Deep Thoughts: Targeting Giant Sea Bass - The Fisherman

Deep Thoughts: Targeting Giant Sea Bass

The author with his “personal best” 25-inch hog of a black sea bass caught fishing a Long Island Sound wreck

Get inside the mind of an obsessed sea bass fisherman, who has a knack for hooking monsters.

Sea bass season has arrived, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back on the grounds. Last year’s season was amazing in Long Island Sound with great numbers and sizes of fish. My goal is always to target the biggest, knot-headed sea bass the Sound has to offer, and I have to say, I also feel that they are the most beautiful (and best-tasting) fish we have here in New England.

I want to share how we locate and hook into the big trophy sea bass and hopefully help you land a few big ones as well. This past year was a blast, one of the best moments of the year was early in the season.  We were fishing a wreck we frequent as it usually produces a good sea bass bite, but on this day it was slow. Even as we moved around to different parts of the wreck, the result was the same. Then, my dad had a bright idea, he suggested we move ‘just off’ the wreck and try again. Then it happened my rod doubled over, and I knew I had hooked into something nice! Looking into the water, I could see color and it was clear that this fish was a beast! A few more turns of the reel, and we had the bass next to the boat. This beautiful knot-head taped out at a whopping 24.75 inches, unofficially beating the Connecticut state record. I later topped this fish in the fall at another wreck with the sea bass coming in at an eye-popping 25 inches!

The key to catching the biggest sea bass is fishing the right depth and fishing in sticky structure.

How Deep?

When people tell me they are struggling to catch the big sea bass the first thing I ask is how deep they are fishing. All too often, they are fishing too shallow. These big guys like the deep water, and while they will move into shallower water at times, we consistently pull them out of deeper water. The sweet spot for fish north of the 20-inch mark is 80 to 100 feet. But – of course – depth is not enough all by itself, you also need structure.

We do our black sea bass fishing in Long Island Sound and there are vast areas of flat, featureless bottom, but if you hunt around or study your charts, you will find that structure is easy to locate in the Sound and there are many types as well. While ledges and channels can be productive, we focus on two types of structure for the best sea bass fishing: wrecks and rock piles.

Rock Piles

My favorite way to fish rock piles, is drifting. We favor a bucktail matched with a Gulp Grub, these things can be deadly. My personal favorite grub color is pink shine. Here are a few things to keep in mind…first of all, slower drifts are usually better for bigger fish. Also, fishing in these depths means every little bit of drag matters, the lighter your braid the less scope you’ll have to deal with – ‘scoping’ is when the current pushes the line out away from the boat. I typically use 15-pound test braid, and that usually does the trick.

The method is simple, you’ll know you have the proper weight bucktail when your line is more or less straight up and down and the jig is fishing below you. We have our best success when the jig is bouncing along the bottom and we entice bites by imparting a twitching motion. If you don’t have any luck on the first pass, try changing your drift angle before changing location.

Technological advancements like Spot Lock make it so much easier to keep your rigs and jigs in the strike zone where the giants lurk.


As mentioned, we also like to fish wrecks, we do drift these sometimes, but we prefer to Spot Lock over the wreck with the trolling motor. This helps prevent getting your line/hook caught in the wreck. But even when spot-locked you can get snagged in a wreck. Trolling motors with Spot Lock are certainly not required, but they sure do make it easy to shift around a piece of structure and fish it with ease, rather than having to haul and set two anchors each time.

We make single hook rigs for wreck fishing because it helps reduce the frequency of snagging on the wreck. I also like the single hook as I can more accurately determine what I have on the line when a fish bites. Rod choice is important, too. You want a rod that has a sensitive tip so you can feel the fish, however you also want enough backbone to get the fish up and away from the wreck, so they can’t dive into the structure and hang up.

My preferred bait choices is squid, I like to buy whole squid, then cut them into strips (instead of buying precut baits). I also add a little more enticement by splitting the trailing end of each strip, which gives it a little more action in the water. If we run out of bait, switching to a bucktail combined with a 6-inch Gulp grub usually keeps us in the fish (color of choice, once again, is Pink Shine). Drifting around the wreck can be dicey, but if you set up so your jig and grub will swim alongside the wreck instead of over and through, you’ll drastically reduce snags and still catch plenty of fish.

The 22.5-inch beast took a squid strip fished around a rock pile in Long Island Sound.

Parting Words

If you follow these guidelines, I am sure you will get yourself hooked into some nice sea bass. One last word of advice: if you have fished a structure for 30 minutes or so and you’re not getting results move on to another piece of structure. Then come back to the original piece of structure later in the day. It’s tempting to stay on a spot that you know is productive, but when the bite is cold, moving off and returning later often results in finding more fish and occasionally a new spot as well. Just like any other type of fishing, spots can go hot and cold, so develop a good list of spots and keep moving around until you find an active bite.

I hope this helps you find more and bigger sea bass and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. You can bet I’ll be out there looking for my next big-knot head sea bass this month, until then I hope to see you out on the water and wish you tight lines!!



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