A 40-pound spot tail bass can drag a line across 100-yards of beach. It can pull you around jetties, through crashing waves, and around broken down boardwalks. For that reason, few inshore fishing experiences can compare to surf fishing the coast of South Carolina in the fall.
This time of year, small bait fish and crustaceans are moving into the creeks and streams behind South Carolina’s barrier islands. They’re interested in laying their eggs after a summer of spawning offshore, and hungry spot tails are following them in hopes of bulking-up for the winter.
With the right gear and fresh bait, surf fishing for big spot tails in the fall can be fun for fishermen and women of various experience levels, and it’s definitely cheaper than filling a 16-gallon gas tank on a flats boat.
Choose a surf rod that is over 10-feet tall and a reel that can hold at least 250 feet of braided line rated at 20- to 30-pound test. The line should be cast beyond the surf, and the rod needs to be tall enough to keep it there. Big spot tails tend to lurk in this area in hopes of surprising unsuspecting bait fish discombobulated by crashing waves.
A PVC pipe rod holder can make surf fishing easier by giving you some time to relax on the beach. But, waders and a prefabricated, more expensive spring-loaded road holder may be necessary on days when, in the words of George Costanze, the sea is “angry. . . like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”
Also, big spot tails are known for their strength and fighting ability. They definitely have the power to uproot a distracted (or drunk) fisherman’s cheap rod holder, so keep the drag loose on your real and be prepared to lay out headlong for an expensive rod and real being pulled into the deep.
Live mullet, shrimp or blue crabs are the bait of choice. Simply place them on a 5- or 6-ought circle hook clipped to a 50-pound test leader that is tied to the braided line and clasped to a 3- to 4-ounce steal weight.
Many states have placed strict size limitations on keeping spot tail bass. For instance, in South Carolina, a person can only keep a spot tail bass between 15- and 23-inches.
Spot tail bass are androgynous, meaning they have male and female parts and are capable changing their sex. Most large spot tail bass are females capable of laying hundreds of eggs. So, circle hooks are recommended and J-hooks are discouraged in an attempt to prevent big spot tails from trying to swallow your bait.
Also, steal sinkers and braided line, though more expensive, are better for the environment because they decompose more easily and do not contain as many known toxins as monofilament and lead sinkers.
To acquire fresh bait, a cast net is necessary. Throw the net in the many creeks and small rivers that cover South Carolina’s coast line at dead low tide whenever you have time before or after work or in between vacation outings. It’s a great form of upper body exercise and a decent excuse to get off the couch and away from Netflix or your significant other. If possible, do not freeze the bait. Simply place it in a Pyrex container underneath a couple cups of ice. Just like humans, fish prefer fresh food.
You’ll thank me when the drag on your surf fishing real starts singing to the sound of a big spot tail bass on the line. The sand will be between your toes, and the sun will be setting as a flock of pelicans are flying overhead on some uncrowded barrier island after most tourists have left town. After such an experience, you might even consider slapping a for sale sign on your gas guzzling flats boat.