Jim Niemiec's Blog

Looking outdoors - the good and the bad
Good news was just passed along by Sean and Denny Ponso, now owners of the Lone Pine Pheasant Club. Over the course of the past few hunting seasons, the Ponso family has been operating under a year-to-year hunting lease on one of the prime upland game bird ranches in all of California.

Western Outdoor News readers have been visiting this club for well over a decade enjoying some fantastic nearly wild pheasant and chukar hunts while hunting over excellent upland game bird cover. In addition a few of the hunts also allowed for the harvest of native California valley quail and some pretty good duck shooting along the lower Owens River, as it meanders through the tail end of Owens Valley before being tapped by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) before it arrives at now nearly dry Owens Lake.

LONE PINE PHEASANT CLUB OFFERS EXCELLENT UPLAND GAME BIRD HUNTING — Hunting upland game birds at the Lone Pine Pheasant Club makes for a good day afield. The hunt lodge and prime fields make for an enjoyable hunting experience for both hunters and their gun dogs. Western Outdoor News’ Jim Niemiec, teamed up with club owner Sean Ponso and Niemiec's young yellow Lab Sierra last fall, for a morning's hunt with the Eastern Sierra as a backdrop. WON PHOTO BY TONI NIEMIEC

Sean Ponso told WON, "We really appreciate all the support from WON readers and NOW the Lone Pine Pheasant Club has been completely secured, offering premier hunting fields for the next 25-plus years. With the final acquisition of the clubhouse (now in place), the Lone Pine Pheasant Club's has solidly secured its future for multiple generations."

According to Ponso, the ranch is a small hunting club developed exclusively for the hunter( who want to enjoy an informal hunting experience. Those hunting at this club also can opt of having a hunt personalized to provide an unforgettable upland game bird hunting experience under the shadows of the eastern slopes of the High Sierra mountain range.

Ponso sdded, "We work very hard to insure a memorable hunting experience and offer annual memberships that reflect the number of birds harvested not released. Those securing a season membership prior to Aug. 15 will receive an additional 3 birds on their card (28 bird card). For additional information on the Lone Pine Hunting Club contact Sean Ponso at (760) 876-4590 or log on to their new web site at

In continuing on good word coming from afield, Western Outdoor News just received additional information on the outlook for quail hunting in our neighboring state of Arizona from AZ wildlife biologist Randy Babb.

"Even though conditions are drying out quickly now that summer has finally arrived there was good amounts of rainfall in quail country during the winter and into late spring which should help both Gambel's and scaled numbers build back up. We likely won't see numbers like back in the wet years, but overall desert quail hunting should be worth the effort. Still will have to wait to see what kind of monsoonal rains southeastern Arizona gets later this summer to talk much about Mearns' quail prospects, but there should be enough mature adults to bring off a pretty good Mearns' hatch," offered Babb.

For those planning on hunting dove down in Imperial Valley, while lead shot will be required on DFW farm fields and state owned/managed refuge properties, from all sources contacted those heading out east of Niland to hunt dove on Desert Wildlife Unlimited fields will still be able to shoot lead shot. As of press time these fields are in the best shape in years and are currently holding all three species of dove.

WON spoke with Leon Lescka while he was out scouting for mule deer in the vast Chocolate Mountains and the following was his report on the fields.

"There are between 1,800 and 2,000 acres of prime upland game bird properties that are under lease by Desert Wildlife Unlimited. Right now there appears to be so much feed that it would seem impossible for the dove to eat it all prior to openings day. In addition to native safflower (from previous crops) and other seed plants, Desert Wildlife Unlimited has planted about 10 percent of the fields in wheat.

Desert Wildlife Unlimited will be publishing a hunt area map just prior to opening of dove season and it will be available to pick up a flyer at local motels, gas stations and other businesses around Niland, Mecca, Indio, Calipatria and Brawley. Hunters who intend to hunt these fields on opening day should also plan on scouting the area as they have a tendency to dry out fast under the heat of the desert sun, and depending on summer thunderstorm activity, bird numbers can be up or down. Hunters can also access the Desert Wildlife Unlimited web site at to obtain more information and a map of the fields.

On a pretty good note WON headed out to Prado Basin to check on what damage the April wildfire, which burned up over 1,000 acres of old timber, bamboo and other vegetation below the dam in the bottom of the basin. Also checked on the status of how the wood duck hatch came off. Looking over the basin now, it's hard to believe that there was a wildlife there just a 2 months ago. Likely due to a high water table, recent rain, flooded duck ponds and the fact the Santa Ana River meanders across the basin, there is a lot of greening up taking place. Small family groups of mallards, teal and gadwall were spotted winging over ponds, Mill and Chino Creeks and water canals off the main course of the Santa Ana River that fill duck ponds.

Unfortunately there was some bad news that was passed on by Gordon Outhier, who recently retired as the key wood duck volunteer for So. Cal Wood Ducks. According to Outhier, who had just completed a comp count on most all of the wood duck nesting boxes along Mill and Chino Creeks, he only found a single chick that had survived.

The Orange County Water District, which controls most of the water behind Prado Dam in association with Army Corps of Engineers, along with support from the three duck clubs in the basin, are in the middle of replanting some of the areas that were burned by the wildlife fire as well as planting willows and other vegetation to enhance the vast wetlands and bird habitat of Prado Basin.

Cousins Surf Fishing Round-Up

40-pound leopard shark caught off of Malibu
Goleta Beach has been a good bet for a mix of halibut and chunky barred surf perch, reported Hook, Line and Sinker in Santa Barbara. The halibut have been taking Flash minnows in the metallic sardine and 4-inch Big Hammers in smelt, and grunion patterns. You’ll have to weed through some shorts but there are some quality fish in the mix. The perch have been taking Carolina-rigged Gulp! Camo Sandworms and have been averaging from 16 to 18 inches. The reef and rock beaches off Carpenteria are holding good numbers of cabazon and smaller lings. The fish are taking cut squid. There have also been some nice calico bass in the mix.

MALIBU — The area around the Charthouse continues to kick out trophy fish reported Ginny at Wylie’s. After a 5-pound, 9-ounce corbina was reported two weeks ago, a 10-pound, 1-ounce spotfin croaker was checked in to the shop taken on a shrimp. Edward Canales from L.A. made the catch. A 40-pound leopard shark was also taken at night off the same stretch of beach. The mixed bag fishing off Big Rock and Coral Beach has been outstanding, anglers are reporting a mix of yellowfin, spotfin, sargo, cabazon, grass rockfish, calico and sand bass. One angler reported 7 species in an outing.

REDONDO BEACH — The halibut bite off Torrance Beach and the Avenues continues to gain steam, reported Pete at Just Fishing. The recent grunion runs and an influx of small bait has perked up the bite in the shallows. Flash Minnows and Pointers have been the ticket on fish to 10 pounds. The fish are a little shy but a fresh mussel or a nugget sand crab properly presented will get a bite. Another 6-pound striped bass was taken off Hermosa Beach on a Lucky Craft fished under the birds.

SEAL BEACH — The stretch of beach from Surfside to the Huntington Pier has been very good for corbina reported Jimmy at Big Fish. The 1- to 2-pound models are biting wide open on sandcrabs, fresh mussel and lugworms. The bigger fish in the mix are a lot tougher to hook. The Krocodile bite on big yellowfin croaker continues good at the 72nd place jetty. The croaker are pushing baitballs of 2-inch anchovy. The best perch action has been off Surfside with anglers scoring perch to 11/2 pounds on grubs and Gulp! Sandworms. Best bet for a legal halibut has been at the Bolsa Chica inlet. The better fish are hitting Lucky Craft Flash Minnows in smelt and grunion patterns.

COSTA MESA — The red crab invasion has finally waned and the fishing is picking back up, reported Ketcham Tackle. A 36-pound halibut was taken out of Newport bay on a live smelt. The bay bass have also been biting well. On the beach, the corbina bite off the street jetties and river jetties has been getting better every day. The sandcrabs are growing up and a nugget softshell was just about a guaranteed bite. Some chunky spotfin have also been biting on the high tide off the short jetties. Lugworms have been the bait of choice.

DANA POINT — The corbina bite off Capo Beach has hit the summer stride, reported Ivan at Hogan’s. Warm, clean water and lots of spots of sandcrabs have put fish in the feeding mode. Fish were reported off Doheny, Poche’s, the San Clemente Pier and State park. The smaller models from 1 to 2 pounds are biting best but there are fish to 4 pounds in the mix. Some better spotfin have been showing at night along Doheny and off the harbor jetties. Fresh mussel, lugworms and ghost shrimp have all been working. The leopard shark bite has also been good off Doho.

OCEANSIDE — The lagoons continue to kick out quality fish, reported Walt at Pacific Coast. Halibut anglers reported good numbers of legal fish on the live smelt. One angler reported 15 legal fish for the spring season. The spotfin bite has also been very good on fish to 5 pounds. Lugworms have been a best bet. A 5-pound, 12-ounce fish still leads the shop’s croaker derby. A 6-pound orangemouth corvina was also taken out of Hediondo on a live lugworm. With an influx of bigger sand crabs, the corbina bite has been solid along south Carlsbad and the Army/Navy academy.

SOLANO BEACH — Torrey Pines and Del Mar have been holding good numbers of corbina, reported Mike at Blue Water. Screening out softshells and nugget crab has been the ticket to hanging fish in the 2- to 3-pound class. Low light, early or late has been a best bet for a bigger model. A 6-pound fluorocarbon leader is a must in the clean water. Ponto Beach has been a good place to look for a legal halibut. 

— Compiled by Gundy Gunderson

Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament

Huge tuna in Cabo to 257 pounds

 Cabo Jackpot updates, from the director…

Below is the roster for there 2015 WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament, now in its 16th year. 

This is the roster as of the first week of July. We are up in signups from last year's pace when we were headed for 150 boats but ended up with 131 teams (fantastic!) after Odile slammed into Baja six weeks before. So, we're pretty pleased. We are adding sponsors, s business is improved and maybe the Cabo folks were pleased we never wavered  when we said the tourney would go on no matter how many teams came, or cancelled after the hurricane. And, there's  a bunch of teams, I think, that are coming this year after their flights and hotels/condos were messed up with the hurricane and the had to cancel. Welcome back! 

I was just down in Cabo recently for meetings with vendors and sponsors in Cabo... The place looks as though nothing happened, although with this warm water being pushed up, they are wary of hurricanes this season.


We will have our annual  Tuna Jackpot  Preview supplement in a few weeks, the end of July, and it will also be published digitally for this blog and linked to our official CTJ website Stay tunes. Lot of great stories. One of them is about the work done with the $50,000 donated for rebuilding homes. Gary Graham is on that story. Some great work being done these last six months to rebuild homes. There is also a story on that $15,000 trip to Florida for four anglers that was hosted  by Costa, Yo-Zuri and Gray Taxidermy. The guys are back from the trip, and it's a helluva story. First class trip, as promised.

There's a lot of info on new sponsors like Okuma reels, who jumped at the chance to sponsor the biggest tuna tournament in the world. Welcome to the fun, folks. The Okuma continent will be down, maybe even competing. They love to fish the big tuna with their Makaira reels that are getting rave reviews by the big game tuna guy around the world. 

The other big story will be about the new charity we are giving all proceeds to in our charity efforts (silent auction, clothing sales, Costa gear sales, Grand Prize Drawing and a live auction of maybe another amazing trip. We will see). The new charity is Smiles International that comes to Cabo at least twice a year, doctors who perform facial surgery on children with various disfigurements, free of charge. Hope you will support our efforts to fund this organization. Just $1,000 ensures four operations. I hope we raise more than $20,000, a very doable goal. 

Let's see, the other bit of news is that the Fiesta on Friday is being moved from the Tesoro (formerly the Wyndham) on the malecon to an open area also on the malecon 200 yards south of Pisces near the Dolphin Adventure. It offers a bigger area, better sight lines, it's more festive, and having it there offers us more time for us and the vendors to set it up since the weigh-in area won't be in the way and have to be torn down. We can all relax, and enjoy new  new music, great cuisine, more accessible bathrooms and it will be a more festive, fun  night overall.



This year we are introducing a new logo for the hats, by Legendary. Hope you like it. We will use the existing one for another year, but I like having a cool tuna, a version by artist Mark Rayor. 

The final bit of news is that Corona is back. Actually, the Corona girl is back. People were asking where they were (or she was) , and frankly, after the hurricane  the local distributor couldn't afford the models (which costs a lot to hire for all the events over four days) and this year they are all in, and are supplying all the tables  and chairs for the Fiesta, and free beer for the teams that weigh in. Drink up and celebrate in Cabo with Corona Extra!  

If you have signed up lately, you will be getting a confirmation, with an advisory on deadlines for jackpot payments, and also wiring instructions. Wiring  is much, much easier. All I can say at this time is that the water is warm, the fishing is very good, and Cabo is kicking out some big, big fish. The biggest we know of lately is this monster.

CABO COW – Fishing aboard the CISCO out of Picante Sportfishing, Brian Hurst of Huntington Beach locked up with this 257-pound yellowfin 32 miles due east of Land’s End, and after a 3-plus-hour fight during which he was nearly spooled 10 times  Hurst finally landed himself what he described as, “an incredible fish of a lifetime!”

Again, détails on the 16th annual  évent can be found in an easy  to read format, plus videos, etc. at

  Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot roster 2015 (as of June 29)

1 Minerva 3 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers 4 To Fish

Jerry Garcia Tony Phillips Ed Gugel Jim Gobbi

2 C-Rod USA

Team Captain Team Anglers AMZ

Joe Zuccolotto Robert Ellenwood Chiara Zuccolotto Ariana Zuccolotto

3 Karma III USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Buckeye Tuna

Jamie Greer Dave Dunton Lance Gildner Mike Joseph

4 Gaviota VI Canada

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Clearwater

Dale Bigelow Kent Cook Cliff Cook Curtis Cook


Team Captain Team Anglers Chick Sticks

Bob Solee

6 El Budster Pride USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Brew Crew

Garet Tarvin Gary Tarvin


Team Captain Team Anglers Hillbilly Yacht Club

Tawnya Stevens

8 Moracha USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Aquaholics

Donny Green Kevin Sheire Alex Francisco Will Hansen


Team Captain Team Anglers Purity Organics

Nick Koretoff

10 Ursala II USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Pole Jerkers

Saul Hinajosa Frank Pattison Jesse Vela Mike Penalver

11 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Stink Finger

Rick Bradley

12 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers WIN-TEAM

Pamela Lorenz

13 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Pillage

Ron Bauer

14 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Pendejadas

Job DeHorta

15 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers

Joseph Simmons Erik Simmons Sean Horvath George Wilson

16 Mucho Loco I, 28 Ft. USA

Team Captain Team Anglers AOTB 1

James Strum Randy Hall Edward C Smith Dwight C Makell

17 Ursla III USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Aquaholics II

Chris Gordon Rip Knight Ryan Shaw Mario Losoya

18 Top Gun, 30 Ft. USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Is It Legal

John Clatt Annie Clatt Ray Love Scott Love

19 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Tight Lines

Ron Flores Scott Marvel Riff Ferriera Todd Marvel

20 Halcon USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Tunacious Trollers

Jerod Paul Paul Asher Gary Hood Mike Maki

21 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers

Michael Vise Wade Smith Todd Rice Joe McKinnon

23 Adrenaline USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Klamath's Best

William Hamilton Ben Wolf Tim Babcocio   

24 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Bloody Decks

Chip Johnston

31 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Tundra

Richard Berghoefer

33 Minerva VI, Tiara, 33 Ft. USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Hook Line & Drinkers

Kevin Dunn

34 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers


37 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Idaho

Scott Miley

42 Ruthless USA

Team Captain Team Anglers In It Tuna Win It

Mike King Mike Magill Jimmy Klein Mike Moser

43 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Jose's Hookers

Brent Johnson

47 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Ha "Tuna" Matata

Randal Wren

52 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Sooner Tuna

C. Scott Sanders

53 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Sierra Gold & Coin

John Engelhardt

55 La Brisa, Bertram, 31 Ft. USA

Team Captain Team Anglers NorCal Chasers

Jason Gonzales Art Garcia Jamal Miles

66 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers

Bradley Erickson

69 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Deep Blue Marine

Scott Golden

71 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Peligro

Alex Romans

77 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Team Tuna Down

Stuart Webber

89 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers MT Pockets

Jud Smith

111 Tantrum, California, 28 Ft. USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Get Some

Lauren Franco Jeff Faulkner Sr Jamie Faulkner Jeffery Faulkner

124 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Cabo Tuna Cowboys

Russell Gall Chris Wilson Tim Elam Courtney Lehman

128 USA

Team Captain Team Anglers Vaqueros del Mar

John Harper Frank Sirianni Bobby Wright Randy Mays


Gary Graham's Blog

Good Baja Day... with a twist
The new Destination Baja Sur crew — Bill Boyce, Darryl Van Slack, Nick Verola and Brian Solomon, the Associate Producer, invited me along for the day last week to go fishing with them to film an East Cape segment of their series which will be aired next year.

We had spent the morning slow-trolling small blue jacks a mile or so off of Rincon near the Lighthouse at Punta Arena. The roosterfish provided a memorable morning … the bite had been brisk and by mid-morning it was a wrap, which captured a handful of bites … including a triple of two 50-plus-pound roosters and one 25-pound jack crevalle that we CPR'ed (catch, photograph and released).

THE FISH CLEANER had his knife poised and ready to fillet the “butt-ugly” creature when I arrived.

It was later in the morning that we began to troll for billfish, and when the wind freshened and the seas became grumpier, John Ireland pointed the bow toward the channel at Cabo Rivera. Since the film crew had been successful catching billfish several days before aboard Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort’s boat the Dottie B, with Felipe Valdez, owner, they had more than enough footage for the East Cape Show.

Cruising down the channel into the Cabo Rivera Marina, it was evident that the new owners were beginning to make some headway. A dredging barge was being moved into position to dredge the channel of quite a bit of sand that had accumulated from last year’s storms — plus a large fuel tank was being installed underground for the fuel dock. The rumor is that construction will soon begin on a new hotel.

Later that afternoon, I was sorting out my photos after an exciting and productive day aboard Rancho Leonero's newest flagship a 31-foot Luhrs sportfisher — the El Jefe.

It was while I went through my photos of our “take” that Ireland called to request that I hurry down to the cleaning table at Rancho Leonero before they cut up an unusual catch made by Lee Jon Sien, of Austin, Texas.

The fish cleaner had his knife poised and ready to fillet the “butt-ugly” creature when I arrived. With a red head like a lingcod and a brown, tapered body and tail similar to that of an eel, the angler was adamant that the fish was to be cleaned because he had heard that it was very good eating! I wasn’t sure how he could know that when no one seemed to even know what it was, but on the other hand, I didn’t know that it wasn’t good eating.

The angler went on to say that they were deep-jigging in 600 feet of water for black cod when he caught it! He thought it looked prehistoric, and I had to agree with him.

ANOTHER SKINNY TAIL plus the big eye seems to be a clue that it lived at an extreme depth.

Plus Captain Alonso was ecstatic because this was the second fish of that species that had been landed on his panga, Mosca Magic during his career of 55 years of fishing in East Cape.

Armed with photos, I posted one on Bill Boyce's Facebook page. The responses were quick and varied:

"Head structure like a jewfish, pectoral fins like a ling cod, and a tail like a coelacanth. I don't have the slightest clue," hedged Marine Biologist, Boyce.

Lance Peterson, local fly-fishing guide, well-versed in local knowledge, volunteered that it was a Pacific Bearded Brotula (Brotula clarkae), followed by Chris Wheaton, newly appointed International Game Fish Association Representative, who stated, "There is no current world record for that species; it is vacant. Fishbase lists it as reaching a max length of 115 cm so any fish over 23 inches would qualify as a new IGFA world record for that species.”

During Lee Jon Sien's week-long trip, he and his group racked up an impressive list of species a plethora of fish: red snapper, green pargo, black cod (grouper), skipjack, brotula, dorado, bonito, trigger, pompano, golden trevally, a huge cubera, wahoo, striped and blue marlin, plus yellowfin tuna doing their own thing and taking advantage of the techniques that worked for them while moving on if something didn't work.

I always look forward to hearing and seeing his photos of his latest catches. At the end of his trip his group had already booked a return in October, as well as they had begun quizzing at length about the best months for a 2016 spring trip.

Since we have been speaking of odd fish, Gary Barnes-Webb passed along this photo of one found on the beach near Rancho Leonero Lodge. Another skinny tail plus the big eye seems to be a clue that it lived at an extreme depth. Any of you out there that are familiar with the critter, please email me the name.

Merit McCrea's Blog

Cousins builds SoCal offshore series
Bill Buchanan, co-owner of Cousins Tackle along with his cousin Wade Cunningham, invited me over to check out the shop. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour of this Huntington Beach rod and lure manufacturing facility.

Although the Cousins Brand is fairly new, Both Buchanan and Cunningham, and in fact most of the manufacturing team, are the caretakers of much of the institutional rod manufacturing knowledge here in the U.S. Buchanan handled production for Fenwick, while it was his cousin Wade Cunningham that founded Seeker Rods.

When they recently rekindled the rod making spirit and started Cousins just a few seasons back they assembled a dream team of talent from their previous companies. In just a couple of seasons they have made Cousins one of the best-known names in the industry.

Some of their first offerings focused on steelhead and salmon fisheries of the Pacific North West, inshore, bass and surf rods. But in the last year they have added a whole line of SoCal. style coastal and offshore rods, their SE Series graphite composite sticks and their classic style CPX Series composite glass rods.

With that, they had my undivided attention, and I was there to see them. Buchanan guided Wendy Tochi and me through the impressive facility. To look at it, it became clear -the transition the industry as a whole has made in the last decade.

It used to be, if you wanted a decent rod, you had to buy components and build it yourself, that or have it custom built. Otherwise, you were looking at a selection of starter style rods with just 4 or 5 single wrapped guides on them. Heck, it was hard to find a longer factory-built rod that wasn’t a 2-piece!

Now one can get a custom quality stick right off the shelf, and seeing the wrapping room at Cousin’s made it clear why. Essentially, each is custom quality built by hand. There were a half-dozen or more wrapping stations where the rod wrapping crew apply double or triple wrapped guides to the hand-laid rod blanks built in the next room over.

An entire wall is stacked with rod drying racks, enough to spin perhaps 40 newly wrapped rods at once as their epoxy hardens. Buchanan explained, they use slow-curing finishes so the resin has time to fully penetrate between the fibers of the thread. This keeps the guides looking like new by preventing the ingress of water into the wraps. This happens commonly with fast cure products, and it forces the finish to flake and allows guide feet to corrode.

The guides themselves are of the highest quality Fuji and ALPS stock. He further explained that the latest corundum and carborundum insert guides fully capture the insert and shield it from impacts while preventing them from popping out.

It was their “Deckhand Style” rods that caught my eye. While a reel seat is an advantage for take-down and transport of tackle, I like the versatility, flexibility and no-nonsense nature of a straight tuna cord wrap, or cork-tape handle. The iconic look of the hand-tied 4x Turks-head is a plus too. But I grew up with my rods living on the boat 24/7, seldom having to pack them up or remove reels. More than once reels were rebuilt with the reel frame staying stuck on the rod.

But most anglers prefer a rod that is more polished than deckhand style. All other Cousins rods I saw came complete with top-of-the-line Fuji reel seats and custom grips matching the fishery each rod was built for.

The racks of rods just off the line was impressive. All neatly organized, there were hundreds ready to go out to fisheries around the country. Cousins has custom tailored rod lines to fisheries and regional preferences all over. Standing upright, I guess they covered a12 by 12 foot area.

California salt anglers will notice some familiar blank numbers, classics like the 90J, 196-7 and 665H. Nevertheless, you should head out to your favorite tackle shop and actually pull on a few to find exactly what you want. Each blank builder’s “196-7” is a different animal of course. Each incorporates their own custom tweaks as far as backbone, tip and taper.

As we left that afternoon, Wendy Tochi spotted a familiar face out back. It was Greg Silks, and he was pouring a prototype jig head. We picked his brain about SoCal’s secret little surf striper fishery, one where he has been killing it lately.

In addition to rod manufacture, vinyl trolling jigs and skirts are part of Cousin’s genetics, Bill’s father Buck having been the first to make lure skirts using that material. The innovation changed the offshore fishery and others where the hoochie is king.

It was somehow a little heart-warming to see that we still make quality stuff here in the good old U.S. of A., that for some stuff at least, the advantages of local production for local markets outweighs the economics of having things built overseas.

* * *

Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California partyboat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at:

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