Spotted Bay Bass
Tick, tick, wham! Don’t you just love the feeling when a hard fighting fish slams your bait and runs for shelter to break you off? Do you enjoy the challenge of fishing artificial baits? Want a fish that will bite every day of the year regardless of weather? Then spotted bay bass is just right for you. These small hard fighting fish are joy to target on light tackle.
Spotted bay bass can be found in just about every harbor and bay along the southern California coast down into Mexico. These fish are generally 1 to 4 pounds but can reach a weight of 7 pounds and 23 inches in length. They are ferocious little fish that primarily feed on small bait fish and crabs. The fish are often found in shallow water near rocky shorelines and eel grass waiting patiently to ambush prey. These fish feed heavily during tidal movements from both incoming and outgoing tides. Personally I catch more fish during the water movement of an incoming tide.
Tackle. Keep it simple. Any freshwater gear you have will work. A six to seven foot rod rated between 4 to 12 lbs. is all you need. I prefer fishing 4 and 6 lbs. test. The fish are typically found in shallow water and close to structure. Their runs are short and fast as they try to break you off immediately. Any reel holding 100 yards of line is more than sufficient for targeting these fish. Fluorocarbon is not needed. The fish are biting out of reaction and will readily hit a lure when using 4 to 6 lbs. leader.
Baits. Match the hatch. These fish primarily feed on small baitfish and crabs. When using artificial bait it always helps to match the size and color of the bait found in the area you are fishing. My personal preference is a 1/16 ounce lead head and 3 to 4 inch big hammer swim baits. Silver and black to match the bait fish and motor oil/green pumpkin with red flakes to match the crabs. When the fish are feeding on the surface lures such as a Lucky Craft 110 or other stick baits are just as deadly. You can also try flyling Berkley Gulp minnows as these fish scoop them up like candy.
Technique. Any freshwater bass tactic will work on these fish. Topwater stick baits, soft plastic swimbaits, Carolina rigged or drop shot baits. These fish will hit them all. They are aggressive and willing to bite if the conditions are right. If you are fishing the harbor on a float tube or kayak you can simply drop your bait down next to any boat dock piling and expect a bite. If the water is crystal clear I would fish deeper water as the fish themselves don’t want to fall prey to any seals. Spotted bay bass bite better in dirty water vs crystal clear water. These fish love to ambush their prey. The fish are almost always holding near structure. If you’re drifting the bay fish your bait through the ell grass and bounce the structure. Use your rod tip to bounce the bottom. Spotted bay bass will often pick up your bait as it sits in the structure or falls out of the eel grass. Watch out for any ticks in the line. It is not uncommon for these fish to hit your bait on the drop. If you’re losing tackle to structure you’re fishing in the right place. When fishing from shore try to cast parallel to the shore line. These fish are shallow and found right along the structure.
Newport harbor, Sand Diego bay and Mission Bay all have skiff rentals available. Drifting the bays in a rented skiff is a great way to cover a lot of water and capitalize on bites. It’s also a great way to introduce kids or beginners to fishing. Rather than sitting and waiting with stinky dead bait using artificial bait will keep these new anglers busy. To entice multiple strikes trying using scents on your plastics. I’ve found that Calico Hot Sauce is deadly and the fish will return for multiple strikes if you miss the first bite. Remember to practice catch and release whenever possible. Tight lines everyone and have fun.