BY MIKE STEVENS
LONG BEACH – As I close in on a half-dozen trips aboard the Options out of Pierpoint Landing, I’ve yet to experience the same brand of fishing that I had on a prior outing aboard the 50-foot six-pack vessel. Our group has fished several of the Channel Islands, along the California coast and in offshore open waters as Captain Wes Flesch and the crew of the Options seek out the best bites available and formulate a game plan with plenty of room to adjust on the fly as needed.
This is usually the point in the story at which I make a witty comment about how the Options is a perfect name for such an outfit, but at this point, I’d be beating a dead horse. So I’ll just assume that point has been drilled in by now.
If memory serves, the first WON outing on the Options (since my arrival anyway) hit the islands for big halibut and yellowtail. On that one, I hit my personal best for halibut only to crush it an hour later. Then it was offshore for yellowfin tuna (where I set another PB), and of course there was last year’s epic island halibut trip that featured double and triple hookups and near-limits for all six anglers. That trip had several first-legals (and they were very legal) halibut for several anglers and personal-best flatties for everyone on the boat, and they were all veteran anglers. Check out the details on that one at WONews.com by searching “stalk Options.”
This year’s trip was going to be another coastal mission due to windy conditions offshore, and the game plan was to track down white seabass hanging around squid nests along with halibut. Captain Flesch and company worked hard through the night to track down the squid, but they were elusive this time around. Still, the Options settled into coastal seabass waters and the anglers were on the hunt at grey light. While seabass and halibut are among the specialties on the Options’ list of primary targets, both had lockjaw this time around, but they remained a possibility on each stop.
On that list of WON trips aboard the Options, this one would emerge as a multi-species beatdown with more hookups and fish boated than any of the others with the bare minimum of bycatch or small fish, and everyone aboard had a great time swinging away at Plan B.
Nick Kelly of West Coast Marine took the gold in the grey light session with a pair of hefty calico bass, and WON Sales Director Brad Wilson hauled up a solid lingcod soon after. I got the skunk off early with a couple legal calicos and several shorts. Aaron Garcia representing Pure Fishing got on the board with a swell shark of all things, and that was a great early indicator of the mixed-bag fiesta this trip was going to turn into. It wasn’t long until Mikol Boland, Fishing Buyer at Big 5 Sporting Goods and a regular on this annual Options trip was also on the board.
The Options made a short move to the south for some halibut drifts with no love (other than a wild ride I got to take on what I thought was my first legal white seabass that ended up being a big black seabass that thankfully shook the hook just below the surface) before making a big run to the south end of Santa Monica Bay where the fish tally really took flight, and Flesch hit the nail on the head with what tends to happen at that particular spot.
“There are a lot of perch here that will pick at your baits until bigger bass come in to see what’s going on and take over,” he said.
And that’s exactly what happened.
We spent a good half hour feeling the pecks and swinging and missing before a couple short calicos showed up followed by larger models, and it was one after another over the rail to the point where everyone’s “best five” of the day would result in a solid finish in a saltwater bass tournament. Most of the damage was done on live or fresh-dead squid on a leadhead, but there were some sardine-and-slider fish bagged and Boland put on an afternoon show with a Krocodile-and-squid combo. A handful of big sand bass were also in the mix.
With a hard deadline looming and time running out (the Options was doing a turnaround 2-day trip that night), we left them biting as Flesch wanted to give us a couple more shots at seabass and halibut, but it wasn’t happening that day.
Rounding out the mixed bag assault on the Options was a sheephead, a half-dozen or so whitefish were also in the fish box along with a bunch of bass ensuring tacos for all players. It’s also worth noting that all fish were caught on 30-pound-gear and heavier, which is another signature trait of the Options as Flesch always has his party where there’s at least a shot at a tanker seabass or monster flattie, and when it happens, he wants it in the boat as quickly as possible.
“I’ve yet to see a fish get line shy with live squid,” he said.
So, WON will be adding “multi-species shootout highlighted by a big-bass-beatdown” to the list of diverse adventures on this annual trip. There were, of course, some constants that are guaranteed to be a part of every trip on the Options, and that is no shortage of laughter (Flesch is the one-liner king of the Pacific), invaluable lessons on tactics, gear and rigging, and next-level comfort in a six-pack boat that feels and fishes like a much larger platform.
Stay tuned to see what we get into next year, and check out all they have to offer at OptionsFishing.com.