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Hiring Professional Captains

Four boat owners reveal all

September 28, 2021
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A collage of boat captains.
Which qualities are most important when hiring a professional captain? (from Left): Courtesy Bill Haugland, Courtesy David Sykes, Courtesy Kristen Salazar, Courtesy Steven Mungo

Bill Haugland, Lights Out, Palm Beach, Florida

Bill Haugland, Lights Out, Palm Beach, Florida
Bill Haugland, Lights Out, Palm Beach, Florida Courtesy Bill Haugland

A great captain needs to be the whole package: fully understand all the boat’s operating systems, and have strong people skills with an ability to develop relationships with the owner, his family and guests, and the mates, all of which requires great tact, discretion, and more than a dash of diplomacy. Successful fishing trips always begin with a positive attitude and enthusiasm as well as having a great time while rallying the troops. I’m extremely fortunate to call my captain a friend. He has the highest of personal integrity and a sixth sense when it comes to finding fish, which is why we’ve been together for more than a decade.

Watch: Learn to rig a swimming mackerel here.

David Sykes, Syked Out, Isle of Palms, South Carolina

David Sykes, Syked Out, Isle of Palms, South Carolina
David Sykes, Syked Out, Isle of Palms, South Carolina Courtesy David Sykes

To me, some of the most important qualities to consider whenever hiring a professional captain are a passion for fishing and the confidence to operate and maintain the boat, as well as help both the crew and the anglers be the best they can be. Camaraderie with the owner, the mate(s) and the rest of the crew is also a must, and the capability needed to manage the vessel in any circumstance and challenge. Knowledge about finding the target species and the smarts to put the boat in the best position possible to capitalize on bites is especially crucial when tournament fishing.

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Kristen Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge, Puerto San Jose, Escuintla, Guatemala

Kristen Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge, Puerto San Jose, Escuintla, Guatemala
Kristen Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge, Puerto San Jose, Escuintla, Guatemala Courtesy Kristen Salazar

Attitude and heart are everything. Our captains must enjoy fishing and telling fish stories, and know how to turn a bad day of fishing into a great day. Being a team player is a huge component in the total experience at Casa Vieja Lodge. Our captains aren’t competing with each other, but rather, as a part of the Casa Vieja family, they are responsible for creating the ultimate offshore memories for our clients. Sharing information with the fleet is essential. Whoever finds the fish first shares his location with the rest to help ensure that all anglers get shots that day. We believe that teamwork really does make the dream work.

Read Next: Favorite Bahamas destination? Four well-traveled captains tell all.

Steven Mungo, Home Run, Charleston, South Carolina

Steven Mungo, Home Run, Charleston, South Carolina
Steven Mungo, Home Run, Charleston, South Carolina Courtesy Steven Mungo

Aside from a real passion for ­fishing, chemistry was the most important attribute I looked for in a captain. Capt. Grant Bentley and I have been together for more than 15 years, and when you fish as much as we do, you spend a lot of time with your captain. I can’t imagine passing that many hours with someone with whom I didn’t “click.” The right captain becomes part of your family. Accountability in managing your boat is also very important. A captain is responsible for a huge asset that costs a lot to maintain and operate; you never want to worry about stewardship.

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