Calico Country

Southern California calico bass are a winter specialty

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Jim Hendricks
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Chasing Calicos

Calico bass, also known as kelp bass, inhabit coastal and island reefs, rocks, wrecks and kelp beds from California’s Point Conception to Mexico’s northern Baja California. Minimum legal size in California is 12 inches, with a total bag limit of 10 fish daily, though a growing catch-and-release ethic is taking hold among conservation-minded anglers. The California state record is a 14-pound-7-ounce fish caught at San Clemente Island in 1958.
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Calico bass orient to structure (1), whether it’s shoreline rock stacks (2) or kelp beds (3). A flooding tide submerges intertidal rocks and pushes bait hard against the shoreline, and this combined with a south-running longshore current (4) creates favorable conditions. A bow-mount trolling motor (5) gives anglers mobility to work lures through the top three feet of the water column.Joe Mahler / www.markerjockey.com
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Use Stout Tackle

When fishing for calicos, don’t let them take line, or you’ll be in the rocks.coast
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Tady 45 Light and Shimano Waxwing 118 or 138 for search lures; 6- to 9-inch Big Hammer and MC Swimbaits soft-plastics on 34-ounce to 1-ounce lead heads with 3X-strong hooks. (Lures not to scale)