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September 28, 2009

West Coast Striped Marlin

Migrating marlin challenge SoCal anglers

A Different Day on the Ocean
The forecasted rain and wind for day two failed to show, at least early in the day. We made bait and started trolling at 8:15 a.m. under sunny skies and wallowing swells off Catalina. The sea came alive.

A pod of Risso's dolphin surfaced ahead of us. Badsey commented that where anglers see Risso's, they often see swordfish. For a moment, he seemed tempted to go fish the school; however, reconnaissance reports from the previous night said marlin may be chasing saury schools near our day-one location. Badsey stayed put, trolling first up swell and then turning to troll down swell to keep the lures running true.

 The thermometer read 67.4 degrees. Voices crackled on the VHF. Badsey spotted three feeders on a ball of sauries. Bretza and Hendricks quickly hooked mackerel through the nares and prepared to pitch them to the  marlin as Badsey maneuvered the boat.
A stripe picked up Bretza's bait, and after dropping back, Bretza came tight. The fish peeled off line, rocking him against the coaming pads. It shot into the air, twisting and writhing violently. "In colder water, the fish are stronger," Badsey chimed as Bretza worked the 100-plus-pound fish astern.

As the fish finally came boat-side, Badsey billed it and removed the circle hook from the corner of its mouth. The fish quickly revived and swam away. By the clock, the hookup occurred about an hour after the slack high.

With expectations high for more hookups, the crew deployed lines as Badsey scanned for more signs of fish. But the weather front expected earlier in the day began to descend, and clouds with intermittent rain moved in from offshore. We trolled and waited.

Fun Finale
At about 3 p.m., the lull was jarred by an explosion on the short flat line - the 8-inch Pakula Mosquito. Closest to the rod, Hawthorne hauled it out of the holder while the rest of the crew hustled him a rod belt and began clearing longer lines, all the while looking for more feeders. Though a veteran SoCal angler, Hawthorne had never caught a striped marlin. His excitement was contagious.

Even against the 50-pound-class Titus, the fish took line. It jumped in the distance as Hawthorne howled and held pressure on the seemingly rabid marlin.

Methodically, Hawthorne brought the fish closer, and when it swam boat-side, we could see the line had wrapped three times around its bottom jaw. Badsey and Hendricks calmed the fish, unwrapped the line and removed the hook.

Though our release count tallied just two, and reports from a week earlier had suggested a double-digit release day might have been possible, Badsey remained buoyed by the success and by Hawthorne's first release. "That's still a good day of Southern California marlin fishing," he said.


Souped-Up Sabikis
While store-bought or home-rigged sabikis work fine for most bait-catching applications, tournament billfisherman Capt. Chris Badsey believes he gains a competitive edge rigging his own sabikis with Owner hooks and 30-pound fluorocarbon, terminated with an 8-ounce torpedo sinker.

More Lines In?
While we ran four lines and two teasers during my October striped marlin trip, some captains - like tournament pro Chris Badsey - choose to deploy more baits, particularly during    competition. "I am always criticized that I run too many lines for too few anglers on board, but we always get bit," Badsey says. "My theory is that if everyone else is trolling four lines, same bait, same area, what makes it inviting for a marlin to come into your spread pattern  versus the other boats' in the area?"

Badsey trolls as many lines as possible, trying to simulate a baitball. His typical spread depends on the conditions and crew but generally includes a short corner; a long corner; two lines off the short rigger with a teaser (squid daisy chain); two off the long rigger with a teaser; and a flat line in the center alongside a teaser, followed by a shotgun line way back down the center.