WHITE SEA BASS TACKLE TIPS
With the Long Beach Fred Hall Show less than two weeks away, it's time to start prepping your tackle for the white sea bass bite that should be kicking off soon at our local islands. Every few years, one of the six-pack boats will score some sea bass right around Fred Hall time, and I'm betting that it's going to happen again this year.
There's a full moon on March 8th and a new moon on the 22nd. I'm guessing the sea bass will show up around one of those two lunar phases (probably the new moon). Even if I'm wrong about the exact date, which I probably am, spring is on its way and the fish won't be far behind it. So take advantage of some of the tackle deals offered at the Fred Hall Show and resupply your sea bass arsenal.
The best thing about preparing your gear to fish springtime sea bass is that there isn't much gear to prepare. I'm one of those guys who always brings way too much gear when I go fishing, but when I'm targeting sea bass at the islands, regardless if it's from a sport boat or private boat, I usually only bring two rods.
I could probably get by with one, but the thought of going fishing with a single rod is a complete affront to my tackle hoarding sensibilities.
One thing to remember when you're preparing your gear for an island sea bass trip is that the fish at the islands aren't too picky about what they eat. I'm not saying that they're easy to catch. They're actually damn hard to catch, sometimes bordering on impossible, but the hard part is over once you've located a school of hungry fish. Get on the right fish and they will usually eat just about anything that looks like a squid. They'll even eat take a big hook on heavy line, so leave the light gear at home.
I always bring a medium-action 8-foot graphite/glass composite rod such as the Rainshadow RCLB 80M or a Calstar Graphiter 800M. If you like a longer rod, Calstar makes a 9-foot version and Rainshadow makes the 8-foot, 10-inch RCJB 106MH. There is no need to go with anything longer than a 9-foot rod when fishing sea bass and I recommend sticking with an 8-footer because it gives you more leverage. Every quality brand on the market makes a rod that will work for this application, so look for an 8-foot rod with medium-action rated for 20- to 40-pound line.
I match this rod with a Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrow filled with 65-pound Spectra. Any high-end star drag or lever-drag reel will work for this application, but I recommend getting a narrow spool reel. A 16N holds at least 200 yards of 65-pound braid, which is plenty to land anything you may hook while fishing sea bass. A buddy of mine proved this point a few years ago when he landed an estimated 300-pound black sea bass on a Calstar 800M Graphiter with a Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrow and 65-pound Spectra.
It took him almost an hour and he really got his ass kicked, but the tackle performed flawlessly.
The other rod I bring, which is better suited for battling the occasional giant black sea bass, is a heavy-action 7-foot graphite/glass composite rod like a Rainshadow RCJB 84H or a Calstar Graphiter 700H. I'll match this rod with a Shimano Trinidad 20 and 80-pound Spectra. This rod is probably going to stay in the rack most of the day as it's not as versatile, but if the big fish show up you'll be glad have it.
I use a short fluorocarbon leader and normally rig both rods with a 4- to 6-foot 60-pound leader. This heavy leader may sound like overkill, but I like the added abrasion resistance. I secure the leader to my Spectra with a Tony Peña knot — a very strong, easy-to-tie knot that I recommend you look up and learn. (Click here for a link to learn this knot.)
As far as terminal tackle goes, you'll most likely be using squid as bait so you don't need a wide variety of hook sizes. The most popular hook among the pros is the Owner Aki Hook. Sea bass have soft mouths so you want a large, wide-gap hook like the 8/0 Aki to get a positive hookset. If you prefer fishing circle hooks, the Owner Mutu Light Wire is a good choice as it has the same long shank as the Aki, which helps keep fish from busting your leader. Both of these hooks can be fished with a sliding sinker or on a dropper loop, so you will want to stock up on a handful of sizes of sliding egg sinkers and torpedo sinkers.
Lead heads also work great for sea bass and you only need a few sizes to cover most conditions you'll encounter. You'll want to have a light banana-style head for fishing shallow water and a heavy banana-style head for deep water. I'd recommend stocking a half dozen each in quarter-, half- and one-ounce sizes that are painted white or glow in the dark.
Fishing a jig on the bottom can be one of the most productive ways to target sea bass in the dark. Any heavy white or glow-in-the-dark jig will work as you are basically just using it as a squid holder. Rather than choosing jigs by their color or swimming action, you should choose a few different weights and sizes so you can cover a variety of depths and current conditions.
Now that we've got our gear ready, it's time to sit back and see if my prediction comes true. Next week I'll be sharing some tips on how to use this tackle to successfully land white sea bass at the islands.
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.