Justin91

Newbie
Oct 14, 2017
13
150
30
Fullerton
Name
Justin
Boat
None
All in all, this was a very special trip. I moved back to Atlanta in 2019, so I only get to fish SD once or twice a year if I'm lucky. I fished the Liberty pretty frequently when I lived in SoCal, so when I saw that they were offering a limited load, multi-day trip on the weekend of my 30th birthday, I took it as a sign to burn up some vacation days and go fish. I convinced (and somewhat guilt tripped) 👀 some buddies of to do the same, and we booked the trip.

During check-in, Ryan let us know we would not be fishing local waters, and we would be heading out to Tanner. So bluefin game it was. We hit the bait barge, and most of it was the smaller 3-4" deans with some bigger ones here and there. Loaded up, we made our way out west. The ride out was not pleasant. I usually don't get seasick, but after eating pizza and drinking beers at the landing, I started feeling a bit queasy. So I rigged up my gear, helped some buddies get set up, and hit the sack.

We got to Tanner around 8 AM and started looking around. Anibal found a school pretty quick, and my buddy got the first bite on the slide - flyline dean on 50lbs. For the first couple hours, it didn't seem to matter what lbs line you fished. People were getting bit on 25lbs - 60lbs (all fly line). The key was finding a bait that would swim, but with most of it being smaller deans, it was a bit challenging to find one that would swim after the initial burst, if it swam at all. The bite eventually slowed down to the usual bluefin plunker drift, and we had 1-3 going at all times. Once the fish settled in, you had to drop to 40lbs or lower with a swimmer to get bit.

Not gonna lie, I struggled HARD to get bit during the first half of the day. It didn't seem to matter what I did. I tried everything I could think of - bigger bait, smaller bait, downsized my line, downsized my hook, circle hook, j hook, ring, no ring, fished the bow, fished the stern. No go.

And then you got the guy at the bait tank who was clearly very new to fishing squeezing the sh*t out of an already beat up and bloody dean, dropping his line (not casting or lobbing), and getting insta-bit. WTH.

By lunchtime, the boat had about 50 or so BFT, and all five of my buddies had one. Needless to say, I felt the pressure. So I ate some lunch, drank a couple Tecates, and had mental reset.

My first bite came on a long soak, butt hooked, and smaller dean. It was pure luck. I soaked it for maybe 3-4 min and decided it was long enough. Clicked the reel into gear, turned the handle once, and bam. Got a 30lber and skunk was off. Wasn't the type of bite I was expecting, but hey, I'll take it. We continued the plunker bite, and I got one more on a long soak again. Same 30lbs grade.

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Evening came around, and I think at this point the boat had around 70ish BFT. The crew was setting up for dinner when Anibal found a sonar school. He said we could drop a jig if we wanted, so I made my way out of the galley to grab my heavy jig setup. Only a handful of people were dropping jigs by the time I got to the rail. Next thing you know, BITER! My buddy who got the first bite of the trip was also the first one hooked up on the jig. I had been dropping for maybe 30 seconds when my buddy got bit, so I let my jig drop for another 20 seconds and burned it back up. Line came tight. BITER. We each made short work of these fish. Mine was about 60lbs, and his was about 80lbs. I think 3 other guys also hooked and landed their fish too. I believe it was 5 fish total on the first stop with the biggest being in the 100lbs class.

My friend Charlie and I have been fishing for years, and we never got a bluefin on the jig. The fact that we each got our first jig fish on a double hookup was pretty special. You don't remember every fish you caught, but that's one I'm never going to forget.

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At this point, almost everyone grabbed their jig setups and was on the rail, but we had to take a break so dinner could be served. So we quickly ate and anxiously waited for the next stop. Anibal had no problem getting us on fish. I don't think we motored around for more than 10 minutes before stopping on a school. By no means was this a crazy night bite. You had to put in time at the rail, and you had to be at the right place at the right time. While some stops didn't produce any bites, the majority produced 1-3.

This biggest fish of the trip came on a jig during the night bite. Crew believed it was pushing 200lbs. Rich was the angler, and he landed that beast on a fathom 40 on 80lbs to a 200lbs bite leader. I don't have a pic of him holding the fish, but here's the beast's last supper.

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Everyone in my group got at least one jig fish except one guy. It was his first West Coast fishing trip, so he's paying dues lol. The fish were mixed grade ranging from 40lbs - 146lbs. My other buddy from GA, Rob, got this 146lbs.

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Alex got this ~130lbs and another smaller one.
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I got two more on the jig ~60lbs burning the jig up and the other at ~120lbs on the fall.
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This is another fish I won't forget. First time getting a triple digit (that wasn't a hook and hand), and it was on a jig. Not gonna lie, Corey had to help me a couple times throughout the fight. I thought the fish was a lot bigger, but turns out it was foul hooked. I got wrecked from that one.

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Arms were toast after that fish, so I hung out on deck for a while and decided to call it a night at 3:30 AM. Woke up around 7:30 AM to guys already fishing. It took me quite some time to wake up and get my bearings straight. After some coffee and breakfast, I was back out flylining a dean. Didn't get bit on the first stop, but the next drift was pretty awesome. I got two back to back, and then hook and handed three more within two hours. Seemed like all the bad juju from the previous day was gone, and I was back to being able to flyline a bait. 😁

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By 10:30ish, we had to wrap things up. We had limits for both days, and we had a long trek home. Hats off to Anibal, Anthony, Paul, Ryan, and Corey. Those dudes fished hard and made sure we got em good. When Rob hooked up on his triple digit, his fish ran and took almost everyone's line fishing the the port side with it. I thought he was done, but the crew miraculously got him untangled from the spider web and landed the fish.

Every passenger on the trip was solid. We worked together going over under, no poor attitudes, and everyone celebrated each other's catches. It was just a good group of guys wanting to slay some fish. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start my 30s.

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What Worked
  • Hot bait on 40lbs. Didn't matter if it was beat up and bloody. If it swam hard, you almost always got bit.
    • Long soaks worked here and there, but the majority of the flyline bites seemed to come within the first minute with a good bait
  • Knife jigs - color and weight didn't seem to matter. I fished 250-280g, some fished 400g, and some 300g.
    • The most important thing was being at the right place at the right time. I marked my line at the 100ft mark, and it really helped me gauge where my jig was in the zone. If I was past it, I would burn my jig up. If wasn't deep enough, I continued to let it fall.
    • One guy got bit on 250g glow flatfall, but I think that's the only fish on a FF. The rest were on a knife jig of some sort
What Didn't Work
  • Colt Snipers
  • Poppers
  • Lazy baits
Good luck out there.