Freezing cold weather and 6 ft. tides mean a lot to me. The highlight of it all is fishing for big black sea bass as they stack up thick on the offshore reefs. Let me re-assure you, if you go, the fish are there. With a little effort in fishing your structure properly, you will find a lot of hungry “green heads” on any piece of structure on the map.
We spent the first day of the new year loading our cooler with some very large sea bass. The incoming tide is absolutely brutal for this fishing and that was in our favor all morning. When all was said and done, we boated 117 bass total, and we kept 50 that were 2 pounds +. Three of us landed all these fish by 12 PM that day and we were back at the hill by 1 PM. The bite was on!
Each person has their own opinion about using bait vs. artificial lures and jigs. The truth be known, I would say that jigs are the way to go when the water temp drops below 60 degrees. Whether you are fishing the creeks for Trout or jigging offshore structure for Snapper and Sea Bass, the right jig can be absolutely deadly!
I started jigging offshore several years back. Capt. Ed Stelle and I discovered it’s deadly ability after losing all of our cut bait to trash fish one morning. I searched through the console of my 26 C-Hawk for anything we could send to the bottom that would possibly catch a fish. I stumbled across some jig heads and motor oil colored jigs and we began to rig.
The rig consists of 3 feet of 50-pound monofilament with a 3-ounce egg sinker sliding free above the 30-pound snap swivel. The ½ ounce jig head is tied to the end of your 3-ft. leader. This rig is effective when fishing less than 60 ft. of water. If you jig the 40 mile bottom or any other deep water, you will definitely want to TIE your weight to the leader instead of free sliding it above the swivel as it WILL tangle on the swivel every time you drop to the bottom.
I have found certain colors work better than others by switching colors while there is a good bite going on with the color I am using. For instance, I have switched to a green while using a motor oil jig and watched my catch ratio get cut in ½! Simply bring along several different colors with you to be safe. If you are marking fish on your bottom machine this time of year, it will be mostly sea bass, so be prepared to catch the bigger fish on the jig. The smaller fish will hit the jig, but they tend to “spit it out” and the larger fish seem to hold on and simply inhale it! The fish caught on the jig are ALWAYS bigger.
Also, in addition to the sea bass, red snapper can be caught the same way. We have jigged at the 40-mile bottom for large sea bass and catch the true American red snapper while stalking the bass. I don’t make it a habit to go all the way to the Snapper Banks to catch sea bass, but there are some large ones there, so when you catch your limit of snapper, you can go to work on the sea bass, too.
This time of year is as good as it gets for sea bass in Georgia. Almost any of the nearshore and offshore reefs will be holding large amounts of these fish if the weather will permit a safe exit into the Atlantic. Also, keep in mind that the times to fish are NOT on the full or new Moon. The tide runs far too fast to position your boat above the structure and fish every point of it.
The incoming tide is preferred for sea bass fishing, but if you don’t have it, fish anyhow. The numbers of fish won’t be quite as high, but you’ll have yourself a good fishing trip regardless of tidal stage. Remember that anytime you are fishing in 45 ft. of water or more, the snapper could be there, too.
This is simply glorified trout fishing in deeper water. The fish will normally hit the jig the instant your boat begins to drift and the jig starts to swim a bit. You can jig up and down, but honestly, there is no need to. The drift of the boat will do moat of the work for you. You should position your jig just a touch off the bottom while fishing structure. It will prevent losing a pile of tackle and those bass will come a long way for that swimming jig, even in cold water.
Give this a try if you haven’t already. It really produces some nice fish.