By Dave Ferrell
2019 Sea Genie II Hawaii Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Teddy Hoogs, Bwana, 1,900 Points
1st Place Release Points, Skins, 500 Pts.
1st Place Release Points, Lure Maker, 500 Pts.
3rd Place Release Points, Marlin Magic, 100 Pts.
2nd Place Release Points, BIMT, 300 Pts.
1st Place Points, It’s a Wrap, 500 Pts.
There are few places in the world as steeped in the history of sportfishing as Kailua Kona, Hawaii. The use of the very first outriggers and very first artificial trolling lures for marlin to name just two. It also hosts the world-famous Hoogs family of sportfishing pioneers. Capt. Teddy Hoogs, this year’s winner of the Sea Genie Captain of the Year award grew up fishing the prolific waters of Kona sitting on the lap of his famous father Peter Hoogs, at the helm of the Pamela. “There wasn’t any daycare back then, so there’s a lot of pictures of me sitting on my Dad’s lap while fishing a charter,” says Hoogs.
Now all grown up and a legendary force to be reckoned with in his own right, Hoogs, 38, pilots the 46-foot Gamerfisherman, Bwana, in some of the best blue marlin water in the world. “It was awesome when I found out we were going to get her. She was formerly named Adios, and I was drooling over her the whole time she was on Yacht World. It’s really great to run her here,” says Hoogs.
Hoogs works for owner Craig Lindner Jr., and over the last 11 years, the two have put together a good team of anglers and mates that all work on the same page. Carl Shepard’s been with me for four or five years now, and we had Keith “KJ” Robinson come along when we run two crew. It’s all good vibes with those guys.
We are all behind each other 100 percent. We stand behind our choices on the water. We also had Bobby Cherry fill in for a few tournaments this year as well. He’s a captain here in Kona as well, and runs a boat called the Cherry Pit. He’s a good friend and was a good asset for us this year. We made a lot of the right turns this year for sure,” says Hoogs.
Hoogs says that they caught the majority of their fish on lures, but that “we caught one on a live bait during the last tournament. Craig is an excellent angler, and he’s worked hard on our program. He knows when to tease a fish, when to back off the drag and when to put it to them. It’s like having another crewman on the deck,” says Hoogs.
Another thing that Hoogs appreciates about his present owner situation is that he doesn’t have to be out fishing every day to make his living. “I grew up fishing a ton of days on the Pamela. My Dad had to do a lot of fishing to raise a family. With this job, I don’t have to be out there every day now.
I’ve got a couple of kids so fishing just 65 days or so a year, the majority of that with Craig, makes it much easier on the family life. I’m still busy keeping the boat up, and I enjoy the fishing all the tournaments in the summer. This arrangement allows me to be here for the kids while they are growing up,” says Hoogs.
Although he’s done the majority of his fishing in Kona, Hoogs quickly learned about the benefits of traveling to different spots and learning the ins and outs of big-game fishing from a variety of different perspectives. “I did six seasons on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, went to Madeira with Clay Hensley and fished in Ghana, Africa with Alan Stewart. I’ve also done a lot of commercial tuna fishing here in Kona for many years. We get to see plenty of big ones right here at home.”
“I’m very proud to the get the Captain of the Year award,” says Hoogs. “I like catching big marlin and big tuna and I really like tournament fishing…those big fish really get me going. Although, I really don’t mind catching a few little blues during the tournaments; we can catch them fast, get some points, and hopefully win some money!”
2019 AIRMAR East Coast Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Ryan Knapp, Top Dog, 1000 Total Points
Hatteras Village Offshore Open, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
The Big Rock, Heaviest Marlin 914-pounds, 500 Pts.
Just a young pup at 29, Capt. Ryan Knapp has packed a lot of experience into his short career. Knapp’s grandfather and uncle had offshore boats while he was growing up and he says that, “I was always the one who wanted to go do it! My grandfather really encouraged me, and I was pretty much attached to him at the ankle. I grew up on the western shore of Maryland so we fished a of Chesapeake Bay and Ocean City stuff.”
Like a lot of aspiring mates, Knapp got his first paying job as mate on Joe Riley’s famous headboat, Muff Diver. “It was a big pink headboat and you couldn’t miss it. It’s not an easy job working on a headboat, but you could make it work if you are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the people happy. You really have to love doing it to be successful. When Riley finally retired at the age of 70, he said to me, Ryan, you are my last protégé, do me proud. I still think about that a lot and try to live up to his expectations.”
Knapp earned his AIRMAR East Coast Captain of the Year designation with two impressive first-place wins in the Big Rock and Hatteras Village open, so you could say that North Carolina has been very good to Knapp and his team. “I definitely got zoned in on where the fish were going to be in North Carolina this year. By the time I left the state, we were 12 for 12 on blue marlin bites and found every one of those fish in 80.5 F water. I got tuned into a few things, but I really just paid attention and did my job,” says Knapp.
Success, however, didn’t come quick or easy for his team. “I’ve fished The Big Rock for six years…and before last year, we’ve had just one bite in six years. It wasn’t that we weren’t in the zone, we just didn’t get the opportunities. You really are hunting unicorns out there sometimes.” “Five years into it and we still hadn’t caught one. At the end of the tournament my boss walks up and thanks us for all our hard work and tells us what a great tournament it’s been. Now that’s the guy you want to work for…a guy who will do what it takes to succeed.”
That perseverance paid off in spades this past year. “The Hatteras Village Open was awesome for us. The last day of fishing we saw five blues, caught three and killed one. We saw all the fish just 27 miles from the slip. It was truly an amazing day. All of the fish were 400-plus pounds and it was just amazing to see that many blue marlin in one day so close to home. It seemed like we would catch one, head up sea for a bit, turn around, catch another one, head up sea and do it again,” says Knapp.
Knapp’s first mate, Phillip “Moonpie” Williams is only a few years older than he is, but the team has been working together for the same set of owners on the same boat for the last four and half years. “We’ve been very fortunate to have worked together all this time…it makes for a good atmosphere and we are a very family-oriented team,” says Knapp.
“The boat is owned by two brothers, Todd and Kyle Dickerson, and since one of them was a police officer, most of our fishing guests consist of fire fighters and police officers. We have a small group of about ten guys that rotate through, so that’s a good thing as well. It keeps things fairly consistent.”
Knapp says that keeping an upbeat attitude is important for any boat’s success, whether fishing in a tournament or just for fun. “I never want to come home from a day’s fishing and have someone onboard that’s mad or upset about something; that’s the exact opposite of what a day’s fishing is supposed to bring.”
“I would like to thank everyone along the way who made me into what I am today. It’s very gratifying to win this award at such a young age. It’s really what you do all this for…you want to try to be the best and the one to beat,” says Knapp. “When I get to be an old man, I want the guys to head out the grounds and find me already sitting there when they pull up. Then I want them to say, ‘Shit! We aren’t going to catch anything today… Ryan’s going to catch them all!’ Bull Tolsen was that guy for me.”
2019 Contender Florida Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Nick Carullo, Showtime, 1,250 Total Points
Final Sail, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
Quest for the Crest Champion, 250 Pts.
Dust ‘Em Off Sailfish Warmup, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
Like many of the South Florida tournament headliners, Captain Nick Carullo takes bait fishing and preparation nearly as seriously as he does catching sailfish. Leading a high powered team that cruises around on a boat powered by 1400 horsepower, Carullo details all that goes into creating a successful kite fishing campaign.
“A lot goes into bait catching and prep work. Quality bait can be the key to catching one or two more fish than your competition,” Carullo says. His preferred arsenal includes goggle eyes, threadfin herring and sardines. “We have our bait pins at the dock. We dip baits into and out of the pin one at a time. Generally, baits will be penned up anywhere from three to six weeks before the tournament. They are fed every day.”
When traveling to fish a tournament in Palm Beach or elsewhere, bait transport is a major undertaking. “For tournaments, we like to have about 150 white baits—threadfin and sardines—per day. For goggle eyes, we try to have about 70 per day. You always want to have more in case of die off. When we travel, we bring 400 herring, 200-300 sardines, and 200 gogs. The boat has three wells, but we bring two 100-gallon wells on deck that are removable. Each of these can hold 150 baits.”
“In the average year, we’ll spend more time bait fishing than fishing for sailfish,” Carullo says. This investment of time, resources and care for the bait has paid off in spades. “For your average tournament, we’ll generally fish the weekend before and the two days prior to the tournament. This allows us to scout the area and know what’s going on.”
How does Carullo’s time prefishing tournaments compare to his investment in bait fishing? “We generally spend between four and eight days bait fishing for each tournament. It’s a constant struggle to keep the bait perfect.”
Given the many moving parts and the sizable nature of the investment of time and resources that goes into keeping everything tournament ready, having a committed group is very important. The Showtime’s
tournament team consists of angler Joe Fernandez (owner), Frankie Villasante, Sarah Melia, and Doug Mientkiewicz. Manning the cockpit are James Clear, Kyle Sherman and Jorge Corzo. The team’s tournament line up is rounded out by Jason Spiewak on the camera.
While this is Nick’s first year at the helm of the Showtime, he has fished with the mates for a long time. “Great chemistry and knowing what everyone is doing in different situations, without having to talk about it is very important. The chemistry comes into play when we are setting up on a free jumper, switching from a kite to a flat line or resetting on a fish with the kites out,” Carullo explains.
His approach to catching sailfish with the kites is one that accounts for a variety of variables. “Covering the right depths with the kites, especially as it relates to the wind is important. You want to stagger your kites so that the baits will cover different depths. Some people will deploy their kites so that all their baits are on the same depth profile,” says Nick.
Nick’s south Florida roots runs deep. He grew up in Miami fishing with his father. After cutting his teeth on his father’s small boat snapper fishing, he began crewing for one of South Florida’s finest captains. “I worked for Capt. Ray Rosher for three years. It was right after high school and during college. I got my first captain’s job right after working for Ray, when I was 23.”
While Nick has been a consistent name among the leaderboards of the Quest for the Crest Series for the past few years, 2019 was his first year aboard the Showtime. “I’ve know the Joe (the owner of the Showtime) for ten years. Right before the 2019 season, the owner I was working for pulled out. I called Joe and asked him if he’d like to put a team together at the last minute. He said yes and it’s really worked out for us.”
When asked if there were any moments from the 2019 season that stand out, Nick is circumspect. “The last one… the Dust ‘Em Off Tournament was really special. It was that tournament that wound up winning us the Captain of the Year Award. We were in third place going into the last minute (of the last day) of the tournament. We needed a Hail Mary fish. We hooked the winning fish with 30 seconds left in the tournament,” Carullo recalls. “That fish won us the award.”
“It was a perfect reminder to always fish hard. You really never know how far your can go. If you just always fish hard, and your team is prepared, good things can happen.”
2019 Furuno Gulf Coast Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Jason Buck, Done Deal, 2100 Total Points
Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, 2nd Place, 300 Pts.
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, 2nd Place, 300 Pts.
Texas Billfish Classic, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
Lone Star Shootout, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
New Orleans Invitational, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
*This represents Buck’s 4th win in the Furuno Gulf Coast Captain of the Year: 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019.
Well, if you’ve spent anytime fishing tournaments in the Gulf of Mexico for the last six years or so, the names Jason Buck and Done Deal have probably been permanently etched into your brain—and your wallet. Buck and his team are a veritable winning machine; this is Buck’s fourth Captain of the Year award since 2014, and he’s won the last three years in a row.
“We’ve definitely been a roll,” says Buck. “Some of it was lucking into good fishing, but a lot of our success comes down to doing your homework and scouting. That was especially true for the Texas Billfish Classic this year. We fished a tournament on the way over there and we caught six blues and white on the way over.
We stuck to that to that discipline of scouting, and the last place we ended up we got crushed by a great blue marlin bite and I said, ‘All right, I know where I’m going back to!’”
“We started fishing in tighter as well. I felt we were passing up a lot of fish by fishing way out wide just so that we could be all by ourselves. I threw that strategy out the window and said that if we think it looks good right out front, then that’s what we are going to fish. We ran 70 miles offshore, which in the Texas is really close, found good water and caught our fish.”
Buck grew up on the Gulf Coast, fishing with his Dad and his friends on a company-owned 46-Hatteras. He often dreamed about those trips and by the time he was teenager, he managed to work a couple of summers on the docks of Orange Beach, Alabama, making the 45-mile trek from his hometown of Fairhope, Alabama to work for free.
“One of the guys I was working for free for was a very professional guy. I could tell he had it together, and I was really impressed with him, so I asked him how I should go about making fishing a career. He said that he’d gone into the Coast Guard and then worked on charter boats during his days off.
So that’s what I did. I joined the Coast Guard, and my second duty station was Venice, Louisiana. I got a job running a charter boat catching tunas on my days off and that was that! You get to see a lot of cool stuff happening offshore in Venice!”
Buck’s first captain’s job was on the 65-foot Placebo, which took him to the Turks and Caicos, Costa Rica, and the Panama. While he was in Panama, he started talking to his present owner, Jon Gonsoulin. After a year of talking, Buck jumped ship and came to work for him. Eleven years later and the team is still together.
“After a brief Central American tour, for the past six years we mostly stayed at home and fished the Gulf tournaments,” says Buck. “It’s been working out good pretty for us! I think Jon might have been ready to quit in 2017…he was at least thinking about it. But we won the World Cup and a number of others that year, winning something like $1.5 million or so. So, he was like, maybe we should keep doing this! It’s hard work fishing these Gulf tournaments back to back to back…I’m just glad my guys are ate up with blue marlin fishing and the competition!”
Buck attributes a lot of his success to his world-class team of anglers and mates. “Katy Gonsoulin is our main angler. She’s also a crew member. A lot of this operation revolves around her. She’s caught a 535 after a five-hour fight, and the year before she fought a fish for that was tail wrapped for eight hours.
She can catch them plenty quick too, she caught a 740-pounder in an hour and 15 minutes. It’s really great to see a cute, 100-pound girl standing next to a giant blue marlin. She’s a big inspiration to the little girls around here…she’s like the Katy Perry of sportfishing on the Gulf Coast,” says Buck.
“Wilkes Hammock is another one of our great anglers who fills in sometimes, and I’d also like to thank my mates Scott Sullivan, Vick Lott and especially Nick Bovell. I can’t say enough good things about Nick. We had a good operation before Nick, but his experience, attitude and work ethic just took us to whole new level. There’s never any drama with that guy,” says Buck.
2019 International Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Jason Parker, Reel Steel, 1550 Total Points
Bermuda Billfish Blast, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
Bermuda Big Game Classic, 2nd Place, 300 Pts.
Sea Horse Anglers Club Tournament, 1st Place, 500 Pts.
Bermuda Triple Crown Champion, 250 Pts.
Everybody loves Bermuda. It’s just that Capt. Jason Parker on the 66-foot Hines Farley, Reel Steel, has a few more reasons to like it than most. After three straight years of fishing the Bermuda summer tournament season, and doing fairly well, the team exploded in 2019, taking two first place finishes and a second to take home the Bermuda Triple Crown Championship trophy. This impressive performance against some of our sport’s toughest competition earned Capt. Jason Parker the Top Captain of the Year in the Los Sueños International Division.
“We had a really good season,” says Parker. “I couldn’t be any happier. In Bermuda, we were just regular lure fishing. I’d like to say we were doing something different, but we just made the most of our opportunities and luck was on our side. We prefer to bait fish, we are primarily dead bait fishermen, light-tackle guys, but we can adapt to whatever. I used some of my friend’s experience and knowledge when I first came to Bermuda.
Since it was more of a lure fishing place, I relied on guys like Andy Moyes to help us a bit. But we know to lure fish and we went out there and lure fished and had three good seasons with this last year being the best of
it. I had a good crew – Drake Cooper – and a good angler, my owner, Mike Verzaleno. I wish I could say I’m the greatest and all that, but that’s just not the case. It was a really cool experience for us though, grinding it out every day and just doing what we know works.”
Parker started his sea-going career fishing out of Ocean City, Maryland. “I met Chris Bowie [the young mate who lost his life while wiring a blue marlin] and he kind of showed me the ropes, introduced me to the right people,” says Parker. “He also taught me how to act and carry yourself in this business. Work hard, keep a clean head, and do it because you love to do it.
That’s the number one thing…you really got to love it. Fishing is the reward for all the waxing and cleaning and being away from home. You’re not here to have a party every day.” Being away from home makes up a large part big game sportfishing these days and Parker says he owes a lot of his success to his wife. “I really owe a lot to my wife. She’s a very trusting person.
She takes care of everything at home which allows me to do my job to my best ability. We have been married now for almost 20 years, and we are a team. She gets the crappy end of the stick because she’ll be eating at home alone while we are all out at nice restaurant
somewhere. If I had to worry about paying the bills or worrying about her being happy every five minutes, I could not do what I do.”
Parker is also lucky in his working life…he says he’s never worked for someone that wasn’t a really nice guy. “I always believe that if you are a good person, then good things will come to you. I’ve been lucky to work with some really great owners,” says Parker. “Sean Healey, who owned the 84-foot Bayliss, Orion, was a dream of a guy who took us all down to fish in Costa Rica.
I also worked a season up in Massachusetts giant tuna fishing with Cookie Murray. I passed up a chance to fish in Venezuela to take that job, but I’d still do it again,” he says.
“Maybe they will open up Venezuela again someday.” Parker says his favorite place to fish is wherever they are biting, but he has a special affinity for Bermuda because “there’s a chance to see some really big ones!”
Parker also likes fishing around Ocean City and really likes Isla Mujeres, Mexico. “Isla’s a lot of fun for us…we are going back in mid-January for six weeks or so. I like a lot of other places too; my list is probably the
same as everybody else’s.”
Parker says he’s very reluctant to accept any accolades, but he’s grateful for the recognition. “I know that there a lot of really great captains and mates out there who don’t fish a lot of tournaments who deserve to be recognized as well,” he says.