I had a chance to ride the San Diego with Capt. Cameron Cribben on Saturday this weekend. I had a successful day by all accounts. I got bit 4 times, and landed 3 yellows (bonered the 4th, smh), all on surface iron. There are few things as thrilling as throwing surface iron, putting it with intention into the middle of boiling fish, watching your jig get chased then get eaten. It’s definitely a highlight activity for our fishery.
When the day was done, I posted the above picture on my personal facebook page and captioned it, “Tough day. 35 fish or so on the boat (the official count was 33 for 27 anglers). Pretty much had to be able to throw surface iron to have a shot. Lucky to put 3 on the board.”
A prominent captain sarcastically commented, “35 is a tough day?”
Allow me to explain…
The day was spent chasing bird and sonar schools of yellowtail. We had to go all the way down by “Jig Jesus” (between Rosarito and Ensenada), a solid 4-hour boat ride from San Diego. We’d slide up on the school, get a few casts in, and then watch the school sink out. The big stop of the day was 5 fish. As I mentioned in the caption, if you couldn’t throw surface iron, you were pretty much out of the game. There were only a handful of fish caught on bait. Let’s call it 5. Of the remaining 28, probably 24 were caught between the 6-8 anglers taking their turn throwing from the bow. But even for those of us who were successful, it was hard to fathom how you could put a jig into the middle of breaking fish, watch them follow, and have nothing to show for it.
As San Diego regular, Ronnie Somo, aptly described it, “Lots of followers. Few swallowers.”
Thankfully, I’ve managed to acquire the right skills and gear, had a little luck, and took my place among the successful anglers for the day. This occurence is common. You’ll see it on any given trip…
10% of the anglers, catch 90% of the fish.
There were a couple guys I met on the boat who struggled badly. They fished bait, and didn’t get a bite all day. It was their first trip out for the year. They were still happy to spend the day out fishing, but they asked me what they could do to get better. Here’s what I told them…
Practice casting: Casting accuracy and distance give you a better opportunity for success. I used to go to an empty grassy area and cast a plastic thingamajig that was the approximate weight of a jig. Later, I’d take my rigged jig stick to a reservoir and practice there.
Get the right gear: I remember when I started picking up gear for fishing here. I bought brands without thinking through the application. I’d mismatch rods to reels. I was a mess. Brandon Hayward‘s first book, The Southern California Angler, really helped me sort things out. Check out this post I wrote based on reading the book. My gear has evolved somewhat since then, but the basics still apply. Once you understand the basics, you will start to understand what you need for specific applications like throwing surface iron, or a swimbait, or yoyo fishing.
Get out fishing: There is no substitute for time on the water. Rather than put yourself in these situations where you are on species specific trips (like Saturday’s ride), fish some halfies. Talk to the crew and other anglers. Aside from practicing the skills, you need to also learn when to use them. Only through observation and PRACTICE will things start to click in for you.
Like anything else that’s good, being in the 10% doesn’t come easily. Sure you can go out and get lucky, but how lucky is it really to go on 5 trips and skunk 4 times? The good news is these skills can be learned…not just for throwing a jig, but all the varied presentations we use to get bit. Put your time in, and it will happen.