Color, Action & More...
..........Mention the word ‘iron' to a west coast fisherman and many pictures immediately come to mind. Long rods swinging early summer barracuda over the rail on sport boats, boiling yellowtail leaving truck tire-sized swirls around an accurately presented scrambled egg iron, moments before line starts flying off a tight spool. But mention throwing iron for calicos and you may get an odd look or two. For many veteran anglers this technique was old decades ago. But to many just getting into the sport of inshore bass fishing, the thought of hurling full sized surface iron on traditional equipment is as foreign as an old Dix ‘Baja Bones' Jig!
....Over the last several years, improvements in tackle has made sending a surface iron 40+ yards dozens of times over in a day possible for mortal man. Rod actions have been refined, and model selections increased, to not only offer lure specific rods, but also the ability to customize a model to anglers' individual needs. Rod weights have come way down and components get better with each year. Reels cast better than ever, and the mechanical advantage offered now on some models can make quick work of larger quarry. Lines have become user-friendlier, through not only the blending of materials, but the sheer selection offered to the angler!
....But with all that being said, it all comes back down to the thing on the end of the line, and the operator on the other. I was enlightened a few years back over at Catalina Island fishing with Ben Florentino. Having been a fan of casting any type of lure I jumped at the chance to throw some of his higher end tackle. Prior to this I had caught many Calico Bass on the iron, but on this particular day something very different happened and it remains in my mind like it happened yesterday. We had been fishing for a while, catching fish here and there on the usual leadhead swimbait combinations. Some Calicos were tight to the beach while others positioned themselves in random pockets of the kelp. Fishing was a slow pick, with not a whole lot in the way of current or good off-colored water, which traditionally helps a Calico Bass bite to develop.
....After some time Benny put down his swim bait rig and began long casting his surface iron both parallel to the beach and at an angle, from the inside out. After several minutes of casting and retrieving I hear the handle turns of Benny's reel increase in RPM's dramatically followed by a “Did you see that”!? He had just had a large Calico Bass come up and take a swipe at his Kicker 25 surface iron in Senorita Fish color. The very next cast I hear the same thing followed by “There he is”! Soon a solid three-pound bass was swung over the rail. I kept at it with my swimbait, now casting with a little more inspiration, distance, and accuracy. A couple casts later I hear Benny yelling “look at that one”! as another calico chased his iron right to the boat. Now I was a little more interested, since the area we were fishing looked relatively dead. Ben had found a way to get these fish active. A couple dozen casts later and two photo worthy fish; one being well over 6 pounds I'd seen enough. I picked one of Ben's iron rods out of the rod rack.
....Now I was playing the same game and was able to observe what was going. We were in 15 to 22 feet of water with little to no current, retrieving our irons at a fairly fast clip. As I cast mine out I ‘d watch in almost a trance, as Ben's iron came swimming back to the boat. The first thing I noticed was the great distance the jig covered between kicks and the rhythm in which the jig remained. It was clear from that moment there was something happening entirely different than the usual cast and retrieve methods. However, I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
....Meanwhile I was casting, focusing on not back lashing, properly feeding the line back onto the spool, and not dropping the combo I couldn't afford to replace! At some point I heard a big BOOOSZHSZHSZH!!!, followed by some quivering in my line and slight resistance in the reel and rod. I looked up to see what looked like a bucket of water that had just been dumped where my lure was, I said, “Wow, I just scared the crap out of that seal”, seeing some brown coloration amidst all the foam. Benny's reply, “That was no seal bro”! I sat there for a second, kind of dumbfounded as I realized I had just had a close encounter with a very large bass....