Winter in Southern California can be a challenging time for fishermen. With most pelagic species chasing warmer water and bottom fish closing at the end of the year, the pickings are slim as far as fishing opportunities go. However, winter spotted bay bass fishing can be exactly what you need to get through these colder months.
When it comes to approaching spotted bay bass fishing in colder water, there are two main schools of thought: “low and slow” and forcing a reaction bite. Both of these techniques are mirrored in freshwater bass fishing and the baits and styles of fishing can be applied exactly the same.
Low and Slow
When fishing low and slow, you are primarily fishing bottom contact baits in a very subtle way. This includes jigs, swimbaits, dropshots, texas rigs, ned rigs, and really any other bottom bait. As the water cools, so does a fish’s metabolism. They don’t need to eat as much as in the summer months and their diet reflects this. Instead of chasing after fast-moving baitfish, they prefer to target large crustaceans. Their goal is to expend a minimal amount of energy for a maximum reward. The gamble of chasing a small baitfish throughout the water column just doesn’t add up in the colder water.
Look to target these fish on hard bottom structure. Dock pilings, rock piles, and mooring cans all make for a good winter habitat for spotties. By relating to this structure, spotted bay bass are able to ambush prey from concealment.
Some of the best baits for this approach are swimjigs as they do an excellent job of imitating crustaceans. Here are a collection of Warbaits Swimjigs in some enticing crustacean colors.
To fish these presentations, if you’re fishing around lots of snaggy structure, I would go with 15lb fluorocarbon leader. If the structure is more spread out and breaking off is not a concern, 12lb will function just fine.
Forcing a Reaction Bite
Regardless of the temperature of the water, there are certain biological instincts that spotties must abide by. Due to their predatory nature, reacting to a bait in front of them, especially something moving fast, is something that they can’t avoid. In order to take advantage of this, using fast-moving baits can force even the most lock-jawed spotties into biting.
The technique that many employ to force a reaction bite is speed cranking. This involves fishing a crankbait at a very fast speed in hopes of running it close to a spottie and forcing it to react and bite the lure.
Speed cranking excels on flats, over eel grass, and paralleling docks. If fish are holding in these areas, fishing reaction baits is the key to triggering a bite in colder waters.
An important factor when selecting a bait is finding a crankbait that won’t blow out in higher speeds. A great option is the Dredger from Berkley. Available in a variety of sizes and colors, you will be able to fish a bait from roughly 8 to 20 feet. In regards to colors, natural baitfish colors will always produce, however, don’t be afraid from trying more exotic colors as well. Pinks, yellows, reds, and chartreuse can sometimes be the key in triggering a bite. These can appeal to the aggressive nature of spotties and the bites that come from these can be purely territorial rather than out of hunger.
Another popular reaction bait for the winter is a spinnerbait. This is a classic spottie winter bait because it offers a larger presentation. The potential of a larger bait for a spottie can justify the energy they need to expend to chase it down. By offering a large presentation, you can appeal to their cold water habits.
Due to the presence of large blades, the spinnerbait gives off a significant visual attraction along with vibrations. This can be very important when faced with dirty water conditions. By switching between willow (shown below) and colorado blades with various colors, you can vastly alter your presentation.
Colorado blades give off a much more pronounced vibration with much more resistance coming through the water. As a nighttime option, a spinnerbait with colorado blades can be a fun tactic. For a daytime bite, traditional willow blades will suit this bait just fine. Look for spinnerbaits in the 3/8 to 3/4 oz range as these seem to be the best for fishing the bays.
Winter spotted bay bass fishing can be just what you need to scratch your fishing itch it through the winter months. With a variety of fun ways to target these inshore beasts, you’d be hard pressed to find a more accessible and entertaining winter fishery.