Interview With Captain Rick Murphy
Through guiding, winning tournaments, and hosting his multiple TV shows. Rick Murphy has become one of the best known and most respected saltwater anglers in Florida and beyond. He has been a part of the MBC team almost from the start and has won tournaments in everything from the Hewes Bonefishers to the Pathfinder 2300 HPS’s, his current boat. He most recently won the 2014 IFA Redfish Championship and his show The Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report was just nominated for an Emmy. Needless to say, Rick has figured out a way to leverage his life-long passion for fishing into an impressive career.
How did you first get started as a guide?
Well, I started “guiding” in Lake Okechobee when I was 14. I would take all of my dad’s buddies out on the boat during duck hunting season. I couldn’t drive at the time, so I would hook up the airboat to the truck and wait for them to get there. Then they’d drive me to the lake and I would back the boat off and we would spend the day on the water.
I couldn’t make a living duck hunting though, because it was only a 90 day season. So I started fishing flamingo in 1974. I would go out with some of the other guides who were in fishing clubs, and I would learn more about flamingo and guiding from them. When I first started as a guide I would only have clients 27 days a year, so I did a lot of part-time work to make a living. I waxed cars, and airplanes, and worked the midnight shift at my parent’s gas station. My parents always needed someone for the midnight shift, and I needed the money so I would sometimes work double shifts. Which meant that I would work all night, then leave in the early morning and meet my customers on the water. I did this for about 5 years. That’s when I finally had enough clients to guide full time.
Rick, when you first joined the MBC family you were a guide in the Florida Keys, now you have two very successfully shows, “Sportsman’s Adventures” and the “Insider Fishing Report”. How would you describe your journey from fishing guide to television personality?
Basically Maverick Boat Company inherited me. I was on the prostaff with Bob Hewes back before Maverick bought the Hewes Brand. The first boat that I had was a 1975 Hewes Bonefisher, I purchased it in 1984 and restored it. I ended up using it until 1987. Then I bought the first bonefisher stepped hull. I used that until around 1990. That’s when Scott Deal, the Maverick Boat Company CEO and President, started a deal with the Budweiser fishing team. He told them that he was going to sponsor the team, but that he wanted me to be in the boat. That meant that I had two boats. My 1987 boat that I named “Murphy’s Law” that I used for clients, and the Budweiser 18 Hewes Redfisher that I would take out for promotions.
Captain Rick Murphy in front of the Hewes Budweiser Fishing Team Boat, 1992
As far as my show is concerned, I was pretty lucky. Before I started the show I was guiding in the Everglades. I had niched out a market for myself in there, so when some people were looking to film some shows down there and needed a guide they called me. When the shows that featured me as the guide later aired on T.V., two guys happened to see them. Those two guys later became the guys that I started my show Sportsman’s Adventures with.
The thing that helped us get the show going going though was that once we started was that we were completely different from everybody else. This was mostly because “Rick Murphy” as a brand had already been promoting products. I was working with Maverick, Yamaha, Scientific Angler Fly Lines, Motorguide Trolling Motors, etc. We had already established relationships with people in the industry. That made it pretty easy to transition our relationships with our sponsors from a relationship where we were given products to where we were given money to offset the production costs of the show.
Then, we were picked up by Sunsports Network. Which is cool, because at the time they only had one other outdoor program. It was this guy named O’neil, but he and I were in completely different time blocks. After 1 season of my show, I got them to put our shows back to back. After that, the network received a ton of calls about putting more fishing shows on their network. There ended up being a waiting list. I was on the ground floor of that.
How long have you been guiding and operating out of MBC Boats? How many different MBC Models have you had over the last 21 years?
Well I’m going to have to list them for you. I’ve had the:
– 1975 Hewes Redfisher with a Yamaha 130. It was my first boat and I still have it, it’s at my house in the Bahamas.
-The remake of the Hewes Bonefisher. What I call the Bonefisher2
-The Hewes Redfisher
-The Maverick HPX Tunnel
-17 Maverick HPX
-18 Maverick HPX
-Hewes 21 Redfisher
-23 Pathfinder HPS which is what I have now
-21 Master Angler
That means that over the years I have had 9 different MBC models, but I’d be willing to bet that that equates to 25 different boats in the 25 years that I’ve been with MBC. There were also some years where I had 2 boats. For example, there was a time when I had a Hewes Redfisher and a 17 Maverick HPX Tunnel.
Captain Rick Murphy in his 1987 Hewes “Murphy’s Law”
Rick, you’ve been fishing and guiding out of different MBC boats for nearly 30 years. Out of all of the MBC boats that you’ve fished out of, which one is your favorite?
Well that’s a hard hard question. What’s happened today is that fishing has become so specialized. We now are building boats for fishing situations. Before we used to build boats for fishing. Now if you want to be a guide who really wants to pole real shallow water you fish out of the new 17 Maverick HPXs. If you want to fish real shallow for redfish or bonefish that’s the boat you want. For me, going fast and fishing in tournaments is a huge part of what I do. So.. I would say that if I’m going to flyfish for tarpon, my favorite would be the 18 Maverick HPX with a 150 Yamaha. If I was only going to fish fairly shallow I would want the 17 Maverick HPXs, and then if I could only have one I would want the 23 Pathfinder HPS. That boat will float shallow, I can still go fish the wrecks and I can run hundreds of miles in a day no problem.
In My last tournament, I just won the National Championship Redfish Tournament, we ran 432 miles in 2 days in the Pathfinder to win. That’s 216 miles a day. You aren’t going to do that in a smaller boat.
You’ve fished with a lot of legendary guides and anglers over the years. Who has been your favorite person to fish with and why?
Well certainly Al Phfluger Jr. was a great mentor to me, and he taught me a lot A LOT about fishing flamingo, but then all the stuff that I really really learned about fly fishing for tarpon I learned from Stu Appe. Then I learned a tremendous amount about fishing the offshore species from Ralph Delph. All of those guys were great to fish with, but all for different things and for different reasons. I’ve had all three of them say to me over the years that, “I gave you the books but you were able to take what I gave you and expanded on it to where we never thought it could ever go to”, so when you have people like that give you a compliment it’s kind of pretty heartfelt, you know?
Captain Rick with Bonefish
If the conditions are right, where would you fish and what would you fish for? What tackle would you use?
Probably tarpon, I love tarpon fishing. Especially in Everglades National Park when it’s slick calm and warm and humid. Those are the conditions that really make that place get exciting.
As far as tackle goes I would want to fly fish with a 12-weight fly rod. Otherwise, I just love catching tarpon, and the reason why is because it’s a 6 foot fish that you catch in 6 feet of water, he jumps 6 feet high, and a lot of times you are doing it out of a 16 foot boat. That’s what makes tarpon fishing so special. It’s unlike anything else.
What’s your favorite fishing memory?
I would say winning the 2006 gold cup tarpon invitational. That is probably the top number 1, because when we won that we set the all time record. We broke the record for the most points in a 5 day period.
Number 2 was with Scott Deal and Mark Krowka when we were fishing the redbone series. The day that we caught 60 redfish 48 of them on fly, that’s pretty special because that record will never ever be broken.
To put it into context for you, we beat the 2nd place guy times 2. I’ll never forget, I pulled up with Mark and Scott and Mark was lying on the floor in total exhaustion, because from the second we got to the fishing grounds, until 3 o’clock, which was lines out of the water, he never stopped poling, and Scott never stopped casting, and I never stopped netting, taking pictures, and writing. We were out of pictures at 9:25 AM on the day. When we finished, we pulled up on our little Pathfinder tunnel skiff, and drove it up onto the beach. When we told people that we had caught 60 redfish, no one could believe it. At the end of the day our score was around 6800 points. The guys who won second only had about 3,400 and something. It was pretty crazy
You’ve won an exceptional number of tournaments over the years, as both an angler and as a guide. What would you say are the biggest differences between fishing from the front of the boat to poling off the back?
When you are in the front of the boat, your only job really is to focus on catching the fish. On the back of the boat you kind of see the whole picture. You see what your angler is doing, right or wrong, you see if his cast is either short or long, but at the same time there’s nothing you can do. You have all the pressure of having to literally coach this guy through every situation or scenario on your shoulders.
When you’re the angler, or when you’re on the front of the boat, you don’t have to go through all those processes. You are responsible for your own destiny. As a guide you aren’t responsible for your own destiny because you aren’t actually making the cast, you aren’t actually working the lure, or stripping the fly. As a guide you are only as good as your angler. This makes it more difficult as a guide because you can do all of the right things, and still not get the right results.
An example of this is one of the tarpon tournaments that I fished in a few years ago. We had 34 bites on fly on the first day of a 5 day tournament, but we only caught 8 fish. Could you imagine if we had caught…25? It would have been over. That’s the difference, as a guide you can only coach your guy through the fishing, you can only help him see the fish, but when you’re on the front you don’t have to go through all of that.
What 3 items can you not leave the dock without?
-My rod and reel
-My tackle box
What advice would you give to the fishing guides out there looking to make the transition into television?
Don’t sell yourself short. Know your value. A lot of guys out there in today’s world will give you the world because you gave them a sticker and a shirt. To put a TV show together and have it real quality, so that you have a product that you can sell, is expensive. You can’t start doing things for free. If you do, you aren’t going to be able to stay on the air for very long.
You and our CEO and President Scott Deal have been fishing together for nearly 30 years. You’ve even fished on your show together several times. How do you think that our history as anglers has influenced our boats over the last 30 years?
Certainly the reason why MBC has always been the leader in the boat categories that they are in is because not only does the President fish, but Skip, the Head of Sales, fishes, Charlie. the Head of Marketing, fishes, and then they have had long looong relationships, like we are talking about here. Also like what they have with Mark Krowka and Mike Holliday. With that being said MBC also has guys who are spending lots of days on the water, and guys from different regions of the state and the country. That means that these guys are able to relay back to the designers and to the owners of MBC and express to them what they are doing with their boats today vs. what they were doing 5 years ago. This is what allows MBC to make changes and keep the fresh and inventive stuff coming down the line. This means that instead of following what everyone else is doing we are setting the bar that the other manufacturers are having to follow. This is also possible because MBC has a very loyal customer base, and an understanding that the needs of an angler today are totally different than they were 5 or 10 or even 20 years ago. MBC fishing has evolved, in my opinion, because of the prostaff who spend days and days on the water fishing out of the boats. They then have the type of relationships with the decision makers at MBC that means that they can have a dialogue and make suggestions. This ultimately means that we end up making better boats.
Scott Deal and Capt. Rick Winning the Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly Release Tournament
Anything else that you’d like to say before we end this interview?
What I would say to anyone who reads this piece is, whether you’ve been an MBC owner in the past or if you are one in the present, the key to having the right boat is understanding what best fits your needs. Your needs today could have changed from what they were 5 or 10 years ago. However, the one thing that I can assure anyone who is reading this is that at MBC we have a boat that will fit your needs, and it just comes down to knowing what you need. We have that.