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April 27, 2011

New England Sabiki-Style Sea Bass

This expert uses sabiki cod rigs to catch slammer black sea bass in southern New England.


Modified Strategy
Conventional wisdom holds that anchoring over structure and chumming is the proven formula. But Kittredge prefers another style.

"I don't anchor but choose to drift," he says. "The reason is if a spot is unproductive or inundated with sand sharks, it's quick and easy to run to another place. I'm not burdened with anchor setting and hauling. Not anchoring also allows me to run back up-current to retrieve snagged rigs and repeat productive drifts over a school.

"You'll know right away if you're on fish because the bites will come fast and hard. It's unclear to me whether or not one specific spot will give up multiple bull sea bass, but in my experience, each spot holds only one or two true trophy fish. It seems like a king-of-the-hill scenario."

My family and I ended our spectacular day on the water with the sea bass still biting. The sun was low on the horizon, and we had plenty in the fish box.

"I've never experienced sea bass fishing like that," I remarked as I hosed the deck and Kittredge fired the outboards. "It's hard to believe how many big ones we landed."

"Yeah," he said, kicking the motors into gear, "over 60 fish, and I think we only measured three."

Catching sea bass can be as simple as using a high-low bottom rig baited with clams or baitfish chunks. Kittredge sometimes uses a 3- to 4-ounce metal jig tipped with squid, often with a skirted dropper hook above it, fished near the bottom with a slow yo-yo motion, as we did on our trip. But he has perfected another red-hot technique for filling limits with bruiser humpbacks.

"The rig I've found to be singularly the most effective," says Kittredge, "is the codfish sabiki teaser rig made by Colman's Squid Jig Warehouse, which is the strongest I've tried by far. I use the glow-orange type, which I tip with 3- to 4-inch 'unwashed' squid strips.

"Although these tough rigs are made with a 50-pound main leader and 40-pound branches, I still tune every rig with Goop adhesive. I remove each rig from its package, slide each plastic squid skirt up the branch line and apply a bead of Goop to the snell before repositioning the skirt. I also untie the loop knot at the top of the rig and use a uni-knot to attach a small swivel. From the swivel, I run a 3-foot section of 30-pound mono, which I later tie to the braided main line with a double uni-knot.

"Identification of the 'top' of the rig is important," he says. "With the rig hanging by its main leader, I want the branch lines exiting the knots in an upward direction, perpendicular rather than parallel, so they fish more effectively and are less likely to snag the main leader. I then attach a snap to the bottom of the rig by means of the existing loop. The snap allows for a quick and simple sinker size change. Once the tuning is done, I repack each rig into a small reclosable bag for easy storage."

Kittredge prefers a flat bank sinker or no-snag sinker because the structure is often rugged, and these types minimize hang-ups. Depending on depth and current, he uses sinkers from 3 to 8 ounces and fishes his sabiki with the sinker tapping the bottom by means of a slow yo-yo motion. "The key," he says, "is to keep the rig as vertical as possible; otherwise the hooks hang on the structure."