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June 21, 2013

Paddy Whackin'

California kelp holds a mother lode of game fish.


>Go deep: Drop down a heavy jig or live bait with a sinker and you'll pick up fish the other boats have missed.

>Go light: Have a light bait rod loaded with eight- or ten-pound test at the ready for those "high-pressure" days when fish are line-shy.

>Chum 'em up: Mix some chunked dead bait with the occasional live bait to keep the fish around your boat.

>Fish 'em all, big and small: Don't hesitate to investigate small paddies, especially when they're few and far between.

>Look for groups: Paddies tend to break apart and congregate along current lines. When you locate one, search hard for others nearby.

>Get wired: A GPS/chart plotter combo can provide a useful graphic reference of where you're finding paddies, so you can establish a pattern.

>Tactical trolling: Trolling with feathers or diving plugs can help you pick up fish between paddies. It also forces you to slow down and look carefully.

>Vary your course: Don't run directly from point to point. Instead, vary your course by 20 or 30 degrees. This will help you fish water untouched by other boats.

>Unlock your fish: If a hooked fish becomes tangled in the kelp, move up close to the paddy. This gives you a better angle on the fish, and may convince it to swim out of the vegetation on its own.

>Practice paddy etiquette: Never infringe on another boat's kelp paddy. If you've had a long, desperate day, hail the skipper on the radio or approach his bow to ask if you can slide in.