SoCal Sticks from the Past – Jack O’Malley

Jack O’Malley of the West Valley Bassmasters hoists a 10-pound northern taken on a jig. Photo courtesy of Dave Coolidge.

Sticks from the Past is a column devoted to anglers who made an impact either in their local region or state. They’re the anglers who made all the other anglers shudder when they plopped down their entry fees. In this first installment we look at one of southern California’s hottest anglers in the 70s, 80s and 90s – Jack O’Malley.

During the late 70s and 80s, I had the opportunity to work in one of California’s best tackle shops. Here I heard tales of legendary western anglers and their exploits on the water. One name that always came up was Jack O’Malley of the West Valley Bassmasters. By the early 80s, I was fishing against Jack in local team events. At that time, he was known as one of the best, if not the best, jig fisherman in the state. And he had a lot of competition during that time from the likes of Mike Folkestad and Larry Hopper.

Frequently I see posts on sites talking about who the best jig fisherman is or was. Personally, I feel there’s too much to fishing a jig to make one person the best. For example, Flippin’ and pitchin’ a jig is completely different than fishing a jig on a standard cast. And, to fish a jig in deep water is probably one if not the most difficult thing to do – especially for anglers just starting out. For flippin’ it’s hard to dispute Dee Thomas, Gary Klein and Dave Gliebe’s successes over the years. But for fishing the jig deep, Jack O’Malley was the angler who scared everyone on the local scene.

Then, while doing an interview for another article, Jack’s name came up again. It turns out that before I got on the scene, O’Malley had a reputation of not just being a killer jig fisherman, but one of the most versatile anglers in the southwestern part of the country. In 1973, he took the AOY honors for the California Lunker Club (the first tournament organization in the west) and held the highest AOY rank ever achieved for that organization.