There are two facets to achieving intercepts with surface forces. One is Intel and its influence on the choices made. The other is the mechanics in setting up and executing the intercept. Both are important and each must be given adequate attention for positive results. Obviously many of the considerations discussed here pertain to intercepts conducted by carrier aircraft.
At first it might look like a lot of material, but most of it you will do automatically with hardly a thought. It just takes a bunch of words to describe things.
Where can an intercept be achieved? What can be intercepted? What enemy forces might interfere? Will surprise be achieved? Is the enemy aware of the forces making the attempt? What is the geometry and terrain involved? How many and what routes for attack are available? How many and what routes for escape are available? What about ports for a) rearming, b) emergency repairs, and c) extensive repairs? Are replenishment TFs available at sea for emergency refueling after extended high-speed escape runs?
Using your knowledge of the overall situation and any SigInt judged reliable, consider where the enemy is likely to send forces that should be intercepted. What are the likely next invasion targets considering enemy strategy to date? What areas likely need resupply, evacuation, reinforcement? Identify which areas can be targeted for intercepts.
What scouting assets do you have to cover the target area and the approaches to it? Maximize your search coverage, bringing in more assets if you can.
What scouting assets and locations does the enemy have? Minimize them if you can! Determine where the enemy can likely see and where he likely can not see.
In choosing your force composition, consider: TF and ships commanders' stats; damage to ships (can increase the chances of ships being spotted and reduce ships' speed); speed of the overall TF is reduced to the slowest ship; presence of float planes for scouting the prey (if enough are available, put some on night duty); combat capability of the ships (main guns, torpedoes, AA and ASW for protection); splitting up your available combat ships into multiple TFs for a) more effectively sized TFs, b) covering multiple avenues of approach, c) covering multiple possible target areas, and d) rotating TFs into action to maintain coverage while some TFs replenish.
Choose locations (or areas) where each of your TFs will lie in wait. Prefer areas that are where the enemy will not see you. Distance from his search bases is important. Also critical is distance from the intended area of intercept. How close a TF needs to be is dependent upon the geometry, meaning where will you sight the prey, how long will it take the prey to reach the target area, and how long will it take your force to reach the target area from the waiting area.
The actual game orders to give the intercept forces are critical but easy as long as you don't mix the wrong things. It is important to remember that the "Remain on Station" order overrides any reaction setting order. In other words, TFs ordered to "Remain on Station" will not "React"! You should only use remain on station orders when you specifically do not want your force to react.
The most useful order is the maximum reaction range. Set this to what you deem appropriate, which - maybe surprisingly - should not always be "6". Consider the TFs speed. A TF with many 21 knot battleships might enter the daylight phase in a very vulnerable position if it reacts a full 6 hexes to engage in combat. Be advised also that a TF can (and they sometimes do) react more than one time during the surface combat phases! This means that you can have a TF react 2 or 3 or 4 times as it chases and repeatedly engages a fleeing prey. Such a TF can wind up much closer to enemy air and other assets than you intended.
As noted above, remain on station orders are very limiting. That can make them the right orders in some situations, but most often they are the wrong order for executing the actual intercept. The choice is between "Retirement Allowed" and Patrol.
Retirement allowed orders will give you only one pass at making the intercept, and then the TF will route itself for its home port. There might be times when you want that, but most of the time the geometry if the environment will be less convenient. Reaction range settings do work with retirement allowed orders.
Setting a patrol is usually the best way to conduct an intercept. Reaction range settings do work with patrol orders.
Note that when surface TFs are some distance away from the beginning hex of their patrol zone, they will move faster than cruise speed and will accumulate routine damage at a higher rate. Unless time is short, moving to the waiting area is best accomplished with remain on station orders, which you later change to patrol orders when the time is right.
The exact patrol orders you give depend on the situation. If the prey is well inside enemy air search range, then wait until they are approaching the target area. On the turn you expect to intercept, give your TF patrol orders at the target area (the target area might be more than 1 hex), making certain to also give a maximum reaction range. Ensure that the combination of the patrol zone (even if a single hex) and the reaction range gives your TF a good chance to intercept. After the intercept it is likely that your TF will "retire" toward its home port, so set its home port to somewhere in the direction you want them to escape. There is also a small chance that your TF will not retire, if it has plenty of ammo remaining and does not perceive a great air threat, etc. That's a risk you take.
If the prey is near the edge of the enemy's air search range then you can try another technique. As before, set a reaction range that you feel is appropriate. Set a patrol zone as follows. Look at the cruise speed of the TF in hexes. Set the first hex of the patrol to be where you expect/want to intercept the prey. Set the second hex of the patrol zone back toward the waiting area, outside of enemy air search range. Make certain that the second hex of the patrol zone is at least as far of the TF can travel on cruise speed in one movement phase. If the intercept does not occur you might want to adjust the patrol zone on the following turn so that your TF goes in for the intercept during the (first) night movement phase and comes back out during the (second) day movement phase.