After the fisherrnan has purchased these basic necessities, he can begin thinking about what kinds of fishing tackle he would like, Most serious fisherrnen will probably have about twenty boron or graphite rods on board; the reason for so many is that the fisherrnan doesn't want to stop and re-rig during the day: a good rod and reel will cost, about $180, unless the fisherrnan wants to make his own, in which case it will cost about fifty dollars more.
And finally the fisherrnan will need a supply of line, hooks, sinkers, and lures, Lures come in thousands of different designs, all imitating some forrn of live bait which, though legal, is considered poor style by most bass fishermen. Generally the lures can be categorized as "crank bait" (you cast them out and crank them back in), which come in frog patterns, shad patterns, crawdad patterns. buzz baits (spinners), and so on; and "plastics" (don't call them rubber), which also come in various patterns, with worms being the most popular, The fisherman will not, as you might suppose, need one or two of each, Mike Kennedy, for example, has in his garage seven large tackle boxes full of nothing but plastic worms, in various colors such as watermelon, motor oil, blue-flake, and cinnamon, They cost twenty-eight cents apiece.
The production of plastic worrns has become something of a mini-industry in Ramona, where Gary Whyte employs five people full-time making 50,000 plastic worrns a month, all of which are sold in San Diego County, "We could sell 200,000 a month if we could make them fast enough," he says, When asked if a bass can really tell the difference between a watermelon blue-flake worrn and a cinnamon gold-flake worrn, he laughs and says, "Well, you gotta catch a fisherman before you can catch a fish, " And he's caught a lot of them, Many local fisherrnen won't use any other brand than Whyte's AA Worms.
After adding up the fuel, ice, and beer, by the time the serious bass fisherman backs his trailer down the boat launch, he probably has sunk about $40,000 into his sport. Some of them say it's more like $50,000, But to put that into perspective, at the U.S. Open Bass Fishing Tournament at Lake Mead in August, $300;000 in prize money was given away, with the winner taking home $50,000, And though most fisherrnen realize that the life of a professional bass fisherrnan is beyond their reach (it cost $1300 justto enter the U .S. Open), it is just close enough to make $50,000 in equipment look like a good investment. "'The thing about being a professional," one of them says, "is just putting in the time on the water. They don't really know anything that the rest of us don't." And of course there is always the possibility that the fisherman could take that short cut to success by hooking into the big one — the worldrecord twenty-five pounder.
All this is fairly new to San Diego, which has not traditionally been thought of as a prime place for freshwater fishing, In 1965, when the volume of water behind reservoirs in the county was approximately one-eighth what it is today, bass fisherrnen mostly thought of San Diego as a desert. Even today all the lakes in the county would fit into' one arrn of an average-size lake in Louisiana or Florida, where bass fishing has its roots, Yet to show how rapidly the bass fishing in San Diego has improved, consider that in 1982 more bass over nine pounds came out of Otay Lake than any other lake in the nation; and in 1983 that same honor went to Lake Hodges. "People talk about how great bass fishing is in the South," says Mike Kelly, who works for Champion boats, "and it is good in the South because of all the water there, But with our own little lakes here in San Diego County, we 've got some of the best bass fishing in the world."
The reasons why bass fishing in the county has become so good have a lot to do with the nature of the largemouth bass, A native of North America, Micropterus sa/moides first found its way to California in 1874, It liked the sunny climate and prospered here, but the good climate did little to temper its nasty personality, It is an aggressive and unsociable fish, even among its own kind, With its armor-like scales, sharply pointed dorsal fins, and mouth big enough to swallow a fish onefourth its own size (or at least to try), the largemouth bass seems always to be warning other water creatures to keep away, It is a solitary hunter, often hiding in a patch oftules or underwater brush, waiting to bushwhack some smaller fish, crawdad, tadpole, frog, or insect, A bass will sometimes claim a rock or stump as its home territory and defend it against all intruders for a few days, until it becomes bored and restless and wanders off in search of' something else to fight over.
But it is precisely these nasty habits that the bass fisherrnen like, Aggressive hunters make good prey; but an overly aggressive fish is almost too easy, too vulnerable, and it wouldn't have taken the fisherrnen long to wipe them all out. That is why the California Department of Fish and Game introduced the Florida strain of largemouth bass to San Diego's lakes in 1965. (Some local fishermen, it turns out, had been releasing them for years.) It is a more discriminating fish than other largemouth bass, more careful, and more specific about what it eats, making it harder to catch, It has interbred with the other bass in the lakes, producing a fish that has not only survived but actually thrived under very intense fishing pressure.
Bass like warm water, preferably seventy to ninety degrees. and because the lakes in San Diego seldom freeze, the bass population rarely suffers from the "turnover conditions" that plague other bass lakes in the nation, On a night of freezing temperatures, the surface water on a lake chills, drops to the bottom of the lake, and kills the algae which produce oxygen for the fish, Turnover conditions can destroy a bass population overnight. On the few nights when lakes in San Diego can freeze, the fish are protected at most lakes by an aeration system — a large compressor that forces oxygen into the water and which serves the additional function of improving the taste and odor of San Diego's water supply.