White Sea Bass Fishing Tutorial

White Sea Bass Fishing Tutorial

The White Sea Bass one of the Northern California Kayak fisherman’s coveted sport fish. There are number of kayak fisherman who do well for this fish. The few, dedicated and informed will often do well. This tutorial will help you locate this “ghost fish” and provide some tools to help you be a successful ghost buster.

The White Sea Bass

The white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) is the largest member of the Sciaenid family found in California waters. In addition to being a popular sport fish, white seabass is also targeted by a commercial fishery. There have been commercial and recreational fisheries for white seabass in California since the 1890s. The fisheries occur primarily in southern California but in some years may extend to central California. The commercial fisheries use primarily drift gill nets but some fish are taken on hook-and-line. The current sport angling record is a 78-pound fish caught in Monterey Bay on April 4, 2002 by David L. Sternberg. White seabass are also taken by divers. The current sport diving record is for a 93-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in Malibu on September 17, 2007 by Bill Ernst while freediving.

Source: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sfmp/whiteseabass.asp

DFG WSB Brochure









Popular Locations in Northern California

  • Monterey (Lover’s Point, and Hotel)
  • Santa Cruz and Capitola
  • Pajaro, Moss Landing
  • Natural Bridges to Four Mile Beach
  • Half Moon Bay

 Sea bass will follow school of squid. They are notoriously lazy eaters and prefer to pick of dead squid after a spawn rather then chase down larger prey. Given this tendency Northern California fisherman have been able to zone on the “Mysterious” White Sea Bass bite and provide more predictability to this fishery.

Ninety percent of fish caught in Monterey Bay will be caught in the top 10’ of water, although they can be caught up and down the entire water column depending on their feeding habits.Fly lining fresh squid is the preferred method for fishing Sea Bass. If the fish are feeding deeper, add weight to a sliding sinker and shorten the leader.

Get Networked

The #1 reason why some Kayak fisherman do well and others don’t is networking!! Build a network with other Kayak fishermen who have the same passion. The WSB is called a “Ghost” because of their tendencies to show up one day and be gone the next. Most of the time commercial fishermen are the first to spot a feeding school by scouting the typical feeding grounds. They will be into the fish before the bite is let out. It is important to be networked and respect the sources. Being networked means providing information not just asking for it. Being networked is a give and take that is built on credibility and respect for the network. Get in the “know”, respect the source, and get on the fish.


Squid Spawn
WSB follow and feed
Commercial and Fisherman “In the know” shows up
Bite gets out
Stamped of fisherman show up
Bite dies off

Having fished for Sea Bass for many years I have seen this cycle play out dozen of times.It is important to “be in the know”. Timing is everything for these fish. Most WSB are caught during the “bolded” times. Once a bite is let out and the stamped of fisherman follow, the bite will die off fairly fast.

White Sea Bass are highly sensitive to noise and motion. 200+ boats rushing into a bite will typically drive the sea bass out of the area. Minimizing engine and loud noises will increase everyone’s shot a large fish and is good common courtesy for others fisherman hoping to land their won trophy.

TIP – Fish a few days in the same location after the “bite” has cooled off, the WSB may school again and the bite ramp back up before the cycle starts over again.

Bait SelectionIMG_20130714_164123

Market Squid (most preferable bait)

Pacific Sardine
Northern Anchovy
Pacific Herring
Pelagic Red Crab
Pacific Mackerel

White Sea Bass LOVE SQUID!!  The arrival of large market size squid is a good indicator of an impending White Sea bass bite. In Northern California most fisherman focus on the bite that occur after a squid spawn following a full moon.

Squid will school up and spawn during the full moon then die and float up to the surface where sea bass congregate to feed. The successful fisherman will mimic this natural feeding cycle and mooch their fresh dead squid around the squid spawn. During these spawns it is preferable to catch squid to ensure freshness. Fresh Market squid can also be found on the Docks of Monterey for a reasonable price. Pre packaged frozen squid can also be bought at the local Asian supermarket as another option.

NOTE – Squid are translucent when alive, purple haze when freshly dead, white after a few hours and then pink. It is preferable to fish large market sized squid (White ) with long tails (Males) to ensure good presentation. The tails of the male squid provide action and increase the chances of a strike.

TIP – The impact of wind on a bite is often over looked. When fly lining squid it is coincidental that the bite often pick-ups when the wind starts to blow. This is a well-known and documented secret in the WSB fishing community. Snotty conditions equates to better fishing. A slow drift is optimal when fishing for Sea Bass.  A good drift will swim the squid but is slow enough to keep the bait under water, away from birds and other top water predators.

The White Sea Bass Bite

FullSizeRender (1)Patience and determination are key character traits needed to be successful in Sea Bass fishing. This fishery is NOT for the impatient and undetermined. (RockFish Fisherman need not apply)

One of the largest, secretive and most prolific fish to roam the California coast the White Sea Bass bite has a signature bite that match its trophy size status. Many fisherman have been “hooked” on this fishery after their first bite. Be advised that catching a White Sea Bass will distort a fisherman’s reality on what a “Big fish” is. (Be warned)

A White Sea Bass will inhale a whole squid and make LARGE blistering and runs. This initial burst will start with a “tick, tick tick” that turns into an all out run. (Sometime, it is just an all out RUN) Because of the Sea Bass tendency to make these large bursts it is important to be adequately prepared. Having a minimum 300 yards of line, sharp hooks, proper knots and abrasion/knick free terminal tackle is critical to being successful. The majority of lost fish is completely preventable with a little extra care on the terminal tackle.

IMPORTANT NOTE – It is important to take the rod out of the rod holder and let the White Sea Bass run! Sea Bass will make large bust that will peel off 100-200 ft of line before they stop. Impatience with this step will lead to (1) a broken line/ leader (2) pulling the squid out of the sea bass mouth. Either way, the end result is a lost fish. Be patient, determined and controlled during this step.


IMG_0021 (1)

Salmon can be equated to Mohammad Ali fighting style, “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. White Sea Bass can be equated to Mike Tyson, one shot, and you’re out. The pure power of this fish is something to behold.

The Sea Bass will “HIT” the bait and make smattering runs on the surface. Once this initial run is done they will go vertical up and down the water column. It is important to be patient when landing a Sea Bass from a Kayak. It may take anywhere from 30 min – 1 hour to land a sizable fish. When the fish has exerted all its energy it will float to the surface.

TIP – Make sure the Sea Bass has exerted all its energy and is floating before attempting to land it. Fish that still have energy will make burst on the surface sometimes leading to broken lines and hearts. Be patient and wait for them to float up before attempting the landing process. A good net or gaff will get the job done.

Terminal Tackle
(This is an example of what I use)
Rig consist of 5-8 ft of Fluorocarbon leader (30-40 lb test)
75 -100 lb black swivel
5/0 black “J” owner hooks snelled 4” apart or
3x Owner Treble Hooks size 2 or 4 for stinger.
Min. 300 yards of braided 60 lb main line.
Shimano Travela Med- heavy or Med. Light 6’4 and 7’0 ft pole.
Shimano Charter Special or TLD 15 with upgraded carbon fiber drag
Good sharp gaff or very large net
Four RODS (multiple rods increases the chances for a hook up)

TIP – Make sure to inspect all terminal tackle for wear and tear. Take a little extra time and care to ensure everything is in pristine condition. White Sea Bass are heavy hitting fish so make sure the equipment can withstand their blows.


White Sea Bass are big and formable fish; its only equal, in terms of pure power, in northern California, is the bay/delta sturgeon. Handling these fish should be taken with precaution, preparation and great care.

Having successfully targeted and landed White Sea Bass from my Kayak has been one of my greatest accomplishments as a fisherman. Having the patience, knowledge, tools and skills has made the journey safe and fun. Good luck and Tight Lines! –Lost_Anchovy.

Version 1.1
Revised 4.17.2016


2 Replies to “White Sea Bass Fishing Tutorial

  1. Can you hit these from shore? I’m from the Islands and used to casting large baits close to 250 feet comfortably! This technique works well to just drift and be patient, and know the feeling of obstructions or bottom, stay away from both if desired! I do very well for stripers on plugs but by the stories I read , plugs won’t work for wsb! Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you kindly,

    Craig, aka “Crab”

    • Hey craig. Honestly, i’m not sure i have an answer for that. I know WSB do lounge around kelp beds so if you fish around the kelp beds from shore…you might be able to get them??–Maybe

      Usually with a squid spawn, around the full moon, they will move off the kelp beds and feed on the spawned out squid. That is when we typically target them on Kayaks. Sorry, i’m not sure if that answer is sufficient. Lol.

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