Spruce up your offerings for sea bass with added treats.
For many anglers up and down the East Coast, the old-fashioned method of hi-lo rigs with natural baits such as clams or cut fish baits remains the sure way of keeping the rods bent with black sea bass. While natural baits fished on standard sea bass rigs do a fine job of catching these indigo beauties of assorted sizes, by the end of the day, anglers employing heavy metal jigs of many shapes, forms, and sizes prove to be the skilled masters with the dexterity of filling their bag limits with jumbo to monster fish.
Actually, slow-pitching artificial lures aimed to attract black sea bass is not that difficult, especially due to the voraciousness and aggressiveness of this particular bottom dweller. Black sea bass are known to consume a variety of prey, which include crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish, barnacles, tunicates, and bivalves. As bottom dwellers, they also feed on organisms at the bottom of the aquatic food chain.
As for the manmade jawbreakers, there are a number of gadgets that do a fabulous job of duping many varieties of fish, especially black sea bass. Smooth and hammer-finished diamond jigs with or without colored tubes, bucktail and leadhead jigs with soft body plastics, flutter, and butterfly jigs, as well as skirted ball jigs, just to name a few.
While the list of sea bass arsenal is broad, water depth, the strength of current, and the time of year are all key factors to what tactic is best suited according to location and conditions. Since black sea bass spend most of their adult lives feeding and sprawling along bottoms of tough terrain, which include rocks, reefs, wrecks, and shellfish beds in the deep cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean or any of the Sounds up and down the coast, it is paramount to keep those costly jigs from hanging up and becoming a donation to Davy Jones Locker. Therefore, to fish a jig properly when targeting black sea bass, start by dropping the jig until you hit bottom. Then, crank the reel one half-turn to keep it 12 to 18 inches off the bottom, which is where sea bass tend to feed. In addition, keeping the jig off the bottom will cut down on the loss of lures. It is fundamental when jigging to keep your fishing line vertical. If your line is swinging away from the boat and off the strike zone, try a heavier jig. Lift the rod tip, making the jig dart up from the bottom, then lower it back down and continue to repeat the process. This motion will get the attention of jumbo black sea bass.
Conventional and baitcasting outfits are ideal for jigging sea bass. However, lightweight spinning gear has gained momentum in leaps and bounds in recent times. If you are using monofilament or braided synthetics for the main line, be sure to tie an 8-foot length of 15 to 25-pound class fluorocarbon leader to the main line via an Albright Knot. This will lessen the visibility of the leader, which in turn lessens the skepticism of any jumbo biscuit daring to commit to the artificial offering. Should you find, for some reason, the black sea bass are playing hard to get, adding a 3 or 4-inch white, chartreuse, or new penny Gulp Swimming Mullet to the hook will get their juices flowing and turn the bite on. Another wonderful sea bass attractor and one that Fisherman Magazine readers might be very familiar with if they visited the booths at any of the winter events are the Fishbites E-Z strips. A 2 or 3-inch piece of these baits in clam or squid is all that’s needed and will add a little extra spice to any of your offerings.
This is one of the best times of the year to target these tasty fish. They also compliment most togs trips very well in the right locations. These fish are certainly not hard to catch, but when you do sweeten up the offering to them, I will increase your catch rate even more.