Spring is here and another exciting fishing season is just around the corner. However, as everyone is itching for the offshore bite to start, there have been some spectacular inshore fishing that should not be overlooked. Spotties have been feeding heavily, halibut are on the move, bonefish and Corvina are starting to bite, and the sandbass are chewing! This past weekend, my buddy Nick (@california_current on Instagram) and I ventured out for an evening bite. Here is my guide to nighttime sandbass basics.
We launched at sunset and planned on fishing the incoming tide till around midnight. We were expecting to see some decent current but were surprisingly met with very little. Regardless, we stuck to our plan and were rewarded with a great grade of sandbass. Generally speaking, a decent current is good for sandbass as they can position themselves in structure and wait to ambush bait being pushed by the current.
Our plan was to cycle through a variety of baits to figure out what they were keying in on. Flukes, swimbaits, slugs, swimjigs, tubes, and swingheads all saw action but the majority of our fish fell to two presentations: the Megabass Dark Sleeper and a Warbaits Neck Breaker and Kicker Pickle Kick 5 combo.
The great thing about the Dark Sleeper is the compact and weedless nature of the bait. For sandbass, I primarily fish the 1 oz size in order to fish in 20’+ depths and coming in at 3.8″, its density allows it to get to the bottom quite quickly. The soft dorsal fin hides the hook and allows it to come through structure much easier. One feature that I really like is the overall shape and weight distribution. Unlike traditional swimbaits fished on jigheads, when you dead stick this bait, it stays perfect upright on the bottom offering a realistic presentation. This means that it is impossible to fish it too slow and when the bite is tough, you can simply crawl this bait and it is bound to produce bites.
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The other bait that caught the majority of our fish was a Kicker Pickle Kick 5 rigged on a 3/4 oz Warbaits Neck Breaker. This presentation allowed us to fish deeper water effectively and come through structure easily. The Pickle Kick is great because it balances action and durability perfectly. Often, swimbaits either have great action and only last a couple of fish before they break, or they are virtually indestructible but have no action.
After a night full of fish, our Pickle Kicks were still in great condition. When fishing the Neck Breaker, the only issue that can occasionally occur is the EWG hook ripping through the head of the bait. If this becomes an issue, a quick fix can be changing out the stock hook to an Owner Beast Hook which Kicker has done and sells them here.
A traditional swimbait fished on a jighead was getting bit as well but was much more prone to snags.
For retrieving these baits, what we found worked best was to cast up against the current so that we could fish them with the current to maximize bottom contact. A slow steady retrieve with a couple of fast reel turns to push through cover produced most of the bites for the evening.
Fishing for sandbass is not the time to downsize gear in order to play the fish. As soon as you hook a sizeable bass near cover, it will do its best to find its way back into the rocks and break you off. At a minimum, we were fishing 25lb leader with most of our rods running 30lb and a couple with 40lb for larger presentations.
For rods, having a stout rod is a must. Something in the 7’6″-8′ range is ideal. Sensitivity and a quick, powerful hookset are essential so a graphite rod with a fast or extra-fast action will suit this fishery best.
Reels are really up to personal preference. I prefer something in the 200-300 size ideally with a power handle. When you need to force fish out of structure, nothing beats the combination of a stiff 8′ rod and a reel with a power handle.
If you are waiting for the offshore bite to turn on or an avid inshore fisherman, employ some of these techniques and get ready for a fun evening on the water!