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Event Article: Rockfishing in Central California

Central California Rockfishing: Locations, Tackle, and tips on how to catch (continued)

 Tackle: Now that we have some background information on Central California Rockfish and where to locate them, it is time to gather your gear and head out on the ocean to catch them. There are many different types of tackle one can use to catch rockcod and each person might have their own preference as to what to use, but I'll do my best to cover every angle and also tell you what I like to use to catch these wonderful fish.


Charter boat rental rods and reels


Spinning gear: Spinning gear is and can be used for rockfishing but it isn't the ideal set up. It does have advantages especially if you're going to be tossing lighter lures such as plastic swimming grubs, but there are more disadvantages than advantages. A spinning reel is hard to work especially if you're jigging and the swells are big. You will have to constantly retrieve and release line to keep the lure at the bottom, and flipping the bail to release the line isn't efficient. Another disadvantage is when casting heavy irons. It is hard to finger the line for casting when you have a six to ten ounce lure at the end of the line than thumbing the spool on a round or baitcasting reel. As you can tell the disadvantages outweighs the advantages, thus from this on in the article we'll be talking about only casting gear.


Testing the Loomis Pro Blue spinning rod and the Van Staal spinning reel on bottom fish. JIP hooks into a huge lingcod here as you can see the rod double over


Rods: I'll begin by saying any rod can be used to catch these groundfish. The rod can be made of fiberglass, graphite, or a composite of the two. Saltwater rods along with freshwater rods can also be used, and I've even seen people playing with ultralight trout rods for suspended rockfish.


Here's the result of that fight in the last picture above. Though spinning reels can be used for rockfishing, it's not my ideal setup


So what's the ideal rockcod rod and why is having one type of rod better than the other? There are some characteristics that make a good rockfishing rod but it really depends on the fisherman, ocean condition, and at what depth.


Deep water vertical jigging requires a strong rod and reel combination to work 10 ounce diamond jigs


If you are hopping onto a charter boat and you don't have your own gear, most likely you'll end up with a rental rod from the tackle shop where you booked the trip. These rods will most likely be Shakespeare Ugly Stiks which are great rods for the price, they are durable, and they will do a decent job at landing both small rockcod to large Lingcod.


Zander casting a 6 ounce jigs with his favorite setup, a Laminglas G1303-T Back Bouncer rod with his Shimano Calcutta 300TE


Heavy rods such as the Ugly Stik are great for vertical jigging large diamond bars, especially when fishing for rockcod at the Farallon Islands or when the ocean conditions aren't that great with a fast drift and big swells. A heftier rod with a good tip will be able to handle larger lures better in these conditions. Although the Ugly Stik will get the job done it's not the best heavy rod out there. Today many rod companies are producing excellent vertical jigging sticks such as the Shimano Trevala, Daiwa Saltiga, and Okuma Cedros.


JIP lands a 20 pound Lingcod using an Abu Garcia Revo Inshore low profile baitcasting reel with the Power Handle


Now that we've talked about the heavy rods, and a must have if you're fishing deep waters with large lures, we come to shallow water rock fishing with light tackle, which is my favorite way to take these bottom fish. The rods mentioned above from Shimano, Daiwa, and Okuma, in those series they also make a lighter rod for tossing smaller jigs. But my preference is utilizing freshwater rods that meet certain specifications which I'll get into more later. To be more specific bass rods or back bouncing rods are ideal choices. Why these types of rods you ask. Freshwater bass fishing graphite rods are lighter in weight and I can vertical jig all day, but the main reason is sensitivity. If I'm bouncing the bottom I want to feel it all and that can only be achieved through a sensitive rod. Working the bottom and keeping the lure at strike zone will ensure more hook-ups.


The fight using light tackle is a lot more fun when fishing in shallow waters up to 100 feet


Not all freshwater rods meet the specifications of a good rockfishing stick. An ideal rod would be one that's between the lengths of seven to eight feet with a heavy power and a fast action tip. It would have to have a nice long handle so you can use it for leverage when fighting a big fish or when casting heavy lures. Also what's important is that all the guides should be double footed. I've blown through many bass rods with single footed guides near the tip because I whip the rod up and down aggressively when I'm snagged at the bottom, and when fishing the reefs or rocks, you're bound to snag a few times each trip. The double footed guides will ensure that the guide frames don't come out of place.


Zander employing the Shimano Butterfly jigging system and lands this huge Vermilion near Pigeon Point


So I gave you what the specifications are for my ideal light tackle rockcod rod would be, are there such rods out there that meet it? Prior to 2007 I've been using various rods from Loomis, Laminglas, AiRRUS, just to name a few. Today I think I've found the right sticks that'll make an excellent West Coast rockcod rods. These are the freshwater swimbait rods used for bass fishing. Some of them are the right length, action, power, and most of them have the double footed guides. Here's a few that I've used and enjoyed fishing with: St. Croix Tournament Bass Swimbait (LTBC79HF), Kistler Big Swim Bait Special Heavy (KBSBS80), and Okuma Guide Select (GS-C-7111MH). Other recommended rods that aren't swimbait rods but great for rockcod are the Laminglas G1303-T Back Bouncer, AiRRUS Spectra AFT, and G.Loomis Pro-Blue PBR844C.


Light tackle using low profile reels for rockcod is a lot of fun



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