As told to Ric Burnley
After more 30 years on the water, Capt. Ronnie Woodruff still has the passion of a wide-eyed kid working the docks at Orange Beach Marina.
“My family was always into fishing. I got my first job at eleven years old, pumping fuel at the Dog River Marina. Guys would pull up in their 50-footers and I knew that was what I wanted to do. When I was 16, I started working at Orange Beach Marina and it wasn’t long before I got a job fishing on the Sales Lady with Capt. Mike Patrick. Fishing is all I ever wanted to do. I tried college but I was always dreaming of fishing. I got my captain’s license in 1992 and in 1996, Art Favre hired me to run Work of Art.”
Now Woodruff captains the 68′ Viking Liquid Apple, out of Orange Beach, Alabama, which he has been with since last year.
“The year that I won Captain of the Year was a hell of a season for us. We won a pile of money that year, but that doesn’t matter—what does is that we came together as a team. One of the first lessons I learned from Mike Patrick was that preparation is key. I always say, ‘piss poor preparation makes for piss poor performance.’”
“One of the biggest mistakes is not communicating with the crew. Sportfishing is a team sport. There is no room for individuals. It takes team effort to kill a big fish, but it all comes back to the captain’s ability to communicate. When we’re killing a fish, my owner likes to run the boat, which is cool because I get to be back in the pit again. I’m the first guy to lay the steel to a blue marlin. My favorite thing is to wire up a big blue one. I’ve always liked to catch the biggest fish. Even when I was younger I wasn’t interested in catching a hundred fish, I wanted to catch the biggest one that I could.”
“I still remember my first blue marlin. We were at Tuna Mountain, the water was green as grass and there were tunas as far as we could see. We caught a 140-pounder right off the bat. Put the lines back in, go 300 yards and hook another big fish. We never saw it until it came through the green water. That was the first marlin I ever wired. We won $38,000 and I was hooked for life after that.”
“Since I won Captain of the Year, teams have become more professional which makes the playing field more even. It used to be a bunch of rednecks getting drunk and driving around catching fish. Now the fishing is harder and the teams have to be on their game. I love to see other people catch fish, the smile on their face when they catch a big one and the look when they get wrecked.”
Even Woodruff’s son, Chase, goes out with him making the young man a fourth-generation fisherman.
“Even when I’m not fishing on my boat, I head offshore with one of my buddies. After all these years, I still love it.”