In many ways Captain Steve Lassley embodies the essence of the California Captain. In addition to a pile of tournament and sportfishing accolades that is too long to be listed here, Lassley spent 30 years as a commercial swordfishermen in California. Lassley, while at the helm of one of the most famous multi-boat operations in sportfishing history, combined a number of skillsets from a variety of fishing applications to forge a career that not only won millions, but has been recognized by induction into the IGFA Hall of Fame (even as he still fishes). Taking lessons from a variety of fishing disciplines and fisheries in a diversity of locations and integrating those lessons into strategies that employ emergent technologies is particularly Californian institution.
“Regardless of what you’re fishing for, the important thing is number of days on the water,” Lassley begins. Like many top shelf California Captains, he has been at the leading edge of harnessing sonar and other technologies in new and innovative ways. “I’ve been heavy into sonars since the late 80s. I had the very first Furuno CH14 (the predecessor to the Search Light) on this coast. We had a Furuno tech fishing with in the Outer Islands (200 miles off of Cabo) for a month getting it dialed in. We’d do stuff like suspending a 200-pound tuna off a float and try to hit it with the sonar to see what it looked like.”
By the early 90s Lassley was among a group of eight or ten West Coast captains getting heavily involved in high tech sonars. “A lot of it translated from long range boats and the success they were having—the ability to see an individual fish from hundreds of feet. We took their success and integrated it into a tournament strategy for black and blue marlin,” Lassley recalls. The sonar revolution was only half of the puzzle.
“That was in conjunction with the use of tuna tubes—that started in 1990 or 91. Bart (Miller) was the first guy with tuna tubes. Beak (Capt. Mike ‘Beak’ Hurt) fished with him in Kona and brought them here. I saw Beak with a bonito in a tube. I made some the next week. The combination of tuna tubes and sonar—and fine tuning all of that, from the right water flow for different baits to which frequencies worked best for which applications—that was really important. We learned it all from the ground up and made a lot of mistakes along the way. We were really fine-tuned and at the top of the game by 2006.”
How does all of this relate to where sportfishing is headed? Captain Steve Lassley is circumspect in his perspective. “The first team that can couple both coasts’ techniques will be the top dog—the total package will be the best. Anybody that scorns dead bait is a fool. Anybody who scorns live bait fishing is a fool. You pick up a lot of bits and pieces along the way and the end results are being able to put all those pieces together
in a manner that works… But the real key is days on the water.”