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Spotted Bay Bass Tackle

The vast majority of the messages I received from readers during the first year of writing this column all centered on the same thing. “I read your article and I want to fish for (insert species) and I was wondering if you could tell me which (rod and reel, lure, technique, location, etc.) I should try.”

Spotted Bay Bass Tackle – California Bass

While I’m always happy to answer these types of questions, the fact that I was being asked them indicated that I wasn’t including enough specific information in my column.

So, this year I am going to give a more detailed description of both the tackle and techniques used for each of the saltwater fisheries we have in Southern California. Included in this will be a list of rod and reel suggestions, a tackle shopping list and a breakdown of the basic techniques used in each fishery. I chose to start with spotted bay bass fishing due to its year round accessibility and because many of the tackle and techniques used when pursuing spotties will also translate into the other inshore bass fisheries later in the year.

Like most fishing rods, those used for targeting spotties are technique-specific. What this means is that rather than choosing a rod based on the type of fish you are targeting, you’re choosing the rod that’s best designed to present a particular bait.

These are the rods I use when I fish for spotted bay bass:

A: This is a Rainshadow GCB710MH, which is 7-foot 10-inch long fiberglass rod designed to fish crankbaits. The softer action of the fiberglass matched with the slow 5.4:1 gear ratio of the Abu/Garcia Winch reel keeps the fish from tearing off of the treble hook during the fight. This reel is filled with 50-pound Spiderwire Braid that is connected to the bait with a 3 to 4-foot piece of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader.

B: This is an Abu/Garcia Volatile C79-5, which is a 7-foot 9-inch long graphite rod designed to fish large swimbaits and spinnerbaits. This rod is matched with an Abu/Garcia Revo Inshore that is filled with 50-pound Spiderwire Braid and has a 3 to 4-foot 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.

C: This is a Rainshadow XMB843, which is a 7-foot graphite rod designed to fish small swim-baits and creature baits. This rod is matched with an Abu/Garcia Revo SX that is filled with 30-pound Spiderwire Braid and has a 3 to 4-foot 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.

D: This is an Abu/Garcia Volatile C72-5, which is a light and parabolic 7-foot 2-inch graphite rod that is designed to fish small swimbaits, creature baits and fluke style baits. This is also matched with an Abu/Garcia Revo SX with the same line and leader configuration as rod “C”.

If you’re just getting into spotty fishing and were only looking to purchase a single combo, C or D would be a good place to start, as they are the most versatile. The next combo to purchase would be B and the last one to add to your rod quiver would be A.

Now let’s take a look at some of the different baits that you’ll be fishing with these combos. Spotty baits are broken down into two basic categories, soft baits and hard baits; I’ll start with the soft baits as you can fish almost all of them on combo C or D.

california bass

The top two baits are MC Swimbaits split-tail slugs, which come in 5-inch and 7-inch. The top bait is rigged on a ½-ounce Boxer leadhead, which has an exposed hook and the lower one is rigged weedless on a ½-oz Owner Sled Head. These baits are both fished the same way, with a long cast and a slow stop-and-go retrieve. The only difference in the leadhead style is that the Boxer head is best fished in open water, while the Owner head’s weedless design is used when targeting spotties in eel grass beds. You can get by with only using the Owner heads, but I’ve found that the exposed hook of the Boxer head results in a higher bite-to-hook-up ratio.

The next two baits are 3-inch MC Swimbaits rigged with different style heads. The head on the left is a 1/2-ounce Bladerunner Spintrix Underspin Head. The blade under the head of this bait, which gives off both flash and vibration, makes it a good choice in stained water. The bait on the right is rigged with a standard 3/8-ounce Cody style lead head. Where the other head is loud and flashy, this head is understated and works well in clear water or when dragging the swimbait slowly across the bottom.

The bottom row baits are designed for pitching to spotties that are oriented to structure, like pilings and boat mooring cans. The bait on the left is a 3/8-ounce Bladerunner Paddle Head swim jig with a 3-inch MC Swimbait as a trailer. The bait on the left is a 3/8-ounce Bladerunner rocker jig with a crawdad trailer.

There are a bunch of different hard baits that spotties will eat at different times, but there are two particular baits that they will eat almost all of the time.

california bass

At the top are my favorite spotted bay bass lures: the 1-ounce chartreuse and white Bladerunner spinnerbait on the right and the 3/4 –ounce Perch color on the left. There are several quality spinnerbait brands on the market, but you want to make sure that the one you purchase is either a double willow leaf blade (like the one on the left) or a Colorado-willow leaf combo like the one on the right. You are always going to want your spinnerbait on or near the bottom when fishing spotties and these blade styles have less drag so they allow you to wind the bait quickly without having it come up off the bottom.

The bottom baits are my go-to crankbaits for spotted bay bass. There are an overwhelming amount of brands, sizes and colors of crankbaits on the market, but I’ve found that the Strike King Series 6XD gets the job done more often than not. Regarding color, I’ll fish a natural color like the Sexy Shad on the left when the water is clear and a bright color like the Parrot on the right.

The reason that I choose these extremely deep diving baits is because I can effectively fish depths from 1 to 15 or more feet without having to change the bait. These baits can be fished on combo B if you don’t have a dedicated crankbait set up, but if you get into fishing the crank you are going to want to invest in combo A or something similar.

Regarding the quantities and color varieties of lures to purchase, I recommend going in to your local tackle shop and asking to speak with their resident “spotty expert”. Just about every shop has one and he or she will be happy to point you in the right direction regarding color selections. But do yourself a favor and don’t go wild on picking out a bunch of different-colored baits. Keep it down to a couple of choices for each bait style and color, making sure that you have both light and dark colors picked out, and make sure to pick up at least ten of each swimbait color and no less than two of each hard bait –because nothing is worse than losing the bait you were getting bites on and not having another one to tie on in its place.

Next week I’ll be breaking down some of the techniques for each of these baits, but in the meantime there’s a spotty tournament in Mission Bay that my partner Matt and I will be fishing on Saturday. The tournament weigh-in will be streaming live starting at 1:00 PM on the SWBA website, so, if you aren’t fishing, tune in and see how we and the rest of the teams end up doing in the event.

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...