Wide Open Calico Bass Fishing

Calico bass are on a tear off the coast of Southern California

June 18, 2012
Calico bass are on a tear off the coast of Southern California right now, with wide-open fishing on the reefs, wrecks and kelp beds that dot the coast and offshore offshore islands. Fishing is even better than usual this time of year, thanks to abundance of live squid, the so-called candy bait. As these pictures from Pacific Coast Editor Jim Hendricks illustrate, anglers are enjoying hot action on fish ranging from two to six pounds. Jim Hendricks
Calico bass go by a number of names, including kelp bass and checker boards, owing to the unique pattern on its flanks. Jim Hendricks
Mark Wisch shows off a beautiful bull bass – the name locals give big, brawny calicos. During the summer, these fish often feed high in the water column, giving rise to the term surface bite. Jim Hendricks
Calico bass are extraordinarily strong for their size and often escape capture by dogging their way into the kelp, rocks or wreck. Most anglers use 15- to 25-pound test monofilament line. Jim Hendricks
As coastal waters warm, calico bass develop a distinctive orange-gold hue on their gill plates, and indication that the fish are in spawning mode, as well as a signal to anglers that they should practice catch and release, especially with the bigger calicos. Jim Hendricks
Grant Hendricks prepares to release a calico bass. You can lip the smaller calicos, the bigger ones have larger teeth and can tear up your thumb if you’re not careful. Jim Hendricks
Mark Wisch sets the hook on big calico. Most anglers fish with saltwater conventional or baitcasting gear, using relatively tight drags to keep bass from running back into structure or kelp after they are hooked. Jim Hendricks
Live market squid is excellent bait for calico bass. When the fish are active, you can use a small egg sinker, as many bite near the surface. Hook sizes range from 3/0 to 5/0, and most anglers pin the squid through the tail. Jim Hendricks
Mark Wisch shows off a bragging size calico bass caught off the coast of Southern California. This one was released right after the photograph was taken. Jim Hendricks
Grant Hendricks caught this, one of his biggest calico bass ever, just last week. Jim Hendricks
Despite that fact that it is summer in Southern California, the mornings can be overcast and chilly. But that does not seem to bother calico bass, which often bite better when there is cloud cover. Water temperatures near the coast are around 65 degrees F. Jim Hendricks
You might catch anything will fishing for calico bass, including fish like this cabezon, which dwell around rocks, wrecks and kelp. Jim Hendricks
In many ways, calico bass behave and resemble freshwater largemouth black bass, and many of the same lures used for largemouths – such as crankbaits, soft plastics and spinnerbaits – work well for calicos. Jim Hendricks

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