10 Tips on How to Catch Your First Seabass on YOUR Boat.
White seabass are regarded as one of the hardest fish to find (and catch), thus earning the nickname “Ghosts.” Here are some basic guidelines to follow that can improve your chances if you have been trying without success. Like a golfer or baseball player, the fundamentals are a guideline for constant improvement and necessary for any angler trying to reach the next level of his or her ability.
#1 Conditions A basic knowledge of what conditions to look for can help you stay out of the crowd, a key factor in being a successful seabass angler. When studying an area you’ll want to look for life. (Birds, bait etc.) Then look for that often talked about off color water. Once you’ve found those you can narrow it down by studying the structure. Seabass live in the kelp and around hard bottom (rocks, reef, wrecks and ridges) and spawn/feed on the edges of these areas, often under the cover of dirty water. The line where the off color water meets the cleaner water is often referred to as the “edge”.
This edge is the highway seabass use to travel from hard bottom to kelp, and into shallow the water beach where the off color water is coming from. Where to fish that hard edge can be defined by where the birds are, and the bait. The spot where the beach meets the kelp, or maybe the kelp meets the rocks (or maybe just the kelp itself) forms an undeniable “pocket” for your boat to sit in. So, for example, you see a beach puking green dirty water and the current is pushing that water through a spot of kelp stringers and then it washes out and over a rocky outcropping on the island. You now have all three of a seabass favorite places linked together with a highway, and you’d set up where the birds are (an indicator of where they’ve been feeding) and start chumming and fishing hard. The conditions discussed here pertain mostly to Catalina, for coastal seabass fishing see tip #6.
#2 Tides and Time Of Day Keep a tide chart with you, and fish hard during slack tide times. If the conditions described above occur during slack tide, you may be blessed with a seabass bite. Furthermore, seabass are more active at sunup and sundown, so add that to the equation and your odds improve even more. The high slack tends to fish better than the low tide for seabass, but not always. There is more to this tide and moon phase deal, but that is for another whole article.
#3 Chumming Bring along as much frozen squid as you can. Good quality frozen squid (not pink and smelly) can be hard to find. The best stuff is what you bagged live last trip and froze immediately. Chop squid into small pieces and toss behind the boat so it will drift back into the kelp and draw the seabass out. If perch and small bass become a nuisance, you can throw smaller tidbits off the bow, to keep those pesky bait stealers out of where you are casting your baits. A steady flow of chum is key to getting seabass to bite, so no breaks.
#4 Keep Your Baits Moving A lot of seabass are caught on dropper loops, and the main reason is that this rig keeps your bait off the bottom where sharks and rays will reek havoc and waste time. When casting into the “pocket” of conditions, use the lightest weight you can get away with, and slowly pump your bait back to the boat. A 3/4oz leadhead, cast out with 3 squid on it and then a rod placed in the rod holder will NOT do you any favors when trying to catch a seabass. These are not catfish, and do not feed off the bottom often. Place dropper loop rigs in rod holders midships, pointing straight off the side of your boat, the the rocking motion keeps your bait moving (if you want to sit down).
#5 Fish With Quality Tackle New line and sharp hooks are necessary. Check and double check knots, and retie after every fish. Smooth drags and longer rods help keep the line from raking across the sharp teeth of seabass, as they do shake their heads to try and spit the hook often during the fight. When you hook that first seabass is NOT the time to figure out that your equipment needs to be serviced.
#6 Fish Where the Squid is This is a different tactic altogether than the conditions described in tip #1. Seabass swim through the bait grounds, near the bottom alot of times, eating the spawned out squid that are dying after their voracious last sexual encounter. (squid die within 3 days of spawning). Anchor at night and fish dropper loops and/or heavy iron jigs (white works) with squid pinned on. Fresh dead or frozen sometimes works better than live here. Productive squid beds will be in 75-120′ of water most of the time, and rarely shallower. Late afternoon into the evening, at night and early morning (grey light) are prime times.
#7 Catch Your Own Squid Putting the lights out and catching squid is a great way to get the seabass to stack up under your boat and bite. Fish while catching bait and you may be rewarded with what we call a “free one”. That’s when the rod goes off and you hardly notice, because you are working so hard at catching squid. It’s almost like a break. Some guys like to leave the lights on after they have caught your fill, unless the sealions become too plentiful. This rings the bell for mealtime as there is a huge ball of squid right under your boat. Others prefer to go dark and be more stealthy on the squid grounds, and have great success. This is one of those times when you’ll have to make a decision on the spot, but both ways work.
#8 Fish During the Week All the stuff I’ve discussed above means nothing if 30 boats are pounding the spot you chose to fish. It’s no secret that it’s easier to catch a seabass in less boat traffic, and during the week is the best way to make that happen.
#9 Go the Extra Mile So the wind is blowing a little on the back of Catalina, but that is where the seabass are. Tough it out. If the seabass are at San Clemente Island, that is where you need to be. No excuses, no moorings, just fish where the fish are until safety becomes a factor. This is probably the most common reason guys don’t catch a seabass on any given day. Pay the price and when that beauty hits the deck, you’ll forget about being cold and wet instantly.
#10 Fish More than One Day Trips As you spend time in an area, you begin to take in all it has to offer. Conditions usually come and go during the day at nearly the same time, for days on end. Trust me when I say, that the more time you spend in an area (without leaving), the more in touch you’ll be with where the seabass are, when they are biting (and not biting), or if there is just not enough volume to justify you being there. On multi-day trips you can make a move to a different zone if need be, and still have time to get dialed in on an area.
The truth is, seabass are easy to figure out, and easy to catch. This is by no means the “whole puzzle”, but enough to help you get your first fish. Booking a trip on a boat with a reputation of catching seabass will teach you more than you can imagine about what to do on your boat. The same holds true when you have an experienced seabass fisherman on your boat with you, either as a guest, or hired as a guide.