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Calico Bass Blitz on the Sea Jay

by: Jeff Jones 7/21/2014
The calico bite is on!  Fishing Friday aboard the Sea Jay we were on the calico bass from the first stop and the boat soon had limits with a lot of released fish, too.  Throw in a few sugars, sheephead and three barracuda and it makes a fine day fishing the Channel Islands aboard the Sea Jay.

Reports of calico success were not exaggerated and we expected the bite to be good.  Just in case we got lucky the day started out by searching around Anacapa Island for a chance to hit on some yellowtail or sea bass, but not finding any we moved to Santa Cruz Island and began the calico marathon in earnest.

At the first stop the Sea Jay’s Capt. John Fuqua recommended using a slider rig with 1/4 oz. sliding sinker and dead squid.  I learn something each time out and this was no exception.  After a short time he commented that line size may be a factor for those catching and those not.  It pays to listen to the Captain and when he said that I switched from my Penn Fathom 25N with 50 pound Invisi-braid and 30 pound Pro-Spec fluorocarbon to one of my new rigs, an Abu Garcia Revo Inshore and Volatile rod.  Making its virgin appearance, this combo, spooled with 15 pound Big Game, would be the major player today catching a lot of calico bass and a nice sheephead that got the “Other” big fish side-pot for the day.

Fishing a slider rig is still new to me.  I did it once last year in my first year that I fished California saltwater, but the big difference between the first time and this time is that the first time was in strong current and only landed one or two calico bass.  This time, the current was present, but not ripping.

Fuqua also taught several of us that were still green how to fish the slider rig while getting repeated hits from small ‘perch’ fish.  Not unlike ‘machine-gun hits from freshwater bluegill, these small fish would provide short, staccato hits, even some decently hard jerks on the line, but seldom get hooked.  It didn’t take long for me to stop setting the hook on nothing and wait until the line was making a constant pull instead of short hits to get into the nice calicos.

Squid condition was important, or unimportant, depending on your own view.  When using a live squid Fuqua suggested slamming it on the deck before hooking and that would immediately stiffen up the flesh and help keep it on the hook, otherwise most of the day I just used dead squid they already had.  He also showed how to hook the squid three times, almost like hooking a nightcrawler when I was a kid, to keep it on the hook.  It did not seem to matter to the fish if we were using dead or live squid.

Rubber baits were working well as were hard plastic minnows, but for me the slider rig was the one that produced this day.

The new Revo Inshore and Volatile combo is a great rig!  Very light for a saltwater outfit, it was a pleasure to handle because it is so light weight compared to others, yet strong, with enough backbone that I was not worried if I happened to hook into something bigger.  The only issue would be line capacity if a really big fish were to hit.  If that were to have happened I would have switched to the slightly heavier but still light Revo Toro NaCl. or the Penn Fathom 25N.  As a freshwater bass angler most of my life I really like how the Revo Inshore and Volatile rod combo feels to cast and how it handles fighting 3-4 pound calico bass.  It was recommended as a good calico outfit by SoCal Saltwater guide Jimmy Decker who had a hand in developing the Revo Saltwater reels and Volatile Rods, and the Revo Inshore would also be a good choice for surf fishing small slider rigs with Gulp! Sandworms.
A few calico with Capt. John FuquaA nice colorful calicoJason got the Big Calico side pot
And I got the Big Other side pot with a sheephead 
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