Bass Fishing in Small Estuaries

A Sea bass The River Deben

Now this is the kind of trip I love. Impromptu, exciting and something different. We were at our friends daughters birthday party the previous Saturday and the boys were in full conversation about fishing. After reminiscing on our fishing trips past, I kindly got invited back to Suffolk to do a bit of bass fishing on the tidal River Deben at the back of my friends parents house on the Methersgate Hall Estate in Suffolk.

After a cheeky McDonalds breakfast and a two hour trip up the A12 we arrived at the house at midday and was welcomed by Marks parents, Roger and Daphne. Their house is a dream house overlooking the River Deben. The house boasts a picture perfect English country garden that was teaming with wildlife. It is truly beautiful.

Beautiful English country garden
The cottage has its own original bakery

Some history

Sutton Hall estate near Woodbridge in Suffolk had been owned by the Quilter family for over 100 years and has recently been sold for over £30 million. Comprising of over 2177 acres of mainly arable farmland, the estate has 3.5 miles of river frontage. One of my good mates is Mark Menear and Marks’ parents actually own the idyllic house on the estate close to the river and Mark’s dad Roger has a 30 foot sailing boat moored up in the river at the bottom of the property. The new owners of the estate who I believe is a Mr Clark has recently closed the access road down to the river so poor Roger and his wife now have to do half mile diversion on foot carrying all the equipment and a pair of old wooden oars to get to their boat.

Moses Dunn

Old man walking with his fishing tackle
Captain Roger leading the way

It was a couple of hours before high tide and the plan was to take the “Moses Dunn” as she is called and head down river to one of Rogers secret fishing spots.

If you’ve never rowed a dinghy out to board a bigger boat, and then tried to get on it while the tide is flooding and it’s bobbing up and down with the wind then I would say, stick on the bucket list. It’s hilarious, nerve-racking and dangerous. For the first timer its a serious challenge, yet can be a quite satisfying experience if you make it onboard dry and with no cuts and bruises. I made it on board dry with minimal injuries and was overwhelmed with relief.

Everything went to plan under the guidance of Captain Roger. All the gear was transferred on to the boat and I was given responsibility to tie the dinghy to the back of the boat as we would be towing it around with us. There had been a little trouble with the outboard motor so to cover our butts Roger had decided that we should take the dinghy along for the ride just in case things went belly up. It was quite a responsibility due to the fact that Roger and Mark pointed out that they had lost the dingy the week before while towing it along the river. Finding it fifteen minutes away washed on to the shore.

Lets go bass fishing

We set sail down (it was a sailing boat) up the river against the tide for about fifteen minutes heading towards Felixstowe which was eleven miles in the distance. Roger isn’t just a sailor, he is an expert with the fish finder and when it comes to bass fishing. He knows where The water here was around five feet deeper than the rest of the river and it was there that we would spend the day. Mark dropped the anchor overboard and the only thing to do now was to get our lines in the water.

Sea fishing hooks
Size 1 hooks with some beads for attraction. Use what makes you feel confident
  • Rod: 7′ Zenoflex
  • Reel: Abu Garcia multiplier
  • Main Line: 25lb Daiwa
  • Trace: 15lb Daiwa Sea
  • Hooks: Mustard 3261BLN Size 1

Bass Fishing Setup

My bass fishing equipment is nowhere near as up-to-date as my coarse and fly fishing gear. I own several cheap boat rods that I have acquired over the years and I use them when I am bass fishing in and around the Thames estuary or Brighton. These are accompanied with a couple of ABU multipliers with a 50lb shock leader 25lb mono main line.

Like I always say, “the fish don’t care about what gear you’re using”. It’s all about the presentation of your bait. Your gear only starts to become important when you have mastered the method or the technique. Terminal tackle was going to be simple. I would be using a running rig with the tried and trusted Red Zip slider boom. A four ounce breakaway lead with a four foot 15lb mono trace, with some 4mm coloured beads to add some attraction. And a rubber stopper to stop the beads flying up the trace, and a size 1 Mustard 3261BLN Aberdeen hook.

Bait for Bass fishing

Ragworm and squid fishing bait
Jurassic ragworm tipped with squid

Roger had managed to get in touch with Steven Spielberg and got us some amazing ragworm from Jurassic Park. They were huge. We also has a bag of squid as a back up and to tip our bait off with. Tipping your bait with a strip of squid adds another colour to you bait as well as added additional scent and movement as it flaps in the current. We broke the worms up into smaller 4 inch pieces and tipped them off with a small strip of squid.

There wasn’t a ton of room to cast so we simply gently cast over the side. My bait hadn’t been in the water for a couple of minutes and I started to get some little knocks. Sixty seconds later and an 8oz bar of silver was on board. It was perfectly hooked in the mouth and was back in the water in a matter of seconds. Over the next hour or so we all started getting bites and Roger and Mark managed a couple of schoolies and the day was looking good.

British Shore crab
If only they were edible

As with most sea fishing, crabs can be an absolute pain in the arse, and today would be no exception. For those of you who have never experienced it you spend thirty seconds perfectly presenting your bait on your hook. Crab then strip it bear in thirty seconds after you cast it in. It’s incredibly frustrating constantly baiting up but it’s one of them occupational hazards.


Roger managed to avoid most of the crabs as he had set a boom about three feet up the line. What we should have done was to have a one up, one down rig. This would cover more water and keep at least one of the baits fishing for longer. If a crab got hold of the bottom hook, the one higher up would still be fishing. You can use a type of pop up ball on your line to keep your bait off the bottom. You can even inject some air into the worms to help give them more buoyancy. I have tried using several fluro pink 12mm carp pop ups to try and get my baits off the bottom. These are placed on the trace close to the hook before, but I was never convinced of its effectiveness.

When boat or pier fishing I see most people casting over the side and then putting their rod down and waiting for something to hang itself. I believe a lot of anglers really miss out on the excitement of the bites. If possible I always try and hold the rod away from the boat so it is not touching. This gives me absolute connection with the fish and allows me to have a strike instantly. You can feel everything. Pieces of weed hitting the line, as well as small fish pecking at your bait. I believe it has also given me a much larger catch rate. I have the ability to instantly strike and hook fish which may not have been caught otherwise.

The tide is turning

We continued to get a few bites and odd bass, but as high tide came and our lines slackened off the fishing slowed right down.

School Sea Bass
Fin perfect

When the tide is running in either direction you get plenty of action with the tide moving your bait around in the water.

The problem is a high tide it just sits there and you’re waiting for a fish to find it on the deck.

The tide finally turned but we didn’t allow for was the amount of seaweed that was coming down the river. Every cast we started to bring up huge amounts of seaweed attached to our leads. We did manage manage a few fish in between the weed with Mark landing the biggest fish of the day. Only 10oz, but it was more than welcome.

It’s not all about the fishing

Unfortunately for this bass fishing expedition, the bigger fish never showed up. But when you’re out on the river with only the lapping of water on the side of the boat, the gentle bobbing up and down and the squawking of the gulls around you, the fishing can quite often play second fiddle to the day as a whole.

School bass caught by fisherman
Small but beautiful

A dozen perfect little school bass between us and it was time to leave.

It was three hours after high tide and we decided to raise the anchor.

Mark washed down the deck and we packed away our tackle and made our way back to the quayside. Billy Smarts hilarious circus act of getting back on the dingy was imminent, and this time we would be having to do it backwards. I’d been dreading this bit all day. I had visions of falling off the boat and having to swim to the muddy shore. To be honest I nailed it and would be driving home dry.

We walked quickly walk back to the cottage and had a quick cup of tea. Goodbyes were said with a promise from all of us to get back out on the boat in September. A huge thank you must go to Roger, Daphne and Mark for setting up such a memorable day. Roll on September.

The Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society can be found here

Be sure to check out some of my other fishing adventures