One of the best things about spotted bay bass fishing is the variety of lures that you can use to target them. However, this can be overwhelming as well. For this reason, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the best baits for spotted bay bass that are bound to help you catch more fish.
When it comes to baits for spotted bay bass, a leadhead swimbait must be mentioned. It is the quintessential spotted bay bass bait. I would wager that most spotted bay bass anglers’ first spottie was caught on a swimbait. Generally, these swimbaits are three to five inches and can be paired with a 1/4-3/4oz jig head. Swimbaits are some of the most versatile tools in a fisherman’s arsenal. They can be fished fast, slow, high in the water column, low in the column, jigged, trolled, etc… If you could only have one bait for any given situation, this would likely be it.
Photo of author taken by CJ Conrad
With countless brands, choosing the best jighead and swimbait combo can be overwhelming. Here are some of the favorites that I recommend you check out. In regards to leadheads, the two brands that must be considered are Coolbaits Lure Co and Warbaits. Both of these brands offer a wide range of swimbait heads in varying colors, weights and variations. If a traditional swimbait is not getting bit, switch to an underpin or swinghead to offer a slightly different presentation.
For swimbaits, the options are endless. Swimbaits can be injection molded or top poured with a variety of plastic materials that can vastly impact the way a bait performs. Swimbaits made from a harder plastic require a faster retrieve to produce their action but once you achieve this, the bait gives off lots of vibration and body roll. Softer plastics are less durable but can be retrieved much slower and give an enticing tail kick that can elicit aggressive strikes. When it comes to brands, you can’t go wrong. For baits poured from a harder plastic, one brand I really like is Pearl Swimbaits. Unfortunately, these are only available at Performance Tackle in Los Alamitos, CA. For a softer plastic, Keitech Swimbaits are a gamechanger. Originally made in Japan, these baits have dominated freshwater bass fishing and can be equally useful in the salt.
Pictured from left to right: Big Hammer, Keitech, MC Swimbaits
Two Southern California swimbait brands that must be mentioned are MC Swimbaits and Big Hammer. These two brands have a proven history of fish catching ability up and down the coast. This baits have stood the test of time and should definitely hold a place in your swimbait arsenal.
What is better than one swimbait? Five swimbaits! The A-Rig was first created in 2009 by freshwater bass angler Andy Poss and he soon realized what he created would reshape freshwater bass fishing. That year, of the 21 bass tournaments that Poss entered, he won 19 of them and the A-Rig was what was responsible for these wins.
When it comes to inshore saltwater fishing, it is clear why this bait excels. As small schools of bait roam the bays and estuaries, spotted bay bass, halibut, and corvina jump at the opportunity to feed on them. If the conditions and area allow you to fish the A-Rig, I absolutely would. Fishing in close cover such as docks or when dealing with lots of debris in the water, the A-Rig can prove to be quite frustrating and lack its effectiveness. However, if you find open water, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bait.
One of the main reasons why the A-Rig is so effective is because of its drawing power. This is an idea that is often referenced when talking about the use of large (7″+) freshwater swimbaits and it describes the ability of a lure to entice a fish to see it and come closer to investigate it. For example, if you are throwing a single three inch swimbait in clear water, it is possible that any fish within five feet of it could be interested and potentially commit to it. However, if you are throwing a 5-arm A-Rig, it could be inferred that fish from as far out as 15 or 20 feet would be intrigued by this and force them to take a closer look.
For most predatory species, there is an internal cost-benefit analysis occurring when it comes to decision making. “Is the amount of energy I expend to eat a bait worth the size of that meal?” So, for a spotted bay bass, traveling 15 feet to eat one three inch baitfish might not make sense. However, traveling 15 feet to eat an entire school of three inch baitfish is a gamble they are willing to take.
There are wide range of A-Rigs designed for freshwater use that you can find here and will likely do the job well. However, if you are looking for some specifically designed for fishing the salt, I would recommend the Recon A-Rig and the Warbaits WAR/RIG.
The tailspin is undoubtedly one of the best baits for spotted bay bass. For fishing docks and other vertical structure, the tailspin is one of the best tools for the job. We previously published an article that covers tailspins and metal jigs in-depth so if you want a deep dive on everything you need to know about tailspins, check that out here.
There are two key scenarios when the tailspin will flatout outperform the other baits on this list. Those are: when spotted bay bass are keyed in on small finbait and when they are relating to vertical structure. For both of these situations, tailspins are purpose built to excel. The key to the success of the tailspin is its weight. It can be fished vertically fast and you can keep constant contact with the bait in free spool due to its steady fall so you know exactly what it is doing. Additionally, when fished in open water, you can cast it remarkably far which can be an issue with other small profile baits.
When it comes to finding the best tailspin, there is a wide variety of options. Most tailspins were initially designed for freshwater use but equally excel in the salt. The most popular tailspin for spotties is the Damiki Axeblade. This bait comes in 3/4 and 1 oz options in a variety of colors. I like to fish the 3/4 oz for 90% of conditions and opt for the 1 oz if I plan on fishing in 15′ or more. Frankly, I do not believe the color matters because after a good day of spottie fishing there won’t be any paint left on it.
So far the baits covered on this list have primarily been aimed at baitfish imitations, however, a key aspect to the spotted bay bass diet, especially in the colder months, are crustaceans. Crabs, clams, and snails offer a nutritious option to spotted bay bass during the cooler months when baitfish are less abundant. A common phrase that is used to describe winter and early spring spotted bay bass fishing is “low and slow,” and this is how you fish the jig. Drag, hop, deadstick these baits around dock pillings or in grass beds and wait to feel that recognizable thump.
As you can see, the best colors to imitate crustaceans are reds, oranges, greens, browns, and black. Here pictured are some of the offerings from the Warbaits Swimjigs which are purpose built for saltwater bass fishing.
Another option that is not technically a jig but a similar presentation is the Megabass Dark Sleeper. Although this resembles a swimbait, it performs like a jig. It comes in sizes from 1/4-1oz and in a variety of good crustacean colors. Pictured here is “Donko” and some of my other favorites are “Dark Shad” and “Haze” (resembles a baby spottie). This bait offers a completely weedless presentation with the hooked concealed in the dorsal fin. I find that slowly retrieving this bait, especially at night, can yield bites from a larger grade of fish.
Megabass Dark Sleeper in the Donko color
Now you have a great assortment of baits to either refamiliarize yourself with or try for the first time when you fish for spotted bay bass next! Take some suggestions for this article, experiment on your end, and most importantly, spend more time on the water and you will catch more fish!