Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

Click here for Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

Thursday, March 28, 2019
I’m voting you off the island
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Living the dream

The zing-powie fish
There are some things we tangle with in life that we sort of lump into one big group. It’s just easier.

All facial tissue gets called “KLEENEX.”

All whirlpool tubs are called “JACUZZIS.”

On the freeway, everyone who tailgates you is a “JERK.” Everyone who blows by you at ultra speeds is “MORON” (or worse)!

As fishermen, in many places, we call all bottom fish “ROCKFISH.”

Conversely, there are those things in life that defy description or categorization. In fact, there’s a group of fish here in Baja that fall into that amorphous category and I call them like I see them.

They are the species I call “ZING-POWIE” fish!

A ZING-POWIE fish that didn’t zing-pow. It’s a good day if you get 3 out of 10 ZING-POWIE fish to the boat.

So many folks come to fish looking for the glamour species like marlin, tuna, wahoo and dorado. The ZING-POWIE fish are often overlooked.

That’s because it’s not generally perceived as “big game” or “deep sea” (I hate that term…yes, the sea is deep!) fishing.

Because the ZING-POWIE fish don’t live out there in the blue water. They’re not out on the high seas.

ZING-POWIE fish could be right in front of your hotel. They live right in the rocks there by the shore. They inhabit reefs and shallow high spots.

You don’t need a giant sportfisher to get them. You don’t need complicated gear to get them either. Sophisticated state-of-the-art electronics can be left at home too. You don’t need 20 satellites to find the honey holes.

It’s pretty simple. Locals catch them in a tin boat with fishing line and a spark-plug for a sinker. In fact, the good ones make a living off catching ZING-POWIE fish.

I call them ZING-POWIE fish because that’s the sound it makes when you hook up one of these fish. And then lose it in the blink of an eye!

I’m referring to a group of fish that encompasses cabrilla (Mexican seabass), grouper, amberjack, barred pargo, mullet snapper, dog-tooth snapper and to some degree yellowtail and several other species.

They inhabit rocks and reefs and other structure.

Some can be monsters in the 50- to 100-pound range or larger. But even the smaller ones can frustrate and challenge the best anglers.

They’ll hit live bait and lures and when they hit, it’s like a freight train. The water can be relatively shallow. Often you can see the fish under your boat.

Their method of feeding is to ambush their prey with powerful lightning strikes, then retreat back to the structure. Snatch and go!

So, for the angler, there’s no time to react!

You don’t let them “nibble.” You don’t let them “take a little line.” There’s barely time to set the hook!

Imagine that you are fishing only 20 feet of water. You get hammered by something big. In nano-seconds, it takes line. Your rod also bends a few feet. You slam the brakes!

It’s already in the rocks. You lose! ZING-POWIE! Your line snaps and your rod flies back in your face like a spring! BOING!

That fish with all it’s power, has sharp teeth… powerful jaws… sharp gill plates… sharp scales… and he lives in razor sharp rocks and reefs.

And they have the power of a Pit Bull on steroids and the tenacity of a German shepherd hanging onto a burglar’s pant leg!

Before you even realize what happens, your line goes… ZING-POWIE!

And it snaps! Even before your captain can fire up the motor and hopefully pull the fish out’ve the rocks!

It’s a game that tests even experienced anglers. If you use heavier line, the ZING-POWIE fish have sharp eyes. You won’t get bit. Forget braided line. It is way too visible.

Lighter line gets you bit more often, but that can be like going after an elephant with an air-rifle. Of course, it’s Murphy’s Law that when you have your lightest gear is when an 80-pound amberjack strikes or a 150-pound grouper decides to chomp your bait! ZING-POWIE!

But, even the smallest fish have the odds in their favor given their physical attributes and treacherous environment. When I guide, I’ve often told clients, this will be both fun and frustrating.

If we get 3 out of 10 fish to the boat, that will be a good day!

The frustration in this type of fishing isn’t just losing the fish after getting jerked out’ve your socks. It’s that often you can see the fish right under the boat or behind the boat in your chum line.

Pargo, for instance, when they spawn in the shallow waters, looks like a Japanese koi pond on steroids. Basically, 20- to 60-pound “red carp” that looks like an undulating carpet of copper and red.

As you chum them to the boat, waters explode with huge backs and wide tails blowing up the water. One client said, “They look big enough to put a saddle on them!”

Fascinating to watch.

And then they hit your bait while you’re entranced with all the action. With no warning. No nibble. Just a sucker-punch-in-the-gut and your reel screams and your rod bends… and ZING-POWIE!

You’ve already lost the fish! Oh, the agony!

I have clients who come year-after-year to pit themselves against the ZING-POWIE fish! A new rod… a different reel… a new type of hooks… some new tactic they read about in a magazine!

This is the year, they will NOT be mastered by some stupid fish!

As one of my clients said after a fun but unsuccessful day, “It’s like playing a slot machine in Vegas. It’s so tantalizing close. The next quarter will surely bring success.”

Then he laughed…

“And in the end, the house always wins. But I can’t wait to give it another try tomorrow!”

* * *

Jonathan can be reached at his Tailhunter Sportfishing Fleet in La Paz at

•   •   •   •   •

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Reader Comments
Be the first to comment!
Leave a Comment
* Name:
* Email:
Website (optional):
* Comment:

Advertise with Western Outdoor News