Long Range Kayak Fishing aboard the Qualifier 105
By: Jim Sammons Owner La Jolla Kayak Fishing
Download a PDF version of this article

Have you ever been sitting on your kayak, off the coast of Southern California, and wondered how many fish you could of landed if you had a chance to fish the area a hundred years ago. The quantity and quality of the fishing must have been incredible. Add to that the ability to go after these fish in a kayak, getting into areas even the smallest boat could not; using today's fishing equipment, any angler would drool at the prospect.
I, along with Mark Olson of Ocean Kayak, had the chance to do exactly that, Ok we may not of actually been able to step back in time, but it sure felt like it. John Klein, owner and Brian Sims captain of the Qualifier 105, an impressive long-range sport fisher out of Point Loma, invited us to bring our kayaks along on one of their seven-day skiff trips to fish the Baja coast and offshore islands. They were interested in exploring the idea of adding kayaks to their already existing skiff trips, giving their clients another option while fishing the islands. Mark and I were to be their, very willing and happy, Guinea pigs.

Being an avid reader of most fishing magazines, I had certainly heard of and dreamed of fishing places like Cedros, Natividad, Benitos, and Chesters Rock, but honestly never thought it would be from my kayak, and here we were preparing to leave on a seven day trip to do just that. The trip that we joined was a Barry Brightenburg, Fishtrap lure sponsored expedition to target Calico Bass, Yellowtail, and other sport fish in these unspoiled areas.

Mark and I arrived at the landing early, rapt with anticipation of the upcoming adventure. Having never been on a trip of over a day and a half, we were both wondering how it would be living in close quarters with other fisherman for this many days and how we would mix our style of fishing with theirs. When we arrived at the landing, kayaks in tow, the looks we received from the other anglers on the trip were a mix of awe, curiosity and "look at these crazy S.O.B's. Mark and I have both been in the kayak fishing industry for many years and were used to these reactions. We just were anxious to introduce our fishing brethren to our style of fishing, not as a way to replace boat fishing but as another weapon in the arsenal to reach the same objective, which is getting to pull on fish and having fun.

The premise of the skiff trip is to give the anglers an opportunity to fish in areas that the big boat cannot reach, which is something that kayak anglers have appreciated for a long time. Though the skiff anglers are able to get in close, the kayaks, with the ability to glide right over the dense kelp, can get in even closer to areas where the fish have never seen a hook and Mark and I were eager to try it out in an area we had never been.

After a twenty-four hour run, we reached our first fishing destination, Isla San Benito, a group of three small islands off the Baja coast. Fishing around islands, using a mother ship has two huge benefits, you can always find a spot to fish out of the wind and you have a larger vessel to get you there or to board if conditions do get to rough. The first day of fishing wet our appetite for things to come. Within minutes of placing my first bait in the water, I landed a six pound calico, a few minutes later I tossed a live bait up into some boiler rocks and hooked a fish that proved to be to big to stop before he broke me off in the kelp. This was on twenty-pound test with my drag pegged. Over the next five days of fishing, this would happen many more times, even on much heavier gear. On this first day I fished mostly live bait with great success, but from the next day on, the fish were chewing plastics and iron with abandon, so that is what we stuck with. Thankfully, Barry was very generous with his supply of Fishtrap lures because we really went through them, and it would be hard to find a more productive lure while fishing the kelp and boiler rocks.

Each morning we would wake up at different location, not sure which of the many incredible spots we would target for the day. We would paddle into small coves that I am sure no one had paddled in before, and pull a dozen Calicos off one rock. The fish we caught on this trip were not the variety we would find off La Jolla, we were catching fish with an average weight of five pounds and many in the six to eight pound range, with my largest, which was the largest on the trip, going one ounce shy of nine pounds. We had many instances of pulling in a four-pounder only to have a six-pounder yank the lure out of the other fish's mouth, or fish chasing the plastic right out of the water as we were lifting it for the next cast only to crash into the side of the kayak. On one instance, I was retrieving my lure and could see a pack of Calicos following it, when out of the corner of my eye I saw in a flash, a large White Seabass swoop in and grab the plastic. Once again, I was wrapped in the very thick kelp and broken off before I could fully comprehend what had happened. On of our mornings was spent being entertained by a feeding frenzy of Calicos the like I had never seen. Imagine an area the size of a football field with Calico's five pounds and up crashing the surface and flying out of the water hitting anything you put in the water. We would toss out a plastic, get slammed, lose half the tail, toss it out again, lose the rest of the tail, toss out the bare head and still get hit. I have been lucky enough to fish in many locations and this trip was some of the best fishing I have ever experienced.

Suffering sever cases of bass thumb, which took several weeks to heal, while fishing at Cedros, we headed off the beach a short distance looking for some bigger prey, and they too were more than willing to cooperate. Within a period of little more than an hour, I landed five Yellowtail weighing up to twenty-eight pounds and Mark put a few on his kayak as well, all while trolling surface iron. We were seeing schools of breezing fish in the hundreds, and had the sun not begun to set I am sure we could of landed many more.

Before I discovered kayak fishing, I spent many days fishing the rail of the local 1/2 thru one and 1/2 day sport boats. I know how hard the captain and crew of these boats work, but that does not come close to what we saw from the crew of the Q105. The professionalism and the "what can I do to make your trip better" attitude of these guys was incredible. Even in the face of dealing with something new like a couple of kayakers and all of their gear, there was never a hesitation to help. If anything we would feel as if we were in the way as they would hardly let us lift, or do a thing to help. They were generally ready, with our gear in the water even before we were ready to go.

On these trips, you will fish hard, if not fishing from the kayak or skiff, you are on the big boat in search of more fish. Many yellows were landed from the big boat with the biggest of the trip going forty-nine pounds. With this type of fishing, you will build quite an appetite, which the boat's chef is happy to keep under control. This is certainly not your half-day sport boat fare of grilled burgers; you will be fed like a king, probably more than you should be. A typical days itinerary goes something like this, breakfast, fish, snack fish, lunch, fish, snack, fish, dinner, desert, sleep, get up and do it again. Even with paddling all day and skipping most of the snacks, I still managed to gain weight on the trip.

The ethic among the captain, crew and anglers on the trip was one of catch and release of all Calico bass, which made me happy, as I never keep them. This attitude should ensure a great fishery for years to come. I only wish the same would happen along our local coast so we could once again see fishing just like the old days.

If you plan to join one of these trips in the future here are a few lessons I learned that might help you.
• Fish Spectra: these fish were not line shy and were more than happy to pull you into the kelp, with the spectra you may just get them out of the weeds before they break you off. Many of the guys on the trip were fishing straight spectra with great success.
• Fish heavier line: these fish just seemed to pull harder than the local fish and you really need that extra pulling power when you are fishing Calicos and are hit by something much bigger.
• Use good gear: When we first got on the boat, I saw the racks were full of gold, mostly Shimano Trinidad's. When a fish is running towards the sharp rocks you will really appreciate the pulling power you will get from these reels.
• Bring many plastics and heads, you will go through them, super glue will help but still count on loosing a bunch.
• Do not forget the iron, just about everything out there will eat them. Mega baits work great for the deeper jigging and of course, the surface irons are a staple in any tackle box and the go to setup for the yellows on top.
• Bring your VHF radio to stay in contact with the big boat and the skiffs.
• Thumb tape will save you a lot of agony.
• Wear good paddling clothes, you may be south but the water is cold, good paddling clothing will make a huge difference in your comfort.
• Listen and learn from the crew and other passengers on the boat, even in a group this small you will find a wealth of knowledge.
• Tip the crew they deserve it.
For any fisherman these trips are incredible, for the Calico bass enthusiast this is the trip of a lifetime.

If you are interested in joining one of these incredible kayak fishing adventures aboard the Qualifier 105, contact Jim Sammons of La Jolla Kayak Fishing at (619) 461-7172 or Kayak4Fish.com, or call the Qualifier 105 office at (619) 223-2786