We sat down with Captain Ali Hussainy, CEO of BD Outdoors and co-host of Local Knowledge, and picked his brain about what makes him tick, his experiences and goals.
Q:Tell me about the right of passage that is towing a boat to Baja.
A:It seems like all young anglers growing up in SoCal are eventually lured to Baja. The lure isn’t hard to figure out. Adventure, scenery and world class fishing all await Baja anglers. As your comfort level with the country and peninsula grows, you’ll most likely find yourself dragging a boat down highway Mex 1 looking for that next fishing fix. This was the story for myself and so many of my friends.
Q:Please tell us some stories about towing boats to Baja?
A:After towing several small aluminum boats down Baja, to destinations like Punta Chivato, Mulege and San Quintin, I was bitten by the offshore bug. Even when inshore fishing was red hot, the kid in me could not help but wonder what was lurking offshore and just over the horizon.
This started with my first trip towing my own skiff down. The year was 1998 and the boat was a 20’ Twin Vee center console. A few buddies and myself decided it was time to ditch the panga rentals and do it ourselves. We trailered all the way to Loreto on that trip (about 16 hours South) and we discovered a huge aquatic playground. The freedom of running your own boat in waters that were loaded for dorado, striped marlin and sailfish was just amazing. We spent a week exploring remote islands, fishing, diving and having a blast. From that trip on, I was hooked on private boating in Baja.
Years would pass and the boats would get bigger. Several years later a group of friends would organize a trip to a remote area on the Sea of Cortez just 60-some miles south of the popular Bahia De Los Angeles. We did this trip as a group for several years dragging a 22’ Grady, my 27’ World Cat and a 27’ Grady. These trips were spent exploring this incredible area and catching grouper and yellowtail inshore while scores of marlin and dorado waited for us offshore. These trips really brought me back to Baja after many years focused on the Puerto Vallarta fishery.
Q:How did you get connected to Baja fishing?
A:I first learned about Baja fishing by reading books like the Baja Catch and Fred Hoctor’s weekly column in Western Outdoor News. Their stories about great fishing in remote destinations captivated me, eventually motivating me to go take a look for myself.
Q:What is your favorite aspect of fishing south of the border?
A:The single biggest attraction to fishing south of the border for me is simple, adventure. I’ve been fortunate to fish in many “legendary” spots around the hemisphere, but without question the adventure of Baja keeps bringing me back. Whether it’s finding a new spot or making new amigos, the terrain and people of Baja are always giving you something new to keep you coming back.
Sure you can fly into a resort, sip mai tais, and get carted to fishing grounds each day, but you’re really missing the point of Baja.
Baja is the wild west of Mexico. It can be foreboding at times but for those willing to put in the work, the rewards are many. There are still plenty of areas where you can fish all week without seeing another angler. While harder to find these days, there are still miles of untouched coastline and pristine reefs teeming with gamefish. The best part is, all of this south of the border fun is usually just one days drive from my home in San Diego.
Q:What complications are possible or your least favorite aspect?
A:Baja is always full of surprises and it’s usually not the kind that most people expect. You hear horror stories of drug lords and Americans kidnapped in Mexico. While Baja does have it’s own problems, these fortunately are not among them.
The sleepy peninsula challenges you in different ways and the biggest challenge always seems to be the biggest draw, it’s remoteness. While being somewhere remote is typically great for fishing, it really sucks when you need a fuel filter for a late model truck (or an outboard part, or a reel repaired, or…..).
To successfully transit Baja you need to be prepared. You need to have back ups for your back ups. We often laugh at all the gear we will bring down, but you never know which of the two tons of gear you’ve hauled down will save your trip.
One trip in particular found a member of our group needing a high pressure fuel pump for a newer Yamaha outboard. Without a Yami dealer within 10 hours drive, we improvised. A quick call on a sat phone to a pilot friend yielded the part we needed in less than 12 hours! While it wasn’t cheap, this salvaged our annual trip and gave us several more days of excellent fishing.
Q:West Coast Fishing Style, What is it? Iron, long rod, conventional reels?
A:Traditional West Coast fishing in my mind is best illustrated by a few basic necessities. First is live bait. Our entire fishery from the piers to the party boats is kept alive by our unique access to prime, live bait nearly any day of the year.
The second iconic piece of West Coast fishing is the “Iron” lure. Iron fishing was born and thrives in SoCal. Whether it’s throwing surface iron for spring time yellowtail or yoyo’ing a heavy iron down deep for tuna, iron fishing is as SoCal as Hollywood and Mickey Mouse.
The third unique SoCal identifier in my mind is our gear. Since we do fish primarily with live bait or iron lures, our tackle has adapted to suit our baits of choice. For live bait fishing, this means a smaller convention reel paired with a longer rod designed to gently toss our live bait as far as possible. The same applies to iron fishing. We have long rods (up to 10’) known as “jig sticks” paired with narrow conventional reels that are designed to thrown an iron as far as possible while still remaining accurate. In my mind, there’s no fishing style that better defines ANY area than iron fishing and SoCal.
Q:Explain your bucket list. Highlights checked off and fish yet to catch?
A:Early in my fishing career, my focus was on the offshore scene. I always wanted to catch a big tuna over 100-pounds. Even after many years and many big tuna, nothing gets my heart racing like seeing those big fish blow up in the corner.
These days I find myself more focused on trying to fish new areas and trying to catch new species. I’ve committed myself to fish at least one new area each year and try to learn as much as possible while there.
Currently at the top of my bucket list there are two fish that happen to be found in the same areas. These fish are the Napoleon wrasse and the dogtooth tuna. Both of these fish can be found patrolling the reefs of Indonesia and nearby tropical seas. I’ve never had the opportunity to fish Australia and other similar waters, but I hope to make that a reality in late 2016.