Over the past two centuries, tourists have walked along many a Victorian Pier's promenade, to view the majestic scenes of the Sea at the Pier Head. Yet another world has existed for countless decades, and below a Piers traditional decks where tourists walk. In the dark shadows of pier pylons and lower decks, exists day and night, a ghostly figure of a hunter, silent and not moving.
One of the reasons why I know of such an existence, was for the fact
that I was once one of those ghosts. The names Burt Kerr, Colin Plummer
and Barry Graves will be known to most. But in the world of Sea
Angling, when it comes to Bass Fishing, the most sort after prize of
all. These figures were legends in Bass Fishing, as Specimen Hunters.
These Ghosts wearing waders, with water no more than a few feet below them, raging past as they clung onto pier pylons, and walking across the wet beams that are eventually covered by the tide, literally taking their life into their own hands. For it would take just one slip, and this would spell the end, as waders would fill up with water, and the strong ferocious currents would carry a victim off down to Davey Jones's locker!
In all weather conditions and at certain times, these specimen hunters who were only known to a few, and in the dark as ghostly figures, would hunt and seek out their prey, by looking at the water below them with a hawks eye, and studying the currents, and clarity of the water. Each season, and with the changing months, these ghostly legendary speciemen hunters endowed with an in-depth knowledge and wisdom of conditions, would know the baits and foods to use to catch their prize. Bass are renowned to be one of the most aggressive fighting fish of all. They are highly intelligent and fierce, literally tunnelling through huge wave bores catching crab, worms, and small fish, as they are tumbled around in the water like a washing machine on high spin.
From one stage of the tide to the next, as each hour passes, these ghostly specimen hunters knowing every spot and location, would move around underneath piers knowing where to try, with a natural spiritual hunters sense and confidence. Fishing is very spiritual at this level, you do connect believe me, you realize how all is connected as you find the zone. From the raging noise of crashing waves trundling through underneath a pier as you cling onto a pylon with rod in hand, all can become silent, and where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as you sense deep in the depths of the dark water below lurks a seasoned specimen bass.
These ghostly hunters demonstrated gentlemen respect towards their other peers, a silent code also existed among us, that any Bass under 3 lbs in weight was immediately thrown back, to live and fight for another day. The legends and stories of these great anglers still continue today. Somewhere in blighty there will be a night watchmen telling a tale of fact not myth. When laid on the upper deck one night was 9 Bass lined up between 4 to 10 lbs in weight each, as a ghostly figure in the form of Colin Plumber would appear for a cup of tea in the early hours of the morning air with the night watchman in his office, or hut.
Or true tales of whenever an Open Angling Competition Event was on and taking place, and where all Anglers entering the competition, would look down the list of anglers, to see if the name Barry Graves was there. For match anglers knew, even if they caught twenty average good sized fish, this Bass Hunter could turn the fortunes of an angling competition on its head, with just one bite and turn of his centre pin reel, by catching a specimen Bass to win!
The name and legend that was Burt Kerr, was synonymous with serious
Anglers, for when fishing at this level, it was never about luck, but
knowing as like a Native American India where, and when the Buffalo
would run, and be found. I had the great privilege as a young boy to
witness first hand the master at work, as he walked to a particular
part of a pier head one evening, the second week of September and
announced to me and my other Band of Brothers, the first run of Whiting
will be tonight!
And yes, the whiting came, and we all caught many, this was the master at work and in his Bass fishing exploits was that of a legend, and a cut above the rest. As a young boy, turning into a young man as a teenager, I commanded the respect of my peers as an angler, and specimen hunter for Bass and Mullet. Taught and in the company of the very best, Kerr, Plummer and Graves. In 1974 and the only time the event even happened, there was a Specimen Hunters Competition for Bass, my Angling Club Chairman suggested I entered the competition. It was known as the Angling Echo Pier Bass Championship. It was not a matter of luck regarding this challenge, for the competition ran for over six months from early April, to the end of October. It was to establish the very best in Bass Angling, to catch the biggest specimen through the entire season.
For me entering the competition was for the reckoning, knowing in myself at that time in my angling years, that there was no one in Bass, or Mullet fishing who could hold a candle to my ability and skills. The previous season I had averaged catching over 300 Mullet, and over 50 Bass over 3 lbs in weight. To put this into perspective, most sea anglers are never able to catch a single mullet in their life time. Mullet were the hardest fish to catch of all sea fish ,and Bass were the strongest and most aggressive and smartest pound for pound!
Throughout that Bass season I achieved my goals, by mid April I had the biggest specimen Bass recorded for the Competition, and later in the year when challenged, I caught another, to beat my previous weight Bass. Therefore winning the Competition outright, and even technically the runner up, as the two largest specimens were caught by myself.
As a Ghostly specimen hunter of Bass, it can be a lonely life, but one is blessed to learn nature, time, and thought. All leading to a spiritual connection with ones creator. There were many ah time I nearly lost my life, but I will let you into a little secret as I write this story today. I have always known that God loves me, and has always been there looking out for me!
For those who do not believe in something far greater, I urge you to read my book, for I know it will change your mind forever, I even recall events in the book that I can only describe as phenomena!
Written by Alastair