Preface: Fishing at Cedros Island between May and November can best be descripted as the same as fishing off Southern California but on “steroids.” The techniques and methods for targeting Calico Bass, Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado are exactly the same. If anything the tackle requirements are less when fishing Cedros Island because most of the time the fishing is extremely good. That can be attributed to light fishing pressure, the massive abundance of bait in and around the island and the quantity of fish that simply call Cedros Island home. As you prepare your tackle you will find most of the items you will need you probably already have but there are a few exceptions:
- Calico Bass - A very successful techniques for targeting Calico Bass is fishing with “plastics” on leadheads. You probably already have plastics and leadheads but you might not have enough (more on this below). You might also not have the “weedless” style leadheads, these are a must because most of the time you are fishing in and around heavy kelp.
- White Sea Bass – Often on trips someone is fortunate to catch a quality WSB. They are all around the island but they are not easy to target. There are known locations where they can be found but just like fishing WSB locally but they rarely cooperate so few anglers invest a great deal of time. The ones that are caught are on plastics while fishing for Calico Bass, on iron when targeting either Calico Bass or Yellowtail or on mackerel when slow trolling for Yellowtail. As a result there are not any specific techniques or methods that will dramatically increase your WSB success.
- Targeting Wahoo late in the season - The last few years Wahoo have arrived in catchable numbers later in the season which has encouraged anglers to target and catch them. Most have been caught trolling using the same type of trolling lures used on the San Diego Long Range fleet. And yes, a wire leader is still a needed.
As for the Calico Bass, Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado……..your probably already have most of the “right stuff!”
Basic Rod / Reel Outfits (you can have a very successful trip with just three outfits!)
Primary Plastics Outfit: 7 1/2' or 8' Graphic or Graphic Composite Rod
Reel: Level Wind reel (Tranx 300 or 400), 50# or 65# solid spectra w/ 4' top shot Fluorocarbon (40#, 50# or 60#)
Targeting: Calico Bass, Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado
Uses: Casting: 1) Plastics, 2) Lures like SP Minnows or Lucky Craft and 3) Colt Snipers type of lures. Will also be used for catching bait using Mackerel Catchers.
Primary Surface Iron Outfit: 8', 9' or 10' rod, personal choice on Graphite, Graphite/Glass Composite or Glass
Reel: 20 Size conventional reel (Trinidad 20A), 40# mono, OR larger Level Wind (Tranx 500) filled with 80# spectra w/ 4' top shot of Fluorocarbon (40# or 50#). Both are equally effective, personal choice to fish mono or spectra.
Targeting: Yellowtail, Calico Bass, Yellowfin Tuna
Uses: Surface Iron jigs: Salas, Tady, Candy Bar, Caivo and JRI
Heavy Yo Yo / Fishing Mackerel / Trolling Diving Lures (Rapalla type): 6 1/2' or 7' rod rated 30# to 80# (sweet spot would be 50#), personal choice on Graphite, Graphite/Glass Composite or Glass
Reel: Typical Yo Yo conventional reel, 50# mono (FC not needed), there are many options: Trinidad 20A, Trinidad 20 (gold), Trinidad 40N, Penn Fathom 40N 2 speed and there are many more. A 2 speed is not needed but it makes fighting larger YT much easier.
Targeting: Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna and Wahoo
Uses: 1) Typical Yo Yo fishing, 2) slow trolling mackerel for YT and 3) trolling diving type lures
More specifics or expansion of the basic three rods and reels above (what one veteran Cedros angler takes)
- #1 Lighter Plastics - United Composites 80 FX with Tranx 300 HG (high speed) with 50# solid spectra w/ 4’ 50# FC top shot (important – filled with Spectra that casts well)
- #2 Heavy Plastics/Colt Snipper – Shimano Teramar TMC X711 HBRA with Tranx 400 HG (high speed) with 65# solid spectra w/ 50# FC top shot (important – filled with Spectra that casts well)
- #3 Surface Iron – Shimano Teramar TMC 100 XH with Shimano Trinidad 20 DC with 40# mono (prefer mono for surface iron fishing YT, straight Spectra is just too violent)
- #4 Yo Yo / Fishing Mackerel / Trolling Diving Lures (Rapala type) - Calstar 7470 H with a Penn Fathom 40N 2 speed with 75’ of 60# mono top shot (65# or 80# Spectra backing is optional)
- #5 Dedicated Mackerel Catcher - Sabiki rod that says ready all the time. This simplifies bait catching and only one is needed per panga. This way you are always ready to catch bait and because of the rod design the bait catcher will not tangle other gear. https://www.turners.com/promar/promar-sabiki-rod-8601
Jigs / Lead Heads / Other
- Mackerel Catchers: 2 or 3, size #6 or #8
- Sinkers: Torpedoes (couple of each): 2, 4, 6 and 8 oz. and Sliding (couple of each): ¾, 1, 1 1/2 and 2 oz.
- J Hooks for fishing Mackerel for Yellowtail: 6/0s, 7/0s and 9/0s, just a handful and there is no need for “designer” hooks
- Fluorocarbon: 3’ to 4’ top shots for plastic outfits and surface iron if fishing straight spectra, spools of 40#, 50# and 60#
- Leadheads: Weedless are best because at times you fish right in the kelp: 10 each of 1 oz., 1 ½ oz. and 2 oz. If you have a color choice pick red or brown and a few yellow
- Plastics: Selection of 5”, 6”, 7” and 9” in dark greens, dark reds, bright reds and “Christmas Tree” color. Some think it is best to hold off buying plastics until 30 days before the trip and buy based on trip reports from other anglers. Color of plastics does make a difference when fishing Calico Bass. Quantity: this is a tough one because it all depends on how the Calico Bass are biting and how much time you decide to spend fishing for them. A starting point is 5 dozen of assorted colors and sizes. If targeting Calico Bass is you main reason for going to Cedros Island then you could easily double the number. There are trips when anglers go through well over 100 plastics.
- Surface Iron Jigs: The most important thing about surface iron jigs is how the jig swims. Color is secondary. The definition of a good swimming surface iron is that in addition to the rhythmic side to side pattern of swimming the jigs also has a very radical wide kick to the outside. That radical wide kick happens after 3 or 4 rhythmic side to side patterns. It is that radical wide kick that drives Yellowtail nuts and usually induces the fish to bite. When the Yellowtail are biting wide-open then the standard rhythmic kicking jigs work but most of the time the jigs that “swims” as described will out fish the others 5 or more to 1. So how can you tell if you have a surface iron swims? You simply have to test them on the water to find the ones that do. Manufacturers / Models: Salas 7X/5X, Candy Bar, Tady 45, Caivo 4X/5X/6X and JRI 2/3/4. There are many more surface irons available and they too will work well. Colors: although secondary the most productive colors at Cedros Island has been Mint, Blue/White, Scrambled Egg and Bird S_ _ t. If you had to take only one color that color would be Mint. The same surface irons work well for Calico Bass and Yellowfin Tuna. One minor adjustment for Calico Bass is to include a few in orange and the “Wounded Solider” of dark green with a red on the back end. Quantity: 12 to 18 jigs is all you need
- Yo Yo Jigs: You simply cannot beat Salas 6X JR, easy to fish and they work. Any similar jig will also work. Traditional colors of Scrambled Egg and Blue/White. In addition the Shimano Flat Falls are also very effective for Yo Yo style Yellowtail fishing. Any of the mid-range sizes work and color does not seem to not matter. The standard hooks on the Flat Fall are fine. Quantity: 6 jigs Yo Yo jigs
- Colt Sniper type of jigs: All sizes work, replace the trebles with single assist hooks on the bottom. Quantity: 6 jigs (Calico Bass love Colt Snipers!)
- Trolling jigs – Rapala / X-Rap type lures: both smaller sizes and larger sizes, Bonita or Silver Blue Mackerel. Quantity: 1 or 2
- Wahoo: Later in the season (late September on) there could be Wahoo around. If you have Long Range Wahoo trolling lures they will work fine. If not then the Rapalla or X-Raps type lure will work but there must be 3’ of 275# wire leader. If you are lucky enough to find wahoo they also really like mackerel but you need a short 18” 40# wire leader with a J hook. Might be wise to have a couple in the tackle bag.
- Tackle Storage: It is recommended that you bring soft sided tackle bag with trays for lead heads, jigs, plastics and trolling lures. Hard sided (wood or plastic) can be very painful in a panga when your ankle makes contact.
- Optional but recommended: small spool of 40# mono to replace the line on the surface iron outfit.
- Other essentials: Finger tape, gloves, pliers, sun glasses, hat(s), sun screen, sun shirts, insect repellent and a light wind breaker jacket.
- Hot tip – bring a boat cushion to sit on. Otherwise you could will be sitting on the hard seat or a lumpy life preserver. Bring an old junky one and leave it there. They are available at West Marine for under $15.