If you love to fish for Bass, then Coastal Charters is the right fishing adventure for you.
Florentino operates a 25-foot center console Ranger powered by a 300 HP Mercury Verado. Coastal Charters comfortably accommodates three anglers and provides the equipment, tackle, and beverages. Just bring your clothing, wet weather gear, sun protection, fishing license, camera, and lunch; it’s very convenient.
Launching from Long Beach, California, Captain Benny Florentino fishes the inshore waters from Santa Monica to Newport, Catalina Island, and San Clemente Island. Calico Bass, Spotted Bay Bass, and Sand Bass are the target species.
Florentino likes sitting back when guiding clients. He enjoys coaching and watching people catch their personal bests. But, when he puts a rod in his hand, a transformation takes place. “When I’m targeting, I become a different person,” says Florentino. It’s more casts for less catching, but the results are substantial.
“My passion is guiding and catching fish on artificial lures.”
In Florentino’s younger days fishing local half-day party boats, Worm King and Scampi plastic lures just entered the fishing scene. Realizing that he no longer had to deal with the bait tank, and plastics stayed on the hook longer, artificial swimbaits quickly became a favorite.
“All lures take commitment; you have to put time into them.”
Casting and the Bite Zone
The most crucial aspect of any angling is getting the lure to the fish. Proper casting involves body mechanics and both hands. It’s a smooth, natural motion without excessive movement.
During the forward casting motion, roll your wrists, so the baitcasting reel is upside down. When the reel is in this position, it helps prevent backlashes. The upside-down reel’s spool rotation takes the line down, out and away from the spool towards the lure.
Florentino emphasizes that anglers should spend more time practicing correct casting skills. Cast too short, and you’ll miss the Bite Zone. “During the retrieve you want your lure to remain in the water for long as possible, that’s the key.”
Florentino uses a snap for rigging everything, both baitcasting and spinning gear. Snap sizes are selected to balance with lure and line size. He uses 50-pound test snaps for lighter applications, and up to a 100-pound test for heavier set-ups.
“Snaps are bulletproof; your knot will break before a snap does.”
Florentino selects braided line based on reel size. Size 200 reels are spooled with 50-pound, 300 class reels are paired with 65-pound test, and 400 size reels have 80-pound braid. When you hook into a big bass or an unexpected pelagic species, braid will give you a chance.
“I fish heavy; if I know larger fish are in the area, I’m prepared to land that fish, I want to land that fish!”
Florentino has been a long-time fan of brown tone baits, but will tell you, “If a particular color gives you confidence, then fish it.”
Tubes are an excellent lure during challenging conditions. The key is finding moving water and fishing the tube slow. Most anglers are fishing this bait too fast. Presently, the water is cold, the bass are popsicles, and they’re staying down.
When fish are feeding on crabs, especially red crabs, the tube bait is a superior choice. Crustaceans move relatively slow, so don’t overwork the rod when fishing tubes. Cast the lure and follow the downward spiral. After the fall gently lift and follow the tube down again, then pause, allowing the lure to sit in place before repeating the action. Right now, the fish are cold and lazy; placing the bait slowly directly in front of them will get the bite.
“The tube bait simply gets bit.”
In the image above, you can see the bait’s blades and skirt have seen a lot of service, making this an exceptional lure. Florentino rigs with a 30-pound leader tied to 50-pound Maxcuatro PowerPro braid. Maxcuatro is 25% thinner than standard PowerPro lines of equal strength. The smaller diameter optimizes casting distance and increases the reel’s line capacity.
“Big baits eliminate the little guys.”
Often, predatory fish are focused on smaller sized bait. When they’re rejecting surface irons and larger lures a down-sized 5-inch swimbait is an excellent response. You still want heavy hardware; you’re fishing for bigger fish.
“You never know what you’ll run into.”
The Dark Sleeper
The Dark Sleeper has a realistic Goby profile. It’s a productive lure during no-current slack tide conditions. When kelp stringers are straight up, Florentino fishes the Dark Sleeper as a flip bait. He’ll flip or pitch it at the kelp and allow the lure to sink straight down to the bottom.
The same approach applies to harbor pilings. Gobies stay tight to the bottom, and they don’t do too much. That’s a clue on how to fish this lure. Once the bait is on the bottom, a slight lift with little action mimics Gobies.
“The fish will tell you what they want.”
The “Weedless’ is a soft plastic boot-tail swimbait, typically 6 and 7-inches in length, rigged with keel weighted screw-lock swimbait hooks. It’s a more substantial profile lure that attracts massive bass. Ready for a big bite Florentino rigs the Weedless on a 40-pound leader, and 65-pound braid main-line.
The Weedless applies to many applications; paralleling steep walls, shallow water, and kelp beds. Florentino doesn’t use assist (stinger) hooks; the big fish have no problem inhaling the bait. He uses a fast retrieve through the top of the water column. The retrieve pace can create a ‘Daisy-Chain’ effect.
When you get bit, keep reeling. Not only do you want to keep the interest of the biting fish, but other fish will get involved too. Bass display this behavior frequently, but you must keep applying action to the Weedless.
“Don’t stop when you get bit.”
Florentino uses several crankbait types, including the Berkley Dredger, it’s one of his ‘Go-To’ lures when fishing harbors. Typically an oversized lure is the only way to crank deeper water. The Dredger, available in six sizes, features a downsized profile, and a weighted diving bill. This lure dives quickly and stays in the bite zone longer.
Set up with a 30-pound leader Florentino uses a Shimano DC reel for lighter lures. A DC reel has a digitally controlled brake system. He also favors an 8.2:1-reel speed. Florentino’s reel choice provides long casts and the ability to crank the lure deep quickly.
Once his crankbait is down on the bottom, the retrieve speed slows. During the retrieve, If Florentino strikes an object, he will pause. If there are no collisions, he incorporates periodic pauses to the retrieve cadence. The Dredger will rise slowly on the stop and can be an active trigger.
Fish attacking crankbaits boat side is a common occurrence. “Always be prepared to be hit next to the boat.”
The Alabama Rig commonly called an A-Rig mimics a small school of baitfish. During the warmer months of July and August, the A-Rig shines. Florentino fishes this lure inside harbors and along break walls; spotted bay bass love the A-Rig.
On a five-arm A-Rig, catching multiple bass at once is commonplace. Coastal Charters has caught 17.5-pounds of bass in one cast, with a 7-pound big bass in the bunch! The A-Rig with 5 hooks is capable of producing five bass in one retrieve.
Long casts and a fast pace is how Florentino fishes the A-Rig. When baitfish meander, they’re not worried about being attacked. When they’re bolting through the water, they look panicked trying to escape from danger. That’s how Florentino wants his A-Rig to appear, terrified.
“The A-Rig is a big bass lure.”
Hooking and Fighting Fish
Advanced to the novice, Coastal Charter clients come from all types of fishing disciplines. One of the biggest learning obstacles for anglers new to this type of fishing is hooking and playing the fish. During the retrieve, you’re turning the reel handle. When you detect a strike, keep winding.
Wind, wind, wind, with the rod tip pointed down and at the fish, wind, wind, wind until you come tight. When you’re tight to the fish only then do you set the hook. But, keep winding, many times the bass are swimming straight towards you. If you don’t keep reeling the fish swimming at you will create slack line and spit the bait.
During the fight, keeping the rod tip up allows you to get the best angle on the fish. Keeping the rod tip up puts the angler in the best position to quickly wind them up and away from cover elements. If they swim down into the kelp and rocks, you’ll easily lose the fish.
“When you come tight, then Zing Them!”
Calicos Don’t Jump
Rod Position is the key to hooking and landing fish. Many freshwater bass anglers instinctually point the rod tip down when fighting saltwater bass, thinking that like a freshwater bass, they’re going to jump and try and shake the lure out. Unlike freshwater bass, Calicos do not jump out of the water when battling an angler.
“Keep the rod tip up when fighting a fish.”
In this age of instant online e-commerce, Sav-On Tackle is a breath of fresh air. It feels good to enter a tackle shop, touch, compare products, and flex a fishing rod before you buy it. It’s assuring having access to experienced staffers ready to help with the latest equipment, spool line and give tips on the local hot bite. Sav-On Tackle is that and more; it’s a place where lasting friendships are made.
The Big Calico Bass Zone
Wow, I love Coastal Charters’ approach to inshore angling. The foundation of Florentino’s mindset and techniques parallel the BBZ tremendously. Florentino is absolutely in the Big Bass Zone. Thank you, Sav-On Tackle and Captain Benny Florentino for this informative fun seminar!
Captain Florentino partners with these outstanding companies;
Shimano - http://fish.shimano.com/
WarBaits - http://www.warbaits.com/
AFTCO - https://aftco.com/
Ranger Boats - https://www.rangerboats.com/
Mercury Marine - https://www.mercurymarine.com/en/ca/
Angler’s Marine - https://www.anglersmarine.com/
Power Pro - http://www.powerpro.com/
Kicker Jigs - https://kickerfishing.com/
OluKai Footwear - https://olukai.com/
Maui Jim - https://www.mauijim.com/
Book your Coastal Charters trip at https://www.fishcoastalcharters.com/outfitted