BY BOB SEMERAU
VENTURA — The WON Rockfish Rumble came off late this year due to the current health crisis, but the two-boat battle became a massacre of sorts when one of the boats found a nest of larger-model lingcod, leaving the competing boat flat on the mat.
The new owner-operator of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing, legendary sportboat captain Tucker McCombs, arranged for two boats to be online for the battle.
Pacific Eagle and Island Spirit loaded up anglers and both boats left the dock on schedule at 5:00 a.m. Rather than run out to the islands, the two boats had similar strategies of fishing the deep-water channel between Santa Cruz Island and the mainland, with dramatically differing results.
Smooth waters made the ride out, and the fishing during the entire day, about as flat calm as it ever gets in the channel off the lower reaches of the Gold Coast.
First drifts aboard Island Spirit, the 65-foot sportfisher with longest residence at the landing, brought some decent reds and chucklehead to the anglers. But the size was not something worthy of a winning fish. More drifts brought more of the same and not a single lingcod to the boat.
Despite the best efforts of Captain Cody Rogers, and fishing some of Captain Cody’s special deep-water holes at up to 400 feet, the lack of ling was the overall condition for anglers fishing aboard Island Spirit.
WON charter regulars Bruce Jochums and Mark Ginchereau came out but found only rockfish of nominal size. The father-son team of Joey and Joe Simmons did find ways to bag fish, but neither could have been a contender.
“Captain Mings found some holes at 360 feet to nearly 400 feet, that gave up sizable bocaccio and rockfish, but no ling in the first hours,” reported WON associate, Ted Reed, from the decks of the 55-foot Pacific Eagle.
That all changed around 11:00 a.m. when lingcod began to bite for the anglers on Pacific Eagle.
“The ling never really got with it, but those that did bite were of some size, in the 10- to 15-pound range,” explained Cpt. Mings when the contest ended. The boat finished the day with 8 lingcod and near-limits of rockfish.
Despite the fight being a one-sided event, everybody came away a winner with Frogg Toggs dry bags holding P-Line Lazer Minnow jigs and a spool of Hi-Seas 30-pound super premium fluorocarbon leader material for all, provided by Western Outdoor News event sponsors.
Due to the delayed date of the WON-Ventura Harbor Sportfishing 2020 Rockfish Rumble a slight rule change allowed all finfish (except rays and sharks) to be eligible in the competition. The change meant anglers could bring yellowtail, halibut, and even white seabass to the scales, should they turn up.
Another reason to fight the good fight was the prize money and valuable swag for top fish. The second heaviest fish on each boat received a beautiful SKB Tak-Pak Tackle Bag while top fish for each boat were given a gift bag from Maui Jim sunglasses filled with a gift card and accessories.
Throughout the day both boats made moves, but Pacific Eagle held the line by making passes over the same spot repeatedly, according to WON associate Reed. As anglers aboard Pacific Eagle stood their ground, those fishing the decks of Island Spirit danced around “the ring”, moving from spot to spot in search of biters.
Early-on in the fight, it was up for anyone to win. Aboard Island Spirit, several anglers found doubles on reds and Ventura Harbor Sportfishing regular Primo Flores seemed to always be hooked up. Angler Bob Williams found a willing sole that made its way to the scales as one of the top three contenders for the boat. Williams took home an SKB Tak-Pak Tackle Bag for boating the fish during the competition. The largest fish taken while working the decks of Island Spirit earned a Maui Jim gift package worth over $250.
Fishing remained spotty for both boats through the morning hours, but Pacific Eagle found the right combination to deliver a knockout punch with several lingcod coming to hand.
Los Angeles angler Luther Tyrell and son, Tyrone, fished together throughout the battle and managed a ling and more, but all their fish were just out of contention.
Working the ropes during the morning hours Pacific Eagle anglers found a good combination using double dropper loops, 16-ounce torpedo sinkers, and squid strips. More exotic rigs and jigs did not seem to deliver the right punch.
Angler Glen Nakatani landed the first devastating blow by bagging ling number one. Not to be outdone, Luis Tejeda showed he had some moves by next landing the heaviest fish of the contest. Tejeda’s lingcod weighed-in at 15.2 pounds and gave the angler a Maui Jim gift pack with certificate for a pair of Maui Jim Sunglasses and assorted accessories, as well as $ 220 in contest first place prize money.
Shortly after, angler Charles Perry brought aboard a lingcod of his own that held second spot most of the rest of the day. Perry’s 13.4-pound buckethead was only marginally aced-out late in the day by a fish taken by Jon Stephenson.
Stephenson’s ling at 13.6 pounds edged its way into second, giving the angler a SKB Takpak Tackle Bag and prize money of $130. Charles Perry took home third place money at $80 for his lingcod.
With a two-hour ride back to the docks at Ventura Harbor Sportfishing, anglers aboard both boats hung up their gloves just past 2:00 p.m. and the sportfishers headed for home.
Scales at the landing showed the real numbers and Pacific Eagle clearly had delivered a knockout win on this year’s WON-Ventura Sportfishing Rockfish Rumble.
To book a trip out of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing, visit VenturaSportfishing.com or dial (805) 676-3474.