Calico Bass Essentials, Tricks & Tips with BD PRO Erik Landesfeind

At the root of it we’re all anglers but when you start to dissect the practice as a whole those that take it seriously are highly specialized and that really just comes down to what your personal preference in fishing style is.  Your specialization may be based on technique, species, locations, or other factors entirely.  In Southern California, Calico Bass fishermen are some of the most specialized and dedicated to their trade.  Sure, anyone for the most part can go out to their local kelp bed and hook a calico on a soft plastic or stick bait, but when it comes to being able to catch numbers and focus on those fish approaching the double-digit mark, that’s a separate thing.  These Calico specialists are in tune with so much from temperature, tide, watercolor, bait assortment, water column structure, bottom structure, and much more.

One look at this setup and you’ll literally have Calico specialists jumping out of their skin.

Within the category of fisherman, there is no shortage of Calico specialists, legends, and experts.  Erik Landesfiend is someone we consider here at BD Outdoors at the top of this list.  Erik’s enthusiasm for this fishery is bar none and his results and commitment to it are commendable.

We are lucky enough to have Erik give us some insight into his tackle preference from rods, reels, and an assortment of baits.  While he’s not giving away the farm the information he divulges is part of a bigger picture needed to put the whole scene together.

While Erik is supported by several fishing brands there are many options available in the marketplace that are similar to his favorite brands.  Erik’s picks have a very precise need for the fishery and as we get more in tune with focusing on Calico’s these slight differences result in evident needs.

Erik’s picks:

WEEDLESS SWIMBAIT COMBO, one of the most exciting ways to fish Calicos, retrieving weedless swimbaits through thick kelp bed rafts sometimes entice big blow-ups as hungry Calicos blow the roof off of the kelp canopy. You might be shocked by the use of 65lb. braid, but it’s essential at times to pull these fish out of their kelp-protected environment. Erik’s selection for this method is:

HARDBAIT/ SWIMBAIT COMBO, when fishing off the edge of a kelp bed or over rocky structure this is a great set-up that allows you to through a larger presentation in a stick bait. Sometimes these larger presentations help to weed out the smaller fish allowing you to focus on those prize fish you’re looking for.



These days there is no shortage of lure companies and with that comes refining the use of traditional styles that are proven and tested in time as well as new and odd shapes and sizes.  Never be afraid to give something new a chance, even if it’s meant for another fishery.  The act of experimentation is what keeps us “kid-like”, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to disregard the ole trusted arsenal. As far as picking a favorite lure that can range from the mood of the anglers to the mood the fish is in. Below are some favorites.

• Berkley Dredger 17.5 or 20.5 in Chameleon Pearl or Blue Chartreuse
• 170mm Yozuri Hydro Minnow in Green Mackerel
• 150mm Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow (floating) in Laser Sardine
• 100mm Luckycraft Pointer 100DD in Aurora Black or Ghost Minnow
“In regard to swimbaits, there are countless brands, actions colors, and patterns. My go-to is the 7-inch MC Weedless Swimbait in Green and Gold Sparkle or Brown Bait rigged on 9/0 Eagle Claw TK170 Trokar Magnum Weighted Swimbait Hook 9/0 5-inch MC Viejos Swimbait if Green and Gold Sparkle or Brown Bait rigged on a ¾ or 1-ounce VMC Boxer Swimbait Head”


Over the last decade or twelve years, the biggest change for those anglers targeting Calico’s has been the introduction of a braided line. With the lack of stretch resulting in the ability to feel every bite, the ability to pack in heavier line on a small reel, and lastly the capability of cutting through kelp due to the beading structure of the line, braid has improved tactics in this fishery significantly.  There are lines like Seaguar Smackdown which are very beaded and will cut right through the kelp, making fishing in heavy coverage possible. Then on the casting side, there are lines like Super Slick and Pro-spec that are quite smooth and allow for a bit more castability. Work with what feels best for you.

Overall, what makes a great Calico fisherman is a time on the water and dedication. Pay attention to factors and catalog what works under what conditions, keep these things in mind and that double-digit fish might be in your near future expedition to target Calicos.

Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal...