Calico Bass and Sand Bass Fishing
By Sean Lara
Calico and Sand Bass are one of the most popular species targeted by saltwater fisherman. Whether youíre fishing the kelp, the jetty, or the harbor, Bass fishing can be fun and rewarding. Itís also a fun and productive way to learn about fishing for other species too. In this article, you will learn about fishing for saltwater Calicos and Sands, water conditions, best times to fish, swimbaits, live bait, and more.
To many, Calico and Sand Bass fishing is one of the best aspects about saltwater fishing. But, like to all other species of fish, proper tackle is required.
A good bass reel would be a relatively small baitcaster/low-profile casting reel or conventional, with a line rating anywhere between 8-25#. A rod rated around 10-25# is also recommended. Personally, I like a fast action rod with a medium to medium/heavy power for bass. This type of action and power provides you with solid hooksets along with the power to pull fish out of the kelp. Some examples of good baitcasting reels would be the Shimano Corvalus, Shimano Cardiff, Shimano Caclutta, Okuma Induron, Shimano Curado, Daiwa Millionaire CV-Z, Daiwa Coastal, and many more. Good conventional reels would be the Shimano Trinidad (smaller models), Avet SX, Penn Jigmaster, Penn International 955, Daiwa Sealine, and more. I personally use a Shimano Curado with a Daiwa Heartland Salmon/Steelhead Casting rod, or I'll use my Avet SX on my Premier American Spirit.
Calico and Sand Bass are usually not line-shy fish, so anything from 10-25lb will work well. 15# will work best for all applications.
Make sure you have hooks in sizes 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, and 3/0. Use the smaller hooks for fishing with anchovies, and the larger hooks with the sardines. Be sure to match the size of the hook to the size of the bait being used. In other words - the bigger the bait, the bigger the hook.
Live Bait Fishing
Choosing the right bait is important for Bass fishing. They will most actively eat anchovies, sardines, squid, shrimp, and mussel. When live-bait fishing, donít be afraid to pick out the liveliest baitfish in the tank. If its easy to catch, then donít use it. Basically, this means take your time choosing your bait. Also check for brown-baits such as tomcod, perch, small croaker etc.
Calico Bass Bait Fishing
When fishing live bait for calicos, most of the time you will be fly-lining. Fly-lining means there is no rig setup or added weight involved. Just line and hook. For fishing sardines, use a 1/0 hook, and for fishing anchovies, use a size 2 hook. Again, hook sizes depend on the size of the bait.
Fly-lining is a relatively easy method to effectively catch calico bass, but with everything in life, it does require some skill. On average, a sardine weighs about 3/4-1oz, and is about 5 in long. In the hands of a professional, casting a fly-lined bait fish with a baitcaster can be relatively easy. Before casting a light weight object, a beginner needs to practice casting without getting any backlashes. Getting a backlash on an open party boat while fly-lining will make everyone extremely mad. If in doubt, use a spinning reel.
To fly-line, cast your sardine or anchovy in the desired spot. Put your reel in free spool, and as it is swimming, make sure you feel your bait. This means keeping one thumb lightly on the spool, and using your other finger on the line to detect any bites. If your bait decides to swim under someone elseís line, ask nicely if you can move under (or over) them. When you feel the hit, let the fish eat, let the rod load up, and set the hook.
When the Calicos are less active, they will sometimes move further to the bottom. When fly-lining, you can add a sliding weight to the line. This allows the baitfish to swim deeper. You can also catch calicos off of strips of squid and live bait on the bottom. (Bottom fishing rigs described in the next section)
Sand Bass Bait Fishing
Sand Bass fishing is similar to Calico Bass fishing in some ways, but different in others. Sand Bass are usually lurking on or near the bottom. There are a few rigs that work well for fishing Sandies on the bottom. Some rigs are the Dropper Loop Rig, Carolina Rig, and the Hi/Low Rig. With any of these rigs, you can fish either live bait, strips of squid, shrimp, or even mussel. However, when youíre fishing from an open party boat, stick to live anchovies, sardines, or squid. Bottom fishing is very simple. Simply put your bait on the hook, drop it down on the bottom, and let it sit, making sure your line is taught. If there are fish around, youíll get bit. Just be patient.
Sand Bass can also be caught fly-lining on the surface using the same techniques as Calico Bass fishing. When Sand Bass are caught on the surface, it usually means they are very active, or they're spawning. Spawning season is usually around late spring through summer. Calicos are also active during this time, so you may accidentally pick up one of those too.
Calico and Sand Bass Plastic Fishing
Fishing plastics for Bass requires a lot of skill, but you will soon learn that your hard work will pay off. At times, swimbait fisherman will catch twice, even triple as many fish as bait fisherman, and usually, the fish they are catch are huge. However, you must learn how to properly fish them.
Plastic Tackle Selection
Good plastics for bass are: Swimbaits(Big Hammers and Fish Traps), skampis(twin tail swimbaits), single tailed grubs, and flukes. Get Swimbaits ranging from 4 -6" long. Skampis should be about 5". Flukes should be around 4 -5". Single tailed grubs should be about 5".
When using swimbaits, fish them on a hammer-head leadhead in either white, yellow, or red. It gives the swimbait good color contrast. For 4" swimbaits, use a Ĺ oz jig head. For 5" use 3/4oz. For 6" use 1oz. This is how a rigged swimbait should look: (this is also the type of leadhead to use)
When using flukes, fish them on a bullet leadhead. Again, it is important to have color contrast, so use either white, yellow, or red. Also fish the single tailed grubs on bullet heads too.
When fishing skampis, Sand Bass usually like bright colors like chartreuse, and Calico Bass like darker colors like root beer better. Colors all depend on the conditions. Use leadheads like these:
There are a lot of different colored swimbaits and other plastics out there. Try picking out the ones that look natural. Also, the color plastics you use should match the conditions you are fishing. For example, when it is dark out, and/or the water is dark, use darker colors. When it is sunny out and/or there is clear water, use brighter colors. Also, when you are fishing deeper or murky water, use colors like green or brown. Here are some good swimbait colors to use in most situations:
There are many different ways to fish plastics, and you need to vary your retrieves. When the fish are active, you can speed up youíre retrieves. But, when the fish are less active, youíll need to slow things down a bit.
When fishing plastics from boats, youíll be fishing fairly deep compared to other places in the ocean. So youíll need to find where the fish are. Fish at different depths until you get a strike. When the fish are deeper, because they are either feeding off the bottom, or less active, try sinking your bait to the bottom, and slowly retrieve, jig, or bounce it. When the fish are near the top or close to it, just cast out, let it sink for a few seconds, and start your retrieve. It can be as simple as just reeling in. Try bringing the plastic in slow. Try brining it in fast. Do whatever it takes to catch fish. If you are still struggling to hook into one, switch to a different plastic. Also, try tipping your artificials off with a strip of squid. When you are in deep bays, fish your swimbaits just like you would on a boat. Same techniques, it just might be a little shallower than out on the open ocean.
When youíre in harbors, look around for structure(weíll discuss exactly what structure to look for later). Fish all around it, in it, etc. Try bouncing your plastic on the bottom. Try Jigging it. Try dragging it. Like I said before, do whatever it takes to catch fish. You may even pick up a Spotted Bay Bass while fishing around this area.
Where to Fish
Now you know how to fish for Bass, what swimbaits to use, tackle selection, etc. But, now you need to ask yourself the most important question: Where do I find the fish?
In Deeper Water
When you are in deeper water like out on a boat, fishing in the bay, etc, it can be hard to find the Bass. There are a few things you should look for:
-Schools of Baitfish
Harbors can be some of the best places to fish for bass. They provide excellent structure, an abundance of food, and great fishing. In a harbor, look for these things and fish them:
-Mouth of the harbor
-Walls (cement, stone, etc)
-Any other type of structure
Finding bass from piers can be fairly difficult, because there is not a lot of structure in the area that is visible to the naked eye, other than the pilings. However, there are a few areas where you should look for first:
-Mid-section to end of pier
If you take your time and study the art of Bass fishing, I guarantee it will greatly pay off. However, you canít expect to learn everything from just this article. You need to physically get out on the water, and learn for yourself. Also, study what other anglers are doing, and talk to some veteran fisherman. You can learn a lot from just watching people fish. I hope this article has provided you with some good information, and please share this with your friends. Also, one more important thing. If you want fishing to remain just like it does today in the future, please practice catch and release.
If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, please email me at Sean at hookupsportfishing.com Also, for more awesome information, check out California Fishing - Hookup Sportfishing