BY BOB SEMERAU
MORRO BAY — The third iteration of the WON two-boat competition with Patriot Sportfishing at Morro Bay Landing had the anglers of the 62-foot sportfisher Avenger pitted against the anglers aboard the 55-foot Starfire.
As John Fox, office manager for the landing, and WON associate Ted Reed got anglers signed in at the newly completed location dockside at Morro Bay Landing, each competitor received a waterproof bag from Frogg Toggs holding a spool of HI-SEAS fluorocarbon and a P-line Lazer Minnow jig. A prize pool of $450 was up for grabs and the 45 anglers would be fishing hard to win their share of the prize money.
Starfire’s 20 anglers boarded early, and Captain John Schumann moved the boat away from the dock quickly. Once all 25 anglers were aboard Avenger, Captain Ryan French pulled the lines and headed out, just a few minutes behind Starfire.
Both captains received a certificate for a pair of Maui Jim Sunglasses from trip sponsor Maui Jim and Western Outdoor News. As the boats moved out anglers went to work loading reels using the spools of Daiwa J-braid and ProSpec Chrome monofilament from Berkley provided by the trip sponsors.
Calm seas and overcast skies met the boats as they rounded the volcanic plug that is the iconic Morro Rock, and headed northward along the coast.
“We will run about three hours, up to the lighthouse, and try a few spots about 250 feet deep,” came the call from the wheelhouse of Avenger. Starfire moved farther north and fished a few miles above the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse for most of the run.
The first drop of the day made for some action aboard Avenger as anglers used squid strips on dropper loop rigs, whole mackerel on trap rigs, and every manner of jig. Gorgonio Perez of Lamont fished the bow of Avenger and broke the ice by landing a large red for the first fish of the trip.
Drifts in the area proved fruitful as Captain French moved the boat time and time again for quick bites of reds, rockfish, and a few ling. Sam Sarasom of Bakersfield, was clearly the hot stick of the day for the boat, getting fish on almost every drift, limiting out by days end. Deckhand and galley cook Bailey Kelley was always on hand with a gaff or to unsnarl tangles throughout the day.
Lori and Brett Blaydes of Springville have been dedicating themselves to learning the art of angling for a while now, and both anglers found plenty of action aboard Avenger. Brett used a variety of methods learned both through recent experience and studying skills online. The student of the angling arts managed a number of rockfish and a ling weighing 9.48 pounds for a second-place overall finish and prize money totaling $135.
Brett’s Uncle, Bobbie Blaydes, came along for the contest, bringing a few friends with him for the trip. Uncle Bobbie, 77-years-young and from Clovis, demonstrated the skills learned over years of fishing the central coast. The seasoned angler made the most of the trip, boating his share of rockfish and a nice 9.35-pound ling to take third place overall in the competition, netting Uncle Bobbie $90 in cash.
The Starfire was further up the coast where reds and rockfish were taking baits and jigs for anglers in the contest. Working the deck of Starfire, deckhands Dustin Miles and Charlie Clark kept the lines clear and fish coming over the rail.
WON associate Ted Reed reported that Mat Teske, who traveled down from Sparks, Nevada for the event, landed one of the two legal ling for the day aboard Starfire. Teske was fishing a squid-tipped jig up toward the bow when he boated the first ling of the day. Another nice ling was landed by Fresno angler Darrel Nickel while fishing the 250 feet of water north of the lighthouse.
Fernando Sanchez managed to fool a bigger model bocaccio which weighed in at 8.8-pounds, giving the angler top honors for the Starfire and a Maui Jim gift pack worth almost $300.
Capt. Schumann’s anglers ended up with limits of rockfish despite the tough conditions.
Avenger worked along the okay-to-fish side of the MPA and offshore restriction lines for most of the fishing day.
Angler Roy Ituralde, a local from Paso Robles, fished the bow all day and had not connected with anything of note until late. With less than a half-hour left in the fishing time for the boat, Ituralde found a willing biter in deep water. The fish fought long and hard as the experienced angler worked the buckethead to the surface and a quick gaff by Avenger deckhand, Ryan Bower.
“That is the biggest ling we have seen this year,” remarked Capt. French when the huge ling hit the deck. At weigh-in the scales showed the fish to be 24.01-pounds to give Ituralde both top fish for boat and top overall heaviest fish for the contest. Prize money totaling $225 and a Maui Jim gift back worth nearly $300 was awarded Ituralde at the contest prize ceremonies.
For more information or to book a trip with Morro Bay Landing, visit morrobaylanding.com or call (805) 771-5500.