Establishing Long-Term Relationships in the Fishing Charter Business
If the very mention of sportfishing in the Florida Keys makes your face light up and gets your adrenaline pumping, you have something special in common with our crew members and repeat customers. We love to fish, and we especially love to fish with the fantastic clients we have built relationships with over the years.
Whether fishing with an individual or a family, a first-time client is an opportunity to build a long-term relationship. Many of our clients come to the Florida Keys frequently or live here for at least part of the year. We have watched many of our customer’s children grow up over the years as they come to the Keys on family vacations every year. This article is a tribute to those valued clients and hopefully we might even help younger Captains or new Charter business owners along the way!
A great example of a long-term customer relationship would be with Edwin “Cookie” Rice. Mr. Cookie, as we call him, is originally from Springfield, Missouri. Mr. Cookie has owned a house in Key Colony Beach for many years. Mr. Cookie spends his winters and a portion of each spring in the Florida Keys and often fishes with Captain Marty.
When Marty was a teenager, he would fish with Mr. Cookie as a Mate on the weekends or after school, and when Marty was old enough to get his Captain license, Mr. Cookie would charter with him. Over the years, Mr. Cookie has become like family to Marty. Sometimes Marty even looks to Mr. Cookie for his wisdom or advice like a father figure.
To this day, 30+ years later, Captain Marty still takes Mr. Cookie, his daughters, and friends fishing regularly. Mr. Cookie has always been incredibly gracious and delightful to fish with over the years. Captain Marty and team Main Attraction genuinely cherish the relationship built with Mr. Cookie throughout the years.
Mr. Cookie has fished many tournaments with Captain Marty, winning several of them throughout the years. Captain Marty remembers winning back-to-back championships in the Islamorada Fishing Club tournament, hosted every January, and Mr. Cookie even won “Top Angler” in the Cheeca Presidential tournament.
After decades of fishing in the Keys, Mr. Cookie has caught almost every fish imaginable, but now and then, he still manages to see something new! When Mr. Cookie doesn’t have family in town, he invites his local neighbors fishing known as the “7th Street crew”. Last year, on a rare calm day in the late winter, Captain Marty suggested heading towards the Marathon Hump to deep drop for Queen Snapper. This was one fish that no member of the 7th street crew had caught before. Mr. Cookie was thrilled to catch a species that was knew to him after so many years!
Mr. Cookie and Captain Marty with a Queen Snapper.
When the day was done every member of the 7th street crew had caught their own Queen Snapper! Everyone on the boat was ecstatic. Captain Marty was so happy to help Mr. Cookie catch something new that he reached out to Gray Taxidermy and had a replica mount reproduced and a canvas photo printed from the day. Mr. Cookie was very appreciative when he got the photo and mount.
The 7th Street Crew and their awesome catch!
Another part-time Key Colony Beach resident is Mr. Mark Busch. Like Mr. Cookie, Mark started off fishing with Main Attraction when Marty was a teenager. Back then, Mark would come down each winter and spring to escape the cold of Cleveland, Ohio, and fish with friends and family. Within the last two years, Mark retired from the family business, giving him more time to pursue his fishing passion. Mark is an official member of the 7th street crew as he has a home there and resides in the Florida Keys for 4-5 months a year and fishes often with the Main Attraction Team.
Mark is highly competitive and loves to participate in all the sailfish tournaments. In January 2019, Captain Marty led Mark and the Main Attraction Team to 1st place Overall in the Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Just a few weeks ago, Mark also won the 2022 Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament “Top Angler” award, a dream of his for a long time. When Mark is in the Florida Keys for his winter/spring stay, he fishes with Captain Marty nearly every week. Even when Mark isn’t fishing, he comes by the dock and often joins the crew for dinner. He is family!
Recently when looking through some old photos, Katie Lewis came across a photo of a young Mark Busch and Marty Lewis fishing together and thought it would be fun to try and recreate the same photo all these years later. In fact, that photo is the very inspiration for this article.
Last Friday, Mark and Marty went fishing to find a Blackfin Tuna to recreate this photo. On the way to the Marathon Hump, in about 650 feet of water, Marty found a current edge with floating debris. Marty slowed down to investigate, and as he rode along the edge, he spotted a large Mahi over 30lbs! Mahi are rare in the winter, and a Slammer is even more exciting! When the large Bull Dolphinfish saw the livebait they presented, it lit up and engulfed the bait immediately, and it was game on. After catching the Slammer, they headed to the Hump to catch Tuna and recreated the photo from so many years ago.
Mark Busch and Captain Marty Lewis have been fishing together for a long time!
Dominick and Jenny Ferels
Main Attraction met Dominick Ferels several years ago. Katie Lewis remembers the day he called, he was interested in fishing the Father’s Day Dolphin Derby Tournament out of Marathon and was looking for the right boat. Tournament rates are different from daily fishing charters, so Katie explained the difference, and he was in. Dominick fished the tournament with Captain Steve and Jonny, and they won the largest dolphin that year. Since then, Dominick has been back multiple times per year, with family and friends to enjoy the different fishing aspects of the Florida Keys.
A fun fact about Dominick is that he is a charter Captain up north! After his first tournament with us, he said he appreciated how transparent we were with the costs, earnings, and our overall professionalism. Throughout the years, through effective communication with Katie, Dominick has fished with multiple captains, each playing to their strengths. For instance, when Dominick was interested in catching Black Grouper at the start of the season, Katie suggested Captain Steve on our 32′ Seahunter center console. When Dominick wanted to catch Sailfish in tailing conditions, Katie recommended Captain Marty on our 49′ sportfisher.
Dominick (blue camo shirt) with some friends and family.
When Dominick is up North, he continuously recommends Main Attraction to his clients that are considering a visit to the Fl Keys. Dominick is also active on our Social Media pages, sharing, liking, and commenting on our posts. Ongoing support from clients like Dominick is significant to our business, and we appreciate it greatly.
It also means a lot when other charter Captains speak highly of our operation and trust us to fish with their friends, family, and clients. Dominick and his wife Jenny are wonderful salt-of-the-earth people, and we are lucky to call them our friends.
Frank and Karen Smith
And we can’t forget the lovely Smith family! Frank and Karen Smith have been visiting the Florida Keys and fishing with Captain Marty for years. The Smith family is from Texas, and they come out to fish with us every year, often multiple times. They bring their kids and grandkids to make fishing memories, and we get to watch them all grow up!
When Katie started working with Captain Marty, one of her first booking phone calls was from Frank Smith. All these years later, Katie remembers that entire phone call with Frank as if it was yesterday.
Frank called to postpone his fishing trip due to a severe health issue. Frank explained he had a terrifying heart attack and that he flatlined in the ambulance and that the amazing EMTs and doctors were able to bring him back. Frank said he just needed some time to recover before he made his way back to Florida.
Before we knew it, Frank was recovered and back at it fishing with the Main Attraction again! While the heart attack was a terrifying ordeal, Frank has a great sense of humor and jokes with us about it now. Frank is now officially known as our Fishing Zombie!
Months later, when Frank and Karen made it back down to the Keys, Frank mentioned to Katie that he hoped for a Sailfish. Katie remembering her conversation with Frank, added a little more pressure to Captain Marty before his trip. Katie said, “Don’t come home until you get this man his lifetime wish of a Sailfish!”. Captain Marty delivered and helped Frank and Karen catch several Sailfish that day. It was a special day and one to truly remember.
Frank Smith proudly displays his Sailfish release flag with his son Tanner and his twin Grandchildren.
This past year, 2021, Frank and Karen spent an entire month in the Florida Keys, staying at the Palm Villa Home in Key Colony Beach. It was an absolute pleasure to see the Smiths on an almost daily basis, dropping by the dock to see the daily catches and chatting each week about all their Keys adventures. Karen and Katie stayed up to date as Katie helps manage the Palm Villa Home and according to Katie the month went entirely too fast as time does when you enjoy the people surrounding you.
The Main Attraction team is very close to all of the Smiths, and coincidently they were one of our first clients to find out about the Marathon Sailfish Marina purchase and one of the first to congratulate Marty and Katie!
Frank Smith (green shirt) with some friends and family.
We love to build relationships with our clients over the years and see their families grow. If you fish with us, we will do our best to treat you like family and get to know you, where you are from and what you enjoy. Social media has made it fun to keep up with our clients along the way and allow them to follow along with our adventures on the water. If you are interested in fishing with Main Attraction, call Katie at 305-289-0071 or visit our Contact page.