On August 12th the first California-caught striped marlin of 2011 was finally landed, marking the beginning of the season. Team Shimano found the slack-tide sleeper just above the 267 at 33:19/117:52 and the fish ate a mackerel. Angler Justin Poe landed the fish with Robby Gant running the boat and Tracy Melton and Jason Levine manning the cockpit. They weren’t fishing on a 60-foot sport-fisher, they landed it on Trinidad, a SeaVee center console, proving that you don’t need a big boat to find and successfully land striped marlin in California.
More boats are reporting striped marlin each day, and again, not all of these guys fish in big boats. With the California Billfish Series on the horizon, kicking off in less than a month, we expect the fishing to improve and more small boats to compete.
With fuel prices always a consideration, more anglers are choosing to fish from smaller boats these days, and they’re finding success. You don’t need a 50-footer to compete in the California Billfish Series. In fact, you don’t even need a 40-footer!
Bill DePriest, the editor and publisher of Pacific Coast Sportfishing Magazine, has successfully fished the Catalina Classic, competing with the big boys from a small boat. Bill and his team currently fish on One Hot Tuna, a customized 23.5-foot Trophy that was repowered with a diesel. Bill isn’t afraid to fish against the big dogs and has proven that you don’t need a big sport-fisher to do well in the California Billfish Series. So, we asked him a few questions about how he does it, and he was happy to share a few tips.
Q: What advice would you give an owner of a smaller boat that is thinking of fishing the Catalina tournaments?
A: “Join up! It’s a blast and you have just as good of a shot at the Classic as anyone. In 2009 we weighed in a 192 on the first day and a 193.5 on the second. We had two of the top five qualifying fish in the Classic that year. We are the smallest boat in the tournament and we still can compete. It’s an affordable tournament that can pay big if you get lucky and tag a donkey. Like they say, anyone can catch a big jig fish, so come out and catch yours and reap the benefits.”
Q: Do you still spot a lot of sleepers, tailers, etc.?
A: “We still see our fair share of fish. I have a driving station on the roof so between me on the roof and the guys on the deck, we find tailers and sleepers. We can’t compete on a level with the gyros so we focus our efforts where we can compete in the prop wash.”
Q: What do you find is the best approach to target marlin on a small boat?
A: “Since we are in such a small platform we focus our attention behind the boat, which is not considered kosher on this coast. We focus on catching every fish that comes up in the spread. That’s why we use ballyhoo and circle hooks. With the crew that I typically fish with that know the system, we are almost 100 percent for every fish that comes up in the spread!”
Q: Is that why do you prefer to troll rigged baits?
A: “We prefer the trolled ballyhoo for the percentages. We used to run lures and we would catch between 25 to 40 percet of our bites due to the fish just falling off the hooks. Striped marlin don’t usually engulf the lure like a blue marlin, they smack it around and get bill wrapped or stung in a hard spot that will never penetrate. With the ballyhoo, they just inhale the bait — no messing around. We end up with the circle hook right in the corner of the mouth and land almost every fish. They will also come back and eat another bait if the bite is missed once they get a taste of the hoo. That’s the difference between rigged baits and jigs.”
Q: What’s the biggest advantage and disadvantage when fishing for marlin in So Cal from a small boat?
A: “I don’t see any large advantages besides the fact that catching marlin on a small boat is a more intimate experience with the fish. Everyone is right there in the action at all times. Also, I really believe that small boats get bit better on the troll and our fuel bill at the end of the day is much smaller! The disadvantage would be that when the weather comes up we are in bad shape. We can’t see the fish that are up and we just get our butts kicked. On typical marlin years there are usually a few fish in the lee of the island or just down the slide so we just stay in what we call the kiddy pond if the weather turns poor.”
The California Billfish Series is made of three tournaments, the Catalina Classic, Avalon Billfish Classic and the Zane Grey Invitational. The tournaments each have a unique format and there is an event for everyone. It only takes one nice fish to win the big payout in the Catalina Classic. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can fish the Avalon Billfish Classic for just $800. That entry fee gets you and your team into all of the parties and festivities and enters you in the Mega Raffle for a pair of Fraser-Volpe gyro binoculars.
There is a long list of sponsors already on board for the CBS and one thing is for sure, now that the boys from BD are running the events, it’s going to be a good time!
Find out more about the tournaments by visiting www.catalinaclassic.com.
Big Marlin Small Boat