The Spotted Bay Bass
by Kerry Peeler
Right in our own back yard, OEX Mission Bay, we have a fish that is not common to most parts of country or world for that fact. That fish is the Spotted Bay Bass, Spotted Sand Bass, or as most people call them Spotties. You will find it mainly along the Southern California coast in bays, lagoons, and occasionally out in the Pacific Ocean around jetties and kelp. Spotties have also been caught from the Sea of Cortez, Mexico/Baja coast line and as far away as Mazatlan. The body of the spotted bay bass can vary from long and skinny to short and stocky. The mouth is large and the jaw protruding only slightly. The color is olive brown with vertical bars and round black spots on the body, head and fins. These fish can vary in color and can be very light to almost black looking with an yellowish tone on the lower jaw and gill plates. Spotted sand bass can be easily distinguished from kelp bass by the height of the third dorsal spine. In spotted sand bass and barred sand bass it is the longest of the dorsal spines, while in the kelp bass the third, fourth and fifth spines are of about equal length. Spotted sand bass differ from barred sand bass by the presence of spots that cover the entire body. This fish on average does not get that big, generally up to 3 pounds. Larger fish have been caught and one of the largest recorded Spotties, 4.96 pounds, was caught just 100 yards from our shop.
Spotted Bay Bass can be targeted year round making it an ideal recreational target from a kayak. They are an aggressive fish and attack baits big and small. Spotted Bay Bass will put up a good fight when hooked on lighter tackle. Don’t be fooled by their smaller average size; with their rough sharp teeth, similar to a Largemouth Bass, along with sharp gill plates and the instinct to dive into whatever cover is near by when hooked, this fish will definitely give you your share of heart breaks!
These fish living mainly in bays and lagoons, relate to a wide variety of cover and structure. Where they choose to locate in the bay will also relate to the amount of food and tidal movement. Here on Mission Bay we have lots of eel grass. Eel grass can grow as long as 2 feet and is located almost everywhere in the bay. Jetty walls, rocks, docks, bridge pilings, channels and anything that can give them an ambush point or a break from the always flowing currents will be places to hunt for these fish.
Spotties can be caught with a variety of techniques from drop shot to big swimbaits depending on the time of year. They feed on a variety of things like; anchovies, crabs, clams, sardines, shrimp, smelt, worms and whatever else that happens by. Proven fish catchers have been; A-rigs, crankbaits, drop shot, grubs, jerkbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits. Doubles or more can be had on the A-rigs! They will eat a variety of colors from a Firetiger spinnerbait, Watermelon grub, to a Red jig and trailer. Pick your favorite technique and give it a try, you may be surprised at your reward.
Spotted Bay Bass can be a little tricky to land depending on the tackle and technique you are using. A Promar Landing Net can be very useful with larger fish and especially when using lures with treble hooks. You don't want a Spottie of any size flopping around in the kayak with treble hooks in it's mouth, they could find you in a number of places.
Whether you live right here in San Diego or are in town for whatever reason, head down to Mission or San Diego Bay with a hand full of baits and give the Spotted Bay Bass a try.