As many friends but perhaps not readers are aware, although I direct tournaments, I only fish in one a year, the San Diego Anglers Open Bay Bass Tournament that breaks up the winter doldrums for saltwater anglers. It’s coming up, and it’s likely I’m gonna miss fishing it with my partner of two years, Bob Aronson. I’ll get to that later.
This year’s event will be held a tad later than usual, on Saturday, Feb. 1, after a search by the club “elders” for the best tides for the event’s fishing hours, first light (about 6 a.m.) to 2 p.m. Now, it’s not a big bucks event, but it pays back at least your $135 team entry fee to 25th place thanks to a load of sponsors. But, getting on the board of 25 teams is a really the primary goal of 90 percent of the teams, with an eye for getting that big kickers fish to two that could win it, while the other 10 percent are out to win. Lacking that, they just want to finish higher on the board than their friends.
THE BOUNDARIES OF the Bay Bass tourney have been pulled in, eliminating most calico bass habitat.
First place is $1,500 cash for the largest 5 bass sack of any type of bass, with the 14-inch minimum enforced the second straight year. Last year the 14-inch regulation was not “official” in the state, but the tourney enforced it anyway, and it was not easy for many teams to get that 5-fish sack of 14 inchers of spotties, sand bass and calicos. We had six fish, one to cull out, and lost a couple nice ones that would have moved us up the leader ladder several notches. That’s what I love about the tourney. The separation between 10 spots, 20th and 10th, last year, was just 1½ pounds. But the fish have to get in the boat!
Every year it’s tough to predict the fishing. Cold water is the nemesis of the bite. This year, with the later date, the sand bass have some extra time to get situated on the clam beds and structure of the bay, but the playing field is level, and I prefer tough fishing for sand bass. Then it’s a mental game and subtle tactics and structure knowledge separate the teams. There’s a big change this year brought about by a simmering controversy.
The outer boundaries of the bay have been pulled in to stop the controversy that has swirled around the event as several top teams who are outstanding calico anglers push the envelope of the MLPA closure.
Said longtime tourney director Dwayne Patenaude, “We changed the boundaries so we could take the MLPA, non-marked boundary out of the equation. It was getting just too hard to monitor it effectively. There were way too many complaints of the boundary edge being pushed to the limit. We were having to devote too much manpower trying to enforce it.
“The buoys that we were trying to place as boundary edges would get dragged out to sea when big gobs of floating kelp would get caught on the ropes on the outgoing tide. The misplaced buoys were then being used as "official boundaries" which was allowing the teams to fish in the unmarked MLPA areas. We had two boats out there most of the time trying to enforce it last year so we just decided to make our job easier by using the closest permanent boundary markers that we could, which were buoys 9 and 10. We knew it would create a little controversy but we had to do something after our Facebook page blew up last year and we had to shut it down.”
The decision was met with approval by all but one team, he said. He didn’t say who, but I know my buddies Karl Erbacher and Josh Dunlap have always been on that outer edge and I bet there are steaming – but not surprised – about losing prime calico spots they have fished for years. They have won the event once, finished second and although they were in 10th last year, they would have won if Josh had not lost the “biggest bass of my life” right at boat. Calicos will always trump sand bass in bay bass fishing.
Interested in entering? Go to www.sandiegoanglers.com
The biggest draw of the event is – well, there’s just a bunch: Paydowns to 25th, a free barbecue, an army of volunteers that make it an event that is a pleasure to participate in, drawing prizes for a monster list of sponsors, including Ballast Point that gives out free beer to entrants. Great care is taken to return the fish to the bay by the San Diego Anglers club members. It’s just great to see competition, friendship and sponsorship all come together.
That does not mean it is a casual tournament. There are serious bragging rights to defend among friends, foes and former teammates. Last year’s winners, Dean Jamieson and Carl Schmidt won, beating out fellow Fisherman’s Landing Tackle staffers Rick Maxa and Doug Kern, who finished 13th.
In my column, I’ve shown the new boundary map, and also the top 25 from last year. Bob and I were 17th and we both were looking to finish much higher and try some new methods. Likely it won’t happen as I’m going in for what I call the Pete Gray Surgery, a partial hip replacement a few weeks before. Rehab is four months so Doc Cohen wouldn’t approve of me doing anything other than shuffling along in a walker at that point. I find it hard to image myself being that jacked up, but that’s the reality and result of an active lifestyle.
So, take a look at the top 25. Those are pretty much the major players each year who are always looking for that new color bait, the edge, that kicker fish or two, and the glory. Structure and tides, and while there’s always a few new tricks to be tried and scents to be smeared, there’s not many secrets. You gotta have your baits in front of the fish at the right time, at the time they want to bite. The pattern for the day. One thing is for sure in this event, no matter who wins the previous year, the team to look out for is always 2012 winners Ed Howarton and Dennis Burlason.
Some things will never change with those guys.
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Pat McDonell is editor of Western Outdoor News and directs three saltwater jackpots tournaments in Catalina, San Diego and Cabo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Place|| Name || Kayak Total Weight|
| 1|| Carl Schmidt / Dean Jamieson|| 13.65|
| 2|| Travis Hargis / Tony Gilbert || 12.72|
| 3|| James Nelson / Chuck Lavigne|| 11.31|
| 4|| Michael Hill / Lance Picotte || 10.48|
| 5|| Kurt Williams / Eric Williams|| 10.38|
| 6|| Bret Delong / Greg Rodgers || 10.06|
| 7|| Dennis Burlason / Eddie Howerton|| 10.05|
| 8|| Joseph Israel / Mike Israel|| 10.04|
| 9|| Brian Hyder / Warren Plaisted|| 10.03|
| 10|| Karl Erbacher / Josh Dunlap || 9.62|
| 11|| Tony Souza / Barbie Souza || 9.47|
| 12|| Neil Barbour / Chris Robinson|| 9.11|
| 13|| Doug Kern / Rick Maxa|| 8.97|
| 14|| Daniel Roberts / Scott Mclaughlin|| 8.78|
| 15|| Paul Purcell / Chris Purcell || 8.71|
| 16|| Peter Hamann / Terry Hastings|| 8.49|
| 17|| Bob Aronson / Pat Mcdonell || 8.47|
| 18|| Nick Pandza / Dan Sachse|| 8.28|
| 19|| Anthony Souza / Sannmann Andre|| 8.16|
| 20 || Ken Rosburg / N/A|| K 8.12|
| 21|| Max Dennemyer / Najem Waleed|| 7.94|
| 22|| Larry Heron / Scott Summersgill|| 7.73|
| 23|| Martin Keppeler / George Nichols|| 7.70|
| 24|| Greg Leroy / Greg Behnke || 7.50|
| 25|| Steve Stachelski / Glenn Davis|| 7.48|