Ask Andy Shanahan for his best fishing tip, and his answer reflects the mentality of someone who truly enjoys spending time on his boat.
“The key is ﬁnding the good ﬁshing spots, your little honey holes, and having a lot of them,” he says. “Because you can’t always predict how the ﬁsh are going to behave.
“There are times when your fish finder is lit right up, but for whatever reason they won’t bite,” he continues. “So it’s always good to have another area you can head to. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing locations, and that one just works.
“Of course, that’s the advantage of being on the Gulf with a boat that’s up to the job,” he adds. “In my case it’s worked out pretty well.”
“Pretty well” is a bit of an understatement. In the last two years, Andy and his fishing partners Jason Kaufman, Brian Brandfass and Ralph Andrew have earned three first-place wins and one second-place ranking out of four tournaments competed in, including the famed Grouper Grapple. Based in the Fort Myers, Florida, area, the team goes by the name “Snake in the Grass,” owing to their skill at sneaking up on the competition and striking when it counts.
And as for the “boat that’s up to the job,” that would be Andy’s formidable Boston Whaler 370 Outrage. “It’s just been a sweetheart of a boat,” he enthuses. “Nice and easy to maintain, no fuss, no muss. In 15 minutes you can jump on and take off, but the ride is such that you don’t get beat up offshore. The Outrage really is the best of both worlds.”
Andy credits pal Ralph for getting him started down the tournament path. “Fishing’s been in Ralph’s family for generations. His father comes out with us once in a while too,” Andy explains. “I got to know Ralph when I first moved down to Florida. He took me out on the water, showed me some fishing spots, and said, you know, maybe we should enter tournaments… So we went for it! He’s really the brains of the outfit; I’m more of a work in progress. But with my boat and his skills, between the two of us we do alright.”
In fact, the team’s impressive winning streak caught the eye of a TV producer working on a pilot for the Discovery Channel featuring competitive anglers on the Gulf Coast. The fate of the pilot is yet to be determined, but the guys say they’re flattered to have been involved. The novelty of being followed by a camera crew while they flexed their fishing muscles didn’t hurt either.
Formerly a contractor and developer in the Chicago area, Andy officially retired about 10 years ago, though his pace hasn’t noticeably slowed. “People tell me, ‘You’re probably the busiest retired guy I know,’” he says, citing pastimes like investing and fixing up houses. Still, his schedule affords him the flexibility to enjoy his Outrage often. Having grown up a boater, he was intent on making that an integral part of the life he and his fiancée, Marci Colas-Notaro, have carved out in Fort Myers.
“It’s been great living down here. We’ve had a lot of fun getting into the Florida lifestyle, the Boston Whaler lifestyle,” he says, crediting his dealership, MarineMax, with helping him land in the 370 Outrage. “MarineMax has been excellent, above and beyond. The GM, Ryan West, and my salesman, Brian Kemmis—all of them, really a stand-up group of guys.”
When Andy’s not out winning tournaments, he and Marci readily embrace the social side of boating. A favorite trip involves getting together with about 30 of their friends and a few other boats for a cruise up the Caloosahatchee River. They like to stop and “whoop it up a little” en route to their destination, Lake Okeechobee.
“We’ll take about 12 or 14 friends on our boat and it’s very comfortable with all of them,” Andy says. “That’s the beauty of the Whaler—it does a great job fishing and it’s a great pleasure boat. The finish is so much nicer than on a lot of these fishing boats you wouldn’t want to spend much time on. And yet I can still go out with my buddies 100 or 150 miles offshore into deep seas.”
Andy and Marci have been to several MarineMax gatherings, and plan on attending Boston Whaler’s Bimini Rendezvous in the future. They also enjoy regular excursions to the Florida Keys. On longer trips, amenities like the cabin on the Outrage come in quite handy. “If we get caught in a little squall, we can go in there and ride it out. Having that ability to stow away for a little bit was important to us,” Andy explains. “Plus, if Marci gets bored of us fishing, she can duck down there to watch TV.”
Fishing with a crew that sees so much grouper action, though, boredom seems unlikely to be a factor.