Whenever I go out to the garage to grab some tackle for a sand bass trip, I always end up with eight to 10 rods, a dozen overstuffed Plano trays and a 15-pound bag of swimbaits.
I’m not exaggerating.
I actually weighed the bag the other day and it came in at a whopping 15 pounds (needless to say, I was disgusted with myself). I’ve got issues with being a tackle junkie. For the purposes of this article, I’ve narrowed my horde down to a reasonable three rods and 10 lures that you should have onboard the next time you fish sand bass on your own boat.
For lack of a better term, let’s call this first set up the “light rig.” Since I fish Spectra with a heavy leader on all of my bass gear, it’s not technically a light rig, but it is the lightest of the three.
The rod is a Rainshadow ISWB 945, which is a 7-foot, 10-inch blank rated for 15- to 30-pound line and has a medium-heavy action. There are lots of great rods on the market (with a wide range of price points) that will work for this application, but make sure and look for one that is somewhat parabolic. I match my light rod with an Abu/Garcia Revo Inshore full of 50-pound Spectra and fish a 3- to 4-foot leader of 25-pound fluorocarbon.
Fishing For Sand Bass With Artificial Bait
This rig is best utilized when fishing medium-sized swimbaits rigged on ¾- to 1-ounce heads and spinnerbaits. The swimbaits shown in the photo above are the clear with red flake 4-inch MC and the 4-inch Key Lime, both on ¾-ounce heads. The clear with red flake is one of the best colors for wintertime sand bass and the Key Lime gets bit all year. The spinnerbait on the right is a 1-ounce Bladerunner and the one on the left is the 2 ½-ounce Guppy Spin. (For more information on fishing spinnerbaits for sand bass, visit www.bdoutdoors.com/article/saltwater-bass-fishing-101/.)
I use a Rainshadow ISWB 946 rod for my medium-weight rig. The rod is also 7 feet, 10 inches long but it’s rated for 25- to 40-pound line and is basically just a heavier version of the 945. I fish the same reel on this rod and the same weight of Spectra, but I step up the leader to 40-pound fluorocarbon.
This is the rig that I use for fishing bigger baits and heavier 1- to 2-ounce lead-heads. The top bait in the photo is a 4-inch MC that as of yet hasn’t been named (but catches a LOT of bass). The bait on the left is a 4-inch MC in Chocolate Halloween, which is my go-to color when the fishing is tough. The bait on the right is a 5-inch MC in Sexy Smelt — a deadly color when the sun is out and the bass are feeding on fin bait.
This one lives up to its moniker. This thing is so heavy, that it barely qualifies as bass tackle.
The rod is a Rainshadow IMU 710MH, a 7-foot, 10-inch Musky rod rated for 20- to 50-pound line. I match this rod up with the Abu/Garcia Revo Toro 50 which I fill with 65-pound Spectra and a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. I told you this thing is heavy. A 3-pound bass will not even put a bend in it, but if big bass are biting in heavy structure, it’s the first rod I’ll grab.
Pictured with this rod are what would be considered the big baits. The top is a 5-inch MC in Christmas Tree color on a 2-ounce head. If I could only take one bait with me on a wintertime sand bass trip, it would be the Christmas Tree color, so make sure and bring a few extras because it gets bit. On the lower left is a 5-inch Rainbow Trout MC cut down to fit the Bladerunner Depth Charge head, which weighs more than 3 ounces. The Depth Charge is the head you will want to use when the drift is fast and the bass are deep. On the right is another Depth Charge rigged with a cut 5-inch MC in Golden Brownbait color. Both of these colors get bit well all year long.
There you have it — three rigs and less than a dozen baits is all you need to cover almost any situation that you’ll encounter while targeting sand bass from your boat.
Sand Bass Fishing Techniques
Unless you are fishing sand bass during the summer spawn, they will always be directly related to structure. They’re not always down in the rocks and may be 50 feet off of the bottom, but they are still going to be directly above the spot. So, presenting a bait to them is as simple as casting or dropping your bait so that it comes in contact with the structure that the bass are on. If you don’t get bit on the sink, use a slow wind along the bottom with frequent pauses to let your bait sink back to the bottom. This usually works, but if the fish are suspended you will sometimes have to find them in the middle of the water column. In these situations, it’s best to use a lighter head, which will allow your bait to sink more slowly and gives you more time in the strike zone.
One last thing that is often overlooked is to add a scent to your lure. I’ve tried several scents, and have come to the conclusion that Uni-Butter (www.unigoop.com), a California-produced sea urchin by-product, gets the most bites. The advantage of using a scent is that it leaves a trail that the fish can pick up and zero in on as your bait sinks. I think that it also causes the fish to hold on to the bait for a split second longer, which can often make the difference between a missed bite and a positive hookset.