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Featrue Article: Lingcod Champ Review

WON-Virg’s third annual Morro Bay Central Coast Lingcod Championship bags big lings and more

BY BOB SEMERAU/Western Outdoor News Staff WriterPublished: Jul 31, 2019

MORRO BAY — Anglers felt it was as if the hand of fate dealt out perfect weather for the third annual WON/Virg’s Morro Bay Central Coast Lingcod Championship.

The competition this year was held on Saturday, July 20, with two excellent boats competing to get the top spot in the action.

“We are excited at Virg’s to have both the 65-foot Black Pearl and the Fiesta fighting for the winning fish in this competition,” explained Bruce Harwood, General Manager of Virg’s.

TOP TWO WINNING lingcod for the 2019 WON-Virg’s Morro Bay Central Coast Lingcod Championship, caught by Tony Hamilton, left, and Leo Ruttan, right.

Black Pearl shoved off the docks a little before 6 a.m. with owner/operator Lisa Tardif aboard and Captain Brian Walker at the helm.

“We’ll be running up for about 3½ to 4 hours, fishing in about 200 feet of water for big lingcod, so get your gear ready and get something to eat,” called Capt. Walker over the p.a.

Boat owner Lisa Tardif and daughter, Kaitlin Cox, passed out hot and delicious breakfast burritos as the boat moved out around iconic Morro Rock, heading off to the north.

Check-in had begun at about 4:30 a.m. with help from WON sales rep Dylan Depres and Virg’s staff-members Bruce Harwood and Bob Bodin. Hook packs from tourney sponsor VMC Hooks were doled out to all participants. Spools of Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon and giant rolls of Daiwa J-braid and Sufix monofilament were available on each boat for anglers to use throughout the day.

As Black Pearl headed up the coast, Fiesta got away from the docks right at 6 a.m. and began the northward run with locally experienced Captain James Ottens at the helm. After running for almost four hours exactly, anglers aboard Black Pearl dropped lines down for the first drift of the day.

Meanwhile, aboard Fiesta, Captain James Ottens completed the run much sooner and ran up the line to Cape San Martin, well north of Black Pearl, according to WON associate Ted Reed, reporting from the decks of the 55-foot sportfisher.

magnumswimbaitMAGNUM SWIM BAIT proved a winner at the championship for the angler taking the first-place ling. Kevrette “KJ” Johnson, right, makes the innovative tube bait lures in huge sizes and bright colors the ling can’t resist.

Many of the larger lings took mackerel baits fished on a trap rig, introduced by WON associate Ted Reed at last year’s event. The rig has a large 7-0 or 8-0 hook tethered to a 3-0 treble hook behind and a torpedo sinker hanging a few feet from the assembly.

Both boats managed loads of decent lingcod, but the big fish of the day came from Black Pearl. The winning, 22.13-pound ling cod was boated by Anthony “Tony” Hamilton of Marina Del Rey. Tony worked the bow of Black Pearl along with Kevrette “KJ” Johnson using KJ’s new Magnum Tube Swim Baits. Tony landed 10 lingcod, 2 goldeneye, 4 red snapper and a chucklehead, all fooled by the same Magnum Tube bait.

Aboard Fiesta, seasoned WON charter veteran Wade Wells of Camarillo got things under way with a larger model ling. Mark Ginchereau loaded up on ling and reds throughout the day and earned the “Hot Stick” tag for the trip.

First-time ling angler, local 15-year-old, Andrew Wood bagged his limit with back-to-back ling early in the day while fishing aboard Fiesta.

Back over the water to the south, Black Pearl continued to work the area for larger-sized ling as well. Young Norwalk angler Myles Byrdsong fished with his dad Martin and found a couple of lings and lots of rockfish during the time fishing near White Rock. Deck hand and cook aboard the Pearl, Kaitlin Cox, kept at close hand gaffing fish and help with tangles throughout the day.

BIG RED, DISPLAYED by Black Pearl owner/operator, cook and deck hand, Lisa Tardif, was just part of limit catch for Ron Hampton during the 2019 Lingcod Championship.

Fiesta continued to bring legal-sized lingcod and big rockfish over the rails as the boat moved over choice honey-holes known to Capt. Ottens. Nicholas Ingram and Bruce Jochumus filled their sacks as did most aboard for the contest. Andrew Hampton, winner of the 2018 competition, boated a 16.71-pound lingcod to take 3rd place overall in this year’s event.

Up in the bow of Black Pearl, more ling and rockfish fell for the anglers working Magnum Tube baits, jigs, live sardines and squid strips. Leo Ruttan of Carpinteria found the right combination to fool several larger lingcod, culling fish as he went, to get the competition’s second-place finisher to the scales. Leo’s ling weighed-in at close to the top posted weight with 21.25 pounds. Frequent charter anglers Ed Bath and David Dietderich fished together throughout the day, bagging plenty of lingcod and rockfish for their efforts.

Competition rules were amended to allow fishing to continue and the boats to be back for weigh-in at 5 p.m. this year.

With the long ride home to Virg’s Landing, anglers aboard both boats enjoyed the downtime, relaxing, napping, and taking down gear. Some opted to re-spool with the J-Braid and Sufix line provided by event sponsors. The local eatery, Giovanni's Fish Market and Galley, sent along bread bowls and their signature clam chowder for Black Pearl anglers and the stew, along with BP owner Lisa’s specialty chili, filled bellies on the trip home.

Back at the docks, Virg’s Bob Bodin handled the scales and the biggest three fish from each of the two boats were tallied up.

andrewhamptonrightANDREW HAMPTON, RIGHT, with his competition-sized lingcod, shown here by Captain James Ottens, skipper of the 55-foot sportfisher, Fiesta.

The 16.71-pound ling boated by Andrew Hampton earned the angler a cash prize of $100 for a third-place finish. The second-place fish coming to the scales for an official weight of 21.25 pounds to win $155 cash for happy angler Leo Ruttan.

The 22.13-pound ling, taken by Anthony “Tony” Hamilton, put a smile on the survivor of a recent quadruple bypass, earned first-place honors and $255 cash in the angler’s pocket.

Following the weigh-in, an exciting raffle awarded lucky wristband winners prizes of $50 gift cards from Turner’s Outdoorsman, soft-side cooler bags from Daiwa, jigs, VMC hooks and more.

Each week the largest ling taken aboard boats fishing out of Virg’s Landing qualifies the angler for the end of year Biggest Baddest John Rowley’s Lingcod tournament and a crack at the $10,000 in prizes, including a $5,000 first prize. This year’s final fish-off will be held Saturday, Dec. 14.

The competition was fierce, and the results showed that these anglers came to win. Despite the boats slower running speed, allowing 20-percent less fishing time on the preferred spots, Black Pearl managed its share of the days catch. Final counts for the boats, Black Pearl: 30 anglers, 60 lingcod, 300 rockfish; Fiesta: 23 anglers, 28 lingcod, 185 rockfish.

Contact: Virg’s Landing, 1169 Market Ave. Morro Bay, CA 93442 805-772-1222;

Magnum Tube Swim Baits

mylesbirdsongMYLES BYRDSONG, left, gets an assist from excited Black Pearl cook and deckhand Kaitlin Cox.

championshipwinnersCHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS, l-r, Andrew Hampton, 3rd place winning lingcod at 16.71-pounds, Anthony “Tony” Hamilton, 1st place at 22.13-pounds, Kaitlin Cox of the Black Pearl, Leo Ruttan, 2nd place with a bucket mouth of 21.25-pounds, WON staffer, Bob Semerau.

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