The saltwater spotted bay bass simply doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Its reputation is overshadowed by the hard-fighting kelp cousin, the legendary calico bass. Even the bland-looking sand bass dwarfs the spottie in popularity as summer runs of the sandies fill anglers’ fish sacks in great numbers.
But between these three saltwater bass, the spotted bay bass is the toughest fighter, hands down! Anglers typically armed with lighter 10–12 pound test bait casting outfits target these feisty spots in areas like Newport Harbor, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, and Marina Del Rey Harbor. Rarely will you catch a spotted bay bass on a party boat. Nor will you encounter one very often while surf fishing. These saltwater bass prefer instead the calmer and shallower waters of the back bays, harbors, and estuaries.
I like to fish spotties in two specific ways: with jigs and with crank baits. I prefer a Phenix lead head jig with that pulsating live rubber skirt. I feel the rubber skirt at the head of the lead head jig does two things to enhance a strike. First, the rubber skirt indeed seems to be “alive” as it pulsates slowly in and out while underwater. Secondly, the bulkiness of the live rubber skirt allows the lead head jig to sink much slower, drifting down through the water column.
I like to use dark colored Phenix lead heads like brown, purple, and black models. Sizes will vary on the depth I am casting to from 3/8 to 5/8 ounces. I always add a soft plastic trailer to the jig, otherwise your chances are greatly reduced. Two of my favorite trailers are the 4-inch Owner JR Minnow, and the 5-inch Zoom Fluke. Here, too, I will usually keep the soft plastic trailers in the darker colors as well.
These darker lead head-soft plastic trailer combos mimic small crabs. In the bays and harbors, the dock pilings, boat moorings, grass beds, and buoys are natural habitat to small sidewinder crabs. With this slow-falling jig, you have a perfect replica for these crabs as they move about in shallower waters.
Please practice catch’n release with spotted bay bass because, of the three major species of saltwater bass, spots seem to be the most impacted by fishing pressure, grow the slowest, and represent a highly delicate fishery.
Picture a largemouth fresh water bass with a supremely aggressive “attitude.” That’s what you’ll get when you start to pull on the spotties!