Neil from Baitdigger’s Blog gives us an insight into fishing in Co Clare.  With over 40 years experience, there’s no better man! Here Neil catches a pb shore caught tope that bottomed out his 40lb scales. He has no idea what it weighed but people have estimated it was between 45-50lb: –

Another June day goes past. Weather and tides looked favourable so to start the day I needed a bucket of mackerel. They were not giving themselves up but I had more than enough for the day within a hour, which left me  to decide what I could do for the next few hours until I was able to get to the tope mark. I found a big set of coloured feathers on the rocks so I set about shortening them to a more manageable length. Close to the reef on the retrieve a good whack and a bit of a fight produced a nice pollack of around two pounds, which is one of the largest I have seen from this mark.It was incredibly lucky I dont rate pollack as tope bait and he went straight back.  There are lots of about a pound but they seldom get to grow any bigger. It had taken the yellow feather half way up the string.

Summer in don't think so !
Summer in don't think so !

I had brought my bass rod so I had a wander around the rocks for the next few hours looking at marks that I had been to before but never taken much notice of because they appeared too shallow or too difficult to fish. The colour was beginning to fine down but not enough for me to entice a bass from the surface or with the SP’s. It did look very promising for the future.

Time was ticking by and I was ready for the main event.  After the last session I could feel a few scuffs in the line when reeling in so I re-spooled with 30lb suffix tritanium. Just to get it to bed nicely I had three or four casts with a plain lead. I am glad I did that now.

Two hours still to go to low water and I was struggling to hold bottom and picking up clumps of fine weed.The rod started to nod a little I was not sure whether it was a dog, weed or just failure to settle so I struck anyway as the bait had drifted out of the area I wanted it in. Among the clump of weed there was a small dog or even a huss. I couldn’t be sure either way. It was very dark, appeared to have small nasal flaps and had fairly well defined teeth.

As the tide ebb away it became easier for me to get a big bait to stay roughly where I wanted it but nothing was happening……. other than a rather annoying little tapping bite which was showing clearly on the big rod now the rip had calmed. I let it go a while while I prepared the next tail section bait on the 8/0 hook.

It was not what happened next but the manner in which it happened that shocked me so much. I picked up the big Conoflex, knocked of the ratchet and wound down the drag, striking out of habit to get the lead out of the weed. I knew something was amiss when the line started hissing and I managed to knock round the drag before the strain got too much, something was on, it wasn’t a dogfish and it was emptying my spool at an alarming rate. I knew what it was I just hadn’t expected it quite then, and I knew it was big. It wasn’t a series of blistering runs just one long charge out to sea with me thumbing the spool as it continued to empty. I was following the fish down the mark and by now I was around one hundred and fifty yards from where I started and up to my waste in my waders. I could see the gold of the spool and knew I had to start making some ground. But it just didn’t happen, although I had increased the tension in the drag the fish just hung out there happy to sit in the flow. My arms, back and thighs were screaming for a rest but all I could do is lean back and let the rod wear down the fish which just seemed to be waiting.

It seemed to change tact and turned inland which allowed me to gain on it a good amount at first but then it just stopped again and I had to pump every yard of line. I could feel it tiring and got my first glimpse of it as it broke the surface around eighty yards out.

It had now been around forty minutes since I hooked it and although I definitely had the upper-hand the loss of the last big fish weighed heavily in my mind. It was now in the shallows and the temptation to run in and grab it became almost too much. It was easily the biggest fish I have seen landed. Once I had drawn it into the shallows enough that it couldn’t get back out I grabbed my weighing sling, soaked it with water and got the fish into it.

I have absolutely no idea what it weighed as it easily bottomed out my forty pound scales so all I can claim is forty plus!!!!!

Sorry the pictures are not up to much, they do the fish very little justice again but try getting a fish over five feet long to behave while you do a self-portrait on the timer. I think my facial expression says it all !

Look at the length of the pectoral fins!!
Look at the length of the pectoral fins!!


That rod is a Conoflex Nemisis SLR plus fourteen foot. At home I measured where the fish came to and it was between five feet three and five feet six long, definitely a personal best which I struggled with in every way, from the moment I hooked it to the moment of release. I am not a Tope expert but I think it was a big female that had already pupped out. I cannot begin to imagine what she weighed a month ago.

Compliments of:


Baitdigger’s Blog