As long as you’re fishing, you have the chance to catch a big bass anywhere in Cape Cod Bay at any given point throughout the season. But, if you’re going for personal bests, you need to focus your efforts on locations where you have the largest probability of running into a school of large bass.
You’ll find that typically, big bass will school up and sit in a specific location where they have access to structure, moving water, and of course, bait. For the past five or six seasons, this biomass stuck around Cape Cod bay. But in 2019, Cape Cod Bay was much more of a transient location. We found the biomass in a few of the following locations last season, but ultimately, they ventured away and hunkered down in locations North of us.
There are certainly other spots around the Bay that I love to fish (Plymouth, Barnstable, Sesuit, Brewster Flats area, etc.) but if the goal is big fish, you’re going to find me at one of these five spots a hundred times out of a hundred.
Note that these “spots” are pretty big and very well-known. I’m not giving away any top secret honey hole stuff here, so don’t come after me with the spot-burn torches and pitchforks. This will be a macro discussion on locations in Cape Cod Bay, and the tactics to use there.
If you’re reading this, I’m pretty confident you (the reader) share similar feelings as I do in regard to keeping our stock healthy. If you’re going after big fish, make sure you have the gear to handle them. Light spinning rods, albeit very fun to catch large bass on, put unnecessary stress on the fish. Keep the fights short, keep the bass out of the water for only as much time as absolutely necessary, and make sure to revive the fish for longer than you think she needs. The bass should be biting down on your hand when she’s ready to go. I find it’s helpful to put the boat in low gear and running the fish along the side of the boat when she’s not responding. You can still target big fish and respect the fishery if you practice good C and R techniques.
This is off to a bad start. This location isn’t even technically in Cape Cod Bay. But let it slide, will ya? The backside is characterized as the long stretch of sandy beach running from Race Point all the way down to the Golf Ball. Peaked Hill Bar is a sand flat that extends a few hundred yards off the beach, before dropping off into 150’ to 200’ of water. This location is all sand with no other memorable structure points.
The entire potline can hold fish, but don’t restrict yourself to the potline. At low tide, move inshore and look for fish cruising the flats chowing on sand eels. When the biomass is there, big schools of fish can hang in the deeper water, chasing herring and mackerel. There usually won’t be birds marking these blitzes, so keep an eye out for big tailslaps and boils. Just watch your three-mile line marker.
Some of our best days has been drifting the potline on an outgoing tide. Oftentimes, the schools will move with you and you can have lights out fishing for close to an entire tide.
Live mackerel and sea herring fished on a circle hook will of course get the biggest bass. But when bass are holding 70’ or more, drop a Bill Hurley Sand Eel, a paddle tail, or an A27 and jig ‘em up. I like to drop the jigs all the way to the bottom and make quick jerky rod raises all the way up the water column. For bass on top, Docs and other big plugs are the way to go. Sebiles and big soft plastics work well too. But face it, if they’re on herring or mackerel, they won’t be tough to fool.
A spot adjacent to the previously mentioned spot, characterized from the rip at Race Point down to Wood End.
Fish get very stacked up around the sand ledges here. Again, the potline is going to essentially be your line of demarcation. The deep portion around the potline and the flats in closer to the beach can and will hold fish, but I find the fishing to be more consistent across the flats when there’s less water. You can fish this similarly to the Backside areas, either drifting down the potline chucking flies and soft plastics or with live mackerel or herring.
The amount of sand eels in this area can be absolutely insane. This can lead to some pretty frustrating fishing. Bass will often cruise the surface and slurp the clouds of sand eels, ignoring everything you throw at them.
This is a great area to get the fly rod going with those sand eel patterns. Get as tight to the beach as you can, especially around the rip, and drift big baitfish patterns or soft plastics. A dropping tide seems to be best. If you like to catch fish and don’t care how you do it, this is a common spot to find the charter fleet jigging wire. 30’ to 40’ seems to be the sweet spot here.
Before 2019, this spot would never have made this list. But the schools of squid, herring and mackerel that showed up around there in mid-June made for some wild days of fishing. The shoals are a huge mass of submerged sand jutting out from Wellfleet. On a big tide, you can get some pretty good standing waves and chop along the shoals, so it’s best to use caution if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Don’t be taking you’re 14’ Lund into the shoals during a hard NE wind.
How well this area fishes depends on the amount of bait in the area. Typically, when a mega-school of bait comes through the canal (like the squid last year) it ends up around Billingsgate. Herring and mackerel tend to get corralled into this area too. When all three are present, bass will be there. Don’t limit yourself to the area directly around the shoals, either. Fish can be well south or west from the shoals. If you’re not finding fish in the shoals, be mobile and find the bait.
I like to fish this area on an incoming tide. I tend to start North and make my way south until you get to the tip of the shoals. Drift from the shallow 15’ areas to the deeper water East. Move South in the deeper water and blindcast with big baitfish flies and Docs.
Ole’ Scorton. The place where umbrella rigs go to die. This location is characterized by the rocky reef-like ledge itself, and the areas around the outflow from the creek. The ledge is a prime spot to be targeting big bass at night with eels. Some years, we’ve had the entire biomass of big fish hanging around this area. Lately, the fishing has been a lot slower. One way to find the bass if they’re spread out is to troll tube and worm. Not a fun way to fish by any means, but an effective one.
If you’re not marking fish around the ledge, move in closer to the entrance of Scorton a search for fish in the 12’ to 15’. Often around dawn, you’ll find bass crashing the surface on smaller bait in shallow. Moving your way from the Ledge down Sandy neck is an effective strategy when looking for bass on the surface.
I hate fishing the Canal from shore. No, I despise it. But I love fishing the East End by boat. A few rules if you’re not familiar with fishing this area: Stay. Out. Of. The. Canal. Don’t be an idiot. This area is a wildcard. If the fish are in the Canal, at some point, they’re going to show up at the East End. I fish this area exclusively on the flood tide (East-running tide).
The most effective strategy here is to drift mackerel on the outside of the cans. Heavy jigs like a Joe Baggs Patriot Fish will do the job too. This is a great spot to be during false dawn on an East-running tide, as most mornings, you’ll run into bass blitzing. Scusset will feature this same surface action on most mornings, usually with bass on small bait.