I learned about long lining in SD bay from a Bill Schaefer seminar about 10 years ago, then a year or so later I saw Barry Brightenburg doing it on TV with 2 rods. I did not invent long lining, I did not invent spinnerbaits, swimbaits, or weedless jigs. I did not invent sandbass, or boats. Everybody fishes differently, I’m gonna tell you how we drift the bay in my boat.
I prefer to call it the Sandbass shuffle, which is a phrase I think I picked up at one of Barry’s seminars. I have been doing this every Fall and Winter for the last 10 years. I have done it with every type of rod, every size of line, and every conceivable lure set up. They all work. I’m gonna discuss the way I am convinced is the easiest, most productive way to put sandbass in the boat on SD bay.
TIDES – I almost never worry about tides, in fact I usually don’t even check the tides before I go fishing. Sandbass Shuffling is the exception. This is absolutely a tide based game. Will it work during a slack tide? Of course, but I’m only gonna discuss the highest percentage factors. You want a nice strong tidal flow. I like a 4-6’ change in a 6 hour tide. In or out doesn’t matter. What matters is matching the wind and the current. The perfect situation is wind and current in perfect alignment and pushing your boat and line at the same speed. Pretty rare. What usually happens is the boat drifts at 45 degree angles to the current and you throw your lure out to accommodate your drift. If the wind and currents are opposing each other it will not work. Explore different part of the bay to try to line them up. If there’s a lot of current and little wind it won’t work either because the lure will pass the boat. My boat is high and light and usually gets pushed by the wind faster than the current which is a good thing. The basic idea is to use the boat’s momentum to extend your cast and in doing so creating a virtual 100-200 yard cast.
CASTING – Throw your lure as far as you can. Throw at an angle that will create the straightest alignment with the current when you retrieve it. Throw the lure behind the drift, not in the direction you are heading. You want to reel it in going WITH the current. Let the lure sink to the bottom and leave the reel in freespool. You want your line to peel off the reel as the boat drifts. You can hold the rod or put it in your pole holder, just keep an eye on it to make sure it is paying out line smoothly. You don’t want your lure to slide across the bottom, you want it to sit still. I let my spool go all the way to the end. I pick my rods up when I can see the spool through the line. The more you let out, the better. This can take from 1-10 minutes depending on the wind. Some guys try to drive line off with their motor, this doesn’t work as good because you want your line lying across the bay floor, it takes a long time for it to sink, the lure will try to follow the path of the line. Most strikes will occur in the first 50 yards.
ROD/REEL – You should have a minimum of 150 yards of line capacity to fish the depths of SD bay(35-60’) 200 yards is better. Long rods are advantageous. High speed reels are advantageous. Low stretch lines are advantageous. Braid makes hooking fish WAY easier, and I use braid when I take out kids or novice. Personally I prefer 15-20 lb. mono, I use the stretchiness to my advantage when fighting the fish. I lose more fish when I use braid. Plus I find mono much more fun.
RETRIEVE – Once all your line is lying across the bottom of the bay and you spool is almost empty,…Pick it up and point it at the lure, start winding fast enough to animate the lure. You have to reel faster than the current. Sometimes you feel a bite, wind as fast as you can and keep winding. You have LOTS of line out there to make taught. Don’t even bother swinging the rod until after the fish is hooked. You need to set the hook with your reel, not your pole, AFTER the fish is secured, then you should swing the rod to reinforce the hookset. Usually you can’t feel the bite, just weightiness or resistance. Wind like crazy!!! You’ll soon know if there’s a fish there or not. The hardest and most unusual part of this trick is hooking a fish that’s so far away. Normal hook sets will not work.
LURES – again anything can work but, there’s only two types of lures worth mentioning; Swimbaits and spinnerbaits. Swimbaits should be 4-6” long and have a ¾-1.5oz head. Spinnerbaits should be 1-2oz. I prefer single willow-leaf and small Colorado combo blades for this trick. Whatever lure you use make sure the hook is SUPER sharp. Again hooking the fish is the hardest past, you’ll want every advantage possible.
I’m a seasoned swimbait angler, I make my own swimbaits, I have won money doing this with swimbaits, and I have a photo album full of beautiful fish that were caught on swimbaits. Swimbaits are fun, effective, and cheap. 2 years ago I started making big saltwater spinnerabits. I have not used a swimbait to shuffle with ever since. The spinnerbait is the vastly superior lure for long lining, and I’ll tell you why. First, it is 1000 times more weedless than a swimbait, which is a HUGE factor when long lining in SD bay. Second, The effective reaction strike radius of a swimbait is about 5-12’, on a big spinnerbait it’s more like 15- 20’. There is no doubt that it calls sandbass from farther away, and they hit spinnerbaits with much more voracity. Third, because of the resistance that a big spinnerbait creates when being retrieved, your line has most of the stretch already out of it when you get bit, making it much easier to hook fish that are 100 yards away, and finally, when a bass comes up behind a swimbait, he has to get all that plastic in his mouth before he reaches the hook, on a spinnerbait there is absolutely nothing to block the hook. 99% of the time my family and friends use 1.5oz spinnerbaits , This seems to be the perfect weight and of course we use Trix Spinbombs, because that’s the brand I make. I imagine any quality large spinnerbaits would get similar results.
Once you get all the variables in order, and you time it right. You should be enjoying fast and furious sandbassing in SD bay. This year has been outstanding so far. With a little practice anyone who can turn a reel handle can catch some nice sandbass. This trick is perfect for kids or novices, plus the sandies are fresh from the big blue briny and good eating right now. Once you get the knack and assuming the wind isn’t too strong you can balance 2 poles at once, 1 will be resting and paying out line while the other is being retrieved. This can get tricky though, especially if the wind is strong and the line is peeling fast. I usually use something that works vertically like a jigging spoon or a drop shot to fish while my line is paying out on my shuffle rod. This vertical rod can be quickly reeled in when you find that your shuffling rod’s line is low and ready to be retrieved. If you’re going to use 2 poles(or 4) bring extra line, because it’s easy to be busy doing something else and have your shuffling rod run completely out of line. I advise using tape to attach your line to your spool, so if you do get distracted and your line runs out it won’t break your pole if your lure snags the bottom or something. Also be wary of sailboats with their long keels.