Randy Towe of Islamorada is a fishing guide, rod builder and yacht broker. A man of many talents, he had two main loves growing up in South Florida: baseball and fishing. He pursued them concurrently, wondering what his future might hold. Now, his skills and experiences are enabling new opportunities.
As a lad, Towe came to fishing naturally enough. His mother worked as a switchboard operator for Southern Bell, down the street from Bill Boyd’s Bait and Tackle in Fort Lauderdale. In 1973, Towe asked his single mom for a custom rod he saw at Bill’s, which cost $200. She told her son, I’ll buy you the parts. So, at age 10, he built his own rod. “It became a way for me to stay off the streets,” Towe said. “I began making rods in my bedroom.”
He doesn’t remember who bought his first rod from him. Mostly, his youthful days were filled with riding his bike to fish in the local canals. At age 16, Towe got a job wrapping rods for Tommy Greene, the owner of Custom Rod and Reel in Lighthouse Point, Fla.
By that age, he had to juggle baseball and fishing. On his high school baseball team, Towe was a pitcher who threw a 95 mph fastball. He played baseball at Broward Community College and went on to play for the Florida State League in Vero Beach on the Los Angeles Dodgers farm team. Towe hurt his arm in 1981 and his baseball career ended. It turned out that while throwing the ball hard, he was dislocating his arm from his shoulder. It was coming out of the socket. “I went through a depression that required fishing every day, so I moved to the Florida Keys. I wondered what I was going to do.”
Towe was still building rods and it became therapy of sorts. “I tried to figure out how fancy I could make them, combining design and beauty. I could build rods for hours on end. I liked focusing on that. I loved looking at them.” One month not long ago, he had 72 rods on order, 61 for one man. “It’s feast or famine in this business,” he observed.
Towe’s rod building business grew as did his fishing guide business. For 30-some years, the captain has fished clients up to 250 days a year inshore and offshore on two different boats.
When working indoors on rods, he has a man cave/office adorned with artwork bestowed for tournament wins at mile marker 92 bayside near the Flying Fisherman shop. But fate recently dealt him another opportunity.
Towe opened Pelagic Walkaround Yachts in the same building using another one of his unique experiences as an opening to sell pre-owned walkaround boats. In 2002, Towe had built his own version of this boat, a 43-footer now named the SkipJac. “It was the first walkaround-flybridge sportfisherman,” said Towe.
He appreciated that the flybridge created more space for fishing, and gave the captain more space as well as enabling him a better view of the water. The safety of accessing the bow — without straddling the forward structure with or without guardrails — was another asset of the 360-degree walkaround design. Towe’s vision back then was to design and sell that style of boat, but the economic recession hit and he chalked up his creation to learning from experience.
Now, the costs of such a vessel that incorporates all the latest materials and technology available could run about $5 million if 62-feet long and with many amenities. Towe believes the walkaround-flybridge yacht offers the “fishability” of the center console with the comfort of a yacht.
With his 2002 boat still operating out of a Broward County marina, a betting man would say Towe will remain busy for years to come.