Posts Tagged ‘Spinnerbait’


Newport Harbor Negative "Neep" Tides for 6/4/11 (courtesy of http://www.ProTides.com)

After last week’s more-chatting-than-fish-catching episode at Newport Harbor, it was clear to me that if I wanted to catch more fish, I needed to spend more of my limited attention span focused on getting the timing right. Basically, I just need to study the conditions in advance, and whenever possible avoid fishing on days when the water temperature swings 14 degrees from low to high tide. Yeah, the fish were a bit cold last week, and just didn’t want to cooperate.

As you may have heard, the rising tide, up through high tide and even an hour after, is widely believed to be the most favorable fishing time period. While I do agree that moving water is a contributing component of a good bite, I’m not convinced that it has to be a rising tide. In fact, I have experienced slack tide to be a terrific time to catch fish quickly, as in one of my prior posts, The Newport Experiment. It’s obvious that many factors play a part in catching fish, but I think the greatest factor is having your head out of your butt, and not just part-way out, I mean all the way out.

To me, that equates to understanding the conditions enough to fish the right bait, to willing fish, with the right presentation. Of course, this is akin to the well-worn golf adage that says golf is easy because all you have to do is put the ball in the hole. This is one reason I don’t golf; dumb adages. The other reason is they won’t let you bring a rod in your golf bag to fish the water hazards. What could a couple of casts hurt? Seriously? As usual, I digress…

Kayaks loaded and ready for the 4:30 AM departure.

My favorite tide prediction website, www.ProTides.com, was showing a terrific negative, or “neep” tide this morning, which meant we could look forward to a long, rising tide from dawn until around Noon. We planned to be on the water by 5:30 AM prior to the entire harbor draining, and as it turned out, prior to the sun coming over the Saddleback Mountains. We packed the truck on Friday night, chained the yaks to the rack, and hit the sack for far too few hours of sleep.

Well before dawn’s crack, we were up, at ’em, and beating cheeks North on I-5. The neighborhood of Newport Beach where we launch, Corona Del Mar, or CDM if you’re a local, is pretty exclusive. The median home price there is roughly equivalent to my lifetime gross domestic product ($1.3M bucks) and the folks who live there take beauty rest, parking ordinances, and their exorbitantly taxed property rights VERY seriously. Having heard horror stories from others who ignored the 6a-10p parking lot time restrictions,  we decided it would be best to park on the street. We set up our boats very quietly, so as not to draw too much attention to the fact that we were about to drag our gear across a piece of land that was technically still closed to the public for another half-hour. Fighting the urge to ding-dong ditch the neighbors, we assembled our equipment and made our way to the water.

Pre-dawn Kayak rigging - "Dude, be cool! And quit giggling."

The Mystery Hand says, "Use this bait!".

The Mystery Hand endorses liberal use of Uni Butter

OK, enough of the set up. You’re here to see some slippery, finned, fish-on-lure action, so I’ll cut to the chase. We paddled out in less than 6 inches of water, as the tide was SUPER low (see chart above if you doubt me). We were bite-free until the tide bottomed out and just started it’s upward creep (Note to reader: NOT high tide). We did well until the tide topped off, and had some great fun doing so. All counter-intuitive if you follow conventional wisdom.

Matt chose the “Newport Special”, which is a 4″ curly tailed Hot Belly Bass colored AAT jig as his primary tool, and I stuck with my new favorite weapon of choice, the black Lazer Eye spinner bait & skirt, paired with a 3″ anchovy colored Big Hammer swimbait. We both were generous with magic potion called UniButter. I’ll talk more about the scent at another time, but let’s just say, it works. I’ll also add that you don’t want to get any on you unless you never want to be near anyone that doesn’t appreciate the rousing smell of a fish packing plant. ‘Nuff said.

Now, brace yourself for more of the Mystery Hand and bazillion fish montage:

The first of several chunk pre-spawn spotted bay bass.

A second, even bigger fish, from the same spot as the first. Just like I planned it! (yeah, right)

I'm starting to think there's something to this UniButter stuff!

OK, so it wasn't my worst day of fishing. (16" Spotted Bay Bass - Not too shabby)

Matt hooked and nearly landed a large bat ray that hit a curly tail grub. I later got to go for a ride behind one that nailed my spinnerbait. They should change the name of these fish to the “Crap Your Pants Ray”. Matt’s first swallowed his jig, then promptly jumped out of the water a mere 15 feet from his rod tip. The poor boy nearly soiled himself in surprise when the approximately 20# fish made it’s big, unannounced, and splashy appearance. Mine hit with such force that it nearly jerked the rod from my hands, and then it sprinted for the Pacific. Lucky for me it swam under a dock, where I ended up, slammed (really more of a thud) into the back of a half-a-million dollar yacht with my line tightly twisted around a gnarly piling. I’m still licking my wounds, but fortunately, Matt was able to regroup and put some trophies on the board.

To add to the degree of difficulty, he chose to target the souvenir keychain rack, which was heaping full of tiny, itty-bitty toy versions of the fish we know and love. As the sometimes ornery author, I get to say stuff like that. Matt, if you want payback, or a better review, start a blog, or at least a Twitter account! 😉 (Now let’s see if I still get invited to the July 4th pig roast at Matt’s place…)

Barred Sand Bass - All the ladies, in unison: "It's soooo cuuuute!"

The tiniest california halibut either of us has ever seen.

Matt's "Newport Special" bait even worked for me. Shhh, don't tell Matt.

Fishing Report for 06/04/2011


At long last, the day had arrived. After much cajoling, Mr. Dan Hernandez and Joe “Salty” of SoCalSalty.com agreed to be seen fishing with me again. Best of all, Dan offered to guide Joe and me on his boat the 31′ Chris-Craft, Mi Sueno II. Loaded up with the heavy trolling gear and our wire leaders, we were heading out for a shark-fest from his home port of Alamitos Bay.  Salty turned up early, which was a good thing as the tide was rising quickly. Dan’s boat was getting close to being stuck behind the Apian Way bridge. His boat needs 15′ or so to make it under the bridge, so we shoved off just in time to clear the bridge with a couple of feet so spare.

My fishing pals for the day, Salty and Dan

Our first stop was gas, but we showed up before they were serving the precious petrol, so we killed a half-hour plunking plastics and found a couple of fish, including a toad Barred Sand Bass ready its moment of CPR (catch, photograph & release) fame.

Gas Dock Toad Sandie

It was already blowing a fair bit, but despite the dark skies, our spirits were good and things looked promising for our sharking trip. As we were topping of the tank, we took note of the Coast Guard station hoisting the gale warning flags. The weather was scheduled to go south by Noon, so we knew we’d have to hustle to find fish before things got dicey.

Another Quality Sand Bass

Keychain size Sculpin

A bad sign

Long story short, we got blown off the water without much to show for it. Big surprise, right? The meager highlights of the day included some pretty fantastic bird action, and strong marks on the meter, which had us envisioning T-sharks on the troll. The truth is that 5 fish were brought to the camera.

There were a couple of lessons in this day for me, and no, I didn’t learn to avoid fishing during a gale warning. You see, I’m a dedicated (addicted?) fisherman, so I fish when I have time, no matter what the weather, or likelihood of success.

What I learned was this:  1) The first bait in the water gets bit first. More often than not, the first bait was my bait, which didn’t bode well for Joe and Dan, as the fish were just not cooperative.

The other lesson was:  2) Have faith in your ability and baits that have worked in the past. I was able to dredge up fish using techniques that I have picked up over the years. When the conditions get tough, go back to basics and the day can be salvaged.

Last minute Spottie

One proven bait - This worked in Newport too.

AAT curly tail grub, on an Owner darter jig

Another proven winner on the bay bass.

Fishing Report Details


Sandbass love the smell of spinnerbaits in the morning!

While I’m not conjuring a blizzard of Tweets and holding down my full-time day job as a brand marketer, I eek out a few moments to search the web for interesting information related to fishing. This week during a search of YouTube I discovered Evan and Jared, TheBassBoyz and Team Basstic. They are a small posse of up-and-coming hardcore saltwater bass fishermen here in So Cal. Aside from noting the plethora of sponsors, and industry connections these guys have racked up, I was left with a with a few observations of these young guns:  1) These dudes remind me of a much younger me running around the rivers of Oregon. 2) Evan is particularly charismatic, he talks a good game, and based on the videos it seems that he knows what he’s doing. 3) Despite some pretty consistent results of my own, I clearly have a lot to learn about bass fishing the So Cal harbors.

 Even after 40 years of fishing like a madman, I am still a student of the sport. This is due mostly to the fact that I am constantly reminded about how little I actually know.

I tend to find something that worked, and use that until it doesn’t any more. Then I try to figure out the next “magic bait,” and the cycle repeats itself. On the hunt for the next big thing, I paid especially close attention to Evan discussing bait types & color selection. I also watched carefully the footage of his technique and I definitely picked up a few things about retrieve speed, and action. Armed with all these mental notes, I was very eager to get on the water and see if the boys could teach this old guy some new tricks.

Newport Harbor - Coast Guard Station Beach Launch

I called up Matt and talked him into a trip that we would both dedicate to testing the new tactics. He was in, so the next thing I did was raid my little-used freshwater bass gear. I dusted off the spinnerbait box, and pulled out a good variety of dark and light colors. I also went deep into my saltwater swimbait box and brought out some of my lesser used colors to pair with the spinnerbaits. After a couple of hours assembling likely combinations, we were finally ready to go and we loaded the kayaks on his truck for a dawn patrol launch.

We got to the harbor around 6AM and assembled the kayaks with our usual array of toys, gadgets and accessories (I’m working on a future post all about kayak rigging, so stay tuned).We pushed off from the beach and I immediately began fishing. Matt turned left and headed to the bait barge, and I turned right and fished the newly refurbished Coast Guard docks. I was on my second cast when the first of a flurry of fish made my morning worthwhile. To make a long story shorter than it otherwise could be, I’ll let the photos from my first six casts tell the tale.

Double Colorado blade dark "swimmerbait" combo for low-light and off-color water.

Cast #2 - Legal sized Spotted Bay Bass

Cast #3 - Short Spotted Bay Bass

Cast #6 - Short (only barely) California Halibut

They were all caught within 20 feet of each other along a row of freshly installed docks. The spot had produced fish for me before, but usually only when the tide is rising and ripping.What made these three fish even more amazing to me is this:  They were all caught at the very bottom of a minus tide, meaning the water was lower and darker than usual, and damn near brackish. This means that the usually plentiful baitfish were nowhere to be found. According to everything I’ve learned to this point, these fish should have had a severe case of lockjaw for at least the next 4 hours, and possibly longer.

There were other fish, including a bunch more spotties, a great fighting Barred Sand Bass (see photo below), and a good sized legal halibut (I saw it, so I can attest to it’s size – somewhere north of 10 pounds) that snapped my 8# fluorocarbon leader as I went for my Boga-grip. While it clearly sucks to part prematurely with a great photo fish, the real bummer about breaking off the larger model fish was losing the “magic lure”. That lure, the one pictured above, caught me a dozen quality fish. All the other spinnerbaits in my box were either larger, smaller, or just didn’t match the color combination.

Barred Sand Bass

Beached kayaks at the end of the day.

We had a terrific day of exploring and testing our new tricks and tactics. Speaking of new gizmos, I have designed an at-a-glance table to include in this report for those of you who appreciate data. My thinking in creating this dashboard is that it might be a nice way to share the relevant details that an astute angler will use to piece together a future winning trip. It also gives you a quick peek into my planning and what I was thinking before the trip began. Check the new “On the Water” tool below and post a comment, shoot me a Tweet (@HookIdeas), or email me (HookIdeas at Gmail dot com) and let me know what you think. Is it helpful, overkill, or in need of more information? I welcome your feedback. In the mean time, go get bent!

Fishing Report Dashboard - May 21, 2011