The trip started out on Thursday when my Captain, Matt, and I set off to pre-fish the tournament Thursday and Friday. Those two days were your typical Catalina Island fishing. We caught Calico Bass, Barracuda, Halibut, Rock fish, and eventually we found the Seabass.
On Friday night we met up with our two other teammates Steve and Tim. The four of us have a pre-tournament “party” at a bar in Avalon. We talked strategy and where we were going to fish and how we were going to fish. I am awoken by Matt at 2:30 AM to start driving around the island to our fishing spot. The tournament started at 4 am so we wanted to make sure that we were in our spot before anyone else. As we turn the corner around the West-end of the island, the abyss of darkness is erased by the amount of boat lights in front of us. Our first spot had the entire fleet sitting on it. We thought to ourselves “Holy shit! Look at all these boats, what are we gonna do?!”. Before we even got close to the fleet Matt made an executive decision that we were going to a different spot where we caught the Seabass above. After anchoring and setting up on the spot we had a very slow first couple hours. Right around 6 am Matt hooked up with a Seabass. White Seabass live along thick kelp lines in murky water. They use the thick kelp and churning water to hide themselves from prey. Right after Matt set the hook the fish ran straight into the kelp. We could tell because when Matt lifted up on the fish we continued losing line because he was wrapped in the kelp. Matt was pulling so hard on the fish to get it out of the kelp, that I was watching the rod tip bounce as the line eventually broke through the kelp. With each pop of the kelp I feared that he was going to lose the fish. After about 5 minutes (which really felt like 30) the line was finally free from the kelp and the fish headed out into the open ocean where there is nothing to break off on. As soon as this happened Matt knew that he was going to land the fish. After about another 10 minutes of fighting, Matt got the fish up to the side of the boat and I gaffed it and brought it on deck. The whole fight Matt had been telling me that it was a big fish but I had no idea until it was on the boat. Once it hit the deck all four of us started to freak out. High fives, hugs, screaming everything you could imagine after landing a monster fish in the tournament. The day went on and I also landed a Seabass but nothing close to the monster Matt had landed. We returned to the harbor to weigh in our fish and claim our spot on the leader board. Optimistically we thought but never said out loud that this fish could possibly win the tournament. We pull up to the dock and we are immediately being heckled by some guys on the dock. They were bugging us about what we caught, how big was it, where were we, but they had no affiliation to the tournament. Just two drunk guys on the dock. We decided that it would be easiest to move the fish from the main cooler into its own cooler so we could walk it up the dock to be weighed. As soon as I open the cooler the two guys on the dock utter another “Holy shit!”. We quickly closed the lid and started to transport the fish up the dock. Meanwhile the two drunk guys are spreading the rumor of a giant fish around the harbor. We walk the fish to the weigh-in as a very large crowd starts to assemble. Everyone murmuring wondering how big the fish is. As secretively as I could I wrapped the rope around the fishes tail and awaited instructions from the tournament official. He asked me to lift the fish up the the scale and hook it on. Immediately as the cooler lid opens and the fish is seen by the crowd everyone starts yelling. “Oh my god that thing is HUGE!” I even heard one kid say “Daddy, daddy that the biggest fish I’ve ever seen!”. It was an amazing sight and feeling hearing the crowd freak out as much as we did. All in all the Seabass weighed in at 57.3 pounds. The largest seabass ever caught in the Catalina White Seabass Tournament.
Saturday ended with us on top in the Seabass division. On Sunday the fishing was absolutely terrible. The weather completely changed and nothing was biting. The tournament ended at 4 PM so we made our way into the harbor for the awards ceremony. We didn’t know for sure, but we had a pretty good idea that we had won the tournament. The ceremony started and the winners were called up. The tournament was structured with three different fish. White Seabass was the main one but there was also prize money for Yellowtail and Halibut. The tournament official finally got through the other divisions and was on to the Seabass. The top 3 were announced and we waited patiently to see who won. Finally he arrived at the winners calling out Team Breakaway as the winners and presented us our check. Putting in two days of extra work to find the fish is the only reason we won the tournament. This will be a fishing trip I remember for my entire life.
p.s. sorry for the small photos I could not get them to be large and clear.