Birds Diving and Bait Everywhere: A Crazy Day Surf Fishing

Vincent Alexander: Entrepreneur and Extremely Avid Fisherman

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Vincent Alexander, he typically fishes the surf using lures like swim baits and jerk baits primarily up near Santa Barbara. He fishes lots and he fishes hard. You can follow his stories and watch his videos by subscribing to his YouTube Channel at Vince Goes Fishing. He recently had a session that caught my eye and I reached out to see if he’d be willing to share it with everyone here.

A Story From Vince

Conditions looked amazing yesterday as I drove up the freeway. I saw pelicans bombing. It was calm, flat, and warm from the recent heat wave. I thought to myself, “the bite has to be hot!” and as I continued driving, each exit ramp I passed was tempting to take. I was just too tired to pull over and fish so I went home for some sleep and planned for a big day tomorrow.

My plan: Jam by 2 PM and be fishing by 2:30 PM. Before I could get going, a client called with an emergency so I was a little late out the door but no big deal there. Cody Wilgus messaged me a picture of a halibut he recently caught on the Battlestar 115 so I had a feeling it was gonna be a good day. When I finally found a parking spot I geared up as fast as I could and literally ran to the water. Unfortunately, all the adrenaline caused me to forget my GoPro so all shots were taken from my phone.

When I got to the water, boy was I happy with what I saw! Zero waves and it was warm out. I made my way to my first spot and immediately saw a guy reel in a short halibut on a jerk bait. He asked me if I had pliers so I went ahead and removed the hook for him, then got straight to casting.

My intention was to experiment with a swimbait, casting in shallow water and near the edge of rocks and kelp. I’d be fishing it with a slow retrieve, letting it sink down in search of the pockets with sandy bottoms. Shallower then I usually fish. Bait for the day was a super swimmer swimbait (baby bass) from Bruiser Baits with a 5/0 VMC drop dead hook. The tide was higher than I usually fish this beach, but I think that was good because the holes were covered nicely and holding fish.

Instant Action

Within the first five-minutes of casting I caught my first short halibut. I had casted my bait along the edge of a big boiler rock and dragged it really slowly right on the edge when I felt a tap. My the rod bent and I cranked that little fish in. Probably 16-inches. Back in the water immediately after a pic.

Soon after, I was greeted by Alex Stefanov. He hollered from behind me. He’d been diving earlier that day with a spear at high tide. He said he saw a 20-pound white seabass, a bunch of calico, tons of rock fish and lots of halibut. He said the place was loaded and I was probably gonna have a good day with my rod. Unfortunately he’d forgotten his rod so he decided to follow me along the beach, hang out and watch me fish which was really cool.

So I kept walking and casting and soon Alex and I were wading out onto rocks and clumps of eel grass, fishing the lanes between the kelp. That’s when things got interesting. Bait fish were fluttering on the surface and predators were busting them up. I casted directly on them as excitement overflowed within me. After each cast, I’d instantly regret that I didn’t cast further and drag my bait through the bait. The day went on and I kept casting between kelp beds, hoping to find patches of sand with hungry halibut waiting to gobble up my swimbait.

It’s Huge!

I waded way out on a rock and casted super deep between some kelp beds. I was slowly dragging my swim bait when I felt a tap and my rod bent over! It felt super heavy and was shaking its head like crazy. I thought it was a huge halibut so I made my way back to shore and kept my rod bent, cranking all the way. I couldn’t help myself. The whole fight back, I was shouting and screaming, “huge! monster! big fish!” At that point, people were stopping on the beach to watch the action and Alex was running down the beach to meet me. I dragged up a lunker grassy rockfish!

They really are heavy and fight hard so if you’re thinking halibut you’re going to be thinking that you’re on an absolute monster! I was super happy to catch this rock fish as they’re one of my favorite to eat, even more so than halibut. After a quick pic, I put it on my stringer and we waded back out for some more. That’s when things got even MORE interesting!

Frustration Settles In

“Tap!” I swung and missed. “Dang!” Then we saw a hali jump out of the water just 10-feet away from us. Of course, I casted over it a few times and tried to get it to bite but no luck. I casted straight ahead and got a bite but missed the hook set again! I casted to my right and got a bite but missed the hook set. “Dang!” I casted to my left and got another bite but again, missed the hookset! Wow!!! This swimbait is missing a lot of bites for some reason! Short bites?

At that point I knew I should have just tied on the Battlestar 115. If they were short biting they’ll get that back treble hook every time. But I was really committed to experimenting with a swimbait today. I wanted to slow down and get in all the nooks and crannies of the kelp, trying to drop down and find the sandy bottom in the holes. So I kept fishing it.

On one of my retrieves, just as I was getting ready to lift my bait out of the water when something tried to grab it! A huge splash of water right in front of me! Alex and I both lit up with excitement. He said, “get your bait right back out in front of you! See if he’ll bite it!” We tried and tried but no such luck. So I continued to cast along all the lines of kelp and dragged my bait very slowly along bottom. I finally got a bite and when I set the hook a small grassy rock fish came flying out of the water about 4-feet into the air, flipped around, popped off the hook and swam away. We both laughed.

Daylight Starts to Dwindle

At this point Alex was feeling cold so he decided to go home. It was really fun fishing with him at my side as he’d tell me where to cast while sharing some awesome experiences with me.

I then made my way up the beach to a couple spots I’d scouted out a little while ago. Same thing! I was getting bites but I just wasn’t getting good hook sets.

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous! There were shades of purple, pink, and orange, oh man! I figured my time was running out and I wanted to make every cast count. I was paying close attention to the tip of my rod as I launched my bait out into position. Between some boulders, to the left, to the right, dragging it ever-so slowly as precious seconds ticked away.

I thought to myself, “if I don’t catch a keeper today it’s going to be a total shame because this bite is crazy! I should really tie on the Battlestar!” But I stuck to my swimbait experiment.

Patients Pays Off

I made my way up to another spot and started casting along a wall of kelp. It surrounded me in a crescent shape. Nice deep protected water with a drop off at the waters edge. A submerged trough with rocks on the sand bar I’m sure. I was casting about 50-feet, to the edge of the kelp. I’d let my bait sink to bottom and then drag it across the sandy bottom. Once again, I got a tap but no hookset! I kept casting, and at the end of one of my retrieves, I felt a hard tap and hard head shakes! It was heavy and the fish was strong.

Finally! I muscled this one in from only about 10-feet in front of me. I knew it was a keeper the whole time because it was so heavy. As I landed my catch, I exclaimed, “Yes I finally got my keeper after all!” It looked to be about 25-inches. With the bite this hot, maybe I could land one more keeper before it got dark! Two keepers in one day… I’ve only done that once before. Let’s go for it! I worked the same spot for a while longer from every angle, but no more bites. So I gave up on the spot and made my way up the beach to another spot and started casting.

Keeper Number 2?

Wouldn’t you know, the bite was on fire! I got a tap about halfway through my retrieve and instantly, my rod bent! I felt how heavy the fish was and I knew it was going to be an absolute monster halibut! It wasn’t shaking it’s head very much and when it did they were some big head shakes! I thought to myself, “two keepers in one day this is unreal!” So I walked backwards trying to stay on my feet keeping my rod bent, cranking as necessary and just praying that I could drag this fish up onto the sand without losing it. It was so heavy! I couldn’t believe how heavy it was!

It had to be over 30-inches and might be a new personal best! I fought it to the wash and it didn’t shake its head. At times it felt just like dead weight. I had It in the wash and it started to flop ferociously, splashing like crazy. It stayed there for a while, but I just couldn’t budge it! I told myself to be patient and maintained a medium amount of pressure with my rod bent. A wave broke on the shore and as the fish washed up I kept my rod bent. Still, it was too heavy.

With only about 4-inches of water over the fish, the hook popped out and I saw the fish jump and splash. I ran as fast as I could and jumped behind the fish. It darted to the left, straight around me and swam back out to sea. “Dammit! I just lost a 30-inch halibut and possibly the biggest one I’ve ever hooked!” If I had a buddy there he might have been able to help me land it. But oh well. I told myself, “she’s still out there for me to catch in the future.”

Swimbait Struggles Continue

On the next cast I felt another small tap with lots of small head shakes but it didn’t stay on. On the next cast once again a small tap, lots of little head shakes but it didn’t stay on. I figured that big one was probably a female and now I was picking up all the little males sitting around her. Five cast later the same thing happened; a small tap with some quick head shakes and then no stick. Geeeeeze!

The sun had set, it was dark. I’d never stayed out this late for halibut, but when the bite is as hot as it was, you can’t just walk away, you keep fishing as long as possible!

I wasn’t that cold, so I just kept fishing through the dark. Usually I get spooked fishing on the beach by myself in the dark but not this time. I was way too focused on my next bite, trying to sense it by feel because I couldn’t see the tip of my rod anymore.

After about 30-minutes of no bites, I decided it was time to call it a day. I cut off my bait, reeled in my line, threw my fish over my shoulder, turned around and looked back at the beach. It was then that I realized it was pitch dark and I had about a mile long walk back to my car. But carrying that big heavy halibut and rockfish over my shoulder made that walk pure joy.

I seriously think if I had fished the Battlestar 115 today, I probably would’ve caught 10 or more fish. I couldn’t tell you how many fish I lost that might have been caught by the tail treble on the Battlestar. I’ll be back out there soon and I’m hoping for more conditions and bites like the ones I had in this session.

A Few Things

Vince is one of the few guys who has hooked into a tanker White Sea Bass from the surf and I’ve been following his videos as I try to get a grip on this different style of fishing. He’s had a few of his crazy sessions captured on video and they’re worth a look. Vince has also been kind enough to offer a discount to the readers of this website on his custom designed Battlestar 115. If you use promo code “SFSC”, you’ll get 2 dollars off your purchase and be on your way to rocking a new lure that’s put up some pretty nice results so far.

If you’re looking for a new rod and reel for surf fishing, check out my guide on some of the best options out there. Thanks for the awesome story from CSF, Vince. Tight lines out there.

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