When it comes to calico bass fishing, I’ve been on a real hard bait kick lately, so I was more than happy to answer “yes” when my editor asked if he could send me some Yo-Zuri lures to review. Once the package arrived, I opened it to find a bunch of lures I’d already been using for the last couple years. After telling my editor that I could have saved the company some postage if I knew what he was sending me, I packed up the new lures, along with the ones I already had, and headed up to Palos Verdes for an afternoon of calico bass fishing with my friend Matt Kotch.
As is typical on an early summer afternoon, the wind was blowing out of the west and the current was running in the same direction allowing for long drifts along the kelp beds. When fishing hard baits around kelp you’ll need to find beds with sparse enough kelp stringers that you can make long casts and fish the bait in the open water lanes between them. I found the conditions I was looking for at the kelp bed off Trump National Golf Course and Matt and I started casting the 3D Inshore Minnow. This bait comes in three sizes; 70mm, 90mm and 110mm. The smallest bait only weighs 1/4-ounce and is best fished on a light spinning rod. Matt fished the mackerel pattern bait on a 7-foot medium action spinning rod and with 20# braid and a 15# fluorocarbon leader. Despite its small size and light weight, Matt was able to cast the lure a surprisingly good distance. While I was able to cast the 90mm and the 110mm baits on a 7-foot medium action casting rod with 15# fluorocarbon line, the spinning rod got better casting distance with the 90mm size.
The presentation for these baits is pretty simple. The first step is to make a long cast in a direction that will allow you to retrieve the lure as close to the kelp as you can without snagging it. Then use an erratic retrieve when bringing the bait back to the boat. Regarding retrieve speeds, I’d let the bass dictate that. If you aren’t getting bites, just try varying your retrieve speed until you do. The smallest bait only runs 1 to 2-feet deep so you’re going to need to keep your rod tip down if you wind it fast or the lure will pop out of the water. The medium and larger lures swim at 2 to 3-feet and area little more forgiving in regards to retrieve speed.
On that afternoon, the bass wanted a fairly fast retrieve with the occasional long pause. An example of this cadence would be to take between five and ten fast turns of the handle and then pause the bait of a couple seconds, then take ten to fifteen turns of the handle and pause the bait for five seconds and repeat. There’s no right or wrong way to do it so just mess around with the cadence until you get bit.
The other two baits I brought on that trip were the 3D Inshore Pencil and the Hydro Pencil, both of these are floating baits designed to be fished with a walk-the-dog technique. I have fished both baits extensively and have hooked everything from bass to bluefin tuna on them and knew that the amount of wind we had that afternoon would make it impossible to properly fish the 3D Inshore Pencil, which at 100mm and 1/2-ounce would just skip across the choppy surface. I rigged a Bone Hydro Pencil on a 7’10” heavy action rod with 50# spectra and a 40# fluorocarbon leader and cast the 125mm 1-ounce lure perpendicular to the wind and current direction. Since calm bait fish normally swim directly with or against the current, my retrieving the bait perpendicular to it lent credibility to the injured bait fish fleeing from a predator that the bait is intended to represent. My ruse worked and within moments of beginning my retrieve, I had a big calico jump completely out of the water with the lure in its mouth.
The retrieve for both the 3D Hydro Pencil and the Hydro Minnow is the same, cast it out and use a combination of a wrist snap and a handle turn to impart the walk-the-dog action to the bait. While there are lots of styles that work, I like to palm the reel with my left hand, with my arm held about 6-inches away from my body and my hand just above my belt line. This allows me to loosely hold the rod parallel to the water with the rod tip held at a 45-degree angle to the position of the bait. I’ll begin the presentation by using my wrist to snap the rod tip from 45 to 90-degrees away from the bait while keeping it parallel to the water. This will cause the bait to shoot forward and off the left or right. I’ll immediately follow this movement by returning the rod tip to 45-degrees while using my right hand to reel in the slack line. Once that’s done, I’ll repeat the rod snap from 45 to 90-degrees and that will cause the lure to shoot forward and to the opposite side of the last jerk. Repeat this motion again and again quickly and you’ll be walking the dog.
Durability and value are a big concerns when it comes to saltwater hard bait fishing and there’s nothing worse than buying an expensive lure only to have the hooks or split rings fail after just a few fish. After fishing these Yo-Zuri lures for a few years, one of my favorite things about them is how well they hold up. I’ve lost a few of them over the years for a number of reasons, like the time I had a 60-pound bluefin tuna eat one on the bass gear, but I’ve never had one break or come apart due to normal use. As for my review, the baits are durable, the color choices are great, the price point is right and they just plain get bit. If you don’t already have some in your tackle box you’re missing out.
Get more great tips and advice from Erik Landesfeind on BD.