Bass Busting Bait
by Bill Roecker
A cloudy morning gave way to warm afternoon sun, which seemed to inspire the calicos, though they remained reluctant to come away from the kelp. A well-placed (smack dab in the weeds) sardine or plastic bait drew strikes, but resulted in many fish lost to the cover.
Fishing outside the kelp also produced immediate strikes from barracuda. Nearly all of the "scooters" were six or more inches short of the legal limit, so none went into sacks lining the bait tanks. Any bait or jigs tossed into the water outside the kelp drew strikes from these shorts in short order.
Skipper Justin Hassell and his crew found slower fishing on the morning run, which produced an estimated 200-pound black sea bass, which was released.
The kelp bass were mixed a bit with sand bass and an occasional sheephead. Most of the fish were legal-sized, running up to about four pounds, although there were also a good number of under 12-inch bass caught and released.
Sardines attracted most of the fish, but this writer had good luck with a green Wham plastic bait from Fishtrap, and also with various small paddle tail swim baits.
Eleven-year-old home-schooled Sam Gamar of Irvine was fishing with his dad, and learning how to cast, hook and catch bass. He got several calicos along with a few short barriers, and sported a grin worthy of a boy on a good fishing trip.
Art Hamilton of Canyon Lake won the jackpot for a good-sized bonito of six pounds or so that took his sardine fished from the bow. For that effort, he also won a package of Mustad 3/0 Ultra Point hooks and a new Salas Cristy 2 jig.
Regular John Standerfer of Oceanside got his share of the bass (and also lost his a few to the kelp). Cook Autumn Helgren showed the boys how to fish when she found a moment free from the grill. Deckhand Nacho Camarena, on a busman's holiday, may have got the best-looking bass of the day when he pulled one out that looked like it was touched by King Midas.
It was a nice day on the water, and the bass fishing was good. It should get even better now, as the bass go on the spawn, and show willingness to leave the shelter of the heavy kelp. Better get out there before it's over.