A conversation with Red Rooster III long ranger Capt. Andy Cates


In this wide-ranging and candid interview veteran long range Capt. Andy Cates of the Red Rooster III talks about the long range learning curve, how to save money and time, and how to set realistic expectations for your long range trip.

How to start your long range career

Most long range boats have trips poised towards first timers. One big element that people are turned off about is the gear. “I just went and looked at a 30, I looked at a 50, I can’t get the rods and reels needed for a long range trip for less than $4,000 or $5,000,” they might think.

If you haven’t done this I would first look for a fly home trip. Second of all one that’s sponsored. They are popular trips.


We have Accurate sponsored trips and some by Okuma. They bring loaner gear onboard. We have an Accurate 15-day fly home trip. It’s a great trip for anyone just getting involved in this because when they come out the gear is already on the boat. They get an allotted 50w, they get a 30w, a 12, they get a Boss 600. They get 6 state of the art outfits that they didn’t have to spend a penny on.

On the sponsored trips you can find out what gear works for you, and then when you get home you can budget it. You can play it that maybe this Christmas I’ll get a 12, and maybe for my birthday I’ll get a 30. That way you can piece together the gear.

The kiss of death is when people get a deal on stuff. “I got a deal on this 50, I got a deal on this 30, I got all these reels for $600.” That’s about what they’re worth. You’re not going to catch much with those because the newer gear is so state of the art. It is smaller, easier to fish with. If you don’t have a rail rod, something that’s 7 and a half foot long and the right line, you’re just not going to be able to compete.

GO LONG RANGE, GO BIG — Mitch Nictor with a 220 aboard the Red Rooster III.

I like the idea of a fly home trip because the excitement is all about going down and doing it. And then when you leave the grounds and you go “Wow we’ll be home in 4 days,” it’s kind of like driving back from Disneyland. It was fun driving there, fun getting there, but on the way back you’re like “Oh what I’d do just to get home.”

It offers a lot to people who are a little short on time or just don’t have the patience to sit an extra four days on a boat. A fly home trip shrinks 15 days to 11. And now that we have the processing at the dock and all the gear on the boat, if we dropped you off in Cabo San Lucas you could invoice what you caught, fly back to Washington D.C. where you live and then the fish would be delivered to you. That way you don’t have to come back and meet the boat in San Diego. It cuts off a whole day.

As far as 5- to 7-day trip, which we call our designated option to go to Guadalupe Island, we have rental gear, and most of the other long range boats have rental gear. It’s state of the art. The kite gear is already onboard so people don’t have to worry about bringing a great big heavy outfit for their expedition.

AN EXCELLENT RESULT — With big fish, it isn’t a numbers game. Six big fish makes for an outstanding trip.

The learning curve

Some people are wary of going on an extended day trip. Everybody goes “Ooh I’d love to do that, a bucket list thing.” What people don’t understand is it is like going out on the Prowler for your first trip. At first you won’t know which side of the boat to fish on, what kind of gear to have, or have the basic knowledge of how to go out and catch a 15-pound yellowfin tuna. Come the tenth trip on the Prowler you have the gear, you know to be on the windy side of the boat, you know to cast on the downwind corner and step across. You learn the tuna shuffle.

It’s the same thing with going on a 6- or 7-day trip to Guadalupe. You’ve got to learn how to fish the island, how the boat works. It’s primarily anchor fishing where everyone’s on the stern, there are kites that go up, balloons that go up. It’s next level.

And when you take it from an 8-day trip to Guadalupe or the Alijos Rocks to a trip to the Hurricane Bank or Lower Banks, then it gets even more complicated. You have some of the basics, kites, balloons, fly-lining, but now you have a problem with gear. So your gear gets heavier, you’re not using 60-pound or 40-pound any more, now your using 130, 150, or 200 and a lot of people are intimidated by that. They think “Oh my, how could you catch a fish that big?” You need to get rigged up for it.

There’s a lot of camaraderie on the boat and there’s a lot of help from veterans toward the novice because it is fun for them. Some of the veterans will come on the boat and just hook and hand the whole time. They’ll come in and they’ll be like, “I only tagged two fish, I don’t want to process them anyway, I’ll just hand them off.” When the guy who’s never caught one gets one he’s like, “Oh my, that was incredible.” Sometimes it just takes one fish when you can’t do anything right, you backlash, and all of a sudden you catch one and you’re on a roll. It soothes the whole process. You pin baits on, you cast out. “I’m on again.” It is a nice process.

BIG FISH DON’T COME EASY — Bob Michener with a 290-pound yellowfin tuna.

Setting expectations

The bottom line is it is just sportfishing. Guadalupe is intermediate to advanced, Clarion is more advanced, right up to this bluefin at San Clemente Island which is an expert arena. It takes an incredible amount of patience. A guy goes out for 3 days and gets one bite. It can be very difficult to handle. Some destinations you get bites throughout the day, 2, 3, or 4 bites and that’s the excitement of the entire thing. Whether you land the fish or not comes down to your ability or just luck more than anything else.

People need to understand that the bigger the fish the fewer chances you’re going to get regardless of how the fishing is. Let’s say the boat has 40 fish in a day at Guadalupe Island. Five or 6 people probably don’t get a bite. Like any sport, like golf, the more you hit the ball the better you get. You can’t expect to come out once a year and perform as well as the guy who comes out 8 times a year. It’s not going to happen, I don’t care how lucky you are.

Like golf, even the best angler has horrible days. “I didn’t do anything different I just can’t get a bite.” And then there are other days when you’re back there unconscious, and you’re going “I’m on again, I’m on again!” And the worst thing I see people do is take it for granted. When they go out and have these great days, then they go and sit in the galley and go, “I’ve had enough,” that is your day, you need to covet it. That’s like being on the course and the first 9 holes you’ve done better than you ever have, it doesn’t mean you quit. You complete the course.

What a lot of people don’t understand is if you go on a 6-day trip, your best fishing will happen in 2 days and make the entire trip. Even if it’s the second day and you’re going, “Uh,” sit tight man it all happens in two days. You’ve heard about those albacore stops. “We didn’t have a fish on the fifth day and then we limited out on albacore and everyone was excited.” It’s very typical.

It’s interesting trying to put things into perspective so that people don’t have this delusional idea that they’re going to come out and catch a 200 pounder. All that does is set people up for disappointment. It’s just not like that. You’ve got to understand it’s an expert arena. It’s hard to perform and the more you go out the better your chances of catching that fish.

We have some groups where they would love to just get a few fish, but I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t matter how callused of a group, everyone wants action. I don’t care who you are, everyone to some point wants action whether it be on 12- to 14-pound yellowfin or 100-pound. The perfect trip is you go and get action on 12 to 15 pounders the first and the second day, and then you finish up on your jackpots. Everyone’s like “Woohoo, I got a couple in the sack.”


More tips for success

If you’re a first timer and you’ve never been on the Red Rooster, probably one of the most important things is to understand how the boat works. Fishing the deck, how the toilets work, how the showers work. It might sound weird but the more comfortable you become on a boat the better you perform. You know where the fruit is, you know what time dinner is, how the bathrooms work, you know the sink downstairs has good water, you know where your sleeping quarters are. That’s why we have so many return clients, because they feel comfortable and hopefully there are 15 or 18 people that they’ve fished with before.

The most successful anglers will call a boat their home. They may do 2 boats, they may do 3 boats, but they don’t run around searching for a trip that’s already happened. People see a trip that had 25 over 2 and think, “I’ll go on that trip next year.” And then that year they go on that one and the trip that they were previously scheduled on had the 25 over 2. You can’t chase the fish counts on these long range trips because they are so long.

Now is the time to book for next year. When you book plays into the seniority of cabin assignments. Especially if you’re travelling with your wife and need a double cabin, book now.

The Red Rooster III offers a full calendar of trips ranging from three days on up to 16. Trips fill quickly. For more information visit RedRooster3.com or call the office at 619-224-3857.