for areas with ‘clearer water’ or try different ponds. But chances are, conditions in those other ponds will not be too different. In most urban ponds, the main cause of murky water is suspended clay. In many instances, visibility could be as low as 6 inches or worse if there is persistent rain. In fact, the south of France is a very wet region, though it has a temperate climate that is usually classified as humid subtropical. And, though Toulouse is located at the junction with the Mediterranean climate zone, the region’s annual rainfall is significantly higher than that in the near south. Even in mid-summer, as the weather trend begins to stabilize, most urban ponds do not often clear up. In that, fishing in murky water, to the local bass anglers, is just one of the many seasonal hurdles. Though cold muddy water is usually an angler’s worst nightmare, if you use it to your advantage, warm muddy water is otherwise.
Target in Sight
In perpetually muddy or stained water, bank anglers in many locales have trouble understanding the effectiveness of sight fishing. But, in water that is too muddy to see under the surface, sight fishing is not technically the precise term, as explained by Elite Series pro Byron Velvick in one of his articles for Bassmaster.com.
In this instance, we were fishing in ponds with water of mere 6 inches to 3 feet deep. Apart from shoreline cover, most urban ponds can appear to be quite featureless on the surface. Even with the best polarized optics and under bright sunlight, cover is always hard to find. In water that is really stained, you just got to focus on anything that is in the pond. During the spawning season, you are obviously going to want to keep your eyes glued to the water at all times. Because of the near zero visibility, you will be looking for the occasional bass rise whereby the fish would momentarily suspend for seconds before vanishing into deeper water. In most cases, an accurate cast is all it takes to elicit a reaction bite.
Unlike fishing on big lakes, pond bass fishing is not about covering vast amounts of water. Just like boat positioning out on a lake, you start by picking a ‘vantage point’. But in the confines of urban ponds, you ought to minimize the frequency of your casts and not spook any bedding fish. Basically, you got to be at the right place and the right time, visualize the situation underwater, with your lure in hand and be prepared to pitch it to any rising bass.
Baits for Muddy Ponds
Bait selection for muddy pond fishing must be based on vibration or water displacement in order to draw a reaction. For small urban ponds, jigs and Senko will enable you to tackle a wide variety of conditions far better than any other moving lures. If you are using jigs, rig the largest possible trailer. I usually go with 3/8oz football head jig with 4” trailers. If the situation calls for it, I will downsize to 1/4oz with 3.5” trailers instead. I use two setups, a baitcasting combo with heavy line and a spinning combo with light line for finesse fishing.
When the water is muddy or really stained, bass tend to hunt by feel and scent. But, I do not discount the fact that they cannot see their way in muddy water. Even though we can only see 6 inches, a bass could possibly see farther. Because of that, I prefer using dark color schemes such as black, dark brown, blood red, dark blue and etc.
Fishing in muddy water is not an easy task, but if you take your time to figure things out and use the murky situation to your advantage, your catch ratio will improve greatly.
Until the next time, fish hard, fish well and god bless.
I would like to thank Bill Siemantel at theBBZ for giving me this opportunity to present to you this short feature on urban bass fishing in Toulouse, France.
About the author
Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D., is freelance writer and international columnist for SA Bass (South Africa) and Rod&Line (Malaysia), Lure Vision (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 70 feature length articles in angling magazines in countries such as South Africa, Malaysia, England, France and China. Blog: http://thefishingboy.blog138.fc2.com