WHITE SEA BASS TECHNIQUES
Expert white sea bass fishermen use a bunch of “secret” techniques and a million different variations of those techniques to get bit when the fishing is tough. I'm far from being a sea bass expert so I'm not privy to these secrets, but I've found that you don't need to get too crazy with your gear to catch white sea bass.
White Seabass Tackle Tips
Most sea bass trips start out fishing on the squid grounds, and regardless of which island you're at, the techniques are basically the same. My favorite rig to fish these areas is a dropper loop tied on 60-pound fluorocarbon with a torpedo sinker on the bottom. Approximately 24 inches above the weight, I'll tie a 7/0 Owner Mutu Light Wire circle hook on a 12- to 16-inch long loop. I use a spider hitch to tie the dropper loop, it's a strong knot and is easy to tie.
Fishing a dropper loop for sea bass is about as easy (and sometimes boring) as it gets. Just pin on a couple of squid, drop it to the bottom and wait for a bite. You rarely need to let the fish eat the bait while fishing this way as the sea bass are usually just cruising around on the bottom vacuuming up squid. Fish it with the reel in gear and set the hook as soon as you feel a white sea bass solidly pull the rod tip down.
Another great rig to fish on the squid grounds is the squid and jig — and this one is even easier to fish. Simply tie a white or glow-in-the-dark jig on your line, pin on a squid, drop it to the bottom, wind it back up a few feet and wait for a bite. The only thing that you need to remember with this technique is to always hook your squid near the pointy end rather than bunching the whole thing up on the treble hook.
When squid spawn, the male will grasp the female around the middle of its back and they'll float around like that while they do their thing. That's exactly what your jig and squid will look like if you rig it properly and keep it suspended a few feet off the bottom. If you leave the jig lying on the bottom with the squid all bunched up on the hook you might still get bit, but chances are it's going to be a bat ray.
Fishing a lead-head and squid is the most versatile of these three techniques. I use a 1/8- to half-ounce white banana-style head with a 6/0 hook tied to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. You can fish lighter line if you want, but I don't see any reason to drop below a 40-pound leader. This rig can be fished a couple of different ways, so I'll give you an example of each to help explain them.
How To Fish For White Seabass
The first application is a cast-and-retrieve technique, which is a good choice if you're fishing at a beach or any shallow spot. Pin a squid onto your lead head — don't wad it up on the hook — then make a long cast and allow your bait to sink to the bottom. Once your bait has settled on the bottom, put the reel in gear and wind up any slack line while keeping the rod parallel to the water and your tip pointing in the direction of the bait. Once you've reeled in the slack, slowly lift your rod tip until it reaches the 10 o'clock position and then lower it while winding in the slack. Once your rod is again parallel with the water, pause for a few seconds and then repeat the process until your bait is straight up and down. At that point, wind in, make another cast in a slightly different direction and repeat.
You can cover a lot of water this way, while allowing your bait to move along the bottom in a natural looking manner. If you get small bites, pause the bait for a moment and put your reel in free-spool so you can let the fish run with the bait before setting the hook. You'll get a lot of bites from other species when fishing this way so be patient, but it's pretty easy to figure out what type of bites you're getting, so you won't have to react to every little nibble.
This rig can also be fished when the boat is anchored in deeper water along a kelp line or near a high spot. Most boats chum with cut squid when they fish in these situations, so there will usually be a cloud of perch or bass behind the boat. If a sea bass happens to cruise by, they'll usually come over and check out what the other fish are eating. You'll want to keep your bait in the same zone as the perch and bass for the best shot at a bite.
Since the fish are suspended in the water column, you need to use a lead-head with an appropriate sized weight for the amount of current. I usually start on the light side and go heavier if needed. After baiting up, make a cast and let your squid sink freely until you start to get perch bites. Then thumb your spool to slow the bait's descent. One of two things is going to happen at this point. The perch and bass will strip the squid off your lead-head or you will snag a white sea bass bite. A perch will probably get your bait before a sea bass, but when you do get that right bite, it makes all of the time you've spent feeding the perch worth it.
The Fred Hall Show is coming to Long Beach on March 7, so join me next week for a preview of what's worth seeing at this year's show.
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.