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Excel/Gallagher 8 day strikes Gold

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#1 fishordie

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Posted 07 September 2015 - 05:42 PM

Good morning all,

Writing in from the Excel on day 5 of our 8 day Gallagher charter.  Our trip is billed as a Rocks or Bust trip and Capt. Justin put us in a position to do just that.  With a pressure system heading towards or sitting on the Rock pile making the choice somewhat difficult, Capt. Justin had us sitting off Cedros and on the Ridge catching great quality Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna and of course those pesky Skippys.  We had a few other catches as well including a beautiful Grouper by Arelia...Oh, by the way, she is 10 and already has several Wahoo under her belt as I type this.  The same applies to her brother Thomas.  Both came with Grandpaaaa (My buddy and charter master Pat) and are well on their way to becoming fine fishing folks.  We really do need more young folks coming into the industry even if parents and grandparents have to spend more time with them teaching them how to fish.
Back to the fishing:  The hot ticket at Cedros for Yellowtail was, once again, the JRI jigs.  The 6 and 66, beat the pants off of the tried and true Salas 6X and 6X JR.  No doubt in my mind this is due to the extra weight, in a compact size body, that Jerry had brought to the table with his jigs along with a drop and swim pattern that seems to have hit the proverbial nail on the head..  Whenever there is a strong or medium current or wind pushing the boat quickly while on a drift, these JRI jigs seem to get the job better than anything else I have in my box.   Those who have these little gems seemed to get the most fish.  All the bow boys who are now regulars on our trips are sold on these jigs and rightfully so.
The next day found us on the Ridge chasing a variety of fish.  Wahoo, Yellowfin and more yellowtail were on the menu.  We had massive schools of Tuna up to around 40 with one fish, caught by Justin, which might go a bit bigger.  The Wahoo were a great grade of fish with fish being caught on both wired bait leaders, Raiders and Bombs...... More on the bombs later.  I let others use my Black Hole rods, both Challenger and Cape Cod popping series and the overwhelming response is fantastic.  These rods easily fish their full ratings and will not be overpowered even when the angler needs to up the pressure of finish off the fish or pull their fish away from the sharks.  I will write more in a response to my previous post regarding these amazing rods.
More importantly, at least for me, the bow was clear as the majority of the folks were fishing along the back half of the boat.  This meant I was free to fish my 14 Wt. Fly-Rod along with some flies I had just picked up from Southern California Fly Fishing in Point Loma.  It was Awesome.  I was free to cast in about 8 knots or less of wind which was perfect.  Able Super 13 reel, G-Loomis Cross Current Rod and a 600 grain sinking Leviathan fly line.  In truth, a 400 grain line might have been more appropriate for the drift conditions but I did manage to land 7 mixed brand of fish (Both Yellowfin and Skipjack) while casting most all the length of my flyline and stripping in.  I even had a chance to sight fish to a Dorado in open water but could not get him to eat my junk.  I used this rig for about 1.5 hours hoping to get a Wahoo... I have yet to hook or land a Skin on my fly gear... but if I do not try I never will succeed.   Very, Very fun.
Capt. Justin and the crew had been diligently watching the weather reports from the Rocks.  At some point the pressure system moved far enough away from the Stones where we could begin our journey to the Mecca of 8 day, Southern California, long range fishing.  The drive would find us waking up with only a few hours to go to get to those 3 beautiful stones sticking out of the water.  To this angler there are few other destinations which can rival the majestic beauty, illicit the memories of great trips past and bring back images of Zane Gray back in the day.  To those who have not been fortunate enough to experience the Rocks, PUT IT ON THE BUCKET LIST.....
This is the Excel/Gallagher "Rocks or Bust" trip.  I believe this charter is in it's 16th year and what a crowd, what a group and what a crew.  What-ever the opposite of Bust is that is what we have been experiencing here at the Stones.  WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is where old Wahoo fishermen die and go to heaven.  For you Mexico guys, you might be startled to find out the Stripped Marlin are nothing but pests out here and travel in packs..... or should I say herds.  We have had to run away from them, with no jigs in the water, way too often.  
Captain Justin has once again given the fortunate passengers of this charter the rare opportunity to catch multiple Wahoo.  Everyone has at least one and most have 4 or 5.... or more.  Everyone on the boat has probably lost 3 or 4 times that many fish.  Somehow the crew has managed to keep the massive tangles, cut offs, and chaos to a minimum and everyone of us are experiencing world class Wahoo fishing.... Excel style.  I am sure The Skipper will or already has posted our results from yesterday but today is another great day of Wahoo fishing.  Incredible.
No doubt the sharks are getting their due.  However, in a rare display of pure unadulterated cannibalism we had a shark eat a Wahoo and then another shark eat that shark.  Oh well, two heads are better than one.... Hopefully Pictures to follow.    
So what has worked so far.  Since, like a knucklehead I left my beloved and well earned, ballyhooed JRI, Intruder style trolling jig at home, I can only describe what took its place... Until my next trip.   Two standout trolling jigs are the Mid size purple and orange flamed Yozuri owned by Steve and the mid sized, Dorado Pattern, Braid Marauder owned by Pat.  These both were graciously lent to numerous others on the boat who used them in multiple locations along the transom with similar great results.  Mid size, for this trip at least, was the right way to go.  
Bait fishing with wire was fairly respectable at the Ridge and almost rivaled the bombs but not as great here at the Rocks.  This charter has seen more and more folks switching to artificial lures and maaaan did they pay off.  I have been touting Captain Jimmy Bombs for several years and now, and once again, these stood out, heads and shoulders, above anything else on the market.   Since I donated a bunch of these bombs to the passengers anyone lucky enough to use one got bit... or bit off but that is still bit.  Those who have used these in the past purchased a ton more throughout the year but alas, for many, however many they bought were not enough.  The hot colors for yesterday were both the Yellow Dorado and the Green Dorado Patterns but today the Halloween Orange/ Black along with the Bloody Sardine we're the real deal colors.  We also had a period during the day where my custom silver bombs worked for those who tried them.   I will continue to preach that color makes a difference as both Steve and I, each day, tried most every color and found these to be right for the occasion.  However, the hot color usually changed throughout the day.    COLOR MAKES A DIFFERENCE, and having enough of the right color for the right day or time of day can spell the difference between the heartbreak of losing your last jig, the pain of knowing you did not purchase the right color as others around you are hooking up while you just toss endlessly or wondering "What if?".   Additionally, the two hot set ups were doubled 50 pound test or straight 100 pound mono or flouro rather than wire.  None the less the devastation due to near sighted fish biting off jigs was tragic.  However, this kind of tragedy for this kind of fishing is well worth the cost.
As a note, we lost hundreds of fish due to a variety of reasons (this is Wahoo fishing after all) but one of the biggies is still folks trying to pump and wind rather than just point the tip at the fish and Wind.. Wind... Wind...Bait or artificial, the technique is the same.  Folks need to stop raising the tips of their rods in the air including on Troll fish.  Low gear is a bad deal for this type of fishing so stay in high.  Once you get the head of the fish pointed at the boat you will be surprised at how quickly they will come in but you need to be prepared to pull.. This is where the heavier lines which can be used on artificial lures makes their use so much better than the lighter lines used with bait.   If you can land the fish quickly and get them gaffed you will not need to work nearly as hard.  These were big fish and they did pull hard when they got sideways or pointed away from the angler.  Keep those noses pointed at you, keep the pressure on and you will find you can land these magnificent finned creatures with less effort, less angler fatigue and less losses.  
I am now going to have a Scotch and Cigar and think about what to write next.  In truth, I may write more or I may not but for now this is enough.

#2 fishordie

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 11:01 PM

Returned home from this amazing trip yesterday. This trip saw amazing stops for wide open Wahoo, Yellowtail, Yellowfin and Dorado..... And Marlin.... Ughhhhh... sorry tourists. We added in a few nice grouper, 3 Black Seabass (All safely released) and some other bottom critters. For those who wished there were plenty of very large Skippies to boot. I am told that some folks prefer the Skipjack to Tuna for Poke but I have no clue as I do not eat fish.. What a trip.... Awesome.

An added bonus to this trip was in addition to this being Thomas's second trip (He is now 11 years old), his sister, Aurelia (Who is 10), joined grandpa... Now, some folks may think having the kids on board could cause some issues but it was amazing to see guys rushing to the bait tank, when the troll jigs went off, making sure the kids were baited up first before they got their own hooks baited. I really love the memories of the "Old Days" of fishing when we kids had to earn our way, but I really LOVE the new days where kids on board are highly prized. The majority of folks on our trip realized these kids are our future and the future of long range so everyone went out of their way to make sure they were made to feel welcome. By the way, I believe each of them got at least 2 Wahoo, a grouper by Aurelia, many tuna, skipjack and yellowtail. Not bad for two great kids who are well short of their teenage years.

I Limited out and gave away plenty of Wahoo. I kept what I needed as far as Yellowfin and Yellowtail while releasing everything else. The Wahoo were mostly all the great quality the Rocks has been putting out this year along with the same great quality from the Ridge. Once again I stuck with my Spinners and man are they great for throwing and retrieving artificial lures, including poppers, bombs and jigs. Once you learn how to pull on these things they are amazing for this application. My preference is for a very short top shot of 100 pound mono or Flouro, inserted only 6 inches, served and glued and a minimum of 25 pounds of drag when I throw the bail. My technique is like everyone else as I wind through the bite, however, while pointing the tip at the fish, knowing I am clear behind me, I take a step back to not only set the hook but also to get that Wahoo's head turned towards the boat, all the while, even while backing up, I am cranking that handle hard, with my elbows in tight, until that fish is at the boat. Two things to be aware of is when you set the drag at these settings you need to know how to hold on, go up and around passengers, etc. all the while cranking away and in control. You will not have the luxury of not being prepared you might experience with light drag settings as you are running around chasing that fish. The second thing to be aware of is when you bring in the Wahoo this green you had better have a gaff ready as once it turns its head and points away from the boat it will take off, out or sideways while the reel screams with scorn. Once you perfect this technique you will want to make sure you call for a gaff as soon as you see a hint of color. No problem if you are ready for it and have experience with the consequences but one has to really pay attention to the timing. Fish will come in at under a minute but again, with these drag pressures, the angler has to be ready for most anything. I fish the same way with conventional reels but I just love my Spinners for Wahoo or most anything else.

Combined with the spinners and a few conventional rods I let others sample were a great selection of Blackhole rods. Both Cape Cod Special Popping rods, the shorter jigging rods in 150 and 450 sizes and the new versions of the Challenger series. I think anyone who has tried the Black hole spinning and jigging rods already knows how great they are but these new Challengers are the real deal for fishing those larger model tuna that will only eat 25 pound test or less. Plenty of backbone, ultra light weight, amazing balance when paired to the correct reels. In our case these were matched with everything from a Trinidad A 16 (For 25 pound work with enough line for the bigger boys) to a Saltist 30 to a Fathom 30 and 40 for the Heavier duty rod. The low profile Tranx will also be great on the heavier model while the Lexa 400 might also be great on the lighter model. I will be writing these rods up on a separate thread but these are the reel deal rods especially if we can get Blackhole to put a little longer fore grip on them.

Once again, I cannot recommend the Captain Jimmy bombs highly enough. These wonderful items were responsible for at least 4 times the deaths of Wahoo than all the other artificial lures combined.
Raiders are still awesome and work wonderfully especially the Gold with Green stripe. Others scored with a few chrome Raiders but most all of us used the newer 150 gram size (200 gram size but lighter). A few of us caught one or two on the pink 6X jr. and wounded soldier so having a good selection in your plano box is highly recommended.

My selection of cigars along with the always wonderful Lagavulin 16 were perfect for whiling away the down time hours or even while fishing.... Yes, there was a Padron 40th anniversary sticking out of my mouth while casting my fly rod.... Priceless memories. Heck, there might even be a photo or two coming in the future.

The Skipper and Crew work by the guys on the Excel was beyond exceptional. I cannot believe we had so few Massive tangles when the bite went wide open or when just soaking a bait. These guys needed to be everywhere at once, gaffing, handing off, un-tangling or ??? and they took on the challenge masterfully. I know most all of the top operations in long range have great guys working the boat but I cannot say enough for what these gentlemen did on this trip. The dedication these guys offer in providing we the passengers an outstanding trip is exemplary. A huge thank you to Tim, Rene, Sean (Chowdahh), Ryan and Captain Justin.  Chef Matt in the Galley made meals to rival or better anything I have had previously while Madison, Matt's side kick in the galley, doubled as deckhand when needed most. The food alone was worth coming back for....Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. P.S. If I butchered the spelling of anyone's name I apologize.

A NOTE ABOUT CREW MEMBERS ON ANY OF THE BOATS: Please remember, when you have any extra fish you do not need or are going to can, ask the crew members if they would like some fish before you give them to the processors or even when you land them. The crew may say no or they may just say yes. These guys bust their butts getting the passengers hooked up and get our fish gaffed, but they rarely, if ever, get to fish for themselves. Just something to think about.

Once again the Excel Gallagher trip was one of the best of the year. Our passengers are really something special as we fish hard but do not bull our way around. We laugh and play hard and nobody is left out of the fun. Pat Gallagher does a great job as charter master and allows me to be his first mate on this charter. Together, Pat and I, are very proud of this charter. We the passengers are so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be part of something very special... And somehow we get new memories, to add to our collections, most every year. Thank you to the entire Excel staff and ownership.
I forgot to note that the biggest Wahoo were over 50 pounds and made up the Jackpots. We also hooked up or caught skin within 100 miles of San Diego. I cannot remember being on a boat where that happened. Best of luck to those going long this season. 

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if you are not here today you could not have been here yesterday and I NEVER want to hear.... You should have been here yesterday. When in doubt go fishing.

#3 Kilsong

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 10:07 AM

Great writing as usual, Jamie.


We are developing 8' Black Hole Challenger Bank (one-piece) for West Coast fishermen as we learned they prefer longer rods. 

These Black Hole Challenger Bank rods have many similar characteristics of original GLoomis rods, but a little softer, especially in tip section and lighter. 

The main forte of these rods is the strength even  they are light and thin. 

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