San Diego Bay is the place to be for catching a larger quantity of bass well as a greater variety of species. The most common target is Spotted Bay Bass, which can be targeted throughout the year. Many lures will catch Spotted Bay Bass, but the most popular are swimbaits (usually small sizes, like 2-4 inches, with a ¼ to ½ ounce lead-head), spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. In order to keep this article basic, as intended, we’ll simply divide the large San Diego Bay in two portions; either North or South of the Coronado Bridge.
For large numbers of Spotted Bay Bass, the ‘South Bay Flats’ are usually productive. These flats are located South of the Coronado Bridge between the channel and the opposite side of the bay. The depth is shallow, from 2-12 feet depending on the tides, so be careful while running across them at low tide. Gear used to tackle fish in this area is usually pretty light; anywhere from 2-8 pound line is popular. Anything over that is overkill for Spotted Bay Bass in this area. The most common methods of retrieve are the simple cast and retrieve method. Simply cast your lure out, let it settle to the bottom, and start a medium to slow retrieve with intermittent jerks and pauses. A lot of bites come as the lure falls after the cast, so be ready. If you get bored with the Spotted Bay Bass, throw out a chunk of squid on heavier line (15-20 pound) and you might hook into one of the large sharks or rays in the area, which are common in this area.
North of the Coronado Bridge also offers fishing options. For Spotted Bay Bass, the shallow waters around moored boats, the Bali Hai Shoal, and the ‘North Island Flats’ are productive areas. The northern portion of San Diego Bay receives the most attention during from November through April when the Barred Sand Bass migrate into the bay in large numbers. To catch these fish, the deeper waters (25-60 feet) should be your main focus. Swimbaits fished in the “wind and grind” method is by far the most popular technique.
The “wind and grind” method is simple. Simply cast out your bait and let it freespool. Then, wait for your spool to become almost completely empty, with the assistance of a wind propelled drift. When the spool nearly empties, engage the reel and start a medium-fast retrieve. If you feel a heavy weight, its probably a fish. Because of the amount of line you have in use, its important to reel through the stretch of mono lines before setting the hook. With braided or fluorocarbon fishing lines that don’t stretch, this is not important. Popular lures for this method are large swimbaits (4-6 inches) on a heavy lead-head (½ to 1 ounce), large spoons, heavy spinnerbaits, or weedless jigs with plastic trailers. Spoons are effectively fished with an erratic yo-yo action at a vertical angle. Sand-bassin’ requires 10-20 pound line and a heavy action rod.
Mission Bay is a Spotted Bay Bass paradise, but has a lesser variety of fish species than the “Big Bay”. The Spotted Bay Bass on average run much larger than those in San Diego Bay. Mission Bay is also much shallower, no more than 15 feet deep, but is fished much like the flats of San Diego Bay. However, the spinnerbait and crankbait are usually more productive in Mission Bay. Mission Bay averages about 12 feet deep, making shallow water presentations the best option. Deep diving cranks (10-12 feet range) and heavy spinnerbaits (½ to 1 ounce) are the most common lures used here, and both are usually fished on a medium retrieve with pauses.
There are scattered weed beds, sand flats, and marinas throughout Mission Bay, so covering different water in this bay is a good option if you’re not getting bites. Common areas to fish are Bahia Point, Sail Bay, and Quivera Basin. Remember, usually you’ll get less bites, and less fish in Mission Bay than you might in San Diego Bay, but the quality is typically better. Don’t get discouraged if the fishing is slow, keep at it and you’ll be rewarded.