The best thing about diving the California coast has to be the fact that even on a shore dive you can potentially shoot big game fish. In the summer when the water is warm and clear I get so fired up knowing that even beach diving right in front of my house there is a strong possibility of running into huge schools of 50+ lb white seabass, walls of 30+ lb yellowtail, or even big halibut. Plus, being able to dive these miles of California coastline with all your best friends is hard to beat.
Mexican road trips are by far the best reason to live in southern California! A trip to Baja is the kind of fun that borders on addiction. In less than 12 hours of driving you can trade in the stormy, winter conditions of Southern California for the glassy, warm, and clear Sea of Cortez to hunt 50 lb Yellows and 100lb grouper. Throw in 3 of your best friends, a bunch of Tecate, street tacos, and a couple Riffe euro 130s with enough shafts to open your own store, and it’s impossible to have a bad time.
Since my first Baja adventure as a senior in high school, every trip has been crazy in one way or another. Giant fish, amazing food, Mexican police harrassment, wind storms, broken gear, driving on some of the most dangerous roads in the world, flat tires, running out of gas, stranding at sea, run-ins with motorcycle gangs, blurry nights out in Cabo and La Paz, drug runners, brutal panga rides, and rolled trucks only scratch the surface of what I’ve been through down there!
One trip that really sticks out was one I went on with Brandon and our friend Gene a couple years back. We drove down to the pacific side of baja for what was supposed to be a 6 day trip. After 4 unbelievable days of clear water, walls of giant yellows, big grouper all over, and great times we started heading back. 100 miles down the road in the middle of nowhere we ran into some major truck trouble and were stranded right in the center of baja. The closest town was infested with flies and we spent an uncomfortable 7 days there trying to find the parts to fix our vehicular problems. Finally, in desperation we found a local truck driver heading to the border that would allow us to put our truck in his along with the car of another stranded gringo. Up until this point the trip had been pretty crazy but the next 12 hours were insane. Once we were all in the truck and on the road with no way to unload our vehicle we discovered our driver was a drug addict and our fellow passenger was a bipolar ex-con. Between our driver’s erratic and terrifying driving habits and our fellow passenger trying to start a fight with anyone he could, I know none of us could have been any happier to make it to the boarder alive.
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1 11.25 lb calico bass in the 2005 Neptunes Fall Classic Calico Derby at Catalina Island, was the IUSA calico bass world record at the time.
2 My first white seabass, 55 lbs and I still remember dragging the fish along with my entire reels tangled mess of line onto the beach!
3&4 45lb white and 25 lb yellowtail on a shore dive in Palos Verdes.
5 40lb white seabass with a Riffe carbon pole spear in the 2012 Charlie Sturgill Pole Spear Meet.
6 33 lb halibut shot at 60 ft with my Blue Water Elite while waiting for yellows on the bottom. It swam right over me and I shot it when it was a foot above my head!
7 53 lb white seabass stoned with a 90cm euro gun.
8 27 lb sheapshead with my Riffe carbon pole spear in the 2011 Sturgill Meet
9 10.6 lb calico in Laguna beach, I don’t know many people who have got 2 local calicos over 10 lbs so I was pretty excited about it.
10 35 lb halibut right down the street from my home, well worth the drive.
1st place in the 2005 Neptunes Omer Nelson TRI Club Calico Meet with a 11.25 lb world record calico bass
1st place team, 3rd place individual, Rookie of the year, Biggest fish, and All American Team 2006 USOA Spearfishing Nationals at Pompano beach Florida
3rd place individual at the 2006 OMER Hatteras Blue Water Meet in North Carolina
1st place in the 2008 Carl Krupansky Charity Pole Spear Meet
1st place individual aggregate fish catch and biggest abalone (10.1in) in the 2009 Triton X open in Caspar California
2nd place team and 6th place men’s individual at the 2009 USOA Spearfishing Nationals in Malibu California
2nd place in the 2011 Charlie Sturgill Pole Spear Meet
1st place individual, 1st place team, and biggest fish in the 2012 Pacific Coast Championships
1st place individual, biggest fish, and first white seabass ever in the 2012 Charlie Sturgill Pole Spear Meet
Torn between the Blue water Elite, and the Riffe Euro 130 set up with a horizontal reel, 7.5mm flopper shaft, and one 19 and one 16mm band for favorite gun. It’s just too close to call!
The Riffe Carbon Pole Spear is deadly accurate and a ton of fun to hunt with as well. I would love to see a new set of spearfishing world records created specifically for pole spearing soon. It’s a completely different form of hunting that is really rewarding and always a blast!
The Riffe Terminator 2 is the best knife on the market for spearfishing hands down! Long blade for braining even the biggest of fish, double serrated for cutting in a hurry, and the most reliable and durable sheath on the market. You just can’t beat it, it’s the best spearfishing knife you can buy.
The new Digi-tek wetsuit has badass camo and wetsuits just don’t get anymore comfortable. I would wear the 3mm all day everyday if I could.
Best- Hiding your winning catch from your buddies until the last minute.
Worst- Getting caught inside the surf on a big day
The day before I got my first white seabass I dove the same spot with a 110cm euro gun. I was still pretty inexperienced and came across a school of giant white seabass, and to this day the biggest white seabass I have ever seen was in that school. The fish was sitting in a kelp room surrounded by 50 + pounders and it dwarfed them all! I waited till the fish’s head passed behind a kelp stalk, kicked to within a few feet away, and let the shaft fly! The boom of the whole school spooking at once followed my shot and my shaft fell to the bottom. I came back the next day with a game gun and landed a solid 55 pounder. Hopefully I come across that monster that got away soon!
As for monster Yellows, I have seen some toads out at cortez bank way over 50 lbs. They definitely didn’t get that big being stupid!
I have been so fortunate to dive with and know some of the best spear fisherman in the world throughout my diving career. Richard Balta, Rene Rojas, and so many more, but I have to give the most credit to my good buddy Brandon Wahlers. Since I got started he mentored me and taught me the majority of what I know. We’ve dove all over the world and had more good days on the water in the past coupe of years than most fishermen have in a lifetime. Thanks again, Brando!
I got involved with and joined the Los Angeles Fathomiers early in my diving career and highly recommend anyone who wants to learn about the sport, shoot fish, and have a great time in the Los Angeles area do the same! They are an awesome group of guys and girls, the events are always a blast, and there is no way I would be the diver I am today with out them.
I really enjoy competition diving and would like to get to the world championships some day, maybe the inter pacific games too, we’ll see.
I’m going to try to shoot some monster fish with a pole spear this year and plan to put in the time to make it happen. Another couple of Sturgill poles pear meet wins would be cool also.
A monster dogtooth tuna is high up on the to do list. I’ve got a trip in the makings for this spring for that, though.
Other than that I just want to keep traveling, chasing fish, and spending every day possible on the water with my friends! Life is too short to not make the most out of every minute!