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June 21, 2013

Paddy Whackin'

California kelp holds a mother lode of game fish.

Paddy Whackin'This means slowly motoring upwind and positioning the boat to drift by the paddy transom-first. The idea is to cast your bait next to the paddy, not in it, so it's not necessary to be right on top of it. Keep your reel in free-spool with enough thumb pressure to avoid an overrun. When the bait is picked up, count to three before setting the hook.

Experienced paddy anglers usually keep a heavy chrome, blue/white or "scrambled egg"-colored jig ready to drop down to deep-holding fish. "If I'm marking fish deep, I'll drop a heavy iron down to 200 or 300 feet, then crank it back to the boat," said Stotesbury.

Slow-trolling a live sardine around the paddy can be very effective too, even after everything else has failed. "Novice boaters mistakenly believe they have to fish right on top of the paddy," said Hendricks. "Game fish tend to circle around the paddy, and you can find them quite a distance away, even a quarter-mile off." As I've witnessed many times while fishing with Hendricks, making a large circle with a slow-trolled live bait is a great way to locate fish.

"Another common mistake is giving up too easily on a promising paddy," Hendricks added. "People often soak a few baits and then move on, even if there's good sign. If I'm marking fish on my sounder or just have a strong feeling about a particular kelp bed, I'll work it really hard and try everything in my arsenal before moving on."

Sage advice, but easier said than done when you know there could be a magical "dream paddy" just over the horizon. Some days you'll find it, some days you won't. It's all part of the paddy-whackin' game.

Spinnerbaits are available in tackle stores throughout the country, as well as through mail-order houses. However, you can easily create your own by buying some add-on "safety-pin" spinners and attaching them to your favorite jigs. Hildebrant, Cabela’s and Bass Pro all sell add-on spinners. Be sure to buy big-blade models (size 4, 5, 6 or even larger) in both willow-leaf and Colorado shapes.

If you want to get fancy, try adding some strips of prismatic tape to your blades or the safety-pin arms. This can work wonders at drawing fish from long distances. The tape is inexpensive, and is available through mail-order catalogs. I'’ve found that red, chartreuse, silver and gold are good colors for reds.