Winning Day of Fishing

Too often, the ‘significance’ of weighing a 15 lb. bag of bass against teams with well over 20 lbs. , goes largely un-sung

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Time and time again we hear the fun stories that prove, you don’t need to win to have a winning day of fishing. With the 2016 SWBA season seemingly passing by in a ‘Semi-trimmed-up speed-blur’ , I thought it would be cool to take a few moments to re-cap the past 2 events, both of which included some of the offshore islands as ‘in-bounds’ during competition. As a bit of a departure, I’ll be including first hand re-caps written by the ‘3rd’ place finishers at these events, highlighting their days, and the decision making processes that led them to very good finishes.

My hope is that this approach will shed some unique light on what goes on during the course of SWBA competition first hand from teams not quite in the winners circle, but with very successful finishes. Many times we hear the winners on stage humbly talk about their ‘magical day’ . . . or ‘we just got lucky’ and landed a key bite or two. And while those stories are great, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from the winners, it often leaves us wanting more. If you’ve been at an event, it’s pretty obvious the celebratory atmosphere precludes any detailed play-by-play, and for good reason, they just won!

Darin Dohi representing United Composites at the captains briefing held at Savon Tackle in Santa fe Springs.

Darin Dohi representing United Composites at the captains briefing held at Savon Tackle in Santa fe Springs.

Having competed in tournaments over the years, I can honestly say that some of my most memorable experiences actually took take place at events I didn’t necessarily place highly in. I remember fishing one particular event in June of 2008 out of Long Beach, where I fished by myself in my 15 foot Whaler. I had a really fun hardbait bite going, and just kept culling up throughout the entire day. I was fishing what is now inside the MPA area of Laguna Beach, and just the excitement of making that run back and fourth in that 15 foot boat had me all sorts of amped. By the time I got back to weigh-in, I was so proud and confident with the ‘14’ lbs. I had in the tank, I was actually thinking about what I was going to say on the mic.! When they called up 1st place out of the money with over 16Lbs. I remember thinking someone was playing a trick on me! Then reality sunk in, and I had to just sit back and laugh at myself. But that day will forever remain one of the funnest tournament experiences I’ve had. It’s just one of the several reasons tournament fishing can be so fun, it’s the individual experiences and memories that are created along the way.

The Taco Surf 'Taco Cart' was rolling street-style tacos for everyone.

The Taco Surf ‘Taco Cart’ was rolling street-style tacos for everyone.

Needless to say, there is often not enough said for the teams placing in the top 10, or beyond in the standing at any given event. Too often, the ‘significance’ of weighing a 15 lb. bag of bass against teams with well over 20 lbs. , goes largely un-sung. When two anglers can go out and put five 3 lb fish in the live well in 8 hours against a solid field of competition, I don’t care what anyone says, thats very respectable, period! There were some interesting dynamics that took place at the past 2 events, completely different from one another, yet still presenting teams with some big decisions prior to game day. So let’s take a look back at the Long Beach United Composites ‘Spring Classic’ first which took place back in May.

Lucas Marine Products on display at the United Composites event.

Lucas Marine Products on display at the United Composites event.

With United Composites rod manufacturing coming on-board in the 2016 season, it was agreed that the ‘Spring Classic’ would be the perfect venue to help showcase the re-launched company back into the marketplace. On the heels of a warm water winter, the early spring bite was on many anglers mind. Last year, this event which included some distant western and southern coastal boundaries, allowed the 2 close islands to be in play. We saw some incredible fish brought to the scale, and hopes were high that we’d see of a repeat of that in 2016.

As the practice period rolled around, it seemed as if many teams were largely looking to ‘play it safe’, as no one had really locked-in to a strong pattern. Catalina island was producing ‘some’ good bites, and the smaller Santa Barbara island to the west hadn’t turned on the way some had hoped. The Palos Verdes peninsula, notorious for being a ‘hit & miss’ proposition, was being its usual fickle’d self, but biting a little during key times. However, with the Santa Monica Bay in-bounds, ‘PV’ would act as more of a ‘fall back plan’ for some teams running up the line, to more of the consistent areas off the LA Beaches. The event format allows for all 3 species of bass to be weighed, so the option of Sand Bass was also a consideration, as the artificial and natural reefs off Santa Monica Bay play home to some serious grumpies if the conditions are right. Speaking of artificial reefs and sand bass, there had been a bite of mixed calico and sand bass off the Newport pipe which had developed the week prior to the event. A few teams got wise to it and changed their ‘island game plan’ to include a quick-start at the popular reef to the south, then depending on how the morning panned-out, would decide if one of the islands would come into play later in the day. And of course the infamous Horseshoe and Izor Reefs were right out front and ripe for the taking.

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Team Anchored bundled up and heading to Catalina Island.

So there you had it, . . . decisions, decisions, decisions, up the coast vs down, Catalina vs Santa Barbara, calicos vs sand bass, or some kind of weird combination of all of it. The weather played out well on the day of the event, with a bit of expected light south wind and a moderate ground swell, making for a slightly lumpy ride for the teams traveling long up & down the beach. No one made the run to SBI, however the channel crossing to Catalina seemed pretty good early, then would lay down for a beautiful return trip.

Jason Quimby and Ron Withers of Team Anchored, still reveling in their win at the Bohnhoff Lumber California Offshore Challenge, were eager to get back to the island. Here’s what Jason had to say of he and Ron’s day at the ‘Spring Classic’.

“To say that Ron and I love to fish Calicos at the islands would be putting it mildly. We live for it. When we aren’t fishing we are thinking about it and counting the days down to our next outing. With SBI and Cat inbounds for the 2016 SWBA Spring Classic we had an important decision to make – which island were we going to fish? Or maybe we could even squeeze them both in with the 10 hour window the tournament allowed for? We fished SBI prior to the tournament and found it infested with Pelagic Red Crab, and a really tough bite, so we chose to concentrate our tournament time on Catalina. Tournament day finally came, and brought with it an interesting forecast with a lot of wind and swell. We were blessed with an awesome crossing as we pointed the ’94 Wellcraft towards the East end of Cat, bumped up the throttle of the 150 Yamaha, and cruised over at 31 MPH.

We were relieved to find the whole east end looking ripe for a very good day of Calico fishing. We started off the day with two three pounders on the Kelp Kritter, but seriously struggled for the rest of the day. We probably only caught 10 fish the whole day. The conditions looked perfect in every spot we fished, but the bites were few and far between. We fished everything we had tied on, and started to dig through the boxes for other ways to force the fish to bite. After several hours of fishing, and not catching much, we went back to the area we started in, and on his first cast, Ron put a 6 pounder in the live well  – calling it out and seeing the fish take it on the pause was rad! Ron followed that up with a 3 pounder a few casts later. Now we had a limit, not a winning limit, but we were feeling a little better about our game plan. We went though the zone one more time and I hooked a good one up shallow that I pulled the hook on. Bummer!! But that’s just how it goes. We kept pounding the zones hoping to at least get rid of the 2 pounder we had in the tank.

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Jayson Quimby holds up a pair of calicos including the ‘last cast’ 8 Lb’er.

We resolved to fish new water as time began to run away from us. We didn’t make a huge run or anything, but it was new water. Our anticipation of a few good bites grew, but that sinking feeling of a mediocre finish, when we wanted a top spot, started to eat away at our hopes. It was almost time to leave the island when we pulled into one last area that was a little different than what we had been fishing.   Ron saw a fish on his first cast, I hooked a 2 pounder on my first cast, and our optimism was renewed. I told Ron, “Come on man, one more good bite and we’ll be out of here in a flash.” I moved the boat up swell a little, scoped out where I wanted to make my last cast and let my lure fly as far as my 9′ Phenix M1 Inshore and wind would take it. On my second crank I got absolutely hammered, and I knew it was the the bite we were hoping for. The fish immediately dove, and took me in some junk. I had Ron get on the big motor and move the boat closer to the fish while I kept the line tight. At that point, it didn’t take long, and the big girl was in the net. Such a rush! What an amazing feeling to go from a 17 pound bag to 23 in one cast! Proof that in our sport we are always one cast away from a total day maker. She weighed 8.19 pounds at the scale, and it was enough to squeak our way into 3rd place overall, 3rd place big fish, and pull down the top flight side pot with a total bag weight of 23.02 pounds. Luck, skill, determination, call it what you will, but in our world where tournaments are decided by a hundredth of a pound, you need to have faith that your next cast will be a giant”.

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Ron Withers shares how their day unfolded.

So there it is, a little insight as to how the United Composites ‘Spring Classic’ unfolded 1st hand from Team Anchored. As the event concluded and the standings were released, it was very interesting to see what had played out. Only 4 of the top ten teams caught their fish at Catalina, the other 6 came from the coast. Of those six teams, two limits (including eventual winners Ed Howerton and Dennis Burlason) came from Palos Verdes and beyond were all calico bass. The other 4 teams had a limit of sand bass or a mixed bag. And the top two ‘Big Fish’ came from Palos Verdes including the 9.26 Lb. beast weighed by Ed & Dennis taking the Kaenon ‘Big Bass’ award.

I really enjoyed watching the dynamics of this event unfold. It really put a lot of emphasis on a practical game plan, and there certainly wasn’t any domination in terms of the expected ‘Island fish versus the sand bass‘ as is often speculated. In part two of this re-cap we’ll move up the coast and get up to date for event number four of the 2016 season, the Big Hammer Lures ‘Norbuland’ event based out of Ventura Harbor. We’ll hear from Anthony Nigro and Dennis Killianof Team I Heart Spotties going over their 3rd place finish that came from Santa Cruz Island.

Stay tuned. EB

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