Spring and summer time fishing for White Sea Bass in Southern California can be very productive but patience is required. These fish are elusive, can grow up to 5 feet and weigh over 80 lbs, and will bite a jig presented at the right time and the right place. As with many other fishing scenarios, matching the hatch will be crucial when targeting white seabass on the jig.
The Squid Grounds
When targeting white seabass you’ll want to start at the food source. Squid, commonly referred by anglers as “candy bait” because most gamefish cannot resist them, lay their translucent egg sacs along sandy bottoms near California’s offshore islands. San Clemente Island, Santa Catalina Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island, are all known to have areas considered as “squid grounds.” Clusters of commercial squid boats are a telltale sign that squid are around. Understanding the squid’s mating rituals will help you determine what jig to choose as well as how to present it.
Match the Hatch
Mating season for market squid typically kicks off in February for Southern California. Around this time large congregations of squid gather for the big dance and all the commotion does not go unnoticed by opportunistic gamefish. The mating ritual of squid consists of several aggressive males competing for the chance to fertilize females. At times, two or three males will use their tentacles to latch on to the same female; each competing to deliver their sperm underneath the female’s mantle. This entanglement presents a nice mouthful of food for not only white seabass but yellowtail, halibut, sheepshead, calico bass and almost everything else that swims by. That fierce competition to mate is essentially what you’ll want to mimic with your jig presentation.
If you’re serious about catching a white seabass on the jig you’ll need to have something with glow in your arsenal. The Assault Diamond Jig in the glow (GL) pattern has proven to be very effective when targeting white seabass at the squid grounds. The jig’s shape and finish mimic a squid’s outline and natural bioluminescense which gamefish key in on. Assault Diamond Jigs are available with treble hooks in nine different weight options. Also available in the glow finish, but with fewer weight options, are the Assault Diamond Single Hook Jigs and the Assault Diamond Assist Jigs. The assist jigs come equipped with a single Mustad 3X Wire Assist Hook with rigging rated for 300lbs.
Depending on whether the fish are suspended in mid depth or near the bottom you’ll want to have a few of the 4oz and 6oz Glow Assault Diamond jigs available. Use the lighter jigs for suspending fish and heavier jigs when the fish are hanging a few feet off the bottom. To entice fish into biting your jig even more, imitate the squids’ natural behavior by adding two or three whole live or fresh-dead squid on the jig’s hook. Do this by threading the tip of the mantle twice on the same point so that the squid dangles from each hook. Baiting your jig this way will resemble male squid competing to fertilize the same female; an easy and hefty meal for a big white seabass. The lighter jigs can be fished by casting out and letting the jig sink for a few seconds to a depth where the fish are holding then bringing them back with a slow retrieve so that the jig stays roughly around the same depth. The heavier jigs can be baited with squid the same way but fished a few feet from the bottom. Let your jig hit the bottom then give your reel a few cranks. You can either leave this setup on the rod holder or you can add a little more action to the jig by occasionally raising the rod tip slowly. In both cases, when you get bit, reel in your slack line until you feel tension then set the hook.
Long casts are not necessary with this style of fishing but you’ll need somewhat of a soft tip on a rod with enough backbone to deal with the strong headshakes. A 7 or 8 foot medium-heavy rod provides sufficient leverage to pull on big white seabass. Pair the rod with your favorite reel which holds about 300 yards of 40 lb test monofilament or use 65 lb test braided line with a 40 lb test fluorocarbon leader. If you’re fishing braid, choose the softer tip rods to compensate for the lack of stretch so that you don’t end up pulling the hook.
“To entice fish into biting your jig even more, imitate the squids’ natural behavior by adding two or three whole live or fresh-dead squid on the jig’s hook.”
White seabass are some of the most elusive and highly sought after gamefish in Southern California and Northern Baja. Catching them on live bait is no easy task, which makes fooling them into eating a metal jig even more rewarding. You can fish the squid grounds using different styles of rigging so try different techniques but the next time you’re out on the water don’t forget to bring your 4 and 6 oz Glow Assault Diamond Jigs. Pin a couple of whole squid on your jig before dropping it down and hang on because there’s a 65+ lb white seabass out there waiting to inhale it.