‘Leap of faith’: How online fishing has hooked new business
MAKING the leap from barramundi charter boat skipper to running a booming online fishing education business was nerve-racking for Cardwell's Ryan Moody and partner Karen Rudkin-Moody, but as COVID-19 threw its shadow over the tourism industry, it turned out to be a smart move.
Ms Rudkin-Moody, who has a string of academic medals tied to her science degree majoring in marine biology, was working as a ranger in charge of tropical coast marine parks, but opted to throw everything she had into the new venture.
"I had to take the leap of faith and leave my dream government job and hope that our new course would cover me," she said.
The business had its genesis in Ms Rudkin-Moody's worry that her partner, whose close friend had died as a result of a melanoma cancer, was spending too much time in the sun, and the couple decided to channel his charter fishing reputation into a training course in fishing.
"At the time we could find no online fishing courses at all on the internet," Ms Rudkin-Moody said. "So I set about creating our website and blog posts to reposition Ryan as a teacher - I learnt to build websites after work, and set up the tips newsletter and social media accounts."
Mr Moody was fully booked with charters for two years ahead, so the couple focused on building a social media following while filming their first course, Barra Basics, on days off.
"We taught ourselves everything - digital marketing, filming and editing to website construction, and we bootstrapped the business using our savings," Ms Rudkin-Moody said.
The couple began video blogging fortnightly with helpful tips and some of the videos went viral in the global fishing community - one video has had more than 2 million views.
She said Barra Basics revolved around a simple flowchart for a course that helps anglers determine where to go, when, and using what technique - the three Ts.
"To catch fish consistently you need to be in the right territory, at the right time, using the right tools," Ms Rudkin-Moody said.
The courses were a combination of her "teaching and learning" skills and his knowledge, she said.
Mr Moody started on mackerel boats when he was 16 and pursued a dream to work on marlin boats, which he did for a decade.
In the off season, he worked catching barramundi and by the early 1990s had made a name for himself.
"We had anglers catching metre barra in the first week of our launch, which gave others the faith to join," she said.
The business now has four full-time employees, one part-time, and numerous contractors, with Ms Rudkin-Moody at the helm.
The business has been runner-up in the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) awards and was chosen for the Queensland government's "100 faces of business".
Asked by clients to provide courses on other species of fish, the couple launched the Wonky Holes and Threadfin Tactics courses, and a new Fish Smarter website.
The first truly global courses - Sounder Skills 1 and 2 - were launched soon afterwards and the business now has more than 8000 students, Ms Rudkin-Moody said. The business has used staff and contractors from countries, including the Philippines, America, New Zealand and Israel.
"It has been difficult to set up everything online, yet lucky we did as we've escaped COVID relatively unscathed so far," Ms Rudkin-Moody said, adding they'd been busier than ever.
"All our employees work from home - unless we are out in the boat filming," Ms Rudkin-Moody said.
The couple recently hired a professional cinematographer to take video blogs to a new level. "We also do videos for tourism bodies like the Northern Territory and Rockhampton Council - not yet for Cairns, but we'd love to do so," she said.
The couple recently purchased a home in Cairns and now have bases in both Cairns and Cardwell.
"We have received amazing feedback and the community that has grown up around us is amazing," Karen said.
Originally published as 'Leap of faith': How online fishing has hooked new business