Fishing Time: March 29 to April 2
Weather: Partly cloudy, breezy, scattered rain, T-70s
Moon Phase: 29% Moon
Location: San Diego County: Lake Dixon, El Capitan, Lake Jennings
Best Bait: Live shiner
Who went: Bobber John, Rick, Dunc
Shortly after arriving in Yuma I realized I was only 2 hours from some of the best bass fishing the west has to offer. San Diego County is home to quite a few lakes that are known for producing some monster largemouth bass, including the infamous Dottie. Dottie was a sought after female largemouth bass that finally died from natural causes and when found dead was over 25 pounds. She would have shattered the current world record of 22-pounds 4-ounces. She had a dot on her gill plate so Dottie became her nick name. That said, it didn’t take much to persuade my fishing buddies into making the trip down to fish some of these epic lakes. We planned the trip for the week after I left Arizona and it worked out perfect. After 3 months in Yuma, I packed up my house, loaded the boat, turned in my house keys, and off I headed for So. Cal.
I picked up Rick and John from the San Diego airport after dropping my boat and gear off at our camp site near Lake Jennings. After picking them up from the airport we took a quick detour to the San Diego Bay to try our luck for some ocean spotted bass. Rick has had success for them in the past, but we hit it right at low tide and the fishing was tough in the shallow mossy water.
So, after no success for spotted bass we headed to Lake Jennings and set up camp for the next four days.
DAY 1: LAKE DIXON
This is the lake that the infamous Dottie once called home. You can’t launch private boats, but you can rent boats from the marina for $35.
The lake itself wasn’t much to write home about. It was slightly larger than a community pond, and almost everyone there was more interested in catching the stocked rainbow trout instead of largemouth bass.
The water was extremely clear, deep, and the bass were spawning on beds everywhere. Unfortunately the bass were extremely skittish and the fishing was really tough. In fact, by noon we hadn’t caught a fish, and on top of that, we hadn’t seen any big fish. Call it crazy, but we were off the lake at 1:00 pm. Dixon Lake wasn’t what I had hoped for.
The mood didn’t waver though, as the next lake is the one we were the most excited about. El Capitan Reservoir is known for producing some amazing bass, big blue catfish, and monster crappie. Rick has actually fished it before with one of his buddies that grew up in San Diego, so we weren’t completely blind going in, which was nice. He told us where to find a deep underwater hump that had produced many double digit bass. If that doesn’t get you excited I don’t know what will.
DAY 2: EL CAPITAN
We launched the boat early and the temps were cold.
We motored straight to the deep hump and started slowly dragging live shiners along the bottom. Live bait fishing was a bit new in my book, but I have to admit it works extremely well. We instantly began to land some nice bass in the 3-4 pound range.
By noon we had already had a good day and decided to go explore. We found some nice looking areas and caught a few more decent bass, but never did find the double digit bass. I think the bass in Cali have seen every bass lure on earth and catching them on plastics was extremely difficult and according to Ricks local buddy, has been for quite a few years. Live bait was the ticket to most our success. All in all it was a great day on the lake.
DAY 3: EL CAPITAN
Second day on El Cap Ricks friend Salim that lives in El Cajon, CA joined us. Salim is a local that has put many days on El Cap, so it was nice to have him show us around and give us some insight. Salim took us to an area where he catches large crappies in the 17-18 inch range. We saw crappie all over the fish finder suspended in deep water, but it was tough to get them to bite. Rick finally put a decent one in the boat, but that was the only one caught.
Later that day I dropped Rick and Salim off on shore so they could explore and fish from the bank. Bobber John and I went to find more crappie from the boat. However, we didn’t get to fish long before Rick was waving us back over to the shoreline. When we arrived we couldn’t believe it. He had a 20 pound blue catfish lying on shore that he caught on a worm underneath a bobber. It was the highlight catch of the trip.
Later that evening we hit the deep underwater hump again and put a few more nice bass in the boat. El Capitan was a blast and made our trip to Cali a success.
DAY 4: LAKE JENNINGS
The last day in Cali we decided to keep it close to home and fish the lake we were camping at. Lake Jennings is also known to produce its fair share of monster largemouth and the lake was unreal with almost perfect clarity down to 40 feet! By far the clearest lake I have ever seen or fished. We started the morning throwing topwater, and had two blow ups, but neither bass decided to hang on. We caught a few chunky bass slow dragging live shiners, and then went hunting for bedding bass.
We found quite a few, but again it was tough fishing with the clarity of water and the pressure these fish see every day. We saw many bass in the 6 to 10 pound range that got our hearts pumping, but just couldn’t get any of them to commit.
Later in the afternoon we were cruising the shoreline sight fishing and saw a large shadow swimming down around 15 ft near the bottom. I motored up on the fish and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a monster female largemouth bass. We couldn’t keep the excitement in and were literally jumping and hollering, all while we threw everything we had at her. Unfortunately just like the other big bass, she casually swimmed off without a care in the world. Once she finally went out of sight into the depths I looked up to see about 5 boats surrounding us that were all staring at us like we were crazy. I can only imagine the scene, watching 3 guys from Utah literally freak out over seeing a fish. People must have thought we were nuts, or on drugs, either way I didn’t care, I have never seen a bass that big and may never again. The bass had to be over 15 pounds. Wouldn’t that excite anybody!
Lake Jennings was the last hurrah to the trip and the next morning we left camp at 3:00 AM so I could get John and Rick to the airport for an early flight. From there I hauled my boat all the way home from San Diego.
Cali bass fishing was extremely difficult. Our best plastics produced very few bites. Live shiners were the ticket to the majority of our success. These bass see a ton of pressure, and therefore, seem very skittish. Almost all the lakes are filled with quagga mussels and because of this the water is extremely clear, which makes fish very wary.
The highlights were fishing for largemouth on deep structure. This was new to me and helped me to expand my knowledge for largemouth bass fishing. Ricks 20 pound blue catfish was awesome and broke up the monotony of chasing largemouth for four days. Even though we didn’t catch the 15+ pound bass we saw at Lake Jennings, it was really exciting seeing a bass of this magnitude swimming around. Something I will never see in Utah.
I would definitely do this trip again and thank Rick’s friend Salim for showing us the ropes on Cali bass fishing. He also provided us with fire wood and shelter from a heavy rainstorm that hit us on the second day. Thanks Salim!