We take a look back at InTheBite’s Captain of the Year winners…
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.”
- 2014 Capt. Mike King, 1100 Pts.
- 2015 Capt. Gary Richardson, 2250 Pts.
- 2016 Capt. Harvey Shiflet, 1000 Pts.
- 2017 Capt. Chucky Moore, 1050 Pts.
- 2018 Capt. Alan Neiford, 1750 Pts.
- 2019 Capt. Ryan Knapp, 1000 Pts.
The InTheBite Captain of the Year Cup, presented by Hatteras, is the championship of sportfishing. The Cup is the world’s only quantifiable way to recognize the tournament success of professional sportfishermen. Comprised of 90-sanctioned events that span the world, there is nothing else like it. Winning an InTheBite Captain of the Year Award is a major achievement. From the winners to the Cup’s origin, it is an interesting tale. Read more…
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