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Another Season, Column One

Another Season is a six-part series piggybacking on my doorstop of an article, “The Season,” in the current issue of The Bight. If you love seabass fishing, have thought about a career in outdoor writing, or considered guiding for white seabass or anything exotic, these words should set you straight.

An outdoor writer pal once said of his friend,

“He’s got it bad; he loves fishing so much he can’t remember his last bite. It doesn’t matter if it’s a steelhead or a seabass.”

(Spoiler: Rich Holland on Mark Gasich.)

I maybe don’t have it that bad. Probably the closest I ever came was when I faked an eye injury— complete with photo text after getting gauze and pads from Sav-On—so I could use a sick day to fish seabass at Blacks and then race up to Swamis, pre-closure. A week later I fished La Jolla in the morning on a skiff then Catalina in the afternoon on the Rail Time. Three days after my first son was born I raced down Camp Pendleton to fish next to the lightboat Miss Astrid after hearing it found the motherlode of May seabass. I kept the first wide-open spot I ever found on my own to myself and the clients who got my guide business started. Lasted two to nine days, depending on who tells the story. The very best bites? Never made a blip.

I always want a good seabass bite to last forever. The only way to do that, I figured, was to guide for them everyday come spring.

I say I started guiding for a wife in grad school and a newborn; I needed to invent a second income. Truth is I am just a seabass fiend.

Before guiding it was cards. I had to adjust from No Limit Hold ‘Em (easy, like squid in the mud) to Pot Limit Omaha (hard, like fin bait and structure) when the action shifted.

The poker games weren’t that bad. Driving to Hawaiian Gardens became fun. I got decent at PLO. If I went busto, I figured I could write how-to articles under a pen name for one of the nationals.

But guiding was more of a guarantee. Then 50-plus nights of fishing weren’t enough. I quit the cush job that had allowed me to fish and get reimbursed for mileage and meals. It kept me from jumping 100-plus seabass charters a season and fishing and writing on my own terms. Now? Drawn and quartered. My charter book is robust.

Everyone has written seabass off this season. No counts. No reports. No fleet to follow around. And séance for squid all you want—It ain’t changin’.

Still, when March 27 came along, I knew it was all going to work out. The morning of the Del Mar Fred Hall opener found no kelp where I left it, no squid near any of the old plotter marks, and a coast that had long since forgotten La Niña. That first stop of the morning was on mackerel and red crabs. Then Bob Hoose slid the gaff into our first tanker. I was going to get my wish: a non-squid-based coastal tanker fishery. Or was it wishful thinking?

Anticipating a shift, I stared booking trips for the new moon in April—this was well before the March seabass—versus my usual five days before the full moon in May kick-off. I changed up rigging and tackle. I spent two weeks guiding friends and myself, trying to figure out the new pattern. I re-mapped. Found the new lanes, thinking about how the fish—and others that may try to set up not on the structure, but my boat—may react to this new landscape.

When playing poker I would always deviate a plan on how to stack each-and-every player, based on their tendencies and motives and mistakes. Rarely would the opportunity arise.

With seabass—or any structure-based fish—I always think about how to sit to get them coming and going. Nothing spectacular happened. A few fish hit the deck. I got bit in ways that were new to me.

It’s always hard to believe when another season comes around. This time around I know going into it that it’s going to take a blend of styles to get bit inside 15 fathoms…

Photo Credit: One Man Charters Facebook

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Brandon Hayward splits his time between serving as editor/publisher of The Bight (www.thebightjournal.com) and guiding throughout the Southern California Bight from his 23-foot Parker through his guide service, www.onemancharters.com. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Brandon spent his summers and time post-college working on San Diego-based sportboats before taking on a writing career. He's written three books on Southern California saltwater fishing: The Southern California Angler, Getting Bit, The Local Angler. Brandon lives in San Clemente, California, with his wife, two children and a Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever.