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BAY BASS TOURNEY HITS - San Diego Anglers' 11th annual Tournament Set for January 28.

In late January, 300 Southern California saltwater bass anglers will descend San Diego's main harbor for the on San Diego Anglers' 11th annual Bay Bass Tournament.
Two-man teams will be shooting for a five-fish limit of barred sand bass, spotted bay bass or calico bass. The tournament is set for January 28, and entry forms will be available at most tackle stores. Only 150 will be entered and it sells out fast.

The list of prize packages for the winners goes on forever: a first place prize of $1,500 donated by Fishermen's Landing Tackle Shop; second place is $750 donated by Drew Ford; third place is $500 donated by FishTrap Lures. Daiwa Fishing Tackle will also give Daiwa Millionaire reels and matching Daiwa Coastal Inshore rods to each angler on each team in the first three places.

Fourth place is $400 donated by Vessel Assist/BoatU.S.; fifth place is $300 donated by Crystal Pier Hotel; sixth through 35th will be donated as well, both by sponsors or the club and MC Swimbaits will give out $100 to places 26 through 31.

The biggest fish of the tourney will get $250 donated by Seaforth Boat Rentals and the biggest spotted bay bass will get $150 donated by Hook, Line and Sinker. There is a Halibut Jackpot and Printing on Fifth printers will add an extra $250 to the money put in by all the entrants in the pool.

There is a giant raffle afterwards that lasts a couple of hours and the collection of prizes is too long to list. The top prize is a Mercury 25 hp four-stroke engine.

Fishing over the last few weeks has been great, with anglers claiming practice limits of 10 to 15 lbs. Over the last few years, the weights at the top of the money list have been in the 13- to 18-lb. range, with mostly sand bass filling those sacks.

There are a lot of ways to catch sand bass. Let us take a look at what have been some of the traditional ways when you take to the bay.

Old-timers have reminded us that trolling lead core line can work. Crankbaits of different sizes and shapes are trolled on lead-core line - a cotton line with a lead center that is dyed different colors every 10 feet. It allows you to know how deep the lure is traveling by the color you are on. And after fighting a fish, you can return to the same depth with great accuracy.

Trolling regular crankbaits on super lines and mono can also be productive. Cranks nowadays come with bills on them that allow diving to as deep as 25-plus feet, depending on the line test used on the trolling rod. The lighter the line, the deeper the crankbait travels. Crankbaits can also be cast and retrieved around the rocky shorelines, jetties and dock pilings.

The most popular way to catch sand bass is with different plastic lures. Grubs, swimbaits, twin-tail scampi type lures, and even crawfish-shaped plastics will all get a bite. Grubs by Yamamoto, Assalt and Kalin in sizes of 3 to 8 inches will score you big bass. Big bait, big fish, isn't always the norm. I often take a smaller finesse bait just to get the bite.

Grubs copy more than bait fish swimming along. Sometimes just letting a grub sit on the bottom, drifting with the tide, catches one fish after another. The grubs look like a clam, if you can picture it. The body is the clam shell and the curl tail is the feeler of the clam reaching out for food. This do-nothing method really works well at times.

Colors include chartreuse, different pearls, browns, and even plain white. Jigheads range from 1/8- to 3/4-oz., depending on the current.

Scampi lures, twin tails, and the crawdad lures, which look like crabs or lobsters creeping along the bottom, can be fished similar to the grubs and on the same size jigheads.

Swimbaits also come in different sizes and shapes. FishTrap, Big Hammer, Aztec and Western Plastics are just a few of the leaders in swimbait development. They make baits with fins, eyes, gills and minute details. Olive brownbait, golden brownbait, sardine and kelp kritter are just a few of the popular colors for swimbaits.

The most popular way to fish swimbaits is the "wind and grind" method. This technique is done by letting about half your spool of line out behind the boat, then retrieving it in a steady wind. When the fish eats your bait, you will feel a heaviness on your line. You then wind as fast as you can, stretching the line and making contact with the fish before setting the hook.

This technique of letting so much line out behind the boat is to help keep your bait on the bottom longer. Jigheads will vary from 1/4- to 1.5-oz.

Vertical jigging spoons and plastics can also produce. Let your bait straight down until it hits the bottom. Put the reel in gear, then jerk the rod tip up and then lower it so the bait flutters back down, and then repeat. If the fish eats your bait on the fall, which is the norm, you set the hook on the next jerk upward.

Live sardines and anchovies on a standard egg-sinker bait rig will work well, too.

This is a great event to fish or just attend. All the top saltwater bass anglers in Southern Californiawill be there. You can meet them and pick their brains. It will also be a giant boat show, because every angler likes his boat set up differently. You can wander throughout all the boats and see what you like compared to the other anglers.

There is a giant barbecue put on by Iowa Meat Farms, vendors displaying tackle, new boats, trucks and a drawing for prizes that seems to go on forever. The weigh-in will be held at the Shelter Island launch ramp on Shelter Island. Festivities should start around 1 p.m.

Is anyone fishing this tournament?
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