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Southern CA Freshwater

Reaction baits still in play at El Capitan, Otay

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff Writer Published: Jan 03, 2019

Lake Jennings trout action going strong after most recent plant

SAN DIEGO — Despite it being officially the winter season as we lunge into 2019, there is still some solid bassin’ to be had for San Diego anglers at both El Capitan and Otay reservoirs, and a still-in-play reaction bite for good measure. It’s just one of the many little — and big — perks S.D. County bass anglers enjoy over their brethren farther north, with water temps still high enough to keep largemouth a little more active and aggressive while fish at other lakes to the north have already started to hunker down for the winter.


Perhaps the best example of this scenario is at El Capitan Reservoir, where largemouth are still active and hitting a variety of baits for early-winter bassers.


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LAKE JENNINGS HAS been giving up a good trout bite since its last 1,500-pound stocking of Wright’s Rainbows last week, and Tracy Hartman and son Carson hit the lake last week to score their limits including a couple quality rainbows on minijigs.


“For guys who like to stick with the reaction baits, El Cap is still pretty solid and probably your best bet right now,” said SoCal guide Rusty Brown. “The good thing about it is that the bass are still chasing shad there and they’re still pretty aggressive compared to some of the other local lakes.”


As far as which reaction baits have been most effective as of late, Brown said that crawdad crankbaits — both lipless and mid-range or deep divers — are a solid go-to heading into January. “Even though there are still a lot of fish on shad, it seems like those El Cap fish tend to start keying on crawdads as we get deeper into winter and the craw crank has always been a good early-in-the-year bait there for me.”


Brown also added that there are still bass busting on shad in the Narrows but that the breakers have been somewhat hit and miss. “It’s kind of a one day they’re here, the next they’re not kind of thing, but when they’re busting like that underspins and tailspins have been getting ’em pretty good and some guys have been getting a few more on spoons lately.” The jig bite also continues to chug along for anglers going that route, and throwing the jig has been a good way to find bigger bites. Brown and black colors have been best in recent days.


Down the road at Otay Reservior it’s been a pretty good mix of reaction baits and your more finesse bottom-contact stuff getting the job done, and there’s a little rhyme and reason to that. When the wind’s up and blowing a bit, look to the reaction end of the spectrum: underspins, tailspins, chatterbaits and lipless and mid-range cranks in shad and crawdad patterns. If there’s not at least a decent breeze blowing, however, this bite has been slower going, forcing a shift to a slower approach.


Ned and Neko rigs have been doing the trick well enough at Otay on the more still, bluebird days, as have 4½- and 6-inch Roboworms in various colors. To find a meatier model largemouth, Brown said either black-on-black or brown and purple jigs are a good way to go, particularly around the tules in the Harvey Arm. Slow-dragging Brush Hogs has also been enticing a few nice ones here and there.


For San Diego-area trout fisherfolk, it’s been Lake Jennings in Lakeside that has had the best action after another 1,500-pound plant of Wright’s Rainbows midweek. The strong bite had kicked into fifth gear just prior to the weekend and full limits were the norm for most anglers making it out, with some quality rainbows to 5 pounds making appearances for good measure.


Minijigs are doing most of the damage heading into the New Year, with the trout showing no heavy preference for any one particular jig or color. Other effective offerings in the current bite have been small gold Kastmasters, Rooster Tails and Hookup Baits.


It’s been a little slower going for those choosing the bait-and-wait approach but anglers soaking your traditional dough baits and nightcrawlers have still been creeling their fair share of rainbows as well. Look for that trend to shift some in the coming week here, however, as that’s been the deal in most cases the week after a stock, when the trout aren’t as eager to jump on a moving meal and start settling in and preferring the dough. Lake staffers say that Cloister and Sierra coves have been most productive for the rainbows over the past week.


Jennings remains open daily through Sunday, Jan. 6 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., after which the lake’s operating hours will shift back to weekends only. A free boat launching day is slated for Jan. 3, followed by a New Moon Fishing session on Jan. 4, with the lake staying open to 10 p.m. (full-sized lantern is required after 5 p.m.).


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