BY BOB SEMERAU
VENTURA — A 21-pound halibut took top honors at the return of the Channel Islands Shootout, WON’s original combined jackpot sportboat vs. sportboat competition.
The nearly $500 in prize money and valuable gift packs given out to participants helped smooth out the hiccup of losing one boat for the 2020 WON Channel Islands Shootout due to a late-arising electrical problem.
Island Spirit and Endeavor carried on, making a smooth run to Santa Cruz Island under overcast skies. The two-hour-plus ride allowed anglers an opportunity to explore the swag given out at check-in back at Ventura Harbor Sportfishing.
Each participant received a dry bag backpack from Frogg Toggs holding a spool of 30-pound fluorocarbon from Hi Seas, packs of VMC hooks, and a Laser Minnow jig from P-line. Maui Jim sent along a certificate for a pair of Sunglasses for the Captains of each boat participating and Berkley showed up with a 4,400-yard spool of 30-pound Pro-Spec Chrome monofilament for each.
Arriving at a spot nearshore alongside Santa Cruz Island and east of China Cove, Captain Cody Rogers set up the first drift of the day for Island Spirit.
Anglers lined the rail of the 70-foot sportboat, built in 1956, awaiting the first fish of the day. After a while, a second drift was set up. And a third, when at 9:30 a.m. angler Larry Moore connected with a legal halibut to get the day started.
After a short 10-minute pause in the action, Terry Flynn boated a bruiser halibut that would later prove to be a contender for top money and first place prizes.
Off to the west along the shores of Santa Cruz Island, Endeavor’s skipper and owner/operator of the landing, Captain Tucker McCombs, began setting up drifts. Early on, angler Don Merrill bagged a legal halibut, followed by a barracuda taken by Joseph Jones. Capt. McCombs decided to move Endeavor around to the outside shores of the island at about the same time as Island Spirit made a similar move to a fishy spot known as Yellow Banks.
At times it seems some anglers are simply going to get bit while others tend to be snake bit. Bruce Jochums, of Camarillo, seemed to always be on fish, with halibut and barracuda coming over the rail for him throughout the day.
“For our boat, Endeavor, Jochums was the hot-stick,” reported WON associate Ted Reed. The angler had both contending halibut and barracuda and stood to win some serious prizes for his catch. Salvador Martinez and others bagged ‘cuda while Jon Stephenson fooled a large-scale calico bass.
Back aboard Island Spirit anglers found easy pickings on plenty of barracuda but few other species to be found.
“That is my biggest calico ever,” smiled Michelle Conklin while boating the big bass. Several other anglers found willing biters of the calico kind, but slimer ’cuda made up the bulk of the afternoon’s catch aboard Island Spirit.
Pedro Pino fishes the WON charters regularly and was aboard Island Spirit for the Channel Islands Shootout. Pino managed several larger model barracuda and landed one that gave him third place overall in the competition, after some adjustment to the awards was completed. The cuda weighed-in at just over 7 pounds giving the angler a beautiful SKB Tak Pack tackle bag for having the second biggest fish for the boat.
Bill Schroeder, Sr., picked up a Daiwa Deckhand Kit with a pro-model set of cutters and longnose pliers for his 5-pound barracuda.
With a long ride home ahead for the two boats, the call for lines up one last time came at about 3:00 p.m. Windy conditions crossing the channel made for a slow ride back to the docks at Ventura Harbor Sportfishing.
Anglers unloaded gear and the scale was set up with Island Spirit deckhand Joseph Wilson acting as weigh master.
Six fish came to the scales with both Island Spirit and Endeavor represented in the final tally.
“We had a tough day with none of the gamefish action we have seen in recent days,” said owner/operator Captain Tucker McCombs.
Despite the lack of yellowtail and white seabass activity anglers found several quality fish to weigh-in. The three fish from Endeavor’s anglers included Bruce Jochums’ 11.41-pound halibut, earning the angler a gift bag from Maui Jim sunglasses filled with a gift card and accessories for having the boat’s largest fish of the contest.
Early in the competition angler Terry Flynn had bagged his big 21-pound halibut, that took the Island Spirit big fish prize of the Maui Jim Sunglass package, and went on to win overall first place prize money of $225 for the seasoned fisherman.
Another contender in the mix was Jochums’ halibut weighing in at 11.41-pounds to take second place overall giving the angler $135 in prize money.
After an astute couple of anglers pointed out an error in the judging, the awards were adjusted, allowing a third-place overall win for Pedro Pino and a cash prize of $90 was given the angler for his 7.07-pound barracuda.
Despite few of the larger-sized fish being caught, with the help of some hungry barracuda, plenty of fish kept the anglers bust throughout the perfect day at the islands.
Finding fish is never a given in any outing on the water, but fishing in the WON Channel Islands Shootout always means lots of prizes for the winners and free gear for all competitors.
For more information on trips offered out of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing, visit VenturaSportfishing.com or dial (805) 676-3474.