• Published:January 14, 2013
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Andrea McQuade was raised near the epicenter of the Canadian giant bluefin tuna fishing scene in the town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Since joining the crew of Prime Time Adventures in fall 2011, she has shown she has what it takes to make it as a deckhand in the big game fishing scene. Since joining the team she has worked full-time as a deckhand, travelling to British Columbia, Mexico, and Costa Rica in search of monster fish.
Displaying a strong work ethic and not afraid to get her hands dirty, Andrea has honed her rigging, live baiting and wiring skills and has become an important member of the team. She has wired 800+ pound giant Bluefin in her back yard and was part of the winning team at the 2012 Bisbee's Black & Blue marlin tournament in Cabo San Lucas. Fishtrack recently caught up with Andrea to discuss her epic rookie year.

Can you tell us what sparked your interest in fishing to begin with? There is a rhythm to fishing that appeals to me. From the meticulous and repetitive set up of tackle to the intense waiting and watching, each step pulls me in and focuses me completely. It doesn't matter the size of the fish, the type of tackle, or the hemisphere it's in. It's everything you could want out of a life experience, compacted into minutes, over and over again.

Was there a moment along the way when you thought to yourself that this is what you want to do for a living?
Figuring out that I could experience this life every day was a personal discovery, but realizing that I could help procure and offer that experience to others was purely professional. There came a moment when I was just as happy watching a friend catch a fish as I was catching it myself. That's when I knew I would love to do this as a job. The opportunity to work with Prime Time Adventures has been incredible. It has pushed me to do what I love at an exceptional level.
" I learned that a mate has to be ready to switch programs at a moments notice depending on the species and size of the fish on the line."

You've already done some serious traveling. What are some of your favorite locations that you've had the chance to work in so far? I'd have to say that in terms of truly big fish, Antigonish, Nova Scotia would be my favorite. Antigonish has an incredibly unique bluefin tuna fishery that could double as a two month crash course in big fish handling! After spending a season on the water there, my knowledge of heavy tackle and wiring increased ten fold. The consistency of the bite there gave me the ability to hone and perfect skills daily. All professional development aside, watching 800-1200lb monsters crash on kite baits day after day can't be beat. Otherwise, I'm a big fan of Los Suenos, Costa Rica. I experienced a variety of species there in January 2012, which I can appreciate both from an angler and crew perspective. I learned that a mate has to be ready to switch programs at a moments notice depending on the species and size of the fish on the line. It kept me on my toes and I was engaged even more so than usual.

The pictures and video of you wiring giant bluefin and big marlin are certainly impressive, particularly because you are at a sizable disadvantage weight-wise. How do you manage to get the job done with these big fish on the wire?While it may look like a 'David and Goliath' situation, there is a lot to be said about technique over brute strength. I had the benefit of watching and learning from three highly experienced captains (Mark Boyd, Robert Boyd, and Josh Temple) who stressed the importance of perfecting your methods before ever even touching a wire - regardless the size of the fish. I can't count the number of times that I've stood across a cockpit and practiced wiring a crew member just to commit those simple actions to muscle memory. Being confident in my technique allows me to focus on other things - bracing my knees under the covering board, keeping low and grounded, and paying careful attention to the fish at the end of the line. I don't have the advantage of extra muscle backing me up, so its just as important for me to know when to let go of a fish as to know when to pull. And in the end, adrenaline helps a lot!

Is there any gear that is particularly suited for female anglers and crew out there? I'm really excited to see retailers focusing a little more on function over form in terms of women's gear, and even more excited when they manage to successfully combine the two. My first concern is always about performance. Women have been cutting the finger tips off men's wiring gloves for safety's sake (avoiding getting it caught in the wire) for long enough. Pelagic and Obadu gloves now accommodate smaller hands, offering gloves in custom sizes. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at Pelagic's new women's gear and I can't wait to get my hands on it. It's going to become an inshore/offshore staple for anglers and crew alike in the next few months.

We hear you have a new, exciting project underway, care to elaborate on that?
I've signed on as a full time mate and steward on a brand new 60ft Spencer that is set to leave the boatyard in a little less than two months. I'm incredibly excited to be part of the stellar crew thats been put together for the express purpose of chasing records all over the world. I'm literally itching to get out of the fiberglass and metal shavings and onto the water!

Can you tell us about your favorite fishing experience thus far? Without a doubt, my favorite experience was wiring my first blue marlin for Keith Brandner. From the moment I stepped forward and grabbed the leader I don't remember there being a sound in the cockpit, though I'm sure there was. The marlin was fairly green and acrobatic. I loved every wrap of the line and pull on the leader. Keith and I work well together in the cockpit, and I wouldn't have wanted another angler on the reel for that fish. It was a clean release, and turning around to a boat full of grinning crew and captains was phenomenal.

What about your favorite species to wire and/or catch? Honestly, I'm as happy catching bait as I am wiring marlin. If it puts a bend in the rod or pulls on the wire, I'll be there.

You made quite the splash in your first full year as part of the winning crew in the Bisbee's Black and Blue marlin tournament in Cabo San Lucas this past October. Did you realize just what an accomplishment that was? I went into the tournament thinking about the win, but somewhere in the middle it came down to what it really was - fishing. I was aboard the Frantic Pace, amid a crew stacked with incredible talent and knowledge. While there certainly was a heightened level of anticipation (and lets face it, some anxiety), the level of professionalism on that boat brought everything into focus and made it fun. While I understood what we accomplished, that's not to say a jacked up part of me didn't spend a couple minutes starting up at the scale that day thinking "Holy crap!, did this just happen?".

Any advice for other female anglers and crew out there looking to follow in your footsteps? I have been very lucky to be surrounded by some of the best and most enthusiastic captains, crew, and anglers in the business. For that I am so thankful. I am where I am in large part because of their faith and support. None of them ever hesitate to answer my questions, give me advice, or give me a swift kick in the ass when required. My advice is to be humble and learn in any way that you can. Talk to everyone available to you. Local captains and crew will give you firsthand insight and chances are, your first shot on a boat. In addition, there are countless tutorials, articles, blogs and message boards online and off that will help you hone your skills. Don't be afraid to get whipped by snapped leaders and stuck with hooks. Haul stinking bait and fill reels until your arm quits. Do things wrong and get yelled at. And when you love every minute of that, there isn't any advice I can give that you won't figure out yourself.