Bottom Feeders – Live Bait Rockfishing Tips

Bottom Feeders – Live Bait Rockfishing Tips

Video Breakdown

  • On the hunt for rockfish, lingcod, and other bottom feeders with Seasons Sportfishing
  • Live bait tips from Captain Jamie: Dropper Loop Rigging + Live Bait Selection + Hooking & Handling
  • Mixed Bag rockfish action outside of Coronados Islands!

Quick Trip Recap

Rockfishing Southern California

Oh how good it feels to be back!! Springtime in Southern California and while we wait for some of the pelagic species to move up the coast, one of our tastiest fisheries is in full swing. Rockfishing! These bottom-feeders present anglers with an opportunity to procure some freshly caught fish-taco meat. So to really kick things off for my season, I jumped on one of my favorite boats with a good friend and staple in the SoCal charter fleet, Captain Jamie at Season’s Sportfishing.

socal rockfishing tips

Pushing off in the dark from Fisherman’s Landing, we headed to the first stop of any trip – Everingham Bros bait barge. The tank loaded with “a scoop” of fresh, fired up, and lively sardines, we pointed South, pushing through some leftover wind bump and swell to the islands. With some recent reports of a spattering of yellowtail being caught at the islands, we thought it prudent to give that a quick look en route to Captain Jamie’s rockfish spots. The sonar swept several spots of yellows, but after a couple of fruitless drifts soaking dropper loop sardines and ripping the Yo-Yo Irons through, we moved on to the main attraction – the fish taco “grocery store”.

Our crew for the day included some Seasons’ frequent fliers with plenty of experience fishing locally, but still a quick rundown of rigging, bait selection, bait hooking basics, and how to bottom fish our local structure is always appreciated.

Captain Jamie’s Tips

  • Dropper Rig of Choice: Single Spider Hitch loop with a long (about 18-24″) tag line that allows the bait to swim freely + long gap between loop & sinker to suspend the bait above the bottom. Jamie likes the Spider Hitch knot for its balance as a strong knot and its free-swimming action with our live sardines that triggers bites from the more aggressive grade & species of rockfish. I.e. – larger vermillion rockfish (reds) and lingcod
  • Hook of Choice: Gamakatsu Nautilus Circle Hook – sizes: 1/0 & 2/0 (ideally matched for 4-6″ sardines used)
seasons sportfishing
  • Bait Selection: Find the bait with the least amount of scales missing + lively swimmer (the harder to catch in hand the better!) + no red spots or red noses + light green and good color.
  • Bait Handling & Hooking: Always cradle the bait and never squeeze. To nose hook, find the spot of cartilage and hook across from one side to another as shown by Captain Jamie below. Release bait and get back into the water as quickly as possible.

Back to our rockfish rendezvous – Now baited up, we dropped to the bottom to find out what was on tap for the day. With little current and the proper size sinker rigged up, keeping our baits on the bottom was very manageable in 200-feet of water by free spooling to bottom then engaging the reel, and then back to free spool as needed to manage scope during the drift.

Admittedly it took the fish a little bit to wake up this particular morning, but sure enough, they started to snap and our bag filled with fresh tacos! Besides the great taste factor of these bottom dwellers, I personally think the fun factor is right up there as well. As much of a “sure thing” there is within our fishery, bottom fishing always adds an element of surprise as you never know what might bite.

Plus the variety is plentiful, with this trip being a great example of a wide mix of rockfish species, lingcod, and California sheephead.

With a great group of guys, an awesome captain & boat, quality tackle thanks to Gamakatsu plus some of the best eating fish, this was the perfect way to kick off my year! Special thanks to Captain Jamie for yet another epic trip with countless laughs and lasting memories.

Make sure to stay tuned to our Bottom Feeders series brought to you by Gamakatsu!

Jordan Jennings
Jordan Jennings grew up boating and fishing the lakes of his home state of Michigan. Cutting his teeth on the bass, salmon, perch, and pike of local inland lakes. His passion grew into saltwater fishing on the Gulf of Mexico when visiting family in Florida. He was lucky enough to come from a family ...
Great trip Jordan! Thanks for your continued support of our operation. Cant wait to see you and the BD crew soon!
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