Captain Brad Simonds was born and raised in Massachusetts. As a child his earliest memories of fishing involved both a farm pond, (Blue Gills) and a pier, (Tautog) at his grandparents home which was located on Buzzard’s bay, along the south coast of Massachusetts. As he grew older his father introduced him to Trout and Smallmouth Bass fishing, much of it in the state of Maine. Brad’s earliest fishing mentor was Dr. Frank Mather of the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute whom he worked for as a teenager during several summers in the mid 1970’s. Dr. Mather, whose expertise was with Bluefin Tuna and White Marlin, had initiated the Cooperative Gamefish Tagging program, which was later administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service and then privatized by The Billfish Foundation. Dr. Mather was an Avid sportfisherman and took Brad along on many of his forays. It was from Frank that Brad first learned how to twist wire and rig offshore fishing baits. Brad’s first Tuna, White Marlin and Blue Marlin were all caught aboard Frank’s 28′ Bertram “AHI”. Brad still vividly remembers a 3-hour battle with a Swordfish, which he ultimately lost due to a broken snap swivel, in company with Frank Mather while trolling “the dumping grounds” south east of Nantucket.
After graduating from Princeton University, (Brad had written his Thesis on the groundfishing industry of New England) Brad moved to Islamorada and Got a Mate’s job on a 48′ Willis craft which was docked at the Legendary Bud N’ Mary’s Marina. Surrounded by fanatical “fishheads” this is when and where Brad’s fishing education really began. For a number of years Brad fished as a mate out of Bud N’ Mary’s in the winter then spent April and May fishing in Cozumel Mexico. The summer and early fall was spent Canyon fishing out of Ocean City MD, followed by a return to Islamorada and Bud N’ Mary’s.
In 1983 Brad earned his Captains license. In the summer of 1984 Brad got his first Captains job running a 55′ Holton, which was a custom Carolina hull. Fittingly, Brad spent that summer fishing out of Oregon Inlet on North Carolina’s outer banks. Brad ran the 55′ Holton named “KEOWEE” for several years, wintering at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, spending the spring months on the Yucatan, first in Cozumel and then in Isla Mujeres, followed by a month in the Cayman Islands. He spent one summer fishing out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia.
Brad’s next Captain’s Job was aboard the 54′ Bertram “MISSGUIDED” which he ran from 1987 until 1989.
Beginning in 1987 Brad began spending the summer and early fall In St. Thomas. For Brad, fishing the “North Drop” was love at first sight. He caught 5 Blue Marlin out of 9 bites on his first day on the “drop” and an amazing 28 in his first week of fishing that summer of 1987. From that beginning he really never looked back, becoming over the course of the next 11 seasons one of a small hand full of the most innovative and productive Captains to ever fish the “drop”. Also in 1987 Brad was the top billfish tagger for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which was administering the program his mentor Frank Mather had begun. Starting in 1986, Brad ranked among the top 5 billfish taggers for 5 consecutive years. In 1988 and 1990 The Billfish Foundation named him it’s top Blue Marlin Tagger as well. With the MISSGUIDED, Brad continued to spend the winters in the Keys, fishing out of Islamorada with the occasional trip to the Bahamas and the Dry Tortugas, and then spending 2 months during the spring, fishing Isla Mujeres Mexico.
Differences over the future plans for the MISSGUIDED caused Capt. Brad to seek employment with a new ownership group in 1990. The partners were new to big game fishing and it was Brad who identified a clean well maintained 53′ Hatteras, the BLANK CHECK which was a capable and competitive fishing platform for a fraction of the capital investment of newer sportfisherman. Brad ran the BLANK CHECK for the next 2 years, Islamorada, Isla Mujeres, and St. Thomas, racking up great catches of billfish, and attracting a loyal Clientele. Brad was one of a small group of captains introducing innovations to the sport of billfishing during this time. Catching billfish on a flyrod for example became one of Brad’s specialties along with “Bait and Switch” and standup gear for Blue Marlin Fishing. During this time several of Brad’s clients held Flyrod caught billfish world records, it was also during this time that the BLANK CHECK tied the all-time record for Blue Marlin caught in a day in St. Thomas with 9. Later that same day they had the double line on the rod tip for what would have been number 10 but pulled the hook moments later.
Personality conflicts with the ownership caused Brad to quit the BLANK CHECK in the fall of 1991, but he quickly found himself employed by Tex Shramm (former GM of the Dallas Cowboys) running Tex’s vintage 53′ Hatteras, KEY VENTURE. Brad and Tex had met the previous year in St. Thomas when Tex had stopped to admire the BLANCK CHECK and they discovered they had a mutual appreciation for the classic lines and fishability of the old 53’s. Tex had an interest in light tackle billfishing and a commitment to fish the boat in all the best billfishing locations in the Caribbean, which dovetailed perfectly with Capt. Brad’s ambitions. After spending the fall of ’92 at Mona Island in the Mona Pass and extending the fall season in St Thomas in ’93, fall fishing in Venezuela was added to the international itinerary for 1994. Between Isla Mujeres in the spring, St. Thomas in the summer and La Guira Venezuela from late Sept. through Nov, It was an extraordinary opportunity to fish the Caribbean’s finest billfishing locations on a seasonal basis. At the conclusion of 1994, Aftco Mfg. Co. the main sponsor, in conjunction with the Billfish Foundation named Capt. Brad as it’s “Atlantic Ocean Captain of the year” on the basis of the number and variety of Billfish tagged. Capt. Brad ranked in the top five in three categories; Sailfish, White Marlin and Blue Marlin. Not bad when accomplished on a 20 year old boat with a top speed of about 16 knots!
By the spring of 1995 Tex was ready to sell the KEY VENTURE and Brad had a client, Lennie Kupsc who was interested in owning the operation. The sticking point was the boat. Brad wanted to continue with the Key Venture but Lennie wanted a newer faster vessel, and he convince Brad that such a boat would make him an even more productive fisherman. Lennie purchased a 10-year-old 54′ Bertram and Brad went to work on the FINAL FANTASY in June. The purchase of the Bertram continued the philosophy which Brad and his owners had followed in the past; find a clean secondhand sportfish, which minimized capital investment, but offered a great fishing platform. The Bertram 54’s with their well deserved reputations as Blue Marlin raisers, were arguably the classic production sportfishers of the 1980’s, just as the Hatteras 53’s had been the classic production boats of the 1970’s.
The FINAL FANTASY preformed as advertised, and after another banner season in both St. Thomas and Venezuela, Captain Brad was named the 1995 “Atlantic Ocean Captain of the Year” by Aftco and The Billfish Foundation, thus defending the title he had won the previous year. In planning for 1996, both Capt. Brad and owner Lennie Kupsc realized that they favored the pursuit of Blue Marlin over every other billfish. They set an improbable goal of catching 200 Blue Marlin in the calendar year and adjusted the fishing itinerary, spring and fall in Venezuela, and the summer months in St. Thomas to reflect this goal.
The anticipated spring Blue Marlin bite never materialized and the FINAL FANTASY headed for St. Thomas in June with only 15 Blue Marlin for the year. With 6 months of the year already gone the goal of catching 200 Blues seemed far out of reach. Over the next 6 months, (exactly 100 fishing days) however, the FINAL FANTASY, along with 3 other boats, would document some of the best Blue Marlin fishing ever recorded. St. Thomas was red hot yielding 82 Blue Marlin releases in 38 days of fishing. Returning to Venezuela in mid Sept., the Blue Marlin fishing was extraordinary; 21 caught in the first 5 days of fishing, 54 more in October and an almost unbelievable 70 caught in November. The FINAL FANTASY finished the year with 248 Blue Marlin releases of which 233 had been accomplished in just 100 fishing days over the last 6 months of the year.
In 1997 Capt. Brad and the FINAL FANTASY declined a spring return to Venezuela. Burned by the poor fishing the previous year and tired of the effort to deliver the boat 1,200 miles during inclement spring weather, they instead returned to Isla Mujeres for the spring, St. Thomas for the summer and Venezuela in the fall. In Sept. Capt. Brad reached a milestone; the release of his 1,000th Blue Marlin as a Captain, he was also named top Sailfish tagger for the year. At the end of the year Lennie put the FINAL FANTASY on the market, and the boat was sold in mid 1998. A long contentious divorce kept Brad working locally in Key West during this time, before agreeing to run a new 60′ Hatteras called HZO for Marine Max Co. Brad ran the HZO to Isla Mujeres in April and May, and down to St. Thomas in the fall of 2000.
In 2001, tired of the revolving door nature of running privately or corporately owned boats, Capt. Brad decided to return to his Florida Keys fishing roots. He contracted with Key West builder Claude Torres for the construction of a 43′ charterboat to be named SOUTHPAW. The SOUTHPAW was completed within budget in 2002. Her layout reflected 20 years of fishing and boating experience on the part of Capt. Brad. Features such as a huge uncluttered cockpit space, (over 150-sq. ft.) multiple oversized live wells, and a Tuna Tower equipped the boat to take advantage of Key West’s various fishing opportunities.Â TenÂ years later, the SOUTHPAW remains by common consensus, among a couple of Key West’s finest charterboats.
In addition to running a daily charterfishing business, Capt. Brad served for 9 years as a member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, holding the seat representing the charterboat industry.
In recent years Capt. Brad’s accomplishments include a 2007Â 1st place finish in the Key West Challenge fishing tournament which is a Charter Boat only event. Brad has also had multiple top 5 finishes in this annual event including a 4th place finish in 2012.Â In May of 2012 Brad was the winning Captain of the 49th annual International Masters Angling Tournament held in Isla Mujeres Mexico. This invitation only Sailfish Tournament features some of the best known Captains and anglers in the world. In April 2013 Capt. Brad returned to Isla Mujeres Mexico where he was the repeat winning Captain of the 50th annual Masters Angling Tournament. With the win, Capt Brad became the first Captain in the 50 year history of the event to win in back to back years.
In the last three years Capt Brad has taken a working vacation in late August and September during the slow season in Key West. Joining Canadian friends in Wedgeport Nova Scotia, he has assisted in the catch and release of over 120 giant Bluefin Tuna.