San Diego Bay Fishing Offers Unexpected Variety

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I can remember as a young boy I got to fish San Diego Bay from an outboard rental boat that my older cousin—a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer—secured from the U.S. Fleet’s base at Coronado Island. Who would have known that years later I would return to San Diego to fish the harbor from high-tech bass boats for my weekly Fishing Ventures show on FOX Sports West?

I returned to San Diego Bay fishing last week after a four-year hiatus from this remarkable location. I joined lure manufacturer, tournament angler, and licensed guide Robert Schneider in his ultra high-tech 22-foot Ranger bass boat. We started out fishing in 11–17 feet of water, working Robert’s Phenix live rubber painted lead head jigs over the submerged grass beds. There are literally thousands of clumps of eel grass and similar aquatic vegetation throughout this massive military harbor.

The trick is to hold your rod tip high and try to “walk” the small lead head jigs over the grass beds. Initially we found the great fighting spotted bay bass more than willing to attack our Phenix lead heads.

I used a 4-inch Owner JR Minnow soft plastic trailer with my jig, while Robert preferred a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp. We had over twelve spotties in less than an hour between us. Then something strange happened. Robert maneuvered his boat on the outside edge of a hard sand bottom. In almost successive casts, I nailed not one, but four, halibut on my Phenix lead head and Owner JR Minnow combo. Two of the halibut were over the 22-inch legal size limit!

Next, we tried to troll for spotted bay bass in the back of the bay in very shallow 7–10 feet of water. Using the Yo-Zuri Flat Cranks, again we scored some nice spotties pushing over 2 ½ pounds.

Towards the later afternoon, we motored back to the outer jetty to try for calico bass. Scattered among brilliantly colored garibaldi—the bright orange reef dwellers—the calicos came off the reef and smacked those Phenix jigs again with our soft plastic trailers. All in all, an awesome trip!

Boat launching is free at San Diego’s Shelter Harbor boat ramp. So is parking. There are a lot of sights in this military occupied harbor ranging from submarines, old sailing ships, and even the World War II warrior, the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier. Make a day of it. Try to release all your spotted bay sand and calico bass. And, have a blast with light tackle!

Ronnie Kovach

Ronnie is a former freshwater bass guide and has written five bestselling books on the theory and practice of successful angling. His weekly show “Radio Outdoor Expeditions” is in its twentieth year on the Angels Baseball Network. Ronnie’s popular “Fishing Ventures Television” has garnered 14 prestigious Telly Awards and is aired weekly on Fox Sports West. As a current world record holder, Ronnie continues to teach at his Owner Hooks Fishing Schools (established in 1989), and spread a message for planetary stewardship.

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  1. Bill

    Wish I’d been there with them . . .

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