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The Barta Gladius

The Undeniable Need For Excellence



Barta Leadin

    In the late 1960s and early '70s, my entire goal in life was to catch more bigeye tuna than any man alive. I would never have expected that my desire to know more about the Northeast canyons would eventually involve 50-foot boats, airplanes and the purchasing of underwater submarine salinity and sound reports established in World War II. Nor did I expect that I would discover and form the first application of bigeye tuna fishing as it revolved around warm-core eddies and currents along the 100-fathom line.
    My discoveries, success, and failures were often criticized violently by the community of offshore fishermen. They felt I was irresponsible, arrogant, and obtuse and that I would constantly put my crew and myself in harm's way. If they only knew the truth about the risks we really did take. I think there might have been even more criticism.
    In the early to mid-1980s I had convinced many fishermen in the Northeast canyon community that not only was I right about water temperature, currents, salinity and warm-core eddies but my detractors also started using my techniques with great success.
    Len Belcaro, owner of Offshore Satellite Services and the previous owner of Big Game Fishing Journal, developed and today runs one of the greatest tools for fishermen worldwide. By following and translating satellite data for the fishermen, warm-core eddies and temperature edges, led the best of the best to the greatest fishing grounds in the world. Many years ago, I would call Len on the satellite phone and confirm the accuracy of his data while in Oceanographers Canyon.
    As time moved on, the ultralight tackle bug caught me. I am a man of ridiculous extremes. I have had ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia. The truth is I can't walk, sing, and chew gum all at the same time. Or should I say I can't do it well? But give me a mission or give me a goal that most say is unobtainable and I have the guts, stamina and resources to either win or die trying.
    I ventured into the era of 2-, 4-, 6-, and 8-pound test and after years of frustration and a learning curve with disaster everywhere I turned. I finally caught a 65-pound yellowfin tuna on 6-pound test for a new IGFA world record. And then a 215-pound bigeye on 20-pound test caught in 5 hours and 17 minutes broke the IGFA world record. Today, some 30 years later the world records still stand. I developed the philosophy called, "The Joy of Losing." Sports Illustrated did a feature article on this subject and it was dedicated to the attitude one must have in trying to accomplish what people called "the impossible."
    My bigeye tuna world record took 5 years and more than 110 hookups with hundreds of hours of fighting time just to achieve the world record.
    As my life of tragedy has assaulted me seven years ago, leaving me paralyzed from my chest down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life, it seems like I dedicate much of my time helping young fishermen and young captains understand the excitement of our sport and the excellence that is demanded.
    I have continued to hunt and fish. I have continued to write in magazines and just released my latest book called "Driven," which can now be purchased at Bartaway.com. This book took more than a year and a half to write with co-author Donna DeWeil.
    During my days in Southampton, Long Island, fishing out of Shinnecock Inlet, I learned so much from some of the great captains of that era about surface sight-swordfishing. The art of spotting a swordfish on top, approaching the fish at such an angle that the boat or wake does not disturb the fish, and presenting a rigged bait for hopefully a strike. Some of the great mentors which I had were Gary and George Dickson and Carl Darenberg Jr., to name only a few. I mastered that aspect of the sport, having caught 16 swordfish on top using the classic methods.
    The swordfish has always been the gladiator of the deep, a fish that lives at incredible depths rising only in the thermocline to feed or all the way to the surface to warm himself. I remember pulling into Menemsha, a small fishing village in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts; we had come into port after a three-day canyon trip. The weather was foul and as we unloaded our catch of bigeye tuna, there on the deck of one of the Nantucket stickboats was a swordfish weighing 903 pounds, gutted with the head and tail removed. I was in awe, I was breathless. The sight haunts me to this day.
    And so, it is now that I step forward in perhaps my greatest accomplishment yet to be achieved and that is the understanding, perfecting, and the goal of catching a 1,000-pound swordfish using daytime deep-drop swordfishing techniques.
    Over the last two years I have been learning from some of the best daytime deep-drop fishermen in the world. I believe I have read every article ever written by anyone published about daytime deep-drop swordfishing. I have learned a tremendous amount from Capt/ Nick Stanczyk on the charter boat Broad Minded berthed at Bud and Mary's in Islamorada, Florida. I have been tutored by Capt. Billy Chapman, captain of the 65-foot custom Carolina rig called the Fishbone berthed at Worldwide Sportsman.
    One of my dearest friends of recent times is the late "Doc" Jeffrey Bennett. Doc had brought to the boat more than 600 swordfish in his career, many of them in the 500- to 700-pound class. I had the privilege of watching Doc and our team catch a 412-pound swordfish as I captained my 26-foot Andros, Makaira. Capt. Billy Chapman wired the swordfish up. Today the 412-pound swordfish is a full mount at the Worldwide Sportsman marina office.
    During my quest to have the tools available to do battle with a 1,000-pounder hooked at a depth most likely between 1,500 to 2,000 feet down, I looked at every electric-assisted reel and every commercial deep-drop reel that is available for a sportsman today. There will be plenty of time for me to show solid examples of why I made the selection that I did. After several lost and caught swordfish, it led me to a very clear conclusion.
    I think there are many reels that are capable of catching a small swordfish between 80 and 450 pounds. Once we start getting into the 500- to 1,200-pound monster fish, things start coming apart very rapidly. I have witnessed many reels overheat during a battle with a fish up to about 400 pounds. I have seen the spools not hold enough line for the job at hand. I have seen drags lock up and get jumpy and I have witnessed spools get warped during the battle due to pressure. I have seen motors either burn up or shut down temporarily due to overheating. None of these failures are acceptable under the heat of the battle and can cause the loss of a grander.
    It always seems to be the same thing, a recurring weakness: Either there is not enough line, the drags are not good enough or big enough, the motor is too small causing overheating, or insufficient retrieval speeds continue to be an issue.

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