Offshore 4 weeks of chasing pointy nosed fish in So Cal / 9/2-9/22 Report

get some

So Cal Editor
BD Writer
May 1, 2005
Robalo 226 Cayman
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a report, so I figured I’d catch you guys up on what’s been happening. September is marlin tournament time, well I guess you can call it swordfish tournament time now, and I’ve spent the better part of the last month getting ready for and then fishing them.

Decker and I got things started out on Labor Day with a trip to get the trolling spread dialed in on his boat since we were fishing it in the MABT and to scout around for some marlin.

While we didn't get any bites on the troll, I was really happy with how the new Rainshadow trolling rods I built worked out. The ALPS single foot roller guides were light enough to fish 16-pound and had a large enough opening to allow the wind-on leader to pass through without hanging up. Definitely a big step up from the light graphite rollers Decker had on his previous trolling rods.
Decker Judge 2.jpg

We did manage to find a pair of sleepers within the first fifteen minutes of looking and Decker hooked one on the new Rainshadow Judge marlin caster I'd built. Everything went smoothly and we released the fish after it put on a bit of a show.
Decker Judge.jpg

We baited two packs of tailers later that morning and while we got bites both times neither fish got the hook. The area holding marlin was a contour line below the 14 that was loaded with bait. When we went back out there a week later the bait and marlin were still there but we never got close enough to one to bait it.

A couple days before the MABT we had our buddy Shawn Morgon join the team and the morning of day one had us glassing that same area. As we'd hoped, the marlin were still there and Decker spotted a tailer almost immediately. As I was driving towards it a sleeper popped up right in front of us and Decker cast on it with 12-pound but the fish only slashed at the bait before sinking out. Having already seen two fish and having the entire day ahead of us we were feeling pretty good about our chances. That all changed 30 minutes later when the pea soup fog rolled in and took us completely out of the game.

Before the tournament Decker had told me he was going to put together a deep drop rig to fish swordfish on some numbers he had outside of Newport Harbor where fish had been caught earlier in the week. When he'd told me about it, I'd been like, "Whatever. That sounds good" not expecting that we'd actually be doing it.

It took us most of that afternoon to figure out how to rig and deploy what's basically a 50-foot long reverse dropper loop and while we got it to fish effectively, I didn't feel that we were presenting it in the right place so I wasn't surprised that we didn't get any bites.

The next morning we ran back to our area below the 14 and all of the bait was gone. We looked around for it until the fog rolled in but never found it or the marlin. With nothing else to do we went back to deep dropping. Which is about as exciting as watching paint dry if they aren't biting.
Now that we were comfortable deploying the rig, I drove around a bit before dropping to try and figure out the significance of the numbers we'd been given. I eventually found a 200-foot drop off with a small area of bait marking at 1300 feet and decided to give that a try. I missed it on my first try and made Decker wind up within minutes of hitting the bottom. Tried again and lead it a little more to compensate for boat movement while deploying the rod. This time I got right on it and in five minutes we were bit.
team rainshadow.jpg
A few minutes after we hooked up, our friend Bill Depriest pulled up on his boat and told me that we were on the exact numbers where he'd hooked a swordfish the previous week. Bill pulled up near us, dropped and was bit immediately as well. Stoked that we were on the right track, Decker fought the fish for the next two and a half hours. While we'd heard that deep drop swordfish will usually come immediately to the top, none of us had ever done it so we didn't question the fact that the fish stayed deep the whole time.
Decker Bent.jpg

As a side note, we didn't have a heavy rod or big reel so we just used an International 16 full of 65-pound braid and a Rainshadow RCJB 84XH. The rod didn't have a gimbal but the downwrap kept it from rolling around at all during the long fight.

Everything went like clockwork when the fish got close and we removed the weight from the line, wound up the last few feet to the leader and then began to leader up the fish, which we had yet to see due to dirty water. I turned around to grab the flying gaff and as I did I heard a very disappointed noise come out of Shawn as he pulled up the last of the leader. Our swordfish was actually a 500-plus pound big eye thresher. After cutting it off, cursing extensively and administering much alcohol to our emotional wounds, we called it a tournament early and went home. On the way in Bill called and said his bite had been a thresher as well. After talking to some guys who know a lot more about it than I do, the coastal zone at this time of year has enough sharks mixed in with the swords that you've got about a 50/50 shot at catching one or the other.

Fast forward to the following Thursday night and Decker, myself and Pat Holmes jumped on Bob Hoose's boat "Prospector" to fish the Pesky tournament. After leaving Bob's slip in Newport at 9:30 p.m. and making mackerel, we made the long, and brutally rough, ride to Santa Cruz Island. It was too rough to sleep so Decker and I took the last 6 hours of wheeler together because misery really does appreciate company.

The weather finally laid down as we passed Anacapa and we spent the next few hours looking for marlin. We baited one sleeper off Yellow Banks but didn't get bit. At that point one of the deep drop boats had already gotten a bite, so Bob made the call to return to deep drop prison.

A few fish were hooked and lost by the ten boats fishing the zone throughout the day as everyone jockeyed around one another to stay in the proper depth and out of each other's way.

Things started to pick up in the afternoon as the boys on "Flying Fish" hooked one and lost it after about thirty minutes only to return to the spot they got bit, drop down and immediately get bit again. The boat had been 0 for 3 on bites during the last two tournaments so we were all rooting for them to get it. The fish took them in so close to the island during the fight that I thought it would tangle them up in the kelp, but soon enough they were on their way back out.
Flying Victory.jpg

Flying final.jpg

Flying side.jpg

flying team.jpg

The fish, which weighed 275 pounds, kicked off the afternoon bite that at one point had three fish hanging within a half mile of one another. While we never got bit, it was a great time to have my camera in hand.
The following two pics are likely the first ever taken of two boats sitting side by side and simultaneously fighting swordfish in Southern California.

firt double.jpg



motivator 2.jpg

Motivator bow.jpg


While only three swords were actually landed for the day up there at least a dozen were hooked. All of the boats stuck it out until well after dark and by the time we made it back to the anchorage at Smugglers, cleaned up the boat and ate dinner it was 11:00 p.m. After what felt like a quick nap, we were up at 4:30 a.m. to head out to look for sleepers and deploy a "Pesky Marlin" on the way out.

A tournament tradition, these fins are deployed in hopes of fooling your competitors and they work! Highlight of our tournament was dropping it in front of Gad Zukes and watching our buddy Shawn Morgon run up to the bow to try and cast on it.

From a distance they look very convincing.

We ended up finding a real marlin that morning but it wouldn't bite so we decided to beat our heads against the deep drop wall until we had to leave the island at noon to head for the awards at Avalon. There were no swordfish bites that morning and by noon everyone was on their way out. Shorty after leaving, Pat managed to spot a swordfish despite the fact that we were running at 25 knots at the time. We pulled up and baited it for no bite. A few minutes later, Pat spotted a marlin chasing a baby yellowtail around a kelp paddy in green water but it sank out before we could cast on it.

Pat, who's better in the gyros than anyone I've ever fished with, later found a tailer near the dirt clod and after Decker cast on it and didn't get a bite, Pat jumped down from the bridge, dropped back a bait and was bit immediately. The fish was a small one and Decker leadered it within minutes.


Bob was pretty stoked to have the first release on his boat for the season and to catch what would turn out to be the only marlin of the tournament.

We got on a can in Avalon that afternoon and went to the awards party, which I cut out early from to catch up on sleep. Woke up early to a nice view and got the boat ready to fish our way home.

We trolled around the Avalon Bank for nada and were working towards home when Pat spotted a swordfish. We pulled up on it but it wouldn't bite and sank out. As we were waiting to see if it would pop back up, Pat spotted another one about a mile away and we ran over there only to have the same lack of results.

All in all a fun few weeks of fishing and I'm excited to see how this whole deep drop thing develops. I have a feeling it's going to be the next big thing. While I have yet to hook one I've learned a ton and have lots of theories but I'll save those for another post.
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Fear No Fish
  • Apr 22, 2013
    Huntington Beach
    2008 Trophy 1802 "Mako My Day"
    Thanks for providing the detailed report. I have always wondered why more folks didn't try deep dropping on the West Coast, when it seems to be so effective in Florida. Keep at it and I am sure you'll get a swordy at some point!
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    Jul 22, 2013
    Menifee, CA
    Very nice read Bro.

    My Dads side of the family is from The Vineyard and when I was young one of my uncles took me out to help him get some "swordies" ( you gotta say it with a Bostonian accent ). :D
    No luck on the catching but had a great time with my uncle who is no longer with us.

    Robert :cheers:
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    Swagger Lures,
    Jul 24, 2006
    brett bumz
    23' Seaswirl Cuddy Cabin BUM N OUT
    One of those "pesky marlins" got me Sunday morning out front of Avalon. Got a great laugh from it.
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    the SLIDER
    Jun 11, 2015
    Dana Point
    L J
    arima - the SLIDER
    Thanks for the great report! Lots of effort went into that and it's much appreciated.

    Looks like even experts like You and Decker can learn new stuff?

    You guys are true SW Bass fisherman, This summer must have been painful - chasing large Tuna and pointy nosed fish.

    The steel Billfish is hysterical!
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    I'm not superstitious... cuz it's bad luck.
  • Aug 6, 2016
    SoCal - Corona
    I know a couple guys...
    Love the Pesky Marlin idea hahaha. Might even be better than guys calling out WFO numbers on the radio to prevent others from crowding the area they are fishing.

    Thanks Erik!
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    May 8, 2013
    Boston Whaler Dauntless 15
    Thank you for the detailed report and giving us the excitement of possibly casting on a marlin.... Don't know if it's the same one but looked just like the one you're holding up in the same zone last Saturday. Had me running around the boat squealing, trying to gather the rod, a nice mac and myself in preparation for the ultimate fishing moment....
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    on a fishin' mission
    Jun 2, 2015
    charlie cat
    14' -50' , bunch of boats
    Nice work gentlemen.
    I'm pretty good at spotting sleepers, but am a frickin' magician at finding those damn PESKY sleepers! I've found many for the following couple months after the Pesky. I get super amped then just laugh.
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