As the Eclipse was coming back into port on Friday, my phone started filling up with messages.  One of them was from Brandon Hayward.  If you’ve been following the blog, you know Brandon has been a tremendous influence.  I was treating myself for my birthday going on one of Brandon’s guided trips.

I texted him back and he said to meet him at his boat in Oceanside harbor on my way back up north.  I was glad to get the opportunity to see exactly where to go on Saturday night.  After giving me the lowdown on what to expect, Brandon said to meet him there at 11:30 tomorrow night.  We’d head out to some of his secret spots in search of coastal tanker seabass.  These fish are the different variety Brandon describes in his third book, The Local Angler.

Saturday night to Sunday morning (May 23, 24), One Man Charters


Zombie shift – Brandon and Alex

So after the Enterprise trip on Saturday, I went home, showered, got dressed and was back out the door.  The turn around was made easy by the fact that I didn’t bring any gear.  Brandon has everything, so that made it really convenient.  Before heading down, I went to pickup one of the blog readers, Alan, who lived nearby.  One of my fishing buddies from Seattle was supposed to go and couldn’t make it at the last minute.  Alan was the first to respond when I posted I had the open spot and we made arrangements to carpool down.

Along with Alan and I, one of Brandon’s regulars (we’ll call him The Doctor) were going to be on the boat tonight.  Alan and I got to the dock around 11pm.  One of the things Brandon stressed to me was to keep everything on the downlow…no social media and a delay on this post (I wasn’t just lazy in getting it out 😉 ).  Seabass fishing is a secretive thing.  Bites are short lived…this year more than ever.  I needed to keep things hush hush.  As we waited, a man approached us.  “You guys going out with Brandon?”  We’re going fishing, I replied.  “Well good luck to you.”  Thanks.

We soon discovered he was “The Doctor” when Brandon came out to meet us.  We had a laugh about the exchange.  “They didn’t give up anything Brandon!”  The three of us went down the ramp and loaded on the boat.  Brandon’s deckhand, Alex would round out the crew for the night.

Brandon told us he acquired some squid from Catalina a few weeks back and froze it.  In this warm water El Nino year, squid has been very hard to come by.  This premium squid is the next best thing to live.  In addition to the prime squid, we had some standard box squid for chum and some live mackerel.  The three of us huddled on deck on marine grade bean bags and we were off.

The reason we were headed out at this particular hour was that there was a certain condition that Brandon liked at a particular spot.  After a short ride, we stopped to fish.  It wasn’t “the spot,” that would come later.  Brandon and Alex setup some different rigs…a couple of the floater rigs Brandon wrote about in Local Angler, a dropper loop and set those rods in holders.  The three of us fished flylined baits.  I chose to use the primo squid.  It was the dead dark of night and I couldn’t even see my line.  Immediately I was reassured as I felt pecks on my bait.  Probably just perch or small calico bass, but a good sign of life.  Nothing to come of it though.  The Doctor fought a bat ray on the dropper, but none of the target fish.  We gave it about an hour before it was time to go and catch the condition at the spot.

IMG_7685It took a couple tries to set the anchor correctly in order to be positioned exactly the way Brandon wanted.  Once we were set, Brandon and Alex put out the lines again.  My enthusiasm was still high despite the late hour.  As the dark gave way to dawn though, I was dragging.  Nothing had happened in the magic spot 🙁  Brandon suggested switching up to a mack.  They were big and had a mind of their own.  We were trying to cast them with the current so that they’d end up in the spot where Brandon anticipated there would be some fish.  The macks had their own agenda though and seemed to want to swim upstream.  I followed one of my baits up to the bow.  I figured I’d let it go and hope I might get lucky.  As I sat up front, The Doctor got bit again.  It looked like it might be the right kind as it put a solid bend in his rod.  Turned out to be a big leopard shark.

After the leo, I reeled in my wayward greenback.  Seemed a shame that such a nice bait couldn’t get his act together and swim the right way.  I rebaited and threw off the starboard side.  This one decided to cooperate.  It followed the current and got out away from the boat in the target zone.  And then the line started to load up.  Even though I was fishing a mack, I still had the aki twist hook that Brando made popular.  I needed to swing, but didn’t want to do it too early.  Once the rod was bent though, I simultaneously reeled down, then swung to set.  And it went slack.  F#$&!!!!  The mackerel came back with its back broken just after the dorsal fin.  Brandon thought it was the right kind.  Just didn’t work out.

We gave it a little more time, but the current was changing  and the condition wasn’t right anymore.  My failed bite was our collective best shot of the night.  Brandon said that he had some dope of nice yellows holding on paddies not far offshore.  He asked us if we were game.  Why not?  The seabass didn’t want to play, but I could still go 2 of 3 on the Triple Crown.

Long story short, we gave it a good whirl, but came up empty handed.  We found some beautiful water…clean and warm.  No paddies though.  Several wind sailors in the water.  The highlight of the day was watching a mola mola come up and eat one.  We had the dolphin escort on the way in.  Way short of a Triple Crown, but better for some knowledge gained on the water.  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be awesome.  I guess I blew my luck for the weekend on the bluefin.  Oh well.  Thanks to Brandon and Alex for giving it their all.  I’d do it again.





Tags: , , , , , ,