BLACK SEA BASS IN­NO­VA­TION

NEW LIGHT-TACKLE TECH­NIQUES MAKE FISH­ING FOR BLACK SEA BASS EX­CIT­ING AND PRO­DUC­TIVE.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Front Page - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY GARY CA­PUTI

There was no mis­tak­ing the solid bite fol­lowed by the rhyth­mic bounc­ing. The hooked black sea bass took drag sev­eral times, dig­ging hard to get back to the bot­tom. Then a sec­ond strike bent the slow-pitch rod over hard, the tip touch­ing the wa­ter as an­other fish tried to make off with what it thought was an easy meal.

Af­ter some spir­ited give and take, the pair of hump­backs came over the rail and onto ice. A bunch more would fall to our light-tackle ef­forts that morn­ing.

The tech­niques we em­ployed — buck­tails on ul­tra­light spin­ning tackle and cen­ter-weighted jigs on slow-pitch jig­ging out­fits — are not like the black sea bass tackle of old: heavy con­ven­tional out­fits loaded with thick monofil­a­ment, cut clams and heavy sinkers while you sit and hope you’re in the right spot. This is sea bass fish­ing for the 21st cen­tury — more pro­duc­tive, big­ger fish, and more fun.

SOAR­ING STOCKS

Black sea bass have been pop­u­lar with mid-at­lantic an­glers since the first party boats started tak­ing pas­sen­gers over a hun­dred years ago. The cur­rent man­age­ment is hotly de­bated be­cause of per­ceived over-reg­u­la­tion of the recre­ational sec­tor, even though the stocks have grown. A re­cent as­sess­ment in­di­cates the fish­ery is well over twice the re­build­ing tar­get.

As the stocks have grown, the species range has ex­panded con­sid­er­ably, and an­glers in New Eng­land, who only a few years ago rarely saw a black sea bass, are catch­ing them in great num­bers. They are now so preva­lent and such a sought-af­ter species in Con­necti­cut, Rhode Is­land and Mas­sachusetts that they are quickly be­com­ing a sta­ple for an­glers in the re­gion.

Black sea bass are struc­ture-ori­ented but of­ten ven­ture con­sid­er­able dis­tances from hard bot­tom and well up the wa­ter col­umn to feed. They for­age on mus­sels, crabs and shrimp. The big­ger they grow, the more preda­tory they be­come. With big heads and gap­ing jaws, they'll eat any­thing that fits in their mouths. Light-tackle tech­niques play to that vo­ra­cious be­hav­ior.

In­ter­est­ingly, mod­ern tech­niques were de­vel­oped with the ad­vent of su­perthin braided lines, which make it pos­si­ble to use light buck­tails and jigs to en­tice the fish while drift­ing in wa­ter 50 to 70 feet deep.

TWITCH AND SHOUT

Ul­tra­light spin­ning tackle be­came the norm thanks to the ad­van­tages gained with 4- to 8-pound-test braid, which en­ables an­glers to fish ½- to 2-ounce buck­tails

THE FISH DUG TO­WARD THE BOT­TOM 65 FEET BE­LOW.

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