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Drew Gregory kayak fishing San Diego bay in a Jackson Cuda 14So, every year in January or early February I try to head somewhere warm for a week to get some warmer winter fishing in, and to remember what the sun feels like! I know I know, a lot of you are rolling your eyes because you know I live in Charlotte, NC, where it’s probably “warm” compared to wherever you may live. However, my point is well proven on this trip because back home in the Queen City, while Brooks Beatty and I were basking in San Diego, Charlotte received 8-10 inches of snow and some very cool temps! As you know, this can definitely keep the fish from being as frisky as we’d like. Good thing we weren’t there!

Justin Arakaki with his new Jackson Cuda 14


So, Brooks and I’s timing was perfect! We arrived in San Diego on Sunday night, February 9th, and couldn’t wait to start the week off in south San Diego bay in hopes of catching our first bonefish! Yes, bonefish! Many people don’t know this but there are bonefish along the southern Californian coast all the way up to the LA area as well. According to Andy “the iceman” Allen of OEX there is a population of bonefish rummaging around in all the bays in So Cal; you just have to know how to catch them! I will say this, however, they aren’t the same species of bonefish found in the Keys or Bahamas etc., so they don’t get nearly as big. A good one in So Cal is in the 2lb range, but they still fight super hard and are very fun to catch on medium and light tackle! If you live in So Cal or are near there you have to go try this!

Despite the myths, San Diego does have a winter season (highs in the high 50s and low 60s some days) and thus the bite for popular fish such as Yellow Tail, Halibut, Calico bass etc slows down. When this happens, you have to make the most of it with the fish that are biting or have some slow days chasing the more popular species. So, what’s biting? Well, besides freshwater bass (part II of our trip), in the salt you pretty much can always get bit by the spotted bay bass and bonefish, with an occasional small halibut mixed in. Believe me, I love catching big fish, but truth be told I just love catching any fish of any size. Most of us at Jackson Kayak are that way; you won’t find too many “big fish” snobs on our fishing team even though we certainly enjoy targeting and catching them! We’re all about just getting out there and catching anything that swims, big or small and this time of year in So Cal you’re more likely to catch fish by targeting spotties or bonefish, so that’s what we did!

Z-MAN Diesel Minnow

Monday morning was perfect; San Diego was actually experiencing a nice warming trend the week we spent in the area. We grabbed our Cuda 12‘s and Cuda 14‘s that were leant to us from OEX Mission Bay and headed on the water with new Jackson Kayak team member Justin Arakaki and previously mentioned “iceman” Andy Allen. It was actually pretty cool because Justin’s new sand colored Cuda 14 was supposed to arrive two days later, but when we got to the shop there was a nice sand colored Cuda 14 with his name on it! Perfect timing!

Once at the launch we rigged up for bonefish and spotted bay bass. We heard that using live (or dead) ghost shrimp work best for bonefish, but I really despise using live bait if I don’t have to. However, we had one day to catch a bonefish since we planned to hit the Colorado River the next couple days so I figured I might as well drag a dead ghost shrimp while I fan cast my Z-MAN Diesel Minnow. Cool thing is you can catch spotted bay bass and bonefish on artificials like the Z-MAN Diezel Minnow, Paddlerz, Pogy or Shrimpz too so this can be a very active type of fishing, which is what I enjoy the most. In fact on my second cast with the Diezel Minnow I scored a little spotted bay bass. Right away I knew it would be a good day because I didn’t get the fish on my first cast! Ha! Second cast is the best case scenario for all anglers because you know what they say about catching a fish on the first cast! 😉

Drew Gregory catches a spotted bay bass from his Jackson Kayak Cuda out of San Diego BaySan Diego bay bonefish from the Jackson Kayak Cuda 12!

Releasing the bonefish back into San Diego BayDrew Gregory catches a bonefish on a ZMAN Diesel Minnow!

We then paddled out into the bay; I had my drag set very loose on my trolling ghost shrimp and all the sudden I hear it SCREAM but then as quickly as it happened it stopped! I turned around and grabbed the reel anyway knowing that I probably got robbed by something…wa…wai…wait, what the…my line is ZIPPING across the bay! Apparently my bait got hit head on by a bone and she made a quick u-turn so that’s why I no longer heard the reel screaming. Eventually I brought her in and sure enough I could now go to my list and put a check mark next to “bonefish!” I have still yet to cross paths with any FL Keys bonefish to even make a cast at them, but that didn’t matter now because the south San Diego bay came through for my first! It was a decent sized one too so I was all smiles.

Brooks Beatty with a San Diego bonefish from his Cuda 14

I still really wanted one on artificial and we were also hoping Brooks could get one since this was his first time to San Diego as well. Sure enough I cast my Houdini colored Diezel Minnow out there (3/8 Z-MAN jig head) and WHAM! Bonefish on! Not a minute or two later Brooks hooked up with one too! Day 1, mission accomplished.

We were catching the bonefish on an incoming tide in about 6-8 ft of water and mainly when you could feel you were winding your bait through a grass bed. If you get grass on your lure when retrieving then keep throwing in that location because it is likely a bonefish holding ground. Once you feel the grass hold your rod tip up and speed up your retrieve just a touch so your lure swims just over the top of the grass. We were often standing and casting as we drifted along; it’s nice to have that option in the Jackson boats since they are so stable and comfortable. In fact, the wind wasn’t bad on the bay that day some of us were even paddling our Cudas in the high seated position. All in all, the Cuda was a perfect, comfortable boat for bay fishing.kayak fishing at sunset in san diego bay - Jackson Kayak Cuda 14

The trip was a nice way to get our adventure started and the spotted bay bass and bonefish were a blast to catch because the action is fairly consistent. We had to call it an early day because the next morning we were making the 3 hour drive to the AZ/CA border to spend two days on the Colorado River – River Bassin! Part II and a video of the epic adventure coming soon!

Products used on this trip: Jackson Kayak Cuda 12, GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition CamerasKokatat Bahi Tour PFD, ZMAN Diezel Minnow w/ 3/8 JigheadBending Branches Angler Pro Paddle, Raymarine Dragonfly fish finder , Smith Optics “Lowdown” Sunglasses, Sperry Top-Sider “Ricochet” Watersport Shoes, Manley Rods Fishing Rods, Lews BB1 Inshore Reels, YakAttack Kayak Fishing Solutions, RAM Mounting Systems, Kokatat Anorak, Lifeproof waterproof iPad & iPhone case, Gnaughty Gnats natural sunscreen/insect repellant, Cablz Eyewear Retainers

Click thumbnails below to see all photos from the San Diego Bay trip on February 10th.

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