A White Sea Bass Story
Contributed by Alex Reynaud
This story has it all. The spark, the commitment, the drama, the failure, the missed opportunity and
an encounter with a 100lb, maybe bigger, White Sea Bass that was followed by weeks of
It was early 2015 and a group of us were enjoying a boys trip out on Santa Cruz Island taking
advantage of the warm south swell. This particular trip was all about setting up drifts for
Yellow Tail. However, on a late afternoon dive, drifting in perfect buoyancy 20 feet
below the mirror like surface, 3 jumpy White Sea Bass came in high and tight. Geared up with a
Sea Sniper 60” Custom, I quickly cut the angle and let the steel fly. After a short fight,
the rubber ducky came by and I hoisted a beautiful 25lber over the side and onto the floor. Back
on the boat with Captain George Scheidt, taking a moment to enjoy the raw beauty and golden,
purple colorations at our feet, a deep urge to pursue and learn how to and these fish with more
consistently ignited. This was the spark that started the fury . . . this was fish number 1.
Unlike many of the people I dive with, no names to be mentioned at this moment, I am a
meticulous note taker, specifcally catch details. Many of my notes are kept in water proof books
I pick up from REI during their blowout sales, with pages torn out that I have scanned, then
shredded, and stored safely away in DropBox. And with this notating, comes a huge amount of
research and endless pages of screenshots. You name it, I pull it, save it and use it in my own way.
I truly enjoy the development of a formula. Like a scientist develops a hypothesis, I try to develop
a “fish formula” and then test it over time to see if its any good or if needs to change based on
new knowledge. To me, this is just part of the spearfishing journey and an enjoyable way to
learn about the species and conditions I enjoy hunting in. And seriously, it can’t be luck all the time!
So there it was, fish number 1 on the boat, the spark was lit. That evening, meticulous notes had
been written down about the weather, swell direction, water temp, strength of the current, direction of
the current, moon cycles, tides, time of the catch, weight, they way the small school acted and of
course sunrise and sunset. Back home, I pulled the two week prior water temps and above patterns
and then started to follow each of these indicators every day . . . developing a plan to follow these
specific condition “pockets” around the CA coast in search of more and larger White Sea Bass.
Within 3 weeks of WSB number 1, a set of conditions of the Southern CA coast presented a
perfect opportunity to test out the theory. With kayaks on the rack and camper in tow, a trip over the
grapevine seemed like an eternity. But the time was filled with the usual banter, gear rigging options,
trash talk and watching my dive buddy sleep! But it was all worth it!
That next day, kayaks clipped o on the outer edges of the kelp bed, we quietly slipped into the
water. For me, it went kind of like this . . . One band on, second band on, third band on, adjust the slip
tip, watch a pair of monster White Sea Bass swim under me, quickly take smooth dive, cut the angle on the
bigger of the two, pull the trigger . . . then try to figure out how to put a 70 plus pounder in my
Did this seriously just happen? Am I really awake? Damn right it just happened and thank
you very much for letting it happen. My life is now complete . . .
This fish, number 2, tipped the certified scale at 78 pounds bled and gutted. Besides the weight,
this fish was a confirmation of sorts, that offered a glimpse into what was to come. It was a nice
test of what I was trying to be accomplished on paper, combined with the comfort that my gear was
perfect for the strength and power of the fish. The day ended with 1 more 60 pound sh in my kayak and
my partner with a 50 pounder (his first). We slept like babies, with dreams of sushi and poki back
home and visuals of schools of WSB slowly moving through the kelp beds. It was perfect!
Over the course of the next 7 months, patterns were tracked throughout the CA coast line and
everytime they would line up, my kayak was packed and sitting next to a loaded Rob Allen bag and
they were itching for action. It didn’t matter if it was a Tuesday and I had meetings scheduled,somehow I
had an eye doctor appointment . . . and couldn’t see myself going to work!
When it was all said and done, 20 White Sea Bass were landed, 2 were lost (1 to a tear out from a
nasty kelp tangle that I couldn’t get to fast enough and the other from a float line failure). It was the
most insane and committed White Sea Bass hunting year recorded for me.
Oh, wait, I bet you want to hear about a White Sea Bass over 100lbs . . . ?
Ahhh the lessons we learn! The Big Fish Story . . .
At this time, I had already landed some amazing WSB and was letting fish swim by that were
not 50lbs or larger. There were a couple moments when I had the chance to swim in the
middle of schools of WSB that had 30 or more fish in it, enjoying the peaceful gracefulness
of these beauties as they lazily cruised the kelp bed. But deep down, I knew there had to be
something bigger and I was committed to holding out.
Well, like all great plans, sometimes it just doesn’t work out . . .
At the upcurrent side of the kelp bed, I was being engulfed by bait fish. Up and down they would
zip, moving in sharp patterns and obviously being hunted. But I couldn’t figure out by what.
So I pushed off the kelp bed towards the open ocean . . . and then pushed further . . . and further.
I remember looking up and seeing my kayak and it was about the size of my fingernail, so I new
I was a good 150 yards off the kelp. However, the bait was still crashing, coming up in my shadow,
then pulsing back down as if on repeat. Not really knowing how deep the water was or what
was really happening, I decided I would do an exploratory trip to the bottom and see what the
I took a solid breath, knowing that I was going to be putting in some work, and slowly started my
decent. As I am in freefall, the bait is going nuts, but the viz is still hazy at maybe 15 feet, so
I couldn’t really see much. At 50’, it opened up to 40 feet of viz and I calmly settle on the bottom at
72 feet. Now I see why the bait is freaking out!! A school of at least 100 Bonito are working
the murk line and hitting the bait from the bottom up.
The school takes interest in me and a big Bonito sets up for a perfect shot. A quick extension
of the 67 and the Bonito is threaded and left twitching as I start my slow assent back to
At the surface, I start to casually pull in my prize, listening to the sliptip “ting” against the shaft,
thinking to myself, “that is really odd the sliptip is hitting the shaft”
As the shaft came into view, about 15 to 20 feet below me, I could now see what the deal was.
The shaft had been caught and somehow ripped by the cable shooting line, most likely
because I let the shaft and line fall to the sand bottom, and it twisted to point upward,
causing the slip tip to bang on the shaft.
The Bonito, was now 15 feet from me, still twitching and looking like awesome “spicy poki” . . .
A dark shadow slowly appeared below it. First thought . . . Great White . . . Second thought . . .
that is a seal . . . but what it really was . . . the largest White Sea Bass I have ever seen! This
fish absolutely dwarfed everything I had seen or landed before. This fish made Black Sea
Bass look small!
The WSB, continued its slow rise, completely focused on one thing . . . the slip tip dangling
and banging on the shaft. I silently laid on the surface, not pulling in anymore line. The
WSB inched closer, then a touch closer . . . gently sucked in the dangling sliptip, held it for
a second in its enormous mouth and then spit it out. Its eyes then rotated to me, I could see
the silver gold color around the dark black center, then it turned its head and slowly sunk into
the murk below.
But look at the bright side . . . I stoned that Bonito!