Boss Man Chronicles: Profiles of Boat Owners
The Boss Man Chronicles tells the story behind boat owners and the operations they make possible. In this, the first installment, we showcase 88-year-old Ron Rule who owns the Fuujin, a 54-foot Viking based in Los Sueños. Rule still catches blue marlin stand up…
By Ric Burnley
Ron Rule got bit by the marlin bug on a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama in the 1980s. “We were buying a boat and figured we’d do some fishing while we were visiting,” Rule remembers. He was living in Michigan at the time and wanted a boat to fish the lake. While in Alabama, Rule entered a Mobile Big Game Fishing Club tournament. He fished three days and almost won top prize. “We never took the boat to Michigan,” he laughs.
Rule named his new boat Fuujin after the Fighting Fuujins – the Fourth Fighter Squadron of the US Airforce. The squadron is named for Fuujin, the Japanese god of the wind. During the Korean War, Rule flew with the Fourth as a rear seater. “My job was to navigate the plane through bad weather or at night.”
After Rule left active duty, he spent 29 years in the Air Force Reserve. When he wasn’t defending the nation, Rule worked his way up the corporate ladder until he was recruited to take over control of United States Playing Card Company, makers of the famous Bicycle and Aviator brands. “I turned the company around and eventually bought control.”
Once the business was in the black, he sold it back to the investors and retired. Rule’s golden years didn’t last long. “My son, Brad, suggested I buy a company, so I bought a hamburger restaurant.” He’s built the chain to 75 stores and Brad runs day-to-day operations. Rule laughs, “I get the best of both worlds, my son runs the company and I come in a couple times a month.”
This arrangement leaves Rule with plenty of time for fishing. After a great run in Orange Beach, Rule sold his boat. “I went fishing in Costa Rica and decided I wanted my own boat.” He had a 54-foot Viking built and shipped to Golfito in 2009. “The boat has never known any other water.” In 2012, Rule hired Captain Jimmy Kitchell to run the new Fuujin. The team has fished in some of the biggest tournaments, but these days they focus on smaller events and fun fishing. “Ron has been fishing tournaments for 40 years,” his captain explains.
Kitchell calls Rule his boss and mentor, and stepfather. “I introduced him to my mom and the two got married!” Kitchell laughs. He says Rule is a dedicated angler. “He fishes all day holding the line,” Kitchell marvels.
Rule is tough, too. On one fishing trip, a sailfish charged the boat and jumped into the cockpit. “It hit Ron on the shoulder and bounced off,” Kitchell says. Rule had black slime on his shirt. Kitchell chuckles, “He’s John Wayne in a pair of Tevas.” If that endorsement were not enough, Rule is also 88 years of age.
The team recently took a trip to the FADs off Costa Rica where they released 22 marlin in two-and-a-half days. “That’s a real load!” Rule gets excited. The crew lucked into a calm weather window during a full moon. Kitchell adds, “Ron caught 12 of the fish. He was standing by his rod until the last minute.”
Rule remembers another trip when they released 42 sailfish. “There’s no better fishing than Costa Rica,” Rule says. After ten years fishing out of Los Sueños, he still loves the area and people. “We like to go out and fish, it’s a great place to have a good time.”
Most recently, Rule has become involved with Freedom Alliance, an organization that gives veterans meaningful experiences. Fuujin, along with a group of Los Sueños boats, hosts wounded warriors for fishing and relaxation. “It is good for them and good for me,” Rule says. For the moment, when a big fish is on the line, everyone forgets everything and focuses on the action. Later, the memories help to ease the pain. “These guys have seen some bad stuff,” Rule says.
Rule enjoyed the experience so much he hopes to host Freedom Alliance veterans at his recently-purchased ranch in Montana. “We have a stream called Fish Creek,” he says. The ranch also offers accommodations for therapeutic horse riding.
At 88 years old, Rule hasn’t stopped exploring. “People asked why I bought a ranch when I don’t know anything about ranching,” Rule laughs. “I tell them, ‘That’s why I bought the ranch!’” Rule takes that attitude to every endeavor, which explains his passion for offshore fishing. “It’s always interesting,” he says.