A Day in the Life: Insight from three top Pro Mates
It’s been called ‘the toughest job you’ll ever love:’ being a world-class mate on a top-flight sportfishing boat. These guys are the unsung heroes of the team—while the captain and anglers can take all the fame and glory they can handle for a tournament win or running 250 charters a year, the mates quietly go back to work, cleaning the boat and prepping for the next day. It takes a special kind of person to consistently perform well in this environment.
In this comparative and insightful article, Sam White interviews three top mates from around the world:
Lee Scarborough has been fishing professionally for nine years and has been aboard Brant Wise’s Swordfish for the last two years, working under Capt. Jim Ashley.
Lance Hightower, working the deck of Jon Gonsoulin’s Done Deal with Capt. Jason Buck, is one of the Gulf’s top tournament mates. “Without a doubt the Gulf Coast is the hardest to fish from a mate’s perspective,” he says. “There’s so much variety and so much that you have to be prepared for. We have to be set with a complete arsenal, from live-baiting to dead bait trolling to lure fishing, and to be able to transition from one style to the other as quickly and easily as possible…..
Like many good mates, Carlos Arguedas is an experienced captain—he’s been fishing professionally for over 14 years and is currently running the Wing Man charterboat out of Los Suenos for a wide variety of species, including not just marlin and sailfish but roosterfish, snapper and others.
To see the full interviews of each pro, see the April/May Issue of InTheBite. Until then, here is Sam’s breakdown of some universal skills that make for a good mate. Whether you are looking to hire the next cockpit commando or are a mate fishing full time, keeping these steps in mind will pay off.
Keys to a Good Mate
First-rate people skills. Whether you’re on a charterboat or a private operation, it’s imperative that you be able to get along with a wide variety of people. Just being a first-rate bait rigger isn’t enough.
Good work ethic. If you’re looking for a nine-to-five job, this isn’t it. Mates always begin their days early and end up late, working most every weekend and frequently over any holidays. The hours can be brutal, especially when you’re fishing a long string of days in a row. Any downtime is devoted to maintenance and tackle prep, not a day off at the beach.
A willingness to learn. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Be a sponge, open to learning new techniques and methods every trip out. Fish with different captains and in different places as often as possible and learn to be flexible—there’s always a better way to do something right around the corner.
Know when to say when. Too many mates fall into the trap of alcohol and/or drug abuse. After a run of long days offshore and a pocket full of tip cash, it’s easy to party a little too hard and wind up either in trouble with the law or missing the next day’s trip. Don’t do it—know when to say when. Party all you want on your own time.
Develop a good reputation. The fishing community is a pretty small one so right from the start, develop and cultivate a good rep. You want to be known as a hard worker who always has a smile on his face, not the drunken slob who smells bad and is always late for work.