Feature Article: Rockfish Quiver

The well-rounded rockfish quiver

BY TONY ROBINSON/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Feb 07, 2020

Long gone are the days of the deep water, ten-hook dropper-loop fishing for rockfish. No longer do we need the 9/0-sized reels with the crankshaft handles, filled with that funky green and white Dacron and fancy rail plates to steady the whole 9 pounds of lead 400-plus feet off the bottom. Current regulations make all the above illegal and illogical, and they have equated to creating less, and shallower, open areas to fish for these tasty fillets. The game has changed immensely. Sure, there are times and places up and down the coast that may still allow for somewhat deep-water pursuits, but not enough to warrant spending the cash for outfits that you will not likely use with any regularity for quite some time. Whether it’s any of the local waters, the nearby islands or perhaps some specialty spots like Colonet down in Baja, we are now spoiled with fishing in thinner water and with the option of using more finesse tackle.

gettingitdoneGETTIN’ IT DONE aboard the Island Spirit out of Ventura Sportfishing. PHOTO COURTESY VENTURA SPORTFISHING

“Rockfishing” in every sense of the word, is not very complicated. But you know, as fishermen, we’re gonna do our damnedest to prove that idea wrong. And truthfully, because of the advantages of Spectra and the change in the fishable waters landscape, this now opens up some different opportunities to make it a little sportier and more fun. All said, you can get by with, as few as, one rig and a hip pack full of tackle all the way up to a quiver of rods and a full rockfish specific tackle box. Some of us may even still need one of those numbered gray carts down at the landing to transport all of our necessities from the car to the deck for a full day of bottomfishing, but let’s start with just a small bundle of rigs and suggested tackle to keep the day/overnight interesting and light.

If, you’re feeling a bit economical, this is the “one rig,” if you had to have just one to do most if not all the work you’ll need to do on any given rockfishing trip.

Rig 1 – “If ya’ had to have just one…”

— Penn Baja Special (or comparable sized reel)

— 80-pound Spectra

— 30- to 40-pound mono topshot

— 8-foot-foot glass rod, with a decent backbone (Calstar 6480 or equivalent) that’s not too fast or parabolic

Suggested tackle:

— E-Z Baiter circle hooks (preferred) or longer-shanked Jhooks

— Premade 2-hook or Bait Catching (Sabiki) Rigs

— Shrimp flies, Berkley Gulp Baits, plastics (grubs, swimbait tails, etc.)

— Handful of heavy jigs (Jax, Diamond, Ahi, Salas, Tady, etc.)

— 4-ounce to 1.5- to 2-pound torpedo or block sinkers

You’ve got plenty of line capacity, especially with the use of Spectra, to get down to the bottom and not get completely spooled. You can fish a basic (double) dropper loop or jig with a shrimp fly with this combo. This very same rig can, in a pinch, be used to tie and drop your favorite yo-yo jig (if you’re Down South fishing the rockfish and have a little time to try and entice some yellows the skipper might see on the graph) while he’s puddling around looking for spots to drift for rockfish.

But as some people like shoes to fill their closets, we like rigs to fill the deck. Here are some other options that could enhance your rockfishing experience while you’re drifting over the next pinnacle:

Rig 2 – Lighter backup

— Penn 3/0 sized reel

— Calstar 270-8H rod (or comparable)

— 65-pound Spectra with 30-pound mono topshot

This rig, for all intents and purposes, is a lighter line-class version of Rig 1. This opens up the opportunity to have two bait rigs, or, one bait and one jig rig. One could also rig one for a deep-water rig and one for shallower work. Not too much change in the way of tackle selection. Maybe more jigs and big plastics. Otherwise, it’s the same, the only difference is lighter line.

What about for “skinny water?”

Rig 3 – Ultralight / SWRF

— Penn Squidder Jr.-sized reel

— 8- to 8.5-foot 15- to 30-pound class composite rod with moderate/moderate-fast action

— 50-pound Spectra with 20/25-pound mono or fluoro

This is a great shallow water rockfish (SWRF) rig. I like to set this combo up as a double mini-hook dropper rig to use with fresh squid strips. This is also a killer whitefish rig, and t doubles as a small jig or plastics set-up. This one is fun to fish when the drop is not too deep and keeps the fight gamey.

And what’s that about those plastics…

Rig 4 – Botox Special

— Daiwa Lexa 400 sized reel

— 8- to 8.5-foot 15- to 30-pound class graphite rod with a moderate/moderate-fast action

— 50-pound Spectra with 20- to 25-pound mono or fluorocarbon

Along with the “ultralight” rig above, this is also another great “skinny water” set-up. If you tire of bait and jigs, this is the perfect outfit for scratching the bottom with plastics in hopes of tangling with a nasty lingcod or a fat red. You can adjust or select this setup based on the swimbaits you decide to drop. For the smaller plastics/heads you use on calicos, the recommended Rig 4 will work. If you prefer the bigger-profile MC Swimbait or Big Pancho-type baits with the 6- to 8-ounce leadheads, you might want to select a heavier outfit like Rig 2).

There’s nothing too spectacular about the rigs listed above. For most, if not all local trips, you can get away with taking just one or both of the first two outfits and just about any variety of hooks, weights, jigs and plastics to do some healthy, conservation-friendly management of the rockfish population.

The other two more specialized set-ups are not a necessity, but if you’re like me and enjoy fishing light or with plastics, they’re fun to take on these trips. As you travel further down south on “freezer special” type trips or explore the bottomfish-friendly Channel Islands to the north, you might consider all four rigs, or variations of them. This enables you to have options for all the different scenarios, shallow and deep, which may come with the extended time out on the water.

So there you have it! Just GO and grind in some fresh meat from the depths while you wait for the exotics to warm up, or if you just have a taste for some firm, white, flakey, tasty rockfish fillets. Also, these four combos, with ever-so-slight to no adjustments make for a fantastic selection of white seabass-ready rigs.

TONY ROBINSON lives in Visalia and is a long-time Izorline pro staffer. Pay him a visit at the Izorline knot-tying booth at the Fred Hall Show.

A MIXED BAG is expected on the rockfish grounds, but certain species absolutely get top billing. PHOTO COURTESY TONY ROBINSON

THE ARRIVAL OF Braid gave anglers the ability to fish for rockfish on lighter gear. That, paired with the fact we are now targeting rockfish in shallower water than in decades past, have made this brand of fishing a lot more fun. WON PHOTO BY BOB SEMERAU

sheepheadmightSHEEPHEAD MIGHT NOT be a rockfish, but they are a welcome bycatch on a rockfish trip. PHOTO COURTESY TONY ROBINSON

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