Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about tournament fishing for spotted bay bass, but you don’t need to be a tournament fisherman to be able to enjoy the fishery.
Spotties are the most easily accessible bass in our So Cal waters and since they live in harbors and bays, they can be a great fallback option if the weather keeps you from making it out of the harbor. Most guys use some variation of freshwater bass tackle to target spotties, but you can get by with the same tackle you use for calicos and sand bass, so you don’t need to go out and buy a new set of rods just to try the fishery out. The same holds true for having a trolling motor on your boat. Sure it helps, but it’s not a necessity. Hell, you don’t even need a boat ”” a float tube, kayak or even a pair of tennis shoes can be all the transportation you need to get to where the fish are.
How To Fish Spotted Bay Bass
There is some basic tackle that you are going to need, but my advice is don’t buy it all at once. Start with one technique and figure it out before moving on to the next. This will allow you to develop your own fishing style and make it easier for you to choose rods and reels that work for you. I’m going to be suggesting some specific rods in this column. These are the rods that work for me, but since your fishing style may be different, I recommend going into a tackle store and checking out similar rods with different lengths and actions to find the one that’s right for you.
The easiest and often most productive way to fish for spotted bay bass is with a soft plastic bait. There are several styles of plastics that work, a swimbait, a fluke and a creature bait. All three of these baits can be fished on the same rod-and-reel combo. I use a Rainshadow RX8+ 843 rod which is a 7-foot rod rated for 10- to 17-pound line, matched with an Abu-Garcia Revo Insore filled with 30-pound Spectra and a short 14-pound fluorocarbon leader.
There are two basic presentations that you will use when fishing soft plastic baits for spotties. The first, which works with all three bait variations, is to cast or pitch your bait to a specific target. The target can be anything that might offer a hiding spot for a bass, like a piling, a mooring can anchor, or the shadow of a dock. Simply cast your bait as close to the fishy looking spot as you can and let it sink to the bottom on a loose line. It’s important to keep your line loose so the bait sinks straight to the bottom. If your line is tight, the bait will pendulum away from the target as it sinks.
If you don’t get a bite on the sink, drag or hop your bait along the bottom a few times before retrieving it. Still no bites, then find a new target and repeat the process.
Another Method To Catch Spotted Bay Bass
The second presentation, which works best with swimbaits and flukes, is to make a long cast and to retrieve the bait along the bottom. You can use this presentation just about anywhere, but the trick to being successful with it, or with any other presentation, is to use it in areas that hold fish. Fish do swim around the middle of the bay, but they are too spread out to be effectively targeted, so you will want to fish in areas where they aggregate around cover. If you are fishing around docks, try casting your bait in between two moored boats and retreive it through the shadows between them.
If you are fishing mooring cans, cast towards where you think the mooring anchor is and retrieve your bait through the shadow cast by the moored boat. Fish can be hiding just about anywhere in eelgrass beds, so try fan-casting until you find them.
One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of fishing a soft plastic is the use of scent. A quality saltwater scent like Uni-Butter, really helps you get bit. Regardless of whether or not you used a scent, your bait is going to smell like something. I use scent because I’d rather have my bait smell like something natural other than plastic, the sunscreen that was on my hands or the sandwich I ate right before I tied the bait on.
A crankbait is another productive lure to use for spotties. This bait is fished in a similar manner to the second presentation that I gave for a soft plastic. There are thousands of variations of crankbaits available, but you only really need a couple different styles in a couple different colors. My favorite crankbaits are the Strike King Series 5XD and 6XD and the Norman DD22. All three of these baits are deep divers and I recommend that whichever bait you choose, you get one that dives at least 15 feet.
A lot of freshwater guys have certain baits that they use in specific depths of water, but it’s not really necessary when fishing spotties. Regardless of what depth you’re fishing, you want your bait to be banging along the bottom, so I’d rather have one bait that will cover any water depth.
Bay Bass Lure Colors
There are lots of colors to choose from, but I’ve caught most of my fish on two basic color schemes, a light colored baitfish imitation or a dark-colored crustacean imitation. The rod and reel you pick for crankbait fishing is very important. I use a Forecast GCB-710M rod which is a 7-foot, 10-inch fiberglass rod rated for 12- to 25-pound line, matched with an Abu-Garcia Revo Winch filled with 50-pound Spectra and a short 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. This rod is specifically made for fishing big crankbaits and the reel has a low gear ratio, which is also designed for crankbait fishing.
The final piece of the spottie catching puzzle is the spinnerbait. I won’t go into detail about that bait here as I’ve already written an entire article about it called Saltwater Bass Fishing 101. Like I said at the beginning, you don’t need to be a tournament fisherman to enjoy this fishery, but if you can master these three basic presentations, you might just be ready to compete in one yourself.