In our November issue, we learned the Untold Story of Randy Towe’s journey from a canal-fishing kid to a master fishing rod craftsman. He had spent his childhood playing baseball, fishing, and wrapping rods. Randy’s teenage years were much of the same, but he graduated from fishing canals to offshore fishing.
Older guys in his neighborhood had fishing boats, and Randy often stopped by on his bicycle to talk about fishing with them. Eventually, they started inviting him along on offshore trips.
One neighbor in particular, Joe Claypool, took Randy under his wing. They would go reef fishing, king fishing, and dolphin fishing. They’d also enter billfish tournaments, with Randy competing as a junior angler. At 14 or 15 years old, Randy caught a massive 40-pound kingfish.
Around the same time, Randy started going night-time swordfishing with local friends in the neighborhood. As he got a few years older, he and his friends started going to Bimini in the Bahamas on boats no bigger than 17 or 19 feet.
“In those days,” Randy recollects, “a 21 Maco was big, and a 25-footer was the big kahuna. These days, offshore fishing boats are 30 feet and up, but we didn’t think anything of going to the Bahamas in our little boats.”
All the while, Randy was absorbing as much as he could from his experiences to improve his homemade fishing rods further. Soon, all of his friends and friends of friends were using his custom rods, preferring them over any custom rods they could buy elsewhere.
When an injury ended Randy’s promising baseball career in college, he sunk into a depression that only fishing could pull him out of. At the time, he was working on a charter boat for Captain Oz Keagy out of Fort Lauderdale. Captain Oz was moving his business down to the Keys and invited Randy to come along. Randy accepted and has lived in the Keys ever since.
Randy soon opened a tiny rod shack and became an independent fishing guide. He experienced success on both fronts, with each business benefiting the other. As we learned in the previous Untold Story, guiding first took him to the backcountry. Later, he was able to buy a second boat that returned him to his offshore passion.
Once he had an offshore boat, Randy entered more offshore tournaments as a guide and for himself. He first had success winning Calcutta pots and then evolved into winning 1st place in many of the big tournaments, including the Miami Swordfish 3x, the Florida Swordfish Series 2x, and the Islamorada Swordfish Tournament.
His biggest win was the 2012 Sailfish Challenge in Pompano. He caught 14 sailfish that day, earning a $165,000 prize. He won $65,000 in dailies in that same tournament in 2017.
All of the guiding, winning, and even losing informed and fine-tuned Randy’s rod-making skills. Unlike many fishing rod builders that have expertise in one area, Randy has experience in it all.
“Whatever fishing was happening, I wanted to go do. My favorite was whatever was on the end of my line.”
That indiscriminate passion for fishing has made Randy an expert in all three popular Keys fishing styles: backcountry, offshore, and (as we’ll learn in our next Untold Story) fly fishing. His offshore rods are among his most popular, with unique features that evolved from his firsthand experience.
Randy’s tiny fishing shack grew into Islamorada Fishing Outfitters. Fishermen often visit solely to pick Randy’s brain or to admire the custom displays. Unlike other custom rod builders, Randy has in-store inventory, so customers can buy a premium handmade rod on the spot or have it further customized.
Shop online at IslamoradaFishingOutfitters.com
or learn more from Randy Towe’s Podcast Untold Stories.
– Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.