An interview with angler and fishing guide James Nelson


Captain James Nelson has turned his passion for fishing into a career as one of the area’s few full-time fishing guides. This man literally takes people fishing for a living. We shot him some questions, hoping to get a better idea who he is and what drives him as an angler and fishing guide. For information on his guide service, or learn even more about him, visit his website at

How long have you been fishing, and how did you get started?

I have been fishing for about forty years. I got started with a Zebco 202 combo on a family trip to Lake Isabella, when I was four years old.

What is your go-to technique when nothing else seems to work, and why do you have so much confidence in it?

The three inch grub on a ΒΌ ounce lead head will catch fish anywhere, saltwater or freshwater, panfish to monsters. I had a guy on board recently who caught a fifteen pound leopard shark on a three inch grub.

What do you do for fun when you’re not fishing?

I write, play, and record songs. I’m not the best singer, or musician, but it helps me stay balanced.

What fishing related goals do you have that you’ve not yet achieved?

God has blessed me with great opportunities. As a full time fishing guide, I am living a goal now. I don’t need to catch another fish myself to be happy. Seeing kids and families – newbies – catch their first fish, this is what brings me joy.

What is your favorite fishing location within San Diego County, and why?

San Diego Bay is by far the best fishery in the southwest. However, my memories of Chollas Lake as a child; are forever in my heart.

If you could fish one place outside of San Diego, where would that be and why?

Lake Havasu. It is a great blend of serenity amidst tourism run-a-muck, of tree hugger and outdoorsmen reaching a common good. Oh, and Havasu has lots of smallmouth bass; some the size of small farm animals.

Are there any other anglers that you credit for helping you excel as an angler?

I credit all of them. Everybody from the newbie, to the touring bass pro, to guys on TV that I never met; they have all influenced me and taught me something. If you listen, if you watch closely, we have something to learn from everyone.

What is your favorite species of fish to target? What about that fish makes it so alluring?

I like all fish. The largemouth bass is a funny creature. I have released quite a few mako sharks in the past few years. Someday, I would like to catch one.


Next week we will have an interview with another local fishing guide, Tom Lowery.

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