Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I think it’s called “repetitive learning.”  With apologies to all you educators out there, it’s the idea that the best way to learn something is repeat the same action over and over. Eating with chopsticks Learning a language. How to play an instrument.  And yes…fishing.

When you get to see and chase a fish day-after-day it helps to hone your craft.  For example, I used to advise anglers that by going out on a single over night trip out’ve San Diego for tuna for 5 years probably isn’t going to make them a better tuna fisherman.  Time (and money) ultimately is better spent on one FIVE day trip where your learning curve will accelerate.

You have the opportunity to learn from mistakes and still get in on the next bite. You get to try tricks and methods you would not normally get to try on a single venture where the bite could be over by the time you realize you have the wrong hook size and it’s time to go home. Too bad. So sad.  Thank you for riding. See you next year.

Where I have my fleet here in La Paz, we’re not really a yellowtail fishery.  When folks want to really catch a yellowtail in Baja, I refer them up north to places like Mulege, Santa Rosalia, Loreto or Bay of Los Angeles, where the waters run cooler and the back of those big homeguard fish run deep emerald green!

Down further south where we are, our bread-and-butter fish are the dorado, tuna, billfish, etc.  We get our share of yellowtail, but nothing like they get to the north.  You sure don’t hear about many yellowtail even further south of us on the East Cape or Cabo.

So, although I think I’m pretty above-average on the bluewater species, I’m not bad on yellowtail, but understandably there’s room for improvement and believe me, I’ve caught my share of the big forktails.

Well, we’ve actually had an incredible yellowtail bite here for about the last two months.  Fish are deep. They are in the middle of the water column. They are foaming and crashing on the surface with birds diving on them like the tales you read about from Ray Cannon or your grandfather told you about.  You just don’t see things like that very often. Or at all. Tuna boil. Dorado boil. You don’t see many yellowtail boils these days.

One things for sure, yellowtail are members of the jack family (amberjack, pompano, jack crevalle, big eye jacks, roosterfish, etc.) and any fish with that pedigree is a natural fighter.   Like any one with the last name of Monzano must make a mean spaghetti sauce. The guy named Lee in the action film is the martial arts master.

When yellowtail fight, all  have that burst of bruising energy to want to take it down and deep right back to the cover from where they came. Whether that be some weed patch; some rocky pinnacle or some wreck. That’s where they want to go and your new two-speed be damned.

So the deeper you fish them, the greater the chance they are already halfway home to cover.  It might be rare, but getting them on the surface or higher in the water column increases your chances of success. The problem with yellowtail is that they don’t often give you the level playing field.  Everything is in their favor and they like to play below the surface.

So, let me pass on a few things I’ve learned over the last few weeks of yellowtail fishing that I had not known before. Some completely stunned me.

My best yellowtail lure, when they would hit a lure, would be a slow trolled crank-bait like a big Bomber, Rapala, Yo-Zuri or similar.  I have found that making a commotion on the water like with a spreader bar of small hoochies or even daisy-chained hoochies will get them up and hitting.  They will even hit a fast skipped rubber swim bait. The bigger the swimmer, the harder the strike.

I grew up always thinking that yellowtail will only hit the fastet-jigged lure. It was “yellowtail catechism” that you cranked your iron as hard and as fast until your arms came off the socket to get a yellowtail interested.  It’s like getting a cat interested in chasing a ball of yarn. Roll fast and kitty chases!

Instead on several occasions, the slow-retrieve lure with the big wiggle has outfished the ultra-retrieve yo-yo iron.  My arms actually were falling out of the sockets and I’m getting old so I slowed down.  WHAM!  Hook –up!

I also experienced that  a slow-trolled bait below the surface works better than a lure.  Nose hook the bait.  About 3 feet ahead, actually tie a torpedo sinker to the line using a smaller diameter line like say 10 pound test.  It’s almost like a dropper loop except trolled.  A 2 to 4 oz sinker is about right to keep the bait just below the surface a few feet.  A simple overhand knot on the sinker is enough to keep the sinker while trolling, but quickly breaks off after a strike.

Over the years, I have found green line outfishes other colors close to shore, but fluorocarbon leaders outfish green line. But they break off more fish.  It’s a trade off. I’d rather get bit.

Just my opinion and some observations.  I’m fishing tomorrow and all of this could be completely wrong…again!  That’s fishing for you. Just when I feel confident…

That’s my story.  If you ever want to reach me, my e-mail is 


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