Wheelhouse Tales: “The Master of Deception.”

It’s the middle of the day, and I’m running down the back of Catalina looking for a seabass before time runs out on a charter.  I look over and see Allyn Watson on the “Dreamer” sitting on the lower side of “New Slide Kelp” kicking the snot out of the seabass.  Allyn is not one to call someone in, but he’s smart.  I slowed the boat and slid inside to have a closer look.  Allyn holds up his hand as if to say, “Just wait a few minutes, we’re almost done.”  I waited.  Not long after he gives me the signal and I move the boat into position and shut the engines off.  Cindy (Allyn Deckhand) comes up to the bow of the Dreamer and begins pulling the hook hand over hand.  We drift back and past the Dreamer into the pocket, and Allyn starts his engines at the last second, pulling out quietly.  He pokes his head out from the helm and says the obvious “keep it to yourself.”  “Yep” is all I said.  The seabass bit like they had no idea another boat had moved into position.  We call that, a “clean transfer.”  Quick limits and we got out of there.  Not a single boat around had any idea what had even happened.  Mission accomplished.

The next day I kept that in my back pocket.  A backup plan if you will, just in case I couldn’t find a spot of fish that wants to bite earlier.  Seabass tend to be “time of day” biters and usually that “time of day” is an hour later each day, just like the tides.  So when I had not found a single seabass by bite time, I went back to that same kelp, and found the “Dreamer” nearby.  Allyn is the master of deception, and is so accustomed to being followed around, that most of his moves during each day are to put other boats out of position at bite time.  I watched Allyn move several times, knowing full well that he intended to be where I was come that magical time.  On this day there would be no shaking the crowd.  Everyone knew that he and I had limits the day before, and stuck to both of us like glue.  He and I sat side by side, with no less than 20 skiffs and private sportfishers surrounding us.

Bite time was near and I was on the bridge listening to the radio chatter.  My crew was busy chumming like mad to make sure the seabass parked behind us, and not anyone else.  Then I hear someone call Allyn on the radio.  “Dreamer Allyn, pick me up?”  Allyn is not one to talk to just anyone on the radio, so I was surprised when he answered so quickly.  “This is Dreamer, go ahead” said Allyn.  “Hey, just wanted to let you know that we got some of them thar fish you like so much up here at China Point.  You might wanna come up here man!”  Said the other voice on the radio.  Cindy ran up to the bow of the Dreamer, and began to act as if she was pulling the anchor as fast as she could.

All at once, every skiff and yacht that was around us pulled their anchors as well, and being much faster than Allyn and I, high tailed it for China Point in a cloud of two stroke outboard and diesel smoke.  It was about 15 minutes until bite time and Allyn and I sat side by side, not another boat for miles.

I was running the RailTime, and that boat had the most excellent electronics of any charter boat around.  Among other things, it had multiple radios on the bridge, and a RDF.  A RDF, or “Radio Direction Finder,” tells you what direction a radio signal comes from, and that day the RDF was pointing at the “Dreamer” the whole time.  It seems Allyn had cooked up a plan to have one of his passengers make the call about the seabass at China Point, from the radio in the salon of the “Dreamer.”  Brilliant.  I suspect he hoped maybe I would “take the bait” as well, but the thought to leave never crossed my mind.

The seabass bit, right on schedule.  Both Allyn and I got it done quickly and got out of there so nobody knew where we had our seabass limits for the day.  Much later that night, after we had dropped off our passengers and picked up new groups, we visited on the radio about what went down earlier that day.  I told Allyn about the fancy RDF I had on board, and how I knew all along that he was pulling a fast one.  We laughed hard, and made plans to keep the skiffs guessing whenever we could.  I was young, and did not have the patience or tact that Allyn had, so he was much more successful at fooling the crowds.  He was then, and still is today, the master of deception.

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