Spot On: Not Just for Stripers - The Fisherman

Spot On: Not Just for Stripers

2018 6 Not Just For Stripers Couple
Using live spots will surely land you a nice bass, and keep you smiling all the way home.

Over the last several years, live spot have become a mainstay on Long Island as a live bait alternative to bunker and other species. Live spot dealers have sprung up all over the island to meet the growing demand for these durable live baits.

Before we get into fishing a spot, what exactly is it? Spot is really just another name for lafayette. The name spot came from a round, brown dot/blotch near the root of the pectoral fin. Personally, I think it’s more likely we call it a spot because no one can say or spell lafayette correctly. In any event, live spot is a species that thrives in the spring and throughout summer months, and can be caught using a small piece of worm fished on the bottom in our bays. However, the effort needed to put them in your livewell can be tedious, especially when trying to catch a productive tide stage. However, if you are bottom bouncing for flounder, sea bass, kingfish etc. and catch a spot, you might want to make a quick drift in over known striper ground. For most however, stopping at one of the many tackle shops carrying them is a much easier task.

One of the advantages to spot is they are a hearty bait and very easy to keep alive, eliminating the need for a large, high-end livewell. I have picked up spot in Center Moriches in a 5-gallon bucket fitted with an inexpensive battery operated air stone and brought them to Fire Island, and they were as frisky as when I left. Capt. Tom Cornicelli of “Back Bay Outfitters” in Center Moriches said a nice livewell on the boat is great, but if you do not have one, just make sure you have some form of air, and make sure whatever you use is insulated to keep the water temperature stable.

2018 6 Not Just For Stripers Boat
Capt. Scott Leonard drilled this 51.9-pounder in Montauk in 2017 using a live spot.

Bass Only?

This is a question I hear all the time from anglers. “Are spots only good for stripers?” Absolutely not! Not only will live spots put bass in your livewell on virtually every trip, you can catch some of your largest fluke and sea bass as well. Not that I want to throw away a somewhat costly bait to sea robins, but while bassin’ last year I had a sea robin close to 7 pounds inhale one! I’m sure some Fisherman subscribers out there would love to have that fish for this year’s Dream Boat Contest. My son-in-law and I had bass on every trip while using live spot. Some days they were smaller, while others saw fish to 25 pounds.

In September of last year, while targeting stripers in Shinnecock Inlet, Paul “Bumbalini” Calendrello drilled a 13-pound, 2-ounce fluke on a live spot. In speaking with Capt. Tom Cornicelli of “Back Bay Outfitters,” a chief supplier of live spot, he noted that several of his customers had their largest fluke ever on spot, while others reported large sea bass. Tom also noted that some anglers have had good success using live spot on the offshore grounds for tuna.

I have also heard that spot are not effective on large stripers. I reached out to well-known striper hound and charter captain Scott Leonard of “Top Gun Sportfishing Charters” for his thoughts. According to Scott, last year his largest on a spot weighed in at 51.9 pounds. He also commented he has had at least four other bass over 50 pounds on these baits. That should be ample proof to disprove the theory that they only catch small fish. In my opinion, they are a bait that appeals to most of the fish we target here in Long Island waters, so don’t be surprised if you catch something other than your target species when fishing them.

2018 6 Not Just For Stripers Catch
13-pound, 2-ounce fluke

Catch ‘Em Up

As for rigging and using live spot, it is really no different than any other live bait. Hook size can vary with most bass hounds favoring a 6/0 or 7/0 Gamakatsu Octopus, while those targeting smaller species like fluke or sea bass might drop down to a 4/0.

Capt. Tom suggests you hook spot up from under the chin and exit out through the hard cartilage near the nose. For hooks, he prefers anglers use 6/0 to 7/0 circle hooks. It makes for easier hook-ups, and virtually no chance of a deep hooked fish. His terminal gear consists of an 8-foot leader of 50-pound fluorocarbon tied into a standard fish-finder rig.

Capt. Scott Leonard employs a pretty basic set-up consisting of a 6/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook, 60-pound leader material and 2-ounce drail. He hooks the bait in the nose, allowing it to swim freely. Scott also tries to get the largest spot he can—big bait equals big fish always applies.

2018 6 Not Just For Stripers Fishes
Notice the brown spot just above the pectoral fin?

Rod and Reel

For the rod and reel, any well-made 6-8 to 7-6 rod will suffice. I prefer the Penn Legion (LEGIN1530C70) matched to an Abu Garcia 7000C. It is not a really expensive set-up, but has fit my needs for years when live baiting. On the line end, I spool up with 30-pound braid, then top it off with a 60-inch length of 40-pound test Ande monofilament tied together using a double-uni or Albright knot. To the Ande, I either use a drail or egg sinker.

The advantage to the drail is it keeps your bait near the bottom or at least within the leader range at any depth you stop the reel at. The bottom line, however, is that just like most live baits, spot will head straight to the bottom anyway.

This year, when live spots become available, stop down at one of the many shops and grab a half dozen or so. I guarantee that you will at least put a fish on the scale, or maybe even drop your biggest sea bass, striper or fluke on the deck.

Back Bay Outfitters, Center Moriches

Oaklands Marina, Hampton Bays

Bergen Point  Fishing Station, Babylon

Suffolk Marine, Babylon

Star Island Marina, Montauk


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