Captain Experiences: Hey everybody, this is Jonathan Newar with Captain Experiences! I'm here with Captain Rodney of Oilfield Outkasts out of Freeport, Texas. How's it going, Captain Rodney?
R. Harper: Good, good thank you!
Captain Experiences: We're definitely gonna get into some of the trips that you guys have been running recently but I would love to just kick things off and with an intro. Go ahead and introduce yourself, where you're from, and where you operate.
R. Harper: I'm Captain Rodney. Me and a buddy of mine created Oilfield Outkast Charters. I've been fishing out of Freeport since I was six years old. I bought my first boat in 2010 but got laid off in 2016. So, me and my buddy decided that we would start a charter.
Scott [buddy] had the captain's license and I had the boat. We started on June 1st of 2016 and by the end of September, we fished over a thousand customers just on one boat.
R. Harper: Now we have six boats. We have five offshore boats and one bay boat. We’ve just gradually grown, and grown, and grown. We now fish about 5,000 people or so a year. Every one of them who fish with us, they’re family.
Once you fish with us, you're family. From that point on it's just been a growing company that has been a lot of fun.
R. Harper: We've had a lot of challenges along the way. Getting laid off from the oil field wasn't something that I ever expected would happen.
I really didn't know how to take care of my family other than that because I really thought I was going to retire in the oil field. So when that happened we had to do something, and we had to do something quickly.
Captain Experiences: That's such an inspiring story. Can you go more into what role you had in the oil field, and what your day looked like?
R. Harper: So I started out from the very bottom of the totem pole in the oil field. I started off in coil tubing. Basically, I was the gas go-getter and the lunch go-getter from the start.
I moved up to a coil tubing operator, then to a supervisor. Then I ran tools for a company. I've done some sales for some of the old field companies and stuff like that, but most of my time was spent doing international work within a company called NCS Multistage.
Captain Experiences: Yeah, I know them well. My background is oil and gas finance in Houston. Similar to you, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be making a profession out of fishing, but it feels pretty good.
R. Harper: Yeah, it does. It works no differently. It's just as hard. Our days are 16-hour days, back to back to back to back. Especially once summer gets here, then it’s more like 20-hour days. You wake up and you don't even feel like you've been to sleep.
Captain Experiences: Yeah, I mean it's just so incredible. The work that all the charters and guides do. Not only do you need those hard skills to manage the assets of the boats, but you also need those soft skills. After four hours of sleep, you still have to get out there and put a smile on people's faces.
For most people, that's probably the only time they're coming fishing with you. I know from people who have been out with you and your general reputation is that you guys do a great job of that. So more power to you, that's amazing.
R. Harper: Thank you. I think a lot of times with my customers they think that I'm smiling but really it's just my back hurting.
Captain Experiences: Oh man, we’ll edit that part out, don’t worry [laughs].
R. Harper: I’m just kidding. I love all my customers.
Captain Experiences: Oh man, that’s awesome. Stepping back a second, I’d love to kind of hear about what it was like growing up fishing in Freeport. What were your earliest memories? Who introduced you to fishing, was it your dad, your mom?
R. Harper: My parents started bringing me down here when I was six years old and we ran out of Galveston and went out on the old Buccaneer. Honestly, I think that might have been the only time that I ever felt like I was seasick. I had eaten a couple of those little pink snowball things that you get, those little cakes. I think I threw them up if I remember right.
Then, we did a bunch of fishing down in Puerto Ramzes and stuff like that. All up and down the coast. As I grew up my dad and my mom introduced me to fishing, and we did a lot of striper fishing up on Lake Texoma.
Then I did some semi-pro bass fishing with a buddy of mine. If you get on our boats you'll see a number 23 on our boats, and that was Brad's basketball number. Our dream was to always do this and he passed away several years ago but he's still watching.
Captain Experiences: There you go. What do you think is unique about fishing out of Freeport? What's special about it?
R. Harper: I think it's a lot quieter in the area. It's definitely a fishing port compared to Galveston, which has a lot of tourism and stuff like that. If you like quiet, then quiet is the way to go. Half a mile out and you're out of the jetties and you're already offshore and headed out, and I think the fish are just fantastic here.
We have the Brazos River right down from us and I think that helps a lot. We've got some good state water fishing. If you can head out there and go out and catch with us, you want to go catch in the deep water. Whether it be a blue marlin, or tuna, or anything, really. The sky's kind of the limit here.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Can you talk more about the specific trip options that you have? You guys are pretty versatile, all the half-day, the full day, the inshore, the nearshore, the offshore. Touch on what people can expect.
R. Harper: We do bay fishing trips for hours. You catch your redfish, trout, flounder, some mangrove snapper, and run around a lot. You really never know. Then we do our nearshore stuff which is our state water trips. You can choose a four-hour shark trip, a bull red trip, or you can go on a five-hour state water trip.
We're talking bull reds and then sharks, and if something else comes around we might jump behind a shrimp boat and jump on some sharks to try to get a really big one. Then, our typical state water trip, our 5-hour trip, is like King mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Bull Reds, if we have time, and obviously sharks are always around.
So a lot of times they're actually bycatch. Then, we move on out and we do amberjack trips and blue water amberjack trips will start. We do eight to twelve hours on those, and then red snapper trips. Amberjack season is going to open on May first. Then we have red snapper open in June and run to August.
And in August, amberjack season will then reopen, so there will actually be one day where you can catch red snapper and amberjack on the same day. Then we should have amberjack food possibly until Halloween if the quotas have not been met yet.
We move on out and we do overnight trips, we do 24-hour trips, we're working with Jeff Naylor over at South Texas Salt Life Adventures. We’re working with him and he’s kind of teaching us the ropes. We're gonna start doing some swordfish strips too. Gulf tilefish, things like that.
Captain Experiences: Yeah, that's amazing. One thing that stood out to me is the shark trips, can you touch on those because I think those are really exciting to a lot of people.
R. Harper: Those trips are really something else. Whenever they're shrimping inshore, because those sharks will pile up behind those shrimp boats, you can almost walk on top of the water, walking across how many sharks are behind the boat.
Captain Experiences: That's a good idea!
R. Harper: Yeah, and we actually went out to them recently and we got out there and the guys on the shrimp boat were nice enough to drop us a sack of fresh shrimp in the water for us to pick up. We played around behind them. We didn't have any luck that day, but a couple of days before that we hung into some pretty good sharks.
Captain Experiences: Wow. That’s awesome, really cool. Can you describe your boats a little bit, what they're like and how they’re different?
R. Harper: Right now we have a 24-foot. It's 2013. It's got a brand-new 250 Suzuki SS on it. It can run in nine inches of water. That's our bay boat. We have two Pro Sport catamarans. Those are 26-foot as far as length.
One catamaran has 21-50s on it, the other one has 20-25. Revelry is one of those boats, and that's the original boat that we started on. That's my baby, she's my tub.
Then we have a brand new 26-foot twin B and it's 2019. We also have a 31-foot twin B that's 2019. I have a little sportfisher. She's a topaz. It's 30-feet. It has a little tuna tower on it and everything. She's a great boat, and has its own restroom in it. The only thing is it's a V-hole, so it rolls. Those catamarans are a real stable fishing platform even in some of the roughest seas, and that's why we try to stick to them.
Captain Experiences: That is nice for sure.
R. Harper: All of our boats have a little camp potty in them but having an actual bathroom, that's what some people want, and so we have that to offer.
Captain Experiences: Right, it really does make a difference for some groups. That's great. If you had to pick one aspect, what would you say makes Oilfield Outkasts different?
R. Harper: There are many different aspects to answer that question. First of all, we’re a God-based company. We follow Christ and we feel that He guides us and everything that we do. The second thing is we're also a company of second chances.
Some of my best employees have, and myself included, because I'm not perfect, been down the road of being in trouble before. We all have. And we're all working to be better people in the long run. They're doing it and I think it shows how much that we just absolutely love our people.
We do because we're grateful for that. The opportunity to get to do something like that compared to the ways that some of us were heading in our past life. I think that makes a huge difference.
R. Harper: Customer service is always our number one. Safety is right up there too. Customer service is something that I think if you ask most people who’ve fished with us, they'll tell you they feel like they fish with family, and they’re still family.
I have a girl that started fishing with me when she was three years old. I got to fish with her just a couple of weeks ago and I feel so blessed to get to do that with her. She's seven now. Every winter we go up and she'll show her little calf up there at the county fair. My wife and I go up and we watch her show her calf. She got me a new coffee mug this year, I call her my co-captain and she's a whole lot of fun.
Captain Experiences: Wow that's amazing. That’s what it’s all about.
R. Harper: I’ll tell you something funny. She taught me how to floss [the dance move] on the back of the boat one day. Customer retention, it’ll tell you the truth about what a company is really about or not.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. What’s it like for you when you put somebody on their first fish or a big fish, what's that moment like?
R. Harper: Every experience is different. So, the kids always want to catch a shark. I don't know how many young boys or girls we've got on their first shark. One of the most memorable stories that I could never have imagined is I had a 70 something-year-old man on my boat, and took him out fishing. His grandson ended up working for me for a little while, but he caught a big bull red. He sat in the back of the boat and he was hugging the fish. He had slime all over him, he was hugging the fish, he was crying, and he said, “Rodney I would've never thought that I would have caught a fish this big.”
It's not always about what kind of fish it is, it's about what it means to that customer and they decide whether that fish is the trophy they’ve always looked for. You've got to stand back and think about how lucky you are to get to do this for a living. Seriously.
It's a lot of work, but just fishing isn't all we do. We do all of our own boat maintenance. It's a lot of work, and probably twice the work of what the fishing is. It's worth it whenever you have times like that, and they happen every week. There's something different that happens every week and something that touches you and you say- you know what, I'm pretty blessed right now.
Captain Experiences: That's an amazing story. Every story is completely different, but there is this similar narrative that guides say what they might have considered as a captain as a trash fish is actually making someone else’s day. There's really no such thing as a trash fish, any trip and any fish could be someone's trophy, just like you said.
R. Harper: Those fish [bull reds] fight hard. They pull hard and we had all the bull reds that we wanted. That was a father and his two kids, his son and his daughter, with him and our bull red bite was actually slow.
At first, he caught a jack crevalle and he was so proud of it. It just so happens to turn out that we made a little move. One of our friends that also charters gave us a little input over the radio and so we made a little move.
About 20 minutes after we dropped the anchor they tripled up. The dad, the daughter, and the son were all hooked up at the same time. Of course, Captain James and I, and we've been fishing together there since we were 13 years old, were trying to keep lines from tangling up.
Honestly, I thought that we were tangled up, and it turns out that actually each of them had their own fish. I'm pretty fortunate to have James and Captain Matt on my team.
Captain Experiences: Wow. That’s cool. That story, once again, just goes to show that being a good person and treating people with hospitality, treating people the right way not only is obviously first and foremost the right thing to do, but it's good business because then guys on the radio say hey Captain Rodney looks out for me, I'm gonna look out for him and his customers should get on this bite. That's really cool.
R. Harper: The honor is all ours. It really is. We're honored. You've got to look at your customers and you have to decide what exactly does a customer means to you? Whenever you look at that you say "For me a customer means they're taking their hard-earned money right putting it in my pocket to go out and make a vacation of a lifetime, a trip of a lifetime, a memory that they're gonna have for the rest of their life."
Whether that trip is with their buddies, their family, their kids, or whoever. I think every guide owes it to their customers to take it seriously. I'm not saying don't have fun on the trip, obviously, be every a bit of fun that you can be, but, it's something that you gotta find in your heart as to what that customer means to you.
Captain Experiences: That's something that we say at Captain Experiences all the time. You book the fishing trip of a lifetime every time. What we're trying to do is help people accomplish that.
R. Harper: Dylan Goss is a senior in high school this year and builds my rods for us.
They're called pickle fish rods. He builds our rods, he builds all of our equipment for us and he does a fantastic job. He was actually in the booth at the show-up in Houston with us.
Captain Experiences: Yeah. That's awesome. That brings up a good point there. Let's plug Dylan and everybody else. What kind of equipment can people expect to use on your trips?
R. Harper: We're sponsored by Daiwa, so most of our rods and reels are all Daiwa. We also have pickled fish rods and we have a few dowel rods. We also use Shimano for our bigger, deeper stuff. We are sponsored by Rapala. A lot of times whenever we're out there and we're trolling for kingfish, or wahoo, or something like that you can expect to see a couple of divers back there.
I've got a set of Honda's on my boat. One of them just blew up last week, finally. Whenever I say finally, those engines had 9,000 hours on. That's over a million road miles and that has to do with Captain James and Captain Mike, helping me out with that boat maintenance. It's all about maintenance. We want to make sure that everybody's back safe. But those Honda's lasted forever.
Captain Experiences: Wow. That's awesome. Why would you say you do it day in and day out? What gets you up in the morning?
R. Harper: It's that every day's never the same. It goes back to the stories of whenever you see a grandkid telling his grandpa how he caught the shark and how he should be trying to catch this shark because now he’s the pro- that's a true story.
You see things like that and that's what makes you get up and do it because honestly, it's something that I have loved doing since I was a young kid, and I want to share that love with everybody else too. Anytime that you can get people out into the water where they can see things. We see dolphins every day. We see a lot of sea turtles.
Whenever you can get people out that have never been out there, and they can see what is really there, then I think it changes a lot of things. Their outlook and the way they look at things in general in life because truthfully that's the wildest wildlife that there is out there. The customer experience is all about what gets me up every morning.
Captain Experiences: That's amazing. How do you feel about the future of fishing, both locally in Freeport and generally in the world and the oceans beyond?
R. Harper: I honestly think that the people who manage our fisheries do the best with their information. I really believe that fishing is getting better and better, to be honest with you. I know that we still have some sharks that are in trouble out there but most of our sharks are just fine and dandy.
There are plenty of them out there and whenever you catch a 600-pound tiger shark and you can see the beach there in Freeport you kind of worry about who's up there swimming. If they knew what we were catching, they probably wouldn't be in the water. [Captain Experiences: That's a little bit of an appetizer for the shark!]
We've got them real close to the beach too. I mean, you think that there's not any, from what you see in the media, you see that there's no fish out there left at all and that's not the case. We catch hammerheads and we catch tiger sharks. We just caught a big sandbar shark a couple of weeks ago.
You can't even bring those out of the water, you have to release them at the side of the boat. I think it's been a long time since they've caught bluefin tuna, which you see on the Wicked Tuna show. There's been a lot of them caught out from the waters, out of Texas this year and that's pretty insane. It's cool.
Captain Experiences: I just snuck offshore to the Nansen oil rig with Captain Lee out of Galveston. I personally had never seen anything like it. I've seen striped bass on the East Coast busting at the surface but we got out there and it was kind of like what you said with the sharks behind the shrimp boat.
You could have walked across the tuna out there if they weren't moving like crazy, it was like a Planet Earth scene or one of those amazing National Geographic shows. There's so much natural activity. I agree with you.
R. Harper: Did you overnight out there?
Captain Experiences: Yeah, yeah. We overnighted.
R. Harper: Oh man, the stars and stuff when you get away from those platforms it's incredible out there.
Captain Experiences: This is a perfect segue into our favorite question to ask. If you had one more cast to throw in your life, what would you be throwing and where would you be?
R. Harper: Oh boy. That is a sticky one, isn't it? Man, I think that my newfound love in swordfishing would have to be the one thing that I would want. I really am loving the way that fishing works. I think that would probably be it, and I would hope that my crew would be with me too. All of them.
That would be the best-case scenario, to have James, Matt, Jojo, and Marshall, the whole crew out there with me and get to experience that with me. For me, it's not just about the experience of catching anything. It's about us getting to, even with the customer, enjoy the memories with them.
I've caught a lot of fish in my life, but nothing's more fun than watching my customers catch fish. There's nothing like that in the world. When I was a little kid I grew up on a lake up by Fort Worth, and I had a little basket boat that my parents bought me. I started off with a little Lone Star 1942 John Bo, and I ran it in the ground fishing. Then they bought me a little bass boat.
My dad had some friends that were sick and I took them fishing for one last fishing trip. I was just a little kid but I took him fishing because I knew how to find sand bass on the lake, so we went and caught a whole bunch of sand bass. That was probably the first guided trip that I ever did and just didn't even know where it was gonna head.
Captain Experiences: Wow. So now we can jump into the rapid-fire questions. With these questions just kind of answer whatever comes to mind first. So here we go.
What's your favorite body of water to fish?
R. Harper: I’d go for the Gulf of Mexico.
Captain Experiences: Perfect. If you had to be doing something different, what would it be?
R. Harper: Oh. Well, I can't go back to the oil field because the oil processes are terrible. All of my brothers and sisters are out there and hurting. I can't go back to those fields. Nobody will have me, nobody's hiring. I'll probably hand out buggies at Walmart, honestly, just so I could still interact with people.
Captain Experiences: There you go. Good stuff.
Do you have a nickname and if so how'd you get it?
R. Harper: Which one [laughs]? My high school nickname was Mad Dog. Captain Matt gave me a nickname because we had a bunch of oil field people on the boat so when he calls me on the radio he calls for "Flowback." I bet you know where that comes from, so we don't really need more details. He thinks that's pretty smart, so that's okay with me.
Captain Experiences: Creative. Good on that. Do you have a favorite song or band right now?
R. Harper: Yeah. The Movement. It's a reggae group. I love The Movement.
*Captain Experiences: Favorite movie?
R. Harper: I just watched Jaws again the other day. I always get a kick out of it, I always like watching Jaws. My love for shark fishing is actually got what got me started, but my favorite movie is Tombstone. I got to go watch that on my birthday. They started that show and it hit the theaters on Christmas Day, my birthday's on Christmas Day. My parents took me whenever it came out to go watch. It's always been my favorite.
Captain Experiences: Nice, that's awesome. Do you have a favorite food?
R. Harper: Favorite food, yes I do. I really like the loco moco over at Poly Pop here in Lake Jackson. Though crawfish is my number one all the way. You bring me a crawfish, you won't leave with that sack of crawfish because I’ll eat it.
Captain Experiences: Yeah. I'm with you on that. As soon as you eat them, I mean you get hungry again so you can just eat them all day long.
Drink of choice?
R. Harper: Oh, I love iced tea. Iced tea or one of those Bang energy drinks. You might catch me with a Monster in my hand but that's pretty much it.
Captain Experiences: Yeah. Crawfish and some sweet tea or iced tea sound like a nice afternoon to me.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
R. Harper: If I could have one superpower- it'd be really handy to be able to see through the water. Sometimes I feel like I can, but I think I'd like to fly.
Captain Experiences: Wow that's a good one too. Very nice.
What was your last Halloween costume?
R. Harper: My last Halloween costume, I dressed up as a girl [both laugh]. One of my best friends didn’t even know who I was.
Captain Experiences: When was that?
R. Harper: Oh, it has been a long time ago. A long time.
Captain Experiences: That’s awesome. What do you want for Christmas and your birthday?
R. Harper: Man, that's a crazy question. You’re winging those out there. What would I want for Christmas? I've wanted to fish on my birthday for quite a few years and I haven't got to do it. If I got to fish on Christmas Day, I would really enjoy that.
Captain Experiences: Wow. Yeah. That's an awesome one. I think a lot of us agree with that, we all want that for Christmas, fingers crossed.
Can you name one of the Seven Dwarfs?
R. Harper: Yes, Sleepy [Laughter].
Captain Experiences: There you go.
How many pull-ups can you do in a row?
R. Harper: Zero. I used to be a gym rat, a hardcore gym rat. But I never figured out how to engage my lats to be able to pull up. Now I could do bicep pull-ups but I couldn't ever get the side-to-side where you pull yourself up using your lats. I can do some. I could probably do three or four bicep pull-ups.
Captain Experiences: What's the biggest fish you ever got?
R. Harper I caught a really big bull shark one time and it was a joke that Captain Matt played on me. He said you need to get up there in the front of the boat, fight it from the front of the boat. There's a video somewhere of me fighting that out there, but that was a big bull shark. She really puts a hoof on me pretty well.
Captain Experiences Wow. That's pretty awesome. That's really about it, just kind of wrap things up, would you like to give a shout out to the troops or the Armed Forces?
R. Harper To my crew- Captain Matt, Captain James, Joe Joe, Marshall, thank you so much for what you do and our supporters: Scotty and Carla Jordan, Billy Martin, Matt Timmerman. Thank you so much for what you do.
During the summer our house turns into basically a sleeping quarter for people that are helping us out, so a shout out to Dillon and Maggie, they’re always camped out with us when they're here. We feel pretty lucky whenever we have a full house because there's always some kind of fun to be had. To everybody out there that helps us get it done and those who support us, thank you to all my old field brothers and sisters y'all hang in there.
I love you, I'm praying for you. I know times are tough, they’ll turn back around. Everything will be fine.
Captain Experiences Definitely. Times are crazy but I think that just goes to show the importance of these experiences that you're providing people. It's really important because it kind of serves as a light at the end of the tunnel. I guess for a lot of people they can say, “Hey, hopefully, we can go fishing next year but if not, we're gonna get through this and we'll be out there celebrating life next year,” or something like that.
R. Harper Every year’s a little bit different and we've jumped some hurdles this year already but thanks to those that are named, they support us. Scott, Billy, and Matt, really help us make things happen in times whenever it's really lean. I can't say enough about what they do for us.
Last year my original boat got struck by lightning. It was at the dock, nobody was on the boat, but it got struck by lightning and we fought all year. We lost that boat the entire summer. The Pesco Moss too we've been working on her for three years. Come to find out after three years it was a $100 fix that was the only thing that's kept her out of the mix.
We just had a hard time finding it, but we learned a lot along the way. We learned a lot along the way. I don't think there's much that Captain James and I can't do as far as working on any engine on any boat. So, for all the guys who helped us do what we do and allow us to do what we love, that's the best thing that anybody can do. I hope to see everybody on the boat. You too!
Captain Experiences I hope to make it out there too. As we wrap up thanks to the doctors and first responders and nurses and everyone right now with coronavirus helping people to get healthy and obviously the Armed Forces, Veterans, thank you all for your service. We really appreciate you. That's what allows us all to do what we love, including fishing and providing these great experiences for people. So thanks a lot, Captain Rodney, I appreciate it. It's amazing and rewarding to speak with you about all these awesome trips and all these different fish and more importantly all the different people. So really cool stuff. Thanks a lot for it.
R. Harper Well thank you for taking your time out of your day to have us on. I think the whole team is pretty excited. Even my kids are watching too, my sons. It's good to see everybody jumping on here and taking a look at what we're doing. I also am grateful for everybody that’s out there that I get to hang out with on the boat for just a little bit and they get to come into my world. I feel like I really get to come into their world for a minute and show them a few things that I may know a lot about, or some of them might say I don't know anything.
Captain Experiences Hopefully, we can do this again soon. It was an absolute blast so really appreciate it and hope you and your family enjoy your evening, and stay safe and healthy.
R. Harper Same to you Jonathan. We should have kingfish in here pretty quick too so fishings gonna really start cranking quickly. It's been such a weird year that I think fishing’s gonna be on fire this year. Hopefully, everybody can come out and give you a shout to book through Captain Experiences and come see us and we'll go fishing.
Captain Experiences Awesome. Sounds good Captain Rodney. Hopefully, we can make it happen soon.
R.Harper Jonathan, thank you so much and you have a good evening.
Captain Experiences Thanks to you too, take care.