Guest holds a dusky rockfish.

Jim’s Black Bass Tips

Light Tackle Update from Jim Beggerly
Texas Fishing Guide and Sometimes Alaska Fisherman

Woman holds beautiful black rockfish.

Tim and I have often discussed ways to allow guests to broaden their Sea Otter Sound Lodge fishing experience. One of these ways is to pursue the black rockfish. At one time or another most guests have seen the blackies go into one of their feeding frenzies, chasing small baitfish up to the surface near kelp beds and splashing wildly, or they have seen stacks of fish on the fish finder, usually 25-75 feet down on sloping rock ledge.

These fish are good fighters and good eaters, too, and can add to the “white meat” you take home. One of Murtie’s favorite recipes is a dish made with black rockfish and has probably been served to every guest that has ever been to SOS.

The best lures to use for the blackies are those that resemble the minnows that they feed on and that can be used relatively close to the boat and produce a lot of movement. Some of these lures are available at the Lodge (ask Tim), but you can bring some of your own to try out. My favorite is the Buzz Bomb, Gary really likes the lead head with the plastic swirly tail, and there are a variety of spoons and swimbaits that will work well. What you don’t want to do is use up your herring and your mooching rigs during one of these fast-paced bite periods.

For Buzz Bombs, you can use a size 2,3, or 4 but the 3XH works best. Rig it with about 12-15 inches of 30 lb leader and use a single shank hook, about a 3/0 plain J hook, and a swivel.

Lead heads, those with the hook eye and hook both on the upside of the lure, in 3/4 to 1 1/2 oz work well, with 3- to 4-inch plastic Mr. Twister-type or pogie tail threaded on to the hook, again a 30 lb leader about 12-15 inches long and a swivel for quick installation. Bring several spare plastic tails, the rockfish will tear them up.

Good colors for Buzz Bombs and lead heads are white and chartreuse, but the action and movement seem to be more important.

Soft plastic swimbaits are very similar to the lead heads, but have the lead and hook already molded into the body. Just tie on a leader and swivel and you’re set. Brands, such as Storm or Northland, are readily available in a variety of styles and colors, and the 3- to 4-inch models are best, just don’t get the ones with treble hooks.

The spoons that work best are the heavier jigging spoons, or slabs, in weights of 3/4 to 1 1/2 oz, not the casting or trolling spoons. Brands available are Kastmaster, Cast Champ, and Crippled Herring, and Tim may have some of the 1 oz KT’s around still. Rig these like the others, but the swivel is extra important because it prevents line twists and knots as you jig vertically. The smaller, flatter Darts also work, you just have to jig harder to get the attractive flutter.

On all of these lures, it’s best to replace the treble hook with a single shank plain hook, size around 3/0. This is to help minimize the handling time for these prickly critters.

This fishing can be done with the provided salmon rods and reels, but they are a little long and cumbersome for stand-up, fish-right-over-the-edge-action. If you do use the SOS salmon rods, don’t try to lift the blackies out of the water with the rod, just get them close and hand lift with the leader. You are welcome to bring your own rod, a rod that might be more suitable for this type of fishing. A 2-piece 6- to 7-ft medium-heavy, either spinning or baitcasting, should work for you. The line that you put on the reel doesn’t have to be heavy, either, and 20 lb mono or braid is sufficient.

Look for rockfish either at the edge of kelp beds or on top of underwater rock pinnacles, almost always less than 50 feet down, and often on the surface feeding. The surface feeders are obvious, but you will have to employ the fish finder to search for those on top of ledges or pinnacles. Make sure the “Fish ID” on the sounder is turned off so kelp will not be mistaken for fish, then watch for a stack on top of or beside the kelp or rocks.

For surface feeding fish, just get the boat within 30-50 feet of the school, then cast to them. Immediately close the baile/set the reel and allow the lure to sink. If not struck within about 5 seconds, begin to retrieve. Try holding the rod still and up about 45 degrees. Crank about 3-4 times at a moderate speed, the stop and allow a 3-5 second sink, then repeat.

For the deeper fish, drop the lure straight over the side to them and free spool. Guard the reel set it immediately if any contact or slowing is felt before the bottom is reached. Retrieve with a series of vertical jigs: a few jigs at a given depth, then crank up 3-4 times and repeat. Make the jig with the rod held level or low, raise the tip about 2-3 feet, then sharply drop it. The bite will often occur on the drop.

Landing the fish can be done by grasping the leader and hoisting aboard (that’s why the 30 lb stuff is used), or if keeping the fish, gaff. Please do not throw a gaffed fish back, and don’t forget to immediately cut a gill to begin bleeding out your catch

This can be a catch and release activity. Don’t feel compelled to “keep ’em because we caught ’em”. Normally, keep only the black rockfish. Consider de-barbing your hook to allow easier extraction, which can be done by using your needle nose pliers on the boat by bending or mashing down the barb.

Remember the sharp spines on the fins and gill covers of the rockfish, protect your hands and equipment.

Jim is a master fisherman and fortunately for us, a long-time guest at our lodge. Jim freely shares his knowledge gleaned from his many years of fishing and guiding to our guests. Murtie & I are truly grateful to have Jim as a friend and a guest at the lodge. Thank you, Jim!