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2 Psychos, 2 Lures, 1 Victory

May 10, 2015

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0300 – May 9th, 2015 Newport Beach Peninsula. 

Standard operating procedure: my alarm sounds, I silence my phone and slide out of my bedroom without disturbing my girls. My kit lay on the piano, staged in order from base to top layer. I survey it’s neatness and crack a proud smirk on my way to the Gaggia to make an absolutely potent, tall cup of liquid sprack; my favorite way to start a morning and get my mental flow set to proper form.

The early stages of full blown psychosis set in long ago for me, this is just another ridiculous adventure I’ve already lived a thousand times in my mind: now I’m just going through the motions in a state of satori. 

Several days prior to this morning waltz, Randy – (a known psychopath) made contact in an attempt to get me to fish this S.W.B.A. tournament with him. I found out later that I was his only option after a string of failed partnerships, but this mattered none, the heart wants what the heart wants. The tournament grounds included Catalina Island, a place that I consider my home away from home, where my comfort level is maxed out and my thirst for natural beauty is constantly quenched.  The only looming particulate that might affect my decision was the borrowing of a boat (a fast and comfortable fishing platform) from my neighbor and friend, Brad Vassar.  As fate would have it, the boat was ours for the day and so at the very moment that I knew we would have 1 of the most important tools necessary to perform at our highest level, I decided that we would win. Or rather, the Universe decided that we would.

0330 -­‐ Now, I’m fully kitted; head to toe. I’m lit up like an atom bomb and hardly able to stay calm.  I’ve already prepped and loaded my tackle and my food, the boat’s started and warming up and I’ve got some choice tunes lightly thumping throughout the hull. Once Randy – (a known psychopath) arrives, we load his gear onto the rig and we shove off from my dock, headed up the line toward the South Shore launch ramp in Long Beach to register for the tournament.

Once we clear the Northern breakwall of Newport Harbor, we’re greeted with un-­‐ forecasted, slick conditions all the way to the 5mph buoy just inside of the Queen Mary in the LB Harbor.  Once we slide up to the ramp, I dump Randy off on the dock to handle the paper work and I idle off into the small fleet of skiffs bobbing around in the dark.  I recognize some boats but notice that the majority of these vessels are new to me as are many of the anglers. The S.W.B.A. has expanded and contracted much since the last time I was slurping beers, lurking around in the parking lot post-­‐ tourney, wondering where all of my money went. I fished the series for nearly 9 years with various partners and loved every minute of the camaraderie and experience I gained from fishing out of so many different launch facilities, but it had been almost 5 years and I loved a little slice of anonymity in a boat that nobody would recognize.  Randy hopped back onto the rig after a short wait and we set off to the staging area.  We were in the second flight of boats cut loose and now ripping toward the island with every intention of winning.

0700 – We arrive at the West end of the island and idle down to strip off gear and get our rods out. Conditions are optimal with a solid 2’-­‐4’ swell lumping into the shoreline and there’s a trickle of downhill current slipping down the island. The water temp is 62 and the air is 65 with a blanket of gray clouds keeping the vibe intense.  We’re listening to reggae music and I’ve got Randy on the bow while I run the boat.  The water clarity at the top is a concern and we continue to bump in and out of high percentage areas, making our way down toward Triangle Rock. Within 10 minutes, Randy has 3 solid fish that ate the surface iron and conditions look promising as we round a small, rocky point that is lined with sparse areas of kelp. I notice some kelp outside and to our right so I make one of my first casts of the day and let my jig sink out 10’ or so. I get bumped 4 or 5 times on my retrieve and a small cloud of calico slash at my bait as it nears the starboard rail. Randy is bit on the bow now, a couple feet away, a nice 5lb fish inhales my jig as I finish my retrieve and I quickly swing it into the boat while Randy does the same: we’ve got our limit and it’s not even 0800. Things are going as expected and we decide to chase similar conditions as we head toward our (A) zone. Taking our time, we eliminate areas we know we won’t fish later in the day while the tide slowly fills in and then maxes around 1030.  There have been a half dozen boats between where we started and where we’re headed. Every time Randy mentions how cool it would be if we win, I remind him that the plan has always been to win, and that’s what is happening. 

We turn the corner just below Ribbon Rock and pull into some promising conditions: down & in current and 63 degree off colored water. We catch a few fish and make a cull, upgrading our smallest fish to a nice 4 pounder. Drifting down the kelp line further, Randy makes a long cast into turbulent waters and a tank of a calico bass detonates onto his jig 25 yards from the boat. A couple of times, he couldn’t turn the fish and once I saw the fish I grabbed the net to make sure this creature gets in the boat. We estimate the fish to be 7 or so pounds and guess that we have a 25-­‐pound limit. We’re thoroughly jacked and at that point, I know that we need another pig to secure a victory against guys that are just as obsessed as we are with catching big calico bass.

As we gather our wits and settle back into focus, I know that I will catch another big fish and I know that it will come from deeper water. I knew it as well as I knew we would win and I started making casts into 60’ – 65’ of water outside of kelp that had a color break within 10’ of it’s outside edge. We decide to make a short move as another team had just fished the same water we were entering and I decided to make one more cast.  Once my 2oz Warbait and Pearl Swimbaits combo reached the bottom in 65’ – I popped it twice and then got a massive thump. I got a couple of cranks on the fish and knew it was a good one. A few feet off the bottom, the fish wrapped itself in the kelp and I couldn’t move it. I clicked into free-­‐spool and gave the fish some time to consider its options. It wasn’t moving and I decided to just thumb my spool and horse the damn thing out! I felt the fish move through a couple of stringers and shake it’s head a few times so I just kept pulling on it. It got stuck one more time and I just kept winching on it until it swam out and kept it’s headdown.  I could tell it was a good fish but it wasn’t pulling that hard, it just kept its head down and swam out deep. I yelled for Randy to get the net and as it came around the starboard bow I got my first look at it – SLUG. Once the net and the fish hit the deck, we celebrated with a few screams and knew that we had the tournament in the tank!

We decided to head back toward the front of the island, take our time caring for our fish and leave ourselves with plenty of time to cruise back to the weigh-­‐in at a mellow trot.  We caught some more fish over the top of kelp in 70’ of water outside of Parson’s Rock, then set a long drift and ate some food and laughed about our morning and how it all went down: exactly as planned.

Back at the scales, our two estimated 7-­‐pound fish ended up both being above 8 pounds and our five fish limit weighed 31.12-­‐pounds. We were bumped from ‘big fish’ honors by just a fraction of an ounce on a re-­‐weigh that had the small crowd cheering!  It was a great dose of drama during an anxious moment as we watched numerous teams weigh in bags over 25-­‐pounds but not surpassing our weight. Eventually, a flawless 10.69-­‐pound fish was weighed and took ‘big fish’ honors and wrote another page into the S.W.B.A. history book as the single largest fish weighed in any tournament. No other teams weighed a bigger limit and we fulfilled our goal of stepping out of the shadows and fishing up to our potential.

 31.12lbs of heavy lifting. 

31.12lbs of heavy lifting. 

I know that neither Randy nor I set out to prove anything when we committed to fishing this tournament. My personal desire was simply to fish one of my favorite places on Earth, with one of my closest friends in my life and create some attention for my friends’ new business: Kicker Fishing.

Thanks to my supportive friends and family and amazing humans like Brad Vassar – I get to enjoy my greatest passion with people that I trust with my life. Kicker Fishing is a testament to friendship and a commitment to bringing new energy into the industry. I hope you find as much use for these products as I do – they’ll catch anything that swims if you let them. 

J.Reynolds OUT