Breaking Down The ‘Big Bay’
San Diego Bay, simply put is an impressive, and awesome monster body of water that holds a ton of fish!
From the entrance of San Diego Bay at Point Loma and Zuniga Jetty, all the way back to the Chula Vista Marina, it’s every bit of 12 miles long! Coronado Island, rich with history and that big ‘ol bridge, is home to the North Island Naval Base and US Navy Seals training and operations facilities, as well as other military installments throughout the bay. The world famous Long Range Sportfishing Fleet, was founded right in the heart San Diego Bay, and on any given day you may see one of the ‘Big Boys’ departing or returning from another epic Sportfishing adventure! There is so much to see in this bay, that you couldn’t see it all if you spent an entire week on the water!
So how does a team go about breaking down such a beast, with limited time or experience in the bay, and a looming tournament right around the corner? Well as you may expect, one of the first steps I would suggest is to get a map. Yes, an actual ‘paper’ map . . . (for you young guys, its a paper version of a Google Earth Page). I think they still sell them in a few tackle stores. All kidding aside, a paper map that folds out to full size will help put into perspective just how big the place is, as opposed to simply “Zooming Out’ on your small computer screen, or mobil device. You’ll also be able to see the bays depth and contour lines, which will offer insight to key areas where baitfish may collect when currents and tides create eddy’s etc. offering good ambush points for hungry spotties.
With so much shoreline in San Diego Bay, you’ll see countless banks with tons of drop-offs, some deeper and steeper than others, which may appeal to your style of fishing. There’s several marinas for dock fishermen ranging from commercial / industrial areas, to residential homes and marinas with private boat slips and moorings. You can find acres of eelgrass beds for those who like to cover larger areas, and literally miles of riprap banks that spotties love to call home.
So once you have your head wrapped around the shear immensity of the place, you need to start breaking it down a bit. The first step I’d take is ask myself what type of fishing do I have the most confidence in? Then I would look for areas that offer the type of structure and cover that I enjoy and feel confident fishing. If you prefer to fish rip-rap banks, identify those areas (Google Earth is great here) . . . then cross reference those zones with the contour lines on your paper map to get an idea of the depths etc. This method applies to all styles of structure and cover, so you can esentialy ‘pick your poison’ and have at it. That’s the beauty of this place.
For teams with little experience in the bay and wanting to put some keeper fish in the boat, I’d like to offer a few ideas. Select a few of your favorite baits that can cover water rather quickly. I don’t necessarily mean ‘Power fishing’, although that can work. I simply mean using lures that cast a little further, sink a little faster, and move with the reel rather than the rod. Baits like Spinner baits, crank baits, swim baits, and Gulp! Jerk Shads/ sled-head combos, all can be worked at a much quicker pace, than a light grub, a light jig, or a drop shot. These baits can also be slowed down effectively, and will work as ‘locators’ telling you if there are active fish in the area. Remember, you’re only looking for 5 ‘legal’ fish, and spotties of that size and larger are often not line-shy. Once you find some active fish, you can always go back and pick your area apart with other lures to offer a more deliberate and thorough approach. If you are a fan of scent, now’s a good time to stack the cards in your favor by applying some Hot Sauce or UniButter to give you that edge when you’re covering water.
San Diego Bay is so big that it’s really it’s own environment, by that I mean, you can have ripping current in one area with off colored water, then just around the next corner it’s clear and still with zero water movement. Treat it more as you would fishing ‘outside’ the bay, rather than a small body of water. Look for working birds as you move around, they can tell a big story of where the bait is located, and quite possibly have active fish feeding on them. If they don’t want to bite in one area, leave and come back later, often times it can be a ‘time-of-day’ or ‘conditions’ situation. Pay attention to water color, temperature, and metered bait balls with schooling fish, (yes, spotties will actually school-up at times in the bay or be mixed in with sand bass) These are just a few of the things to be aware of as you plot out your day in the bay with your partner.
I hope that I’ve helped spark a few ideas of your own that will get you fired up for the upcoming event. San Diego bay is truly a gem, and we are very fortunate to have it right in our backyard, enjoy !
Good luck and good fishing.