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Feature Article: Going Fishing With Owner

Going fishing with the owner

BY RICH HOLLAND/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 16, 2020

NEWPORT BEACH — Bob Twilegar graduated from Corona Del Mar High School a year ahead of me. Since my family moved to Newport from Playa del Rey before my senior year, we never crossed paths until the day I was interviewed for a job at Western Outdoor News by the publisher — Bob’s father Burt.

I got hired for what was essentially my second chance with Western Outdoors. The first time was a short stint on the magazine for what was little more than a secretarial position. This time I would be working on the newspaper under Pat McDonell and given a beat — the Southern California salt­water scene from San Diego to Morro Bay. I would work for Pat and the Twilegars straight through the next 25 years, Bob taking over for Burt in the natural course of things at a family owned business.

A MOMENT FROZEN in time, Rich Holland’s last fishing trip with then WON salesman Mike Bohn, WON owner Bob Twilegar, his father Rich Holland Sr., and his father’s best salesman, Frank Worford. RICH HOLLAND PHOTO

Bob was a man who repaid loyalty after learning firsthand from his father, a former Herald-Examiner outdoor editor, and fishing and boating show empresario Fred Hall, the economies of scale working within a limited — though large and growing — enthusiast marketplace.

To make a very long story very short, Bob was never very comfortable paying someone to go fishing or hunting. Would you be? Obviously there’s a lot more to being an editor at an outdoor publication that at the time put out both a weekly newspaper and a monthly glossy magazine than going fishing, yet it’s impossible to put together a good product if you don’t get out on the water.

In a publisher’s ideal world, your editors would work full time on the nuts and bolts — writing, editing, layout — and then fish on their own time. In reality, excellence requires both — an outdoor editor’s entire life becomes absorbed by the pursuit of fish and stories. Throw in tournaments, sponsored trips and working vacations and at some point, it all turns into work. All of life becomes a moment in time a few good photos away from an article. Getting paid for your passion makes it all work.

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, we all know now that anyone can be a writer/photographer. That was always the case in outdoor writing (gratitude duly noted at this point) and there has never been a shortage of fishermen willing to turn in stories in return for little more than their 15 seconds of fame and a free boat ride.

Nothing is free in this world. Yet working at WON offered multiple opportunities to fish with minimal cash layout.

I worked a lot of these “free trips” in the course of my job. And all of the above is explanation for why I made sure to include Bob from time to time. Bob almost always had his own boat and cherry-picked when he would go — usually at the peak summer moment when the kelp paddies are loaded, yellowfin tuna schools are abundant and (in those days anyway) albacore were just as likely to be found as bluefin.

So I took care with my invitations. They simply had to be good trips. One of the best was on the Baja Dream, a six-pack boat that ran out of Fisherman’s Landing at the time and was more a scaled down party boat than a yacht, complete with an ahead-of-its-time refrigerated saltwater fish hold. Along for the ride was my usual “ringer,” guaranteed fish catcher Mark Gasich. Mark brought along several daisy chain trolling rigs he tied up at Anglers Center.

The kelp paddies had been holding both tuna and dorado and the hunt was on early that morning off Baja. We were just about to pull in the trolling rigs and put some baits on a paddy when Captain Bobby said, “Leave them in, I see a better kelp up ahead and I can see the fish on it.”

We were a couple hundred feet away when the trolling lines were attacked by tuna and dorado, one or the other attached to every hooked bait and all the hookless soft plastics ripped off by the time the rigs were reeled in.

The fishing was beyond wide open, it was insanely good. Dorado jumped clear to grab baits before they hit the water. Anything would work. We were done and hadn’t even put a chip in the population aggregated on that kelp — or curbed their appetite. The five boats that came in at the skipper’s call all limited out. The boats in that code group would revisit that kelp for a week with the same results.

A perhaps even more memorable trip with Bob was on the Bongos. It was memorable for the fishing and especially for the company. Mike Bohn, a good friend and at the time Bob’s No. 1 salesman, was in the group, as was my father Rich and his best salesman, Frank Worford. And “Bongos” Joe Barian himself was at the helm.

My dad and Frank took me on my first fishing trip at the age of 4 and many fishing and hunting trips followed. The 2001 trip was my last time on the saltwater with either one and has worked out to be my last with Bob. As far as I know Joe is still kicking, but it was probably the last trip with him, too.

And what a trip it was. Purple blue water outside of San Clemente Island that gave away the location of one puddling school of albacore after another, the perfect size fish for the older guys to tackle. Kelp paddies that produced yellowtail for the young guys. The sweet, fast ride home with nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.

Those are the memories I cherish, the reason I fish.

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