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David "Wahoodad" Choate

Dave fishes mostly Long Range out of San Diego, California. Very fortunate to have become a product tester for many tackle companies, but he really enjoys helping others learn to enjoy this sport and improve their techniques.

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April 14, 2013

Spring and Early Summer Trips


Spring and Early Summer Trips

If you've ever thought about fishing long range, but just weren't ready to take the plunge, these might be just the way to get your foot in the door and catch the fever I caught long ago. The fare to go on these early spring trips is probably one of the better values, for a few reasons. Sometimes the weather can play a factor, and you get a few days of wind and swell. Most of these trips are 7 to 8 days long, and that allows you to get fairly far south, with possible locations being Alijos Rocks, or the many areas that make up the spots that are called The Ridge!

Now typically you won't see the variety you might encounter on a fall trip of the same length. It's a bit early for Dorado, Wahoo, and it is hit and miss for Yellowfin Tuna. But it can be very good for Yellowtail, might luck into an Amberjack or two, always a chance of a White Sea Bass or Halibut, Calico Bass fishing on the ride back up, as well as a good shot at Albacore or Bluefin Tuna!

There have been some epic springtime Black Sea Bass bites, and Groupers are a possibility as well. But remember how old these fish are, and releasing them unharmed is highly recommended.

This time of year, the demand for live bait isn't as high as peak summer trips, which bears well for us. The sardines the Everingham Bros bait company catches for our use gets a chance to cure before we load them into the bait tanks or slammers! This is huge for us, having a good load of cured bait means we might make it through the whole trip without having to make bait. Or, even if we do have to catch some Mackerel to supplement our bait supply, we should have Sardines throughout the trip. Lord knows, fish love Sardines!

Gearing Up

If you are a day or day and a half trip fisherman, you probably have the gear you need for one of these trips. Start off with a 30# outfit, a 6&1/2 foot rod up to an 8 or 9 foot rod if you like a longer rod. Seeker Black Steel 970, or 6465, or the 8480 if you want to get that 8 foot length covered. If you want to put a new reel in your quiver without dinging your wallet up too bad, you might look at the Okuma Cortez CZ-10CS. This outfit could be for flylining for yellows or albies, or might be the rod you tie your 4 hook Sabiki to in case you do need to catch bait.

Yoyo jigs is a technique that will be employed quite often on a spring trip. Not only for Yellows, but it's not a bad idea to try the Yoyo for Bluefin Tuna. My son Matt hooked the only Bluefin on an 8 day spring trip a few years ago, and that was grinding the jig. I like using 50# test and a relatively short rod for yoyo. Super Seeker 660H coupled with a Okuma Cedros 10LD is my rig of choice for fast winding the jig in.

I prefer jigs like Salas 6X JR, Salas 6X, Sea Strike 33 for my yoyo irons. Blue and white, scrambled egg, green and yellow, and I prefer treble hooks for yellows, single hooks for Bluefin.

I prefer jigs like Salas 6X JR, Salas 6X, Sea Strike 33 for my yoyo irons. Blue and white, scrambled egg, green and yellow, and I prefer treble hooks for yellows, single hooks for Bluefin.

A rod with 80# test, preferably a two speed reel, for dropper looping or trolling, and a long rod if you like to throw the surface iron for Yellows, perhaps a light rod for fishing Calico Bass, and you are fairly well set up to embark on a trip like this.

Make sure you have fresh line, recently serviced reels, and check your guides on your rods to make sure they are all good, no rough spots to damage the line.

Let's Go Fishing

After you stock the bait tanks and slammers with those wonderful sardines, the captain will decide to look for offshore fish like Bluefin Tuna or Albacore on the way down towards the southern fishing destinations, or to beeline it. Many different reasons play into this decision he needs to make. Just go with the flow, leave the driving to them, get your gear ready and enjoy the ride.

The crew will hold daily seminars to get you ready for the fishing ahead. Don't hesitate to ask for help or advice from them or the more experienced anglers on the trip. Most of us are more than willing to share techniques and rigging.

Seems to me we either start at Alijos or the ridge on these trips. I'm always hopeful of tuna when at the Stones, but my last couple of early trips there have resulted in straight Yellowtail. Nothing wrong with those, they were decent 15-20 pound fish.

You had to work at it while on the trip with my son Matt. Pick a good bait, and use a light weight hook like a Mustad Hoodlum 10827BLN, or the Owner Flyliner. Thanks to my buddy Birdsnest Bill for providing some of these hooks. Bill was hotter than a pistol, getting bit way better than anyone else. I asked him what he was doing different, and he gave Matt and I some lighter hooks. After that, we were on like Donkey Kong!

On our trips, from there, we ran across to the ridge. Specifically, the 23 Fathom spot. Want to know about WIDE OPEN yellows, springtime on the ridge can blow your mind. We started pulling all the weird stuff out of our tackle boxes we had never caught a fish on before. If they don't catch a yellow during a bite like that, chalk it up as a paperweight!

While on the ridge, not a bad idea to use that dropper loop rod. We had one trip where about 7 anglers were dropper looping, and all 7 caught White Sea Bass! Not a bad way to spice up your bag limit. I've also seen Bluefin Tuna caught while on the anchor on the ridge. And Pargo could be found as well.

After a couple or three days in that lower zone, it's time to start working your way up the line. They try and do the traveling at night to maximize our fishing time during daylight hours.

Next stop: Cedros or Benitos. Which is nice after running overnight. During a stop at either of these islands, Yellowtail are probably the target fish. But a dropper loop might get you a WSB, or a Halibut. You could end up with the Cedros Slam: Yellowtail, WSB, and Halibut!

While at Cedros, you might get a chance to enjoy some of that world class Calico Bass action. Bring some plastics, because you want to experience this fishery if given the chance.

After leaving Cedros or Benitos, more travel up the line. And here is another chance to chase the offshore Tuna.

Final Thoughts

These trips are a bit less than a midsummer or fall 8 day trip, and they are a bit more of a crapshoot. Three and four years ago, the Indy was having excellent CATCHING on these trips. The last couple of years, things have slowed a bit, but I still caught plenty of fish.

Give it a whirl, I think you'll find out what a good time these trips can be.

Tight Lines!

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