FANCY beaching a personal best bass or small-eyed
ray? If so, this is the place to try your luck. Bigbury has a huge bay that consists of many beaches and rock marks located just 10 miles to the east of Plymouth.
The rock marks in this area are fished on a regular basis by local and travelling anglers but the beaches are rarely fished. This is not because of a lack of fish or poor fishing but because of the unknown. Most anglers stick to what they know best.
The main target species in this area are big bass and small-eyed ray. Many other species can and will be caught but, as winter draws close and the water temperature starts to drop, these are the areas where you might just pull your personal best of the above two species.
Warning! Parking can be found easily near all the marks in the form of beach car parks but roads to and from these areas are narrow and winding. During the holiday season there will be increased traffic, the water will be full with bathers and big channel swells will attract surfers from all over the southwest. Fishing will be best if you stick to early mornings, evenings or over night sessions.
Upon arriving at Bantham you will find the dead-end road leads into a small beach car park. A short walk from the car park through the sand dunes will bring you onto one of the most beautiful beaches south Devon has to offer. This is bass territory and is one of the local hotspots. The river Avon winds its way up the west side of the beach and empties into the sea, creating eddies and rip tides for bass to ambush their prey. Live sandeel fished on a running leger, flicked out among the surf and tide will be your best chance of a bigger fish, while lugworm fished hard on the bottom using a two-hook paternoster will provide all the schoolie fun you require.
When you arrive at Bigbury you will immediately notice an island that divides the beach in two. On the east side of the island you will find the River Avon and Bigbury main beach (pictured above). Bigbury beach follows the same characteristics as Bantham but during the autumn/winter changeover, many big bass fall to large fish baits in this area.
Fish big peeler crab baits in the mouth of the river on the flood tide on the main beach overnight and use whole squid mounted on a Pennell rig or a mackerel head mounted on a large single hook for the big ones.
To the west side of the island at Bigbury you will find a second beach, which forms a small corner. As the tide floods in, this beach will be cut off, so the only time it can be fished is from low to mid-tide. On southwest or west blows, the beach will pick up a decent swell and the water will be discoloured – this is the time to strike. Frozen or live sandeel will catch reasonably-sized bass and rays, while multi-hook rigs baited with lugworms will catch many school bass. Again, it is worth trying a bigger bait here on a second rod, just in case there are any bigger bass lurking.
Moving west down through Bigbury bay the next beach that you come to is Challaborough. This is a steep shingle beach with ample parking right on the seafront. Rock marks border the east and west flanks of the beach but beware in heavy seas. Both the rocks and the beach itself are not noted for producing lots of fish but what they do tend to produce is big ones. Frozen sandeel-mounted Pennell rig-style is the best tactic to adopt for the rays, while lugworm, peeler crab or live sandeel may produce a decent bass when there’s a surf running.
Mothercombe – Mouth Of The Erme
Mothercombe is a famous area – used as the set for many films. Small narrow roads often put off many anglers from fishing this area and let some of the best fishing go undisturbed. A small sand bar at the mouth of the river is the ideal haunt for bass. On bright days with clear water, huge shoals of small to medium-sized bass can be seen driving sandeels over the bar and up the river. Spinning, fishing light leads and trotting sandeels in the tide are the best tactics for the bass. Chest waders will give you a distinct advantage. The river also attracts huge mullet, so if this tickles your fancy put on your Polaroids and have a quick walk – it won’t be long before you locate them.
Mothercombe Main Beach
This is a private beach that is closed during daylight hours, for five days a week during the summer (exact days and times can be found by contacting the Fleet Estate at Modbury). A small mud path leads down to the beach. On the western rocks you will find a platform known to locals as The Rope – because you need a rope to access it! The rope produces loads of species but is also a famous small-eyed-ray mark. Adopt the usual tactics for the everyday species such as wrasse, mackerel and pollack, but fish frozen sandeel for the rays. To fish the beach, first wait for big spring tides and a good blow to push weed up the beach. Two weeks later, when the weed is starting to rot and when the next big tides reach that far up the beach, that’s when it will fish.
Devon Angling Centre, Unit 4-5, Orchard Meadow, Orchard Way, Chillington, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 2LB, Tel: 01548 580888.
TF Top Tip
Cut the head and tail from a frozen sandeel and thread it onto a Pennel rig. This is the ultimate bait for long casting for rays. If you can’t get hold of any sandeels, why not try cutting some strips of mackerel lengthways – they’re a good substitute.