Pacific Coast Swimbait Fishing


A lot of people I talk to who are freshwater bass anglers are often intimidated by fishing in the ocean. It’s understandable when their only exposure to the ocean is via TV shows like Wicked Tuna and Deadliest Catch. Many times, when I tell them that I fish for saltwater bass that are similar in size and behavior to largemouth, I’m met with looks of skepticism.

Here in Southern California, we have a great inshore fishery of saltwater bass: calico bass, sand bass, and spotted bay bass are species that are readily accessible to pier and jetty anglers, skiff fishermen, float tubers, and half-day sportboat anglers. This article from Sport Fishing magazine tells about one of the most popular ways we catch them.

IMG_0308You’d have to search plenty of Florida Keys center-consoles to find one that didn’t have a few bucktails rigged for nearshore species. The jig-and-feather combo handles sharp teeth from mackerel and snapper, and survives rugged reef structures that pepper the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

But head to Southern California, and you’ll notice another lure — one that anglers targeting calico bass swear by.

“Originally, we used a ‘bomber’ jig — a bullet-shaped lead-head, similar to a bucktail — and added squid,” says calico bass tournament angler Erik Landesfeind. “But eventually we moved away from the live and prepared baits. Fish weren’t responding to them, so we switched to swimbaits.”

This gave rise to a unique fishery for the ­aggressive calico bass along the rocky beaches and among the kelp beds of the California coastline and nearby islands.

“Using these baits and specialized gear, we’re fishing in areas once unable to be fished,” says Landesfeind. “In the past 15 years, bass ­tournaments have increased too. The Salt Water Bass Anglers tournaments (saltwater​bassanglers​.com) now regularly register 50 to 70 boats. Each ­tournament, we’re breaking records — five-bass limits weighing up to 35 pounds.”

Photos: Erik Landesfeind (top), SoCal Salty (above)