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PALM LATITUDES

Sport Report

June 28, 1992|Mary McNamara

It starts at about 3:30, the clock-watching. You've been sitting at your desk for hours, battling images of gridlock; you're supposed to be there an hour early to make sure you don't miss the boat. Literally. Because out there, a mile or two offshore, about 30 feet deep in an ocean that twilight will nudge from green to blue to black, is a kelp bed, full of sand bass, calico bass, barracuda and bonito if you're lucky, mackerel and croaker if you're not. It's the bass you're after. You and the other 20-odd folks who, at 6 o'clock, climb onto the Sea Spray, a fishing-party boat out of Redondo Beach Harbor, for a few hours of twilight bass fishing.

Every day from June through October, boats all along the coast push off into the setting sun. The ride out to the reefs is just long enough to decide between lures and live bait (the hundreds of anchovies in the bait tank do look particularly lively), stomp up to the galley for a few beers and maybe a burger, and push five bucks into the jackpot pool. The five members (and a few friends) of the Tuesday Afternoon Custody Case and Fishing Club lean against the aft rail, the best spot on the boat. Their motto--affixed to K. C. (Fishing Machine) Collins' tackle box--declares them "Dedicated to spirits consumption, unadulterated angling skills and superior bait presentation." Bob Livrano and four friends lean against the port rail. "It's the greatest out here," Livrano says. "No phones."

The boat circles, slows, stops. The deckhand chums the water, tossing anchovies over the side, coaxing bass from the kelp--the fish move more freely in the safety of twilight. A sea lion breaks the surface, blowing hard. The lines swoop into the water, and then everyone waits for the first hit. Bass usually bite as the bait descends; the wriggling anchovy looks injured, vulnerable. Reel in the line, drop it, wait to see at what depth the fish are. Drop it again and again, then-- bam . The tip of the stick dips like a dowsing rod; set the hook, reel it in fast and hope that glimmer of white in the water--which isn't twisting like a mackerel or running like a 'cuda so it must be a bass--is at least a foot long, a keeper.

For a couple of hours, the fish hit steadily. Everyone quiets down, concentrating, trotting back and forth to the bait tank, staring at the water, waiting for that tell taletug. The deckhand moves from person to person, taking fish off hooks, tossing the keepers into the appropriate burlap bags; two, five, seven, none, depending on skill, and luck. The last sunlight skitters toward the edge of the water, the lights of Redondo, Manhattan, Playa del Rey ding into brightness, and you remember that the ocean is not the beach, the ocean is here. Then the action dies down; soon they'll pull up anchor and you'll head back to earth.

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