The Overfalls is an area famous for big blonde rays in Spring and bass all through the Summer. It is marked on the charts with wiggly lines which indicates turbulent waters, and they mean it. The tide runs hard over an area of banks rising from 100 feet to 60 feet, creating some interesting surface conditions! On a calm day it looks deceptively peaceful, on a windy day it can boil like a cauldron.
If you want to drift for bass, you need to chose your day carefully taking into account weather and tides. Mid-range tides are best, running at about 3 knots. Spring tides run too fast and neap tides too slowly. Wind speeds need to be as low as possible, and I would not advise a small boat to go there in anything over a Force 3, particularly if the wind is blowing against the tide flow.
The ideal bait is live sandeel, but if you can’t find any, large ragworm, small live mackerel (Joey) or small live pout can work. Sometimes you can get away with artificials such as Sidewinder sandeels and 4 inch shads, but live sandeels are really the best bait.
Most people will tell you to use braid and a multiplier reel, however I get better results with a fixed spool reel and mono. Yes really – I don’t know why. Terminal tackle is simple: a tiny three-way swivel linking the main line to a 6 foot 15lb fluorocarbon leader to a strong fine-wire hook (fluorocarbon is expensive, but invisible in water). Some swear by a 2/0, I find I drop fewer fish with a 4/0. Try and get away with as light a weight as possible attached to the third eye of the swivel – 2oz or 3oz, no more. Fluorocarbon weakens badly with some knots, a tucked blood knot is safe, a grinner is not. You can use any rod you like, the bass won’t see it. A carp rod will give good sport and have enough backbone, but don’t go too long or it will be a bit unwieldy on a small boat.
The sandeel needs to be hooked by passing the hook through the mouth, out of the gills and held in place by nicking through the belly, this will keep them lively. Have a bucket of water handy to keep the eel in while you motor up to your drift position.
Bass will be usually be waiting on the side of the bank down-tide of the ridge, and can be anywhere from the top of the ridge to well down at the bottom of the bank. Motor up to the start position, and kill the engine. Flip the bait out and let it drop to the bottom well behind the boat – it can be difficult to tell if you are on the bottom because mono does not transmit the bump as well as braid. Keep the bait on the bottom as you drift up over the bank and down the other side.
Bites will be a steady pull, as if you have hung up on the bottom – just reel into it and if it moves, it is not a snag! Note the position of the take so when you drift over again you will be ready for it – you will get a take every drift if you get everything right and the fish are cooperating.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions and other ships, you will be right in the track of ferries and large commercial vessels going into Portsmouth and Southampton and it is easy to be so engrossed in the fishing that you don’t notice ships approaching – particularly the fast cat ferries, which can travel from the horizon to you in just a few minutes.