CATCHING SAND BASS FROM A PRIVATE BOAT
I'm about to share a secret that will forever change the way you fish for sand bass from your boat. Sounds pretty major doesn't it?
And the secret is, drum roll please… Don't bring bait!
Yes, it's that simple. You don't need bait to catch sand bass. When fishing from your own boat, artificial lures will out-fish live bait all year.
You're probably asking yourself, but what about live squid? Yes, live squid can be a game changer on a sport boat, but if you're targeting sand bass from a private boat, you just don't need it. This may sound foreign to those of you who have only fished sand bass from a sport boat, so let's look at the difference between fishing a sand bass spot on a big boat versus a small one.
A sport boat is a large and very noisy piece of equipment that casts a huge shadow over a spot when it pulls up. At the same time, the generator and engines are transmitting a massive amount of unnatural sound waves through the water. To put it plainly, when you pull up to a spot on a sport boat, the fish immediately know you're there and will either move away from the disturbance or hunker down into the structure. That is one of the reasons that sport boats chum. They need to do it to entice the fish into coming towards the big noisy shadow that is sitting above them.
It's a completely different story when a small boat pulls up to a spot. A small boat doesn't tip the fish off and they'll continue to feed normally.
Fish in general, but sand bass in particular, aren't too picky about what they'll eat if they don't think anyone is watching.
Believe me, I've caught sand bass on some of the most god-awful color combinations you can imagine. When fishing sand bass around deep-water structure, the biggest factor in getting bit is putting your lure in front of a fish without tipping them off to your presence.
To approach a spot without alerting the fish make sure you don't drive directly over the spot that you are going to fish. Take for example one of the spots that you found and marked into your GPS while doing the prep work described in last week's column about finding structure to target (www.bdoutdoors.com/article/so-cal-scene-sand-bass-structure).
You already know the exact location of the spot, so you don't need to drive over it again. Trust me, it hasn't moved. Instead, slow your boat to idle when you're still 100 feet off the spot. If it's your first spot of the day, completely stop the boat a good distance from the spot, and just drift for a couple of minutes. Checking the direction of your drift on your GPS will tell you the direction that you will drift over the spot when you get to it.
Once you know the direction that you're going to drift, head toward the spot but stop the boat short and in a position that will allow you to drift over the area you want to fish. This stealthy approach will allow you to present your bait to the fish without alerting them to your presence. Once the drift takes you past the spot, you can use your trolling motor or main engine to hold your boat in position and continue to fish. But your best bites will usually be on that first drift, which is why it's good to have a lot of GPS spots marked.
A lot of guys like to anchor up and spend several hours fishing the same spot and while it's not as productive as making lots of drifts, you can catch fish that way as well. When anchoring up on a spot, you will want to position your boat far enough up current of the spot so you can drop your anchor and scope back to it.
The tendency of most boaters is to scope out their anchor rope until they can see the structure on the meter, but in doing so, they are alerting the fish to their presence by casting a shadow.
Until you're comfortable with judging the distance between your boat and the spot using your electronics, there is a trick that you can use to cheat a little. Head over to your local tackle shop and pick up marker buoy. These are designed for freshwater use, so they don't have a lot of line and the weight they come with is small, so you'll need to add some more line and tie a 1-pound weight to the end of it to use it when fishing sand bass.
Have the buoy ready (in your hand) when you approach the spot you are planning to fish and drop the buoy when you mark it on your fish finder. Once you've dropped the buoy, simply anchor the boat ahead of the spot and scope back enough that you are within casting distance of the buoy.
Once you're in position, it's time to get down to business. There is a huge range of swimbaits out there to choose from, but I've culled my equipment down to three main rigs — including a light, medium and heavy setup. These three rod-and-reel combos and accompanying baits will get you into the fish no matter what conditions you're fishing. Check out the article Sand Bass Fishing Gear at www.bdoutdoors.com/article/sand-bass-fishing-gear.
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has more than 25 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexico waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal Scene, Erik keeps all of the BD readers up to date on what's biting in Southern California.
Erik divides his fishing time on local boats, long-range trips and Mexico excursions. For the past four years, Erik has been competing in the Salt Water Bass Anglers tournament series with his tournament partner Matt Kotch as team “Snook Hunter” and has several tournament victories to his credit. His sponsors include Blazer Bay Boats, Humminbird, Minn-Kota, Batson Enterprises / Rainshadow Rods, MC Swimbaits, Uni-Butter Fishing Scent and Bladerunner Tackle.