Sweat beading down his brow, left hand on the rod, and right hand quickly stripping line, Jonathan Newar just hooked the catch of a lifetime: a Tanzanian Tigerfish in the depths of the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, Africa. Newar shouts, “Fish on!” From 50 feet down the bank, Attison Barnes starts pounding dirt to capture the moment and cheer his buddy on. The battle ends with a 40” toothy creature on the end of the rod, and after a quick CPR (catch, photo, release), the fish is back swimming in the Great Ruaha River.
The pure elation that comes from a catch, an amalgamation of adrenaline and nostalgia, is the feeling that inspired this duo to start Captain Experiences, with the mission to Unlock the Outdoors for all. The team’s African fishing excursion—and all the incredible fish caught—didn’t happen overnight. It’s the sum of years spent building their company, Captain.
Back in 2019, Newar was working in oil and gas finance in his hometown of Houston when the company was preparing to be acquired. He suggested celebrating with a team fishing trip. Newar was tasked with planning and booking the trip. “How hard can it be?” he asked himself.
Very, as it turned out. He began running into hurdle after hurdle—from playing phone tag with captains, to outdated charter websites with no price transparency, there were numerous pain points. Newar contrasted the laborious experience to the ease of using platforms like Airbnb or Uber, which streamline the process of linking consumers with providers.
As an avid outdoorsman himself, Newar felt a calling to make outdoor sports like fishing more accessible. He set out walking the docks in Galveston, asking guides about their marketing process and pitching them on the loose framework of a website that helps connect them with customers.
Fast forward to March of 2020, Newar and co-founder Barnes launched Captain Experiences—an online destination that helps people book fishing trips quickly, easily, and with a process they can trust.
The company frames their platform as one that “minimizes screen time and maximizes life” for customers and gets guides “out of the office and out on the water”—sentiments rooted in Captain’s desire to not only ease the process of booking an outdoor sports trip, but also empower people to connect with the outdoors and with each other.
“We’re not just selling fishing trips. We’re passionate about the outdoors, and about giving everyone access to booking the trip of a lifetime, every time,” says Newar. “Even if you’ve never gone out on the water before, we want to provide those unforgettable moments you can’t experience from the office desk or the living room couch with guides you can trust.”
To find your ideal adventure, simply visit Captain Experiences, enter a desired destination, and filter by anything from group size and target species, to fish cleaning services and gear. From there, users can easily compare available excursions with details like boat type, trip photos, and verified reviews. With the booking process also comes cashless transactions, weather guarantees, and top tier support from their Austin-based team of avid outdoorsmen and women.
Now in 2022, the startup boasts more than 1,000 guides and more than 2,000 unique experiences across the U.S. and beyond—from the Texas Gulf Coast to popular destinations like Florida, California, New England, Hawaii, Alaska, South America, and you guessed it, Africa. Thousands of trips have been taken through Captain, and the average review score remains above 4.8 out of 5 stars.
A dual-sided platform, Captain was created to ease the booking experience for their guides just as much as that of their adventurers. Newar and Barnes go as far as to say they know all their licensed, insured, and vetted “Damn Good Guides” on a first name basis. Captain Justin, a fly fishing guide in Galveston, TX recently told the team, “It just seemed too easy to be true. I’ve been skeptical, but y’all do a very good job!”
As the company expands beyond the Lone Star State, Newar and Barnes prioritize keeping the company rooted in its Texan heritage. “Fishing, hunting, the spirit of getting outdoors, really, is a part of the fabric of Texas,” says Barnes. “We’re proud to support guides who have been doing this for decades, passing on their knowledge and stewardship of conservation on to the next generations.”
“We couldn’t imagine starting Captain anywhere other than Texas. Not only does it possess world-class fishing destinations at an accessible level, but there’s a longstanding tradition in enjoying and honoring the outdoors here,” says Newar. “From casting for catfish in the backyard of my childhood home along the Buffalo Bayou, to now getting to experience overnight offshore Tuna trips hundreds of miles off the Texas Coast…it’s just incredible.”
Whether a seasoned angler or beginner, a solo adventurer or family of four, there’s a trip for everyone on Captain Experiences. With fall fishing upon us, the founders counted down their top destinations for Texas Monthly readers to try out this season.
The Ultimate Texas Experience: South Padre Island Charters
Offering species you can’t catch anywhere else in Texas and waters that look like they belong to Florida, SPI isn’t like the rest of the state. Take a trip targeting anything from snook to red snapper, and you’ll be planning your next one before the day’s even over.
Family Time: Port Aransas Fishing Trips
They don’t call it the “Fishing Capital of Texas” for nothing. From inshore trips catching the Texas staples of reds and trout, to deep sea trips targeting kingfish and tuna, Port A’s diverse waters offer something for every family.
For the Luxe Vacationer: Key West Flats Fishing
Head over to the Sunshine state, and you’ll be hard pressed to find destinations like Key West, which attracts anglers from all over. Hook into tarpon, permit, and bonefish for the grand slam of shallow water fishing.
Trophy Hunting: Galveston Deep Sea Charters
Looking to get in on the big game fish action? Galveston’s offshore charters are right on the money. From wahoo to mahi mahi, it’s always exciting to see what’s out there when you leave land behind.
Bucket List Excursions
We can’t just give you one. Hook into blue marlin in Hawaii, halibut in Alaska, rainbow trout in Yellowstone, golden dorado in Bolivia, bull reds here in our home waters…the list goes on.
Whichever way you point your compass, there’s a bucket list fish waiting to be caught. Get out of the office, and into the wild with Captain. For more information, visit captainexperiences.com.