43.6-pound white seabass wins Yamaha Catalina Championship for the team of Clary and McLain after a wild night bite
TWO HARBORS, Catalina Island – It was thought that Catalina would have to give up a 50-pound-plus white seabass to the winning teams of last weekend’s Yamaha/WON Championship.
Not quite. It took a 43.6 pounder to take the title, the fish caught during a wild frenzy Saturday just after dusk at Johnson’s Rock just up the line on the west end from Two Harbors where the sixth annual event was won by Santa Ana’s Jeff Clary and Mike McClain of Seal Beach in their 26-foot Ft. Myers sportfisher Cowboy.
“We released four of these same-sized fish and we caught a total of 11 fish in a crazy bite at Johnson’s Rock. It went off at 8 o’clock. It was full-on,” said Clary, who said the team is sponsored by Flexi-Teak deck systems. “We probably hooked 30 fish.” The pair had fished the tourney every year and had not placed, but persistence paid off as they topped 77 other teams to take $2,000 in cash, a $4,000 Lowrance electronics package, Avet reels and Calstar rods, plaques, Seaguar fluorcarbon and a cool $4,050. They also took home a ready-made Global Fish Mounts WSB. Total value of their winnings was over $11,000.
Clary and McClain topped the Santa Barbara team of Chad McClintock, his father Mark McClintock and teammate Steve Vior who finished second last year and this year did the same with a 41.4-pound fish at the 3Vs area aboard their boat True Grit. They used a 2/0 Gorilla hook from Owner laced with live squid at about 7 a.m. Sunday.
The third place team of Camarillo residents Jon Marks, C.G. Miller, Cal Miller, John Jensen, Jerry Finberg and Dave Dodson parlayed a last-minute bite on Sunday at West Cove for a 40.8-pound white seabass. In addition to the $1,000 from WON for third place, the six-man team split the $200 and $300 optional WSB jackpots that totaled $6,840. The got their fish in the nick of time at 10:30 a.m. with the weigh scale slated to close at Two Harbors at noon.
In total, 13 teams weighed in fish over 30 pounds in what is clearly the best-ever fishing for the six-year event host by the staff of Two Harbors. Teams could weigh in halibut, white seabass and yellowtail and they all counted equally, but as is always the case, the big croakers always take the title.
Yellowtail were a no-show at the event as not one team weighed in a forkie even though divers reported spearing them on the reefs. Thus the $2,070 in optional money was returned to the teams, minus 10 percent.
The three halibut optionals were filled, though. Matt Bertram of San Diego, Matt Kimball of San Clemente and Tim Freed of San Diego were outside Cat Harbor at 4:30 p.m. Saturday when they caught a 23.8-pound halibut that won the $100 optional jackpot of $3,060.
The other two optionals, the $200 and the $300, were won by a familiar tournament boat owned by team captain Ron Atwood of Long Beach. They didn’t have to go large to win the two optionals, taking a 6-pound halibut to stake claim to the $3,420.
“Well, I won that bet,” said Atwood. “Now I’m hoping the Lakers come through tonight.” (They did, and covered the spread, too.)
The entire event was presided over by event director and Schools Director Kit McNear, his staff and attending sponsors (Dennis Yamamoto of Owner hooks and Bob Hoose of Berkley). In all, the event went off without a hitch. The number of teams was down, 102 to 78 teams, an indicator of the economy. The fact also remains, that to compete in this event, you have to be hard core on seabass as teams show up on Saturday and fish through the night, half of them on skiffs unprotected from the elements.
Annually, the tournament is always a kickoff to the tournament season, and everyone had a “game plan.” One thing was for sure. There were big fish being found throughout the island, and one of the best spots had been Johnson’s Rock, up the line from Two Harbors a few miles near the west end. It had received much pre-event pressure in the week prior, but had slowed for two days. When it mattered, the fish wanted to bite, and they did furiously, as the sun set and darkness fell Saturday night.
The fact that live squid was available for sale on the lightboat Bounty outside Two Harbors by tourney sponsor San Pedro Bait Co. quelled fears about that tourney obstacle. Bait company owners Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano, who also own the long range sportfisher Independence (and gave away two 5-day trips in drawings each day) had to go to San Clemente Island to get bait. It was a clutch move by the two men. It should also be added that those teams who bought bait from Strasser and Pisano on the Bounty also got free San Pedro Bait Co. T-shirts, a new twist this year from a new sponsor.
So with live squid assured, people arrived with a good, relaxed feeling Saturday morning. The fun started at 10 a.m. Saturday when teams arrived to pick up their goodie bags that included a free Berkley WSB event shirt, event hat, Woody Wax boat care samples, Owner hooks, Big Hammer baits and more. The arrivals also signed in as a team or added or entered the $100, $200 and $300 optional jackpots for halibut, white seabass and yellowtail.
Many also gave the knot tying machine in a Berkley contest manned by Bob Hoose a shot. After that, they were directed to the beach area for three casts at winning the Avet/Costa Del Mar Casting Contest.
The object was to nail the floating target rig while wearing sample “Costas” and you’d get a pair of sunglasses, and you were in the finals. When it was over, many came close but four anglers hit their mark and emerged in the finals. They were: Sam Snyder, Daniel Chavez and Brian Moelke. Dodge and Snyder, teammates and seventh place finishers with a 33.5 pounder, eventually came closest on the final round and won the two Avet MC reels. The new reels really impressed casters for their anti-backlash capabilities.
Of course, the fishing for white seabass would not be possible without the extraction of gillnets around the island in the 1990s and a 25-year program of white seabass fishery restoration by Hubbs-Sea World Institute, its Carlsbad hatchery and more than a dozen coastal growout facilities.
Mike Shane of Hubbs was again on hand to scan heads for coded wire tags from teams weighing fish. And he was also hoping to gather some live broodstock fish – both white seabass and halibut – for the hatchery in the 20-pound class from anglers in the event. He received one white seabass from John Jensen’s team, and two halibut from 15-year-old Val Ouidin’s and Sean Reed’s team. They won hotel stays and rounds of golf at Catalina for their efforts.
Drawing prizes were again a focal point of event. The two 5-day trips on the sportfisher Independence were won by Scott Roseland of Marina Del Rey, and Matt Clark of Chino Hills. There were also extra Avet reels, Calstar custom rods, Sport Chalet and Terrafin certificates, Woody Wax gift packs for boat care, Foodsaver units, Promar nets and much more.
The final drawing on Sunday was a 5-day, 4-night trip with one day of fishing to the East Cape’s Van Wormer Hotels, won by Jack Thorpe of Santee.
“It was a great event when it was all said and done,” said McNear, event director. “The staff at Two Harbors, especially harbormaster Doug Oudin and his people, made the event a true success for another year. We had great big-fish action, the casting contest and knot tying were two additions that people liked, and we gave away a huge amount of money and some top prizes. We had 78 teams, and that’s pretty good for our economy right now. I’m sure we’ll see an even bigger field next year, so mark this same weekend on your calendar if you missed it this year!”