John, from previous stories, having had no prior experience at
fishing under the conditions imposed at La Gringa, closely
observed our tackle before making purchases of his own. The rest
of us never clearly understood what it was he was scrutinizing,
because he bought something completely unlike what the rest of us
Our standard operating equipment was a 6 to 6 1/2 foot Striker
pole, rated for 15-40 pound test line, a 6 to 1 fast retrieve
Shimano reel, 300 to 500 yards of 15 to 30 pound clear test line
and a set of green and yellow and blue and white Salas jigs, a
Rapala or two and a few lead-head feathers.
When John first bought his equipment he did it alone. In a
spring, before time for Baja, he quietly disclosed that he had
some new gear. We thought maybe he had bought a few lures. But he
had gone for a full set of fishing equipment. His basic gear,
even though he would be using it under the same conditions as the
rest of us, consisted of a 7 1/2 or eight-foot pole, green
fluorescent 50-pound test line and a no-name reel he had bought
from K-Mart on sale and with a coupon. Another pole was about
five feet long and had a bottom grabber spindle on top. A lot of
sly winks passed around the hot tub when John told the guys what
he'd bought. But this was just the beginning.
Later that year on a guy's trip and early on a La Gringa morning,
hung over and with no time for coffee, we poured from our beds
and into the boats. It was time to fish.
We fired the engines and ploughed, with us and the engines
coughing and sputtering, into the rising sun. We rounded punta La
Gringa and skipped between the peninsula and Smith's island. In
the saddle of Smith's, about a mile offshore and in the shade of
the volcano, we stopped and dropped to the bottom for a trial
run. The technique that usually worked in this area was to stop
and drop to the bottom, and then crank in fast with our 6 to 1
reels. There were three of us in two boats and two in the third.
We had been fishing for a few minutes without success and were
about to leave when all three guys in one boat, Barsam, Dave and
John, got hookups a few cranks off the bottom.
"Yeeehaaaww...Hookup!" Everyone in their boat shouted. The rest
of us were encouraged to see bent poles and tight lines.
"Send some of them over here!" Peter yelled. The rest of us
reeled in and dropped back down for another try. After a couple
of drops we came in and maneuvered our two boats where we could
help our three friends who all had good-sized fish on line.
"Pass the gaff over, Mike. I can get Dave's from here."
"Watch out, don't hit the boat."
"It's a burro!" John hollered. He'd heard burro meant large fish.
None of knew where he'd heard the term.
So here we have a fourteen-foot aluminum boat, with three full
grown guys, all of whom have hookups. Cool headed Barsam tells
John to bring in his fish, while he backs off on his own reel,
keeping his line tight, so they don't both hit the surface at the
same time. Dave sees color first.
"Yellow" he shouts. "A twenty-pounder!" Barsam grabs a gaff and
is about to bring the fish aboard. But it was not to be so easy.
Barsam's arm is in mid-swing to gaff Dave's fish when John,
between them, falls forward, into the path of the gaff. Barsam
stops in mid-swing just in time to avoid John. Dave hauls his
fish into the boat by grabbing the line and muscling it over the
side. The fish, once in the boat, is flopping wildly with the
treble hook flipping back and forth in its mouth. The three guys
are ducking away from the fish.
Suddenly, something more is wrong. It's clear that something's
happened with John's equipment, but his fish is still taking
line. Watching from the other boats, trying to keep the outboards
away from the lines, we finely got close enough to see that
John's pole had separated from his reel. Dave, with his fish in
the boat, has already noticed this problem. He grabs the reel
while John has the pole. John is fighting the fish, with still a
hundred feet of line out, with the 7 1/2 foot reelless rod in his
hands, the tip of which the fish is pulling to and fro across the
boat, making all the guys scramble for cover. Dave, with John's
loose reel in his hands, is trying to bring in some of the line,
but a lot of loose line is lying around the boat, along with the
20 lb. flopping yellowtail that doesn't like being aboard one
bit. John's fish now realizes that something unusual is going on
above and takes this advantage to dive for the rocks. John can
only point the tip of the rod wherever the fish wants to go. Dave
is trying to follow John, hold the reel in one hand and, with no
leverage for balance or tension on the line, crank in some line
from one pissed off fish. Barsam is busy trying to stay out of
the way, manning the gaff in the unlikely event it'll be needed.
The rest of us in the other two boats were fighting to keep from
falling overboard with the hilarious scene unfolding in the midst
of an otherwise tranquil Baja morning. Not too much more could go
wrong. There might have been a fire in the boat for all the
flying gaffs, flopping fish and elbows. After several risky
minutes the trio managed to get the fish a little more under
control. The only other problem was created when John's long pole
separated in two. Dave reeled while John and Bar coordinated
pointing the two segments of pole in the same direction to align
the line eyelets. The fish had quite a bit of spunk left and made
a final run when it saw the bottom of the boat. But the guys were
by now thoroughly experienced at this as yet unpublished new
fishing technique. They soon reeled the yellowtail up and gaffed
it into the boat. Barsam's fish had gotten off the hook in the
ruckus. Any longer and the rest of us would have passed out from
We were spent from the over-adrenalined exertion in the one boat.
The rest of us were just as spent from the hilarious scene we had
witnessed for the better part of fifteen minutes. We shortly
called it a day and headed back to camp, wishing we'd captured it
all on video.