I’m a die-hard East Coast angler who usually targets species like striped bass, flounder, Yellowfin tunas, and mahi-mahi. But recently I had to head out west for a work gig (yes, they do make us work here around boats.com), and found myself fishing for calico bass (yes, working for boats.com does have its advantages). We were on a Skeeter ZX22—the review will be coming soon—casting swim-baits around kelp beds, under the direction of Captain Ben Florentino. Florentino is a noted calico bass sharpie, and also on board were Californians Ron Ballanti of Strike Zone Communications, and Harry Carpenter of Fishalerts.

calico bass

Can a Maryland guy score on California calico bass? You bet.

Now, you might think that the pair of West-Coasters who had fished for calico bass many times before would have put this Marylander to shame. You might think their experience would have given them an unfair advantage. You might think the jet lag, change of climate, and completely unfamiliar style of fishing would have me on the defensive. Nah—I kicked some Californian fish-butt, out-catching both of those guys and almost catching more calicos than the two of ‘em put together. And luck had NOTHING to do with it. I got by purely on skill and my Zen-like casting concentration. Those guys did, however, teach me a few things about catching calico bass. Here’s what I learned:

1. When you snag kelp, point your rod straight at the snag and hold the spool. Steady pressure will rip the hook free.

2. When you snag rocks, allow some slack in the line and then snap your tip up and down repeatedly. Often, this will pop your jig head free.

3. When you have a bite next to a particular sprig of kelp, pitch your bait right back to it. Often the bass are in the exact same spot and will strike the same lure time and time again.

Wait a sec – all of these are good tips, but they don’t relate to the actual catching of fish, now do they? Nope—they have more to do with snags, snarls, and snafus. Like I said, this is what those California guys taught me. Now, here’s what I taught them: always carry a small file or sharpening stone, and when no one’s looking, grind down the points of everyone else’s hooks.