It’s been getting dark earlier and earlier lately and with end of daylight savings time, our after-work fishing options are becoming limited. The good news is that one of those options, the Long Beach breakwall, is just coming into its prime-bite time. While it might not be as exciting as pulling on yellowtail, targeting bass at the wall can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to keep your angling skills sharp during the off-season.
While the breakwall I’ll be discussing is the one that surrounds the Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbors, all of the breakwalls and jetties along the coast basically fish the same, so you can apply these tips wherever you go.
The first step towards success is planning your trip around times that the wall should be biting. While it’s impossible to guarantee success, there are several factors that will considerably stack the odds in your favor when it comes to getting bit. Tidal movement is the biggest consideration. The wall tends to bite best on a significant incoming tide and will continue to bite through the high with the fishing trailing off as you approach low tide.
A good rule of thumb is that if the line of the tide chart looks fairly flat during the evening hours the fishing is probably going to fall flat as well.
Swell size and direction also play an important roll in determining when to fish the wall. Swells create surge along the wall, which results in crustaceans being knocked free of the rocks and baitfish being swept against the rocks. While water movement is good, too much water movement can make for tough fishing, so you’ll want to pay attention to just how much swell the fish will tolerate and still bite. The good news about the Long Beach breakwall is that it curves which will allow you to find areas with more or less swell depending on the angle they face.
The final factor has to do with the time of day, or night, that you’ll be fishing. As a rule, the wall bites best during the hour between sunset and dark and again in the predawn grey light. So, if you can find an evening, or early morning, with a filling tide and a decent swell, chances are that you’ll be able to find some biting fish.
Now that you’ve got the when and where figured out, it’s time to look at how to go about catching fish. As I mentioned before there are two main forage types at the wall, crustaceans and fin bait, and since the bass might be focusing on either of those on any given day it will be up to you to figure out the best presentation. The good news is that bass at the wall are a lot more forgiving than their freshwater counterparts, so you’ll still get bites even if you’re using the wrong presentation. A good rule of thumb is to try a couple different presentations until you find the one that they bite best.
Rather than breaking down techniques by the specific baits used, it’s best to classify them as either power fishing or finesse techniques. Power fishing includes; crank baits, Alabama rigs, spinnerbaits and swimbaits fished fast. While finesse fishing includes; swim baits fished slowly and creature baits. Put simply, power fishing works better when the bass are keyed in on fin bait and finesse fishing is for bass feeding on crustaceans.
When going into a wall trip with no prior knowledge of what has or hasn’t been biting, I’ll use the following steps to try and figure things out. Rather than just driving up and starting in a random spot on the wall, I’ll spend a few minutes driving along the length of the section that I plan to fish. While doing so I’m looking for bait on the meter, birds that are congregated along certain sections of the wall and areas of the wall that are getting more or less surge than the rest.
If there is a lot of bait along the wall, any groups of birds are probably there because they are feeding on bait that is being driven to the surface by predators (hopefully bass) and this would indicate a good area to start fishing. Likewise with the surge, if there is very little water movement the fishing is probably best where the surge is the heaviest. On the flip side, if there is an exceptional amount of surge, the fishing is probably best in the calmer spots.
Once I’ve decided the general area I’d like to fish, I’ll put the trolling motor down (or drift if there is a breeze) and begin by fishing indicator baits. Indicator baits (for lack of a better term) are baits that I trust will always get a bite if there are bass feeding at the wall. My favorite is the 5″ MC Viejos Series swimbait on a 1/2-ounce lead head. While this bait isn’t the best bet for catching big fish at the wall, I’ve found that if there are feeding fish in the area they will almost always bite this bait. If there are two of us fishing, the other person will throw a different bait, like a crank bait or Alabama rig. Between these two presentations we can usually figure out where the fish are biting.
Once we’ve found an area of biters, it’s time to use the troller to hold our position and go to work targeting bigger fish.
Depending on the time of year, those bigger fish may be biting big creature baits dragged along the bottom or they might be chasing 7″ swimbaits burned along the rocks. The best way to figure out what they want is to try different baits presentations and pay attention to what the fish are telling you.
Stay tuned for part two when I will give an explanation of the different tackle and techniques you’ll need at the wall.