IMG_3105You’ve heard this proverb…For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.  For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.  For want of a horse, the battle was lost.  For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost.  

It illustrates how small details (in this case the nail), add up to potentially big consequences.  You have also probably heard, 20% of the fishermen, catch 80% of the fish.  I believe this adage to be true.  Every time I go out on one of the open party boats, I see it play out in front of my eyes.

Most of the time these days, I’m on the right side of the equation, but there are times where I’m not or even take a skunk.  It took a lot of time on the water to get to this point, and it will take more time on the water to improve upon those situations where I’m not on the right side.  Anyone can get lucky and catch one big fish.  In my opinion, consistently catching fish is a matter of knowing and applying all the small details correctly.  Each small detail by itself may not add up to much, but in aggregate they are the difference in being a 20%-er on a regular basis.

What About The Trip?

Mint/white Salas 6x on 40lb

Mint/white Salas 6x on 40lb

If you follow along on Facebook or Instagram, you already know what happened.  I rode the Mission Belle on Saturday (March 15).  There were  25 anglers on the boat.  We caught 13 yellowtail.  After looking around, the successful fishing finally happened at The Rockpile, south of the Coronado Islands.  Some fish were spotted (and one that I know of caught) on top.  The rest were mostly yoyo fish, on the full size heavies (Salas 6x or Tady 4/0), with a few (including the big of 26 lbs.) on a dropper loop setup with a live sardine (yes, we actually had some!).

So What About The Nail?

The picture to the left is what I have used to catch my yellowtail so far this year (3 in 2 trips).  It’s the setup for yoyo fishing that has been recommended by the captains and crews all year so far, and it is what has caught the majority of fish to this point in this season’s fishing.

Some of “nails” though are:

  • I put a fresh topshot of 40 lb. mono the night before and attached my braid and mono using a very reliable knot (the Royal Polaris or John Collins knot)
  • I dumped my spool on the way out and wound it back on tight on my reel
  • I tied a reliable knot to attach the jig (Double San Diego), and the knot is tied next to the weld of the jig’s ring
  • I “tuned the jig” by scraping out the paint inside the holes so it would swim better
  • I checked and adjusted my drag and was ready to go when the opportunity presented itself

Did other people catch fish that didn’t do all these things?  Yes.  Could I have still caught fish another way?  Absolutely.  We’re talking though about maximizing your opportunities and capitalizing on those limited opportunities that you get to put a fish in your sack.  Of the 25 anglers on the boat, at least 80% got a bite, but only 11 caught a yellow (2 guys caught 2).  No matter how well you are prepared, you’re not going to convert every opportunity.  I got bit twice and lost the second one due to getting wrapped in a tangle which didn’t get sorted out before the fish found a way to get off.  Many battles were lost though and fish not brought home because of easily correctable errors.

Missing Nails

Here are some errors or “missing nails” that I saw Saturday.  The pictures are re-enactments, so as not to embarrass the people who committed them…


Right before the first stop that yielded fish, I noticed a couple anglers fishing Megabaits.  These are great lures.  I’ve seen them work on barracuda, bocaccio, lingcod, even tuna.  One of the anglers using one got bit.  The problem is he lost the fish because the hook bent out.  Look at the difference between the hook on my successful jig vs. the Megabait…much thicker gauge = stronger hook.  On the Megabait tuna I saw, the angler changed out the stock hook with a stronger ring and a sturdier hook.

IMG_3136Someone used a clip swivel to attach their jig to their line.  Bad enough, but the clip swivel I used to illustrate this egregious error was the gauge of the clip swivel I saw on the boat and not a heavier duty one.  WHY?  Lazy?  Did you think it was going to be an advantage in having the swivel to make it swim better?  Maybe you thought you could change out to the “hot jig” faster?  The only time I would ever use that gauge of clip swivel in the saltwater fishing we do is MAYBE on a sabiki rig, but probably not even then.  The gauge on the ring of the jig should be enough of an indicator that this clip swivel has no business in your terminal tackle.

Few more I won’t bother to illustrate here…people fishing the jig like bait…sending it down and hoping that it was just so attractive a fish would bite it.  Not reeling fast enough to swim the jig and elicit a bite.  Thumb on the spool after getting bit.  Too tight of drag.  People dropping in early or on the wrong side of the boat.  People dropping in next to a guy who is already bit.  When in doubt, have a crewmember check your setup.  Follow the crew’s directions.  They want you to be successful.  Better counts = more people coming out = more money for the boat.  Ask for help if you don’t know.  Be open to input even if you are a seasoned angler.  I learned a different dropper loop knot from deckhand Karen on this trip that was more appropriate for this kind of fish.  I’m not perfect, but in striving to get there, I get better.  You can too.  Tight lines!

Find good mentors

Find good mentors










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