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3 Rigs For The LA Yellowtail Bite

Tell me if this sounds familiar…either you are the one asking it, or someone is asking it of you…”What’s the best way to catch [insert name of fish here]. While there are accepted conventions of ways to catch certain fish, for the most part there really needs to be an addendum to the question. What should be asked is “What is the best way to catch [insert fish name] NOW?”

Let me give you an example, you get on a boat, say it’s one of the local ½ day or ¾ day boats fishing the area between Long Beach and Catalina Island in search of yellowtail. This bite has been on and off pretty much all year. The “best” way to catch these fish has changed throughout that whole time.

When it changes and what it changes to is the elusive thing. Thursday I had the good fortune of getting in a midweek trip aboard Native Sun Sportfishing. I brought 3 rods for the trip…jig stick (with 40 mono), 30-pound mono bait stick, and bass setup with straight 50-pound braid (so variable topshot). I tried several setups over the course of the day, this is what I’d setup now based on what I saw.

fish reports

Slider Rig On 30

I started the day using a straight flyline setup, but Capt. Aaron Graham said that the fish just weren’t really on the surface. I switched over to the slider rig using a ¾ oz sinker and a 2/0 circle hook. I used a 4/0 ringed to start the day because of the size of the bait. We picked up the bait right off the bait boat, so maybe they were too tired to push that size of hook? Anyway, once I went to this rig, I immediately hooked and boated 2 fish. I tried a dropper for a little while, but didn’t have any luck. When I came back to this rig, boom…another fish to end the day.

fish offshoreOne thing to note, you need to be able to cast out this rig to get bit. There was a ring of sea lions gathered all around us. There were a lot of rent rod types who were simply dropping their baits directly below them. Between the uncasted baits, and the bait tossed out by the deckhands, the sea lions were having a heyday. If you could cast over their heads, you were in good shape.

My buddy Randy went on Friday and killed 4 on this setup.

Dropper Loop On 30

kid fishingThere were 2 reasons I switched over to a dropper loop…a) since I already had 2 yellows in the bag, I wanted to see if I could maybe catch something different, b) I watched young Charlie Aquistapace nailing them on the dropper. It didn’t really register at the time, but I think the reason I didn’t get bit and Charlie did was he was fishing a lighter setup – single strand (cut loop) instead of the double line. Busting it off didn’t seem to be an issue as the bulk of the fish caught were under 20-pounds. Use a spider hitch or similar though instead of your typical rockfishing dropper.

If you don’t have the ability to cast past the sea lions, this is the way you want to go. Eight ounces of lead was what was needed to hold bottom.

Jig Stick On 40

yellowtail bite
Happy Birthday Kimmy !

There was only 1 jig fish caught on the boat. New Del Mar deckhand Eric Ullman caught it as we pulled into a spot and a batch of yellows were foaming on the surface. A well placed cast and fast retrieve got one to go. Capt. Aaron said there have only been 3 or so jig fish in recent memory, but you always want to try…right? If all else fails though and the fish get on the chew, you could cut off your jig and use this setup as a heavy bait rod.



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Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is the father of Jacob and Juliana, and enjoys cooking and eating his catch.