How FishingBooker Helped Me Buy My Second Boat

Oct 11, 2023 | 8 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Sometimes, things just don’t go our way. With patience and hard work, however, it later turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened to us. This is when miracles happen. And that’s precisely what happened to Captain Mike Salley.

Captain Mike Salley standing in front of his boat in Orange Beach
Captain Mike Salley, owner and operator of Sure Shot Fishing Charters

“The truth is I wanted to join the military, but I couldn’t pass the physical. I went to college for a few years, but even then I was working on commercial fishing boats.” Plans change, but that didn’t stop Capt. Mike from finding his way into the world of fishing. Not only did he find his way, but he also found his calling. 

Today, he’s running Sure Shot Fishing Charters and is one of the busiest fishing guides in Orange Beach, Alabama. He’s also one of the most booked captains at FishingBooker in the last year, with over 270 trips under his belt. With an impressive number like that, of course we had to get in touch with Capt. Mike and talk about how he did it. Here’s what we found out.

How long have you been fishing?

I’ve been doing this for 35 years. After working on commercial boats, I was asked to be a deckhand on a charter boat. There, I realized I could make a living out of it, that my job is to make people happy simply by helping them catch fish. And that’s easy for me. I tell people when they book with me, all I need is the weather, and we’re going to have a darn good time.

Sounds like you’ve found your calling.

Oh, I did! You know how some people are completely obsessed with music and that’s all they can do, but they create this Mozart-type music. Fishing is like that for me, I got this almost sixth sense. I get excited! Plus there’s that euphoric feeling I get from watching people catch fish. That’s huge to me. 

And I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to do what I truly love. I get up in the morning and I still get excited. And I’m not stopping. I’m going to go until I can’t do it anymore.

And when did you first start working with FishingBooker?

An aerial view of the Sure Shots charter boar
Sure Shot Charters boat on the waters off Orange Beach

Pretty much ever since you’ve been in business. At first I didn’t want to, because I’m an old-fashioned guy and doing stuff online isn’t my cup of tea. A couple of buddies told me this stuff works, but I was like, I don’t know, man. 

Then one of your guys called me, and I was ready to hang up on him, but he explained how everything works. One thing y’all have that’s important is that you require a proof of insurance and captain’s license. That’s huge with me, that means you’re legit.

So reluctantly, and I mean reluctantly, I signed up. I was among the first boats in the area to do so. And it then took off! Now we have so many bookings here. It’s crazy.

It’s impressive, you’ve run over 270 trips in the last year alone! How do you manage all the trips?

Mostly, I let y’all manage it for me. All I got to do is check my calendar and my messages a couple of days before the trip. 

Also, I like to personally call the people up. I thank them for their trust. But ultimately, I let y’all manage it for me. I just go to the designated time and date, I pay the percentage, and I’m good.  I don’t spend money on advertising anymore, I just let FishingBooker handle it. Y’all got this figured out. I mean, I don’t want to sound weird, but I love y’all man, you’ve made my job so easy. You really have. 

Thank you so much, Captain, it means a lot. Can you tell me how success on FishingBooker factored into your buying your second boat?

I ran across the Sure Shot II by accident four years ago. I went to see it, and I knew I really wanted to get it. At the time, I had a deckhand who was a great employee and had just gotten his captain’s license. He even won the “Deckhand of the Year” award and all that. He had what it took. 

Boat Sure Shot II in the marina
Sure Shot II in the marina

So I was standing there looking at the boat, I kept telling myself to walk away. The guy wanted a full price, so I left. A couple of weeks went by, and I got to thinking. All the bookings are already there, right through FishingBooker. All we got to do is just run the trips that are already here. It wasn’t the next day, the guy who owned the boat called and we made a deal.

I called you guys immediately if you want to know the truth – you told me what to do, and how to set everything up. I haven’t looked back since.

Talk about timing, Captain. How did you navigate it all? I’m guessing there was an adjustment period after you got the second boat.

I give a lot of credit to FishingBooker, I really do, ’cause you got me going pretty quick. But it was very scary, doing something like that. It wasn’t easy dealing with insurance and all the paperwork. That’s very intimidating.

Thankfully, my captain was ready to do it. He was wowed by the boat because it’s got a yacht feel to it. He said, give me two years, so I did, and I’m glad I did. I’m very lucky and thankful for what I’ve got. They want me to buy a third boat now, but nah. Not yet anyway. 

Sounds like a reliable crew is key. What do you look for in a crew member?

Deckhand and captain of Sure Shot Charters on theSure Shot II boat

Right now, I have one deckhand and one captain. I don’t have much trouble finding a deckhand. They come to me. The first thing I tell them is that they’ve got to have experience. I want them to know what they’re doing, and if they’re close to what I need, I get them on.

The guy that works for me now called me every day for two weeks, begging me for a job. I had a deckhand I was having trouble with at the time, and I said – If you don’t have anything, hang on, I may have something for you. He was telling that story to our customers yesterday. Now he’s getting his captain’s license, and I see that he’s got what it takes. He doesn’t give up, he’s always on time, and customers love him.

That’s a great story. And when it comes to your captains?

Captain Eddie of Sure Shot Charters II
Captain Eddie, working with Capt. Mike on Sure Shot II

Most of these guys that come to work for me, they’ve got the drive that I’ve got. They want to fish and do it right. If I see they’ve got the potential, I get them onboard. The biggest thing with this business is honesty because we work every day for 100 days, so I need them to always be honest and talk to me. If something comes up, we’ll work it out.

What about your customers? How do you go the extra mile for your anglers?

When you get on these boats, it costs a lot of money. Well, I want them to get their money’s worth. It’s like checking into the Hilton hotel, and you need to do a little role-playing, be like a little puppy dog. Start things off with a good handshake. When customers meet you, you need to be a little excited, because they are excited. You answer their questions with enthusiasm.

You need to be a people person.

Exactly, and I’m pretty good at that. 

And another thing, there’s no such thing as a bad day. We have a deckhand and a captain with great attitudes, a clean boat that’s as odorless as they can get it. If it’s not odorless, it smells good. And every day is a special day. Not one day a week. Seven days a week for a hundred days straight. And we’re going to do that with everybody. Nobody’s different. Everybody’s going to get the full pole.

Do you talk to them on the phone or once they’re on the boat?

I do it on the phone, right at the beginning. And then on the boat. That way, they know what’s happening from the get-go. I’ll try to catch what they want and I’m going to give 110%. But I don’t do guarantees. Every day is totally different. And that’s what I tell them. 

How do you manage your customers’ (sometimes unrealistic) expectations?

A smiling man in a cap, standing on a dock, holding a big Snapper

I’m honest with them, same as with my crew. I don’t go – I’m gonna catch you a big Grouper. I’m not going to tell them we’re going to catch it. I tell them – We’re going to get to them. You’re going to have the opportunity, and if you get one into the boat, awesome. We’re going to help you get it in the boat. But I can’t promise you a Grouper or a Mahi Mahi.

If the day’s not that good, I’ll let them know what’s going on. I tell them that we should just do some fishing and by the time we get back, they’re going to have a good time.

Is there something you’d like anglers to know before they book?

The biggest thing is to read the trip descriptions. I’ve had a few people book a 4-hour trip, and they want to fish lions, tigers, and bears, big fish. Well, that’s tough, because I need six hours or better to do anything close to that. The few bad reviews I’ve gotten were from those short trips. Yeah, that’s the biggest thing, read the trip descriptions.

Great advice! And those few bad reviews didn’t stop you from having over 500 stellar reviews on your profile.

I know we should ask customers for a review, but the truth is, I’ve never asked them to do so. I feel like if we do our job, we’re on top of our game, and we won’t have to ask for a good review, even when the fishing is tough. If you’re out there and you’re having a good time, the reviews will come in. Hey, this is how I describe it to my deckhands as well.

That’s a good rule to live by. Do you prefer going out with seasoned anglers or first-timers?  

A group of fishermen standing on a dock, each holding one Red Snapper

It doesn’t matter. The one thing with the first-timers is that we can “train” them our way. That way we know we’re going to catch some fish. We going to get them anyway, but at the same time, we’re going to train them our way.

When we get seasoned anglers like bass fishermen, sometimes they’ve got a mindset about certain things. For example, they like to set the hooks, but we’ve got self-setting hooks, which we have to use by federal law. It’s no big deal, I deal with it easily, but the less experienced ones, we like them.

That makes sense. Now, for a tricky question – what do you think are the key qualities of a successful charter captain? 

That is difficult. At least 5–10 years as a deckhand first. Then a good role model, an apprenticeship under a seasoned captain. And professionalism, this is something I say to my new captains. 

You’re the captain. Your job is to talk to the customers about how good of a time they had and tell them fishing stories. In a small sense, there’s some celebrity kind of stuff going on in here. Not that we are celebrities, we’re not. But people admire us. We hear them go every day – Man, I wish I was doing what you’re doing. I tell these guys – Embrace that, dude. Embrace it. 

The final question for you, Capt. Mike, is – what’s next for your charter business? 

The big thing is that we’re getting new re-powered motors for the Sure Shot. That’s something I do every 5-6 years, and it’s getting due. Get more power in there for dependency and all that. Then, just continue on. Keep making smiles and memories.

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, this story will definitely get your wheels turning. With a go-getter attitude like Capt. Mike’s, success is a Sure Shot.

We hope you liked what Capt. Mike’s story. Do you have any thoughts on it? Any stories you’d like to share? Let’s talk in the comments below.

Author profile picture

Andriana has been in love with nature since before she could walk, and she lives to explore the great outdoors whenever she has the chance. Be it traveling to far-off lands, hiking, or mountain climbing, Andriana loves discovering new places and writing about them. The first time she went fishing with her dad she insisted on returning all the catch into the water. Dad was not pleased. Her curiosity about fishing only grew from there, and she’s been writing and learning about it for years. Andriana’s favorite fish to catch is Mahi Mahi.

Comments (4)

Phil Tidmore

Jun 9, 2022

Captain Mike Sandbar Salley knows how to have fun and knows how to show you a good time. Congratulations are due as he has worked hard to be so successful .Proud to call him my friend.

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Mike Acton

Jun 9, 2022

Captain Mike I won’t fish with anyone else He is Number One in my Book

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Paull Stiso

May 26, 2022

YES ! Calling the client is the beginning. Then we have an instant relationship. Having a “people” mate is also important as Mike said. Once you have that karma going you and the people are in for a great trip !! When they have FUN ,,,I have FUN !!

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    May 27, 2022

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for reading. We absolutely agree, making a connection with your clients from the get-go is so so important. When they get to know you right away and you all get along, they get the taste of what it would be like to fish with you, so they get even more excited. Then everyone can have a great time and go home happy.

    All the best!

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