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Feaure Article: Battle of the Bay Recap

Patriot inches out WON Battle of the Bay victory

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ/WON Staff WriterPublished: May 15, 2019

In scratchy fishing, a humble ’cuda proves decisive in win over the Freelance

NEWPORT BEACH — If fishing is going to be scratchy, you might as well have a competition to make things interesting. Although no one plans on slow fishing, that was the case with the 2019 WON Battle of the Bay pitting Newport Landing’s Patriot and the Freelance out of Davey’s Locker Friday May 3.

MUST BE THE HOT SAUCE — Jim Parr of Orange fished the WON Battle of the Bay aboard the Patriot out of Newport Landing, winning the combined jackpot with this legal barracuda. He attributed his success to the Tapatio he spilled on his fingers while enjoying a breakfast burrito.

Both boats would run an extended, 6 to 6, 3/4-day trip out of Newport Bay, and $10 from each ticket — included in the price — bankrolled a combined jackpot that would pay out first, second and third place. For the boats and their crews, bragging rights were at stake.

WON editor Mike Stevens was confident — some would say overconfident — that the anglers aboard the Freelance would prevail, claiming the boat he was on had never lost a WON competition. He had a ringer, too, Chris Patricio of Los Angeles, who took jackpot in the prior two years of Freelance charters. Stevens even had the numbers advantage, 20 anglers to the 17 on the Patriot. No wonder he expected his boat to win.

The anglers aboard the Patriot, charter mastered by WON editor Paul Lebowitz, were determined to change the course of recent history. Thaddeus Feese of Santa Ana summed up the attitude onboard when he said, “We want to compete. We’re taking it personally, heck yes!”

Both boats started the day at the Mussel Farm north of Newport Bay, where there’d been a surprising coastal yellowtail bite in the days before the WON Battle. Unfortunately it was a parking lot with seemingly 100 fishing boats all bobbing aimlessly, not a bent rod among them. Both WON boats bugged out, the Patriot taking a blind gamble on Catalina and the Freelance sticking coastal. Just like that, their fates diverged, if only incrementally.

A-RIG AGAIN — Chris Booker of Corona solved a slow day by working an umbrella rig for one calico after another. He might have won the Battle of the Bay but he released every single one of them.

Aboard the Patriot, Capt. Mike Jensen, with bait tanks plugged full of lively sardines, embarked on a surface fishing program. He had some intel that yellowtail had been seen above Avalon, and sure enough, a short time later the forks rolled in the chum line. Frustratingly, they wouldn’t take a hooked bait.

Instead, the Patriot’s anglers would have to be satisfied with a pick bite on calicos. Chris Booker of Corona, flinging an A-rig, seemed constantly bent on bass, and he released several legals that might have ultimately been contenders. The spirited Feese, having fun, kept fresh baits in the water and it paid off with plenty of calicos, a barracuda (released) and a bonito (kept). Jim Parr of Orange never left the rail, tirelessly working his baits, and roped a legal barracuda and wisely kept it.

Meanwhile on the Freelance, what anglers missed in the form of the solid surface bite they’ve grown accustomed to in this WON event was — at least partially — made up for in the form of fishing diversity. Participants got to get all their toys out to fish a variety of environments including the Mussel Farm, Izor’s Reef (and several similar reefs in the area), a few 300-plus-foot-deep rockfish holes, an oil rig (drifting within feet of it) and finishing the trip up in shallower spots off Huntington Beach.

Very few spots were complete duds, and everyone seemed to go home with enough filets for Cinco De Mayo tacos. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. As soon as Freelance Skipper Chris Goble was reminded it was a competition with the Patriot, he said, “Then we’ve got to get a yellowtail” and shot straight for the Mussel Farm. He took one more shot at the spot on the way back to the barn as a Hail Mary.

Fishing wasn’t exactly hot for either boat, island or coastal, but the anglers who put in the effort still had a great time and caught fish, even if they weren’t the yellowtail they’d hoped for. The competition made for an intriguing day.

Both boats returned to the harbor, and the top three contenders from the Patriot and Freelance gathered to duel it out via balance beam. Parr’s ‘cuda easily came out on top, giving the victory to the Patriot. Second and third would fall to either Feese’s bonito or a sand bass caught by Reuben Alfaro of Temecula aboard the Freelance, but incredibly the beam was perfectly balanced. After a pause and no change, a tie was declared, and they split the combined second and third place jackpots.

“It was a good day,” said 2019 Battle of the Bay champion Parr. “It’s just the luck of the draw. Maybe it was the Tapatio I got all over my fingers and on the bait.”

flashthecashFLASH THAT CASH — Jim Parr of Orange savors his WON Battle of the Bay victory.

THE FREELANCE DRIFTING by a subtle piece of offshore structure during the WON Battle of the Bay. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

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