BY BUD CHADDOCK
There was a time when a bait ticket that had a certain pier’s name on it could buy you a chance at immortality amongst fellow pier anglers. Catching a nice halibut, calico or sand bass, bonito, barracuda, or in my case and others, a bluefin tuna, could buy you this chance of pier im- mortality. Yes, you heard me right – a bluefin tuna. It may not have been big, maybe 10 to 20 pounds, but it was still a bluefin.
These are some of the memories I share with my fellow 8- to 18-year-old wharf rat friends. We would ride our bicycles, before we had our own cars, or bum a ride from one of our parents or neighbors heading to the piers from Lomita to Torrance. I still remember my fishing rods on the handlebars of my bike, trying to get them to their destination without knocking someone down on the sidewalk or clipping a telephone pole along the way. We used your typical Sabre rods of the day. They were usually deckhand-style and simply made by either Hermosa Tackle Box, (Thank you Pete!) TC’ss Bait and Tackle or Yo`s Tackle store. The rods were usually a 196-7 or we used a small one numbered 140 with a Squidder Junior or a Penn 501.
We were kings once we arrived early to get a choice fishing spot at the end of the Redondo Monstad pier, located on the southwest corner, as we prepared ourselves for a chance at a bluefin or a big bonita. Some- times we would cast our lines near Tony`s Fish Market for a nice halibut. There were up to 5 bluefin caught at certain times every day during peak periods. We would cast out a weight as far as we could, then attach a leader with a snap swivel with a 3-foot leader and a number 8 hook made by either Mustad or Eagle Claw (live bait style). Then we would collar hook an anchovy or nose hook them. We always would try to get a greenback mackerel from the guy behind the bait tank on the pier rather than a sluggish, net-beaten blue- back if we could. To have a chance at a bluefin you needed every advantage. We were lucky to get help from many an old salt on the pier. We always feared a mack attack or a smart seagull that might take that great bait to its doom.
Now all that was needed was the magic bait ticket we had to buy to have half a chance. They came in many colors depending on what roll they were on and usually had, “GOOD FOR ONE LIVE BAIT, Redondo Pier” printed in bold letters. They normally cost 10 cents each, and I think 20 tickets could be bought for a buck back then. Other piers offered the same type of bait tickets, with the names of Cabrillo, Hermosa, Belmont, Seal Beach, Malibu and others. Sometimes the owner’s name would also be printed on the ticket. Once we got that bait in the water, we awaited our fate as the wharf rats we were at the time.
Like any type of fishing, there were good days and slower days. However, we really didn’t have any truly bad days because there was always Zeppey`s Pizza to get a couple of slices to make a success out of a slow day of fishing. Looking back, I am sure Zeppey enjoyed seeing my friends and I happy and tired from a day of fishing on the pier. As a youth, I heard stories of many large black seabass caught on the Redondo Pier in the 1920s due to the large canyon nearby which ran adjacent on the ocean floor. In addition, the pier was a bit longer then. A gentleman named Bill Hilton, whom I worked commercial albacore with, showed me a picture of his father with a 225-pound seabass he caught off that pier back then. Hilton gave me a blow-by-blow of the scene in a story to go with the picture of that behemoth seabass.
Many thanks to my fishing buddies Mike, Paul, Carl, Frank and Pat for all the memories. Thanks also to all the local tackle shops that let us sit, listen and learn, as well as the patience you had with us. You gave us priceless memories. These regional bait tickets look good displayed in an office. If you can get a few to frame, write up a few memories of your own and create your own masterpiece. Many saltwater anglers would enjoy a display of these bait tickets in his or her fishing room. Look in that box for those memories that grandpa had or memories you have had. It will put a smile on your face.
Thanks for the memories. You have a collection of memories, and maybe some bait tickets too. Be sure to share these snapshots in time with others!
Bud Chaddock is the owner of Squidme tackle in Northern California.