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Passing the Torch to the Next Generation

Now more than ever, there is a need for quality mates

March 17, 2021
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A boat captain wearing a cap and a pair of shades.
Capt. Mike “Glaze” Glaesner has trained many who have gone on to successful careers in sport fishing. Cameron J. Rhodes

Change is constant in the sport-fishing community. Through ­discovery, innovation and conservation, we’ve seen distinct periods of great change over the years. According to some, we’ve entered a time that will be remembered as the Age of the Mate. Whether this period will be marked by the rise or fall of the ­sport-fishing mate as we know it remains largely up for debate, but one truth remains: What happens next is up to the young people who choose to pursue these careers on the water and the seasoned captains who will train them.

Capt. Mike “Glaze” Glaesner understands the value of the captain-mate ­relationship. He’s proved it time and again over the course of an impressive 40-year career. He too sees the writing on the wall, saying: “There has never been a time that I can remember when good mates were needed more in our industry. The opportunity for aspiring mates has never been better.”

This should be a sign of good things to come. Now more than ever, there are opportunities to learn the ins and outs of professional sport-fishing operations. For seasoned captains, this is a time to provide guidance, critique and support to the next generation of fishermen. Captains like Glaesner do just that, offering newcomers the tools they need to have successful careers as mates and eventually, as captains. So it’s no surprise that he has taken on the role of mentor and teacher.

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An antique photo of a fishing crew standing around a marlin.
Fourteen-year-old Glaesner with his first blue marlin, which set the tone for his career at the helm. Courtesy Mike Glaesner

Learning from the Greats

Mike went offshore with his father, Fred Glaesner, for the first time when he was just 7 years old. Fred was one of the earliest pioneers of offshore fishing in Charleston, South Carolina, and helped to create a foothold for the sport there—a tradition still very much alive there today. With just a depth sounder, a CB radio and an AM radio to find their way home aboard a 20-foot Bertram, it didn’t take long for Mike to recognize the romance and excitement of bluewater fishing. Under the guidance of those like his father, he embraced the intricacies and artistry behind each billfish bite. “I tried to soak up as much knowledge as possible from my dad and his friends. Before long I was rigging baits, tying knots, and wiring and gaffing fish,” Glaesner says. “In 1974, I caught my first blue marlin at 14. Two weeks later I caught my second, and we won our first tournament. I knew then that this was my calling.”

In those early years, Glaesner never shied away from an opportunity to learn. He took his first job as a mate aboard Rookie IV, fishing alongside Charleston greats such as his father, as well as Dick McCaskill, Charlie Rivers, Dr. Tom Gibson and the boat’s owner, Eddie Buck. Watching and competing with those men, he took note of many tips and tricks, but none carried more weight than one simple but compelling truth: “I learned early on that to be successful, you must put together a great team, with everyone pulling in the same direction,” he says. “We certainly proved that on Rookie IV in the late 1970s and early ’80s with several tournament wins.” Surrounded by his heroes, it was in those formative years as a young boy and teenager that Glaesner learned the skills he’d need to become a successful captain later in life. He learned what it takes to build and lead a team.

A boat captain wearing a cap and a pair of shades.
Chris Wilson was the first full-time mate Glaesner hired, the first of many to follow. Cameron J. Rhodes

After running his own Charleston-based ­charter operation following his college graduation, Glaesner decided to pursue work with a privately owned boat instead. He soon took a job aboard the Eubank family’s Sportin’ Life, a 37-foot Merritt at the time. Glaesner has worked for the Eubanks, who are long-standing pillars of South Carolina’s sport-fishing community, on and off for over two decades.

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Glaesner is well-known for his attention to detail, especially when it comes to the care and maintenance of a boat. That deep appreciation for the beauty, power and finesse of a sport-fisher flourished when he participated in the build of a 65-foot Bayliss in 2005—an experience that left a lasting impression on him. Glaesner recalls: “I was thrilled to not only be involved with the build, but also to benefit from John Bayliss’ priceless guidance. Building that boat was one of the most educational and enjoyable periods of my career.” Regardless of his own immense expertise, Glaesner remains open to new challenges and ­lessons, whether building a boat or running one. “I’ve learned it’s important to share information with other captains and to ask questions. You can never stop learning,” he says. “Always try to stay up to date on cutting-edge methods. Every day of ­fishing is a learning experience.”

Just as in a marriage, working together means sticking it out for better and for worse. “The easy, fun part of being a mate is the fishing,” Glaesner says. “The bilge cleaning, sump-box cleaning, yard work and boat maintenance are the not-so-­glorious parts of the job, but they’re a big part. I have always been one to help with the washing and cleaning after a trip, and I feel that helps morale.” Even when the head stops working or when the teak just won’t sand clean, Glaesner has a knack for making his mates feel like valued members of the team. Maybe it’s his unmatched work ethic or his eagerness to seek feedback and critique from owners and crew. Perhaps it’s his truly tangible love for his family. Whatever it is, Glaesner has a history of building a strong rapport with terrific mates.

A large marlin breaking out of the water.
While marlin fishing is the fun part of the job, boat and tackle maintenance is just as important. Divan Coetzee

The Original First Mate

In 1993, when Glaesner first took the job with the Eubank family, he found himself in a position he’d never been in before. As captain of Sportin’ Life, he’d need to hire a full-time mate for the first time. He gave the job to Chris “Bootsy” Wilson, a young man who wasn’t afraid to show some zeal. “Chris taught me that a good mate has a real passion for fishing,” he reminisces. With Glaesner at the helm, Wilson in the cockpit, and Manly and Graham Eubank on the rods, Sportin’ Life racked up a string of tournament victories, proving they were indeed a formidable team.

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Although the two men spent most of their time together in pursuit of billfish, Wilson noticed that Glaesner showed immense versatility as a ­fishing professional. “The really cool thing about Mike is that he can do it all,” Wilson says. “From pretty much being one of the first flats guides in the Charleston area to light-tackle reef fishing to offshore pelagics and billfish. That’s why he’s been a huge mentor to me. The best of the best are versatile fishermen.” Glaesner also has a tendency to want to be in the cockpit. He likes being hands-on, which usually garners respect from his young mates. That respect was certainly a mutual one, as Glaesner and Wilson are still buddies today. Wilson worked for the Eubank family for 10 years, eventually moving on to start his own successful charter business. “Mike’s been there a lot for me, and we always keep in touch weekly,” Wilson says. “Those 10 years working with him are some of my best memories. We had some amazing days on the water.”

A fishing crew overlooks the side of a boat while releasing a large marlin.
Michael Ebert, Cordes Lucas and Elliott Curry release one while fishing aboard Roulette in the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament. Courtesy Mike Glaesner

The Fishing Daddy

Glaesner didn’t know all that much about Elliott Curry when he first hired him in 2008 as the mate on Roulette, a 61-foot Gary Davis. He had heard from others that he was a hardworking kid, and that he had experience fishing all around the world. Even though they didn’t know each other well at first, it didn’t take long for them to hit it off as colleagues and friends. After winning a few tournaments during the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, the pair ran Roulette to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for some epic sailfishing.

While working and traveling with Curry, Glaesner noticed that he was a young man with well-defined career goals. Curry wasn’t just a mate for the fun of it—he was there to excel, to leave an impression, and to move up. “Elliott attended a marine school in Maine and was extraordinarily knowledgeable about boats,” Glaesner says. “It was clear to me that he had aspirations to run a boat one day.” On the other hand, Curry admired the man at the helm and took note of everything Glaesner did and said.

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Fortunately, Glaesner doesn’t keep all of those trade secrets to himself. He readily shares what he knows with others, an immeasurable gift for a young mate with dreams of making it as a captain. “Even though I probably deserved his wrath more than a few times, he always made sure it came across that he wasn’t mad at me as a person,” Curry says. “The work is what’s most important. It has to get done properly.” It’s clear that Glaesner is a patient yet demanding teacher—he expects his mates to rise to his standards. Fortunately for the mates who have worked for him, he does so through encouragement and constructive criticism, and that’s a difficult thing to master in such an intense business.

A fishing crew on the deck of a boat.
Success begins with a team that works together for a common goal, something Glaesner recognized at a very early stage in his career. Teamwork pays off. Courtesy Mike Glaesner

Glaesner’s style of mentorship seems to work well, especially for dedicated mates who want to eventually run their own programs. After Roulette sold, the pair moved on to different boats. Even then, Curry continued to freelance and fish with Glaesner and the Sportin’ Life crew as often as he could. It was too much fun to miss, and the extra education and practice didn’t hurt. Not long afterward, Curry took his first full-time captain job aboard Mama C and later, Fender Bender. The proverbial torch had been passed; he now works aboard Outage based out of Los Sueños in Costa Rica, and he also remains one of Glaesner’s closest friends. “My career continues to go well, and in many ways, because of Mike. He taught me plenty of the things I’d need to excel in this business, and having him as a good reference on a resume is infinitely a plus,” Curry says. And while he deserves the credit for his own successes, his mentor certainly helped pave the way, much like a devoted father. Curry now laughingly refers to Glaesner as his fishing daddy, a joke that definitely speaks to Curry’s admiration and gratitude.

A Version of Himself

Glaesner looks for personality first when ­hiring a mate, and he sure found plenty of it in ­then-5-year-old Cordes Lucas. The enthusiastic youngster got an early start, tagging along with his father on offshore trips with the Eubank family. “I saw myself in Cordes. He was so passionate about fishing,” Glaesner recalls. It seemed only fitting that Glaesner would take Lucas under his wing.

A boat captain wearing a cap and a pair of shades.
Curry is one of many who soaked up years of experience on deck before moving up to captain. Cameron J. Rhodes

Many years later, Lucas landed his first full-time job as a mate on Dem Boys with Capt. Reid Bost. He worked for the program for five years until the boat was sold. He then took a job with Glaesner on Sportin’ Life. “Cordes has an infectious personality, which makes him fun to be around,” Glaesner explains. “A strong fishing team can always benefit from a team member who can keep everyone at ease and laughing. If you have good mojo on the boat, it always helps with your fishing success.”

Few mates, if any at all, strike up an interest in sport-fishing because they dream of those long days of boat maintenance. Nevertheless, it’s a pivotal part of the job. “I can teach a mate to fish, but I can’t make them take pride in the boat,” Glaesner says. “That has to be in their DNA.” Lucas shares that pride, and has even taken things a step further with an interest in mechanical engineering. “Cordes is extremely mechanically inclined, which will help him tremendously as a captain,” Glaesner says. Lucas recently took a job as captain on Cluster Fish and is now another example of a mate moving up the ladder. He’ll rely on many of the skills and traits he honed under Glaesner’s guidance, including his competitive nature. “It is great fishing with him because you know that even in the last hour of the last day of a tournament, he is up there trying just as hard as when you set out on Day One,” Lucas says. “Over the years he taught me more lessons than I can count, both on and off the water.”

A crew mate looks over the edge of a sport fishing boat at a large marlin.
“I can teach a mate to fish, but I can’t make them take pride in the boat. That has to be in their DNA.” Courtesy Mike Glaesner

For the New Kids

It would be impossible to fully account for how many people Glaesner has influenced over the years. The list is certainly not limited to Chris Wilson, Elliott Curry and Cordes Lucas. Drop the name “Glaze” in a crowd of marlin fishermen, and more than likely you’ll get a warm but reverent reaction. “He’s a man of principle and dedication to his family, friends, bosses, fishing community and, maybe most of all, his boats,” Curry says. “He might be the truest example I have ever seen of the adage ‘how you do one thing, is how you do everything.’”

A boat captain wearing a cap and a pair of shades.
Lucas always brought a good work ethic as well as a ­fun-loving personality to the position. Cameron J. Rhodes

Now is the opportunity for our community to be adaptable, to find ways to engage young people at a time when fewer kids seem interested in pursuing careers in fishing. It once wasn’t unusual to see eager kids at the dock looking for a shot. “There doesn’t seem to be as many young mates climbing up the tree. I hope this trend changes, but I have my doubts,” Glaesner says. Hopefully by telling stories like this, captains like Glaesner can encourage fishing-frenzied kids to seek out those opportunities. And perhaps the lessons of successful mentorships will inspire other captains to consider taking on new recruits. The sport-fishing community depends on it.

As the fleet gets a little grayer, the need to pass the torch gets a little more desperate. The knowledge a captain has to share must be passed down through experience, by way of weathered hands and salt-laden memories. It has to be taught and tested, and this community cannot afford to lose it. “My advice to young kids who aspire to work in this industry is to go hang out at the docks and offer to help wash and chamois. Show the captains you are hardworking and have a passion to learn,” Glaesner says. “If you show that passion, chances are you will get an opportunity. If you get the opportunity, make the best of it. Ask questions. Show you care. Get to the boat early, and stay late. Keep the boat spotless. And always be respectful.” It’s your time. Make it happen.

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