SoCal Spotted Bay Bass (AKA Spotty) Fishing
Southern California is home to an equally diverse group of fish and anglers. The techniques that this dissimilar group of anglers used to catch said fish is probably more diverse than the fish or fishermen themselves. There is one fish that over the years has developed a cult like following amongst SoCal anglers. “Paralabrax maculatofasciatus” aka the Spotted Bay bass aka the Spotty, aka Bay bass. These unique fish are the reason anglers are rock crawling over sketchy jetties in the middle of the night, sacrificing rigs to the tackle eating rocks. These men proudly hold the title of “Jetty Rats” “Rock Crawlers” or “Shore Pounders”, to name a few, and the ultimate prize is a fat spotty. Even if is the only fish of the session one spotty can make your whole day. Pound for pound these are one of the hardest fighting fish and their ambush hunting almost grantees a dramatic hookset.
Shore pounding, float tubing and kayaking are the popular methods for spotty fishing. As an inshore species there are quite a few common baits and techniques for catching them:
- Drop-Shot: Good for eel grass, Parallel to the shore or rockpile, Jetties, Dead-stick drifting
- Hard baits: Good for docks, Edges of grass beds, Shallow flats, From the Surf
- Chatter Baits: Docks, eel grass beds, Jetties
- Soft Plastics: Good anytime. Pin to a lead-head or jig
- Lead-head/Jig heads: Use with soft plastics or squid heads
- Live Bait: Anytime anywhere, Take a sabiki and make some smelt or mackerel
however, live bait is always effective for SoCal saltwater bass fishing. Light to medium tackle is ideal, with 6-20# test being the go-to. I recommend basing leader or line selection on the spot and the structure around where you are fishing. You may need an easy break off or something heavy to cut through some kelp.
Eel grass beds are ideal fishing grounds as they provide excellent ambush locations for these perfectly camouflaged hunters. However, docks, rockpiles, river mouths, and bridges all make excellent spotty structure. Spotted bay bass can be caught anywhere from Baja Mexico all way to Monterey. With
Mission Bay, Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos Bay being some of the more common year-round spots. When you look at a Spotty it is easy to see how they are adapted for ambushing prey in shadowy grass beds. Twilight fishing has always been productive, and these fish are regularly caught around the clock all year long. My most productive time is at first light. If you can get an hour or two of gray water, then you are increasing your chances. Generally incoming tides are known to be good times for Spotty, none the less, I’ve caught my best fish during the mid-morning low tide. I’ve boiled it down to being in just the right place, at the right time, lucky enough to put bait in front of a hungry or reactive fish.
If you manage to post a picture of a big spotty and forget your favorite bait is sticking out of its mouth, you better believe that bait will probably be sold out the next day at the tackle shop. Spotty fishing like any other type of fishing, you tend to keep your best producing spot closely guarded. This is part of the reason night fishing has gained popularity in recent years. Spotty specific and saltwater bass tournaments have become more common in the last ten years. These small to medium sized tournaments give regular unsponsored anglers a chance to fish like a pro and show what they’ve got. I wouldn’t expect bass masters to make a stop here anytime soon but do expect to see the same devotion a largemouth bass angler shows. Lots of time, money, and energy spent chasing this spectacular fish.
There are still endless debates being argued about the best times and techniques for fishing spotted bay bass. The simplest answer I have found is the same for all of fishing. The more you fish the more you catch. Just like all other disciplines of fishing, there is no guarantee, magic bait or secret, and spotty fishing can leave you scratching your head wondering what you did wrong. It takes a special kind of fish to drag a man out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, crawling over rat-infested rocks, Spotted Bay bass aka the Spotty is that fish!
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