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SWORDS IN THE GULF

Daytime Swordfishing In The Gulf of Mexico



Marvel Leadin

    Nearly 15 years ago, Capt. Devlin Rousell and some friends from Nashville and I decided to try to catch a swordfish out of Venice, Louisiana. We knew they had to be out there but one had brought a sword to the dock in more than 22 years. We had no idea what we were doing but somehow we hooked seven and brought one in the boat. That night started it all. I've been obsessed with swordfish ever since!
    In the beginning we only fished for them at night. The first I ever heard of fishing them during the day was when a regular customer of mine came back from Venezuela where he had caught one in the daytime. Not too long after that I read an article about the guys in Florida and decided to give it a try. The first time was like magic. Within seconds of making the first drop we were hooked up. That day we landed three daytime swords in three consecutive drops. The next day we went 1 for 3. I was on top of the swordfishing world! I thought I had it all figured out.
    Then came reality: The next 5 trips I didn't so much as get a bite. After that I found it hard to talk customers into daytime swording especially when at night I was still consistently putting them in the boat. So my daytime swordfishing went on pause.
    Several years later some guys from an electric reel company came to Venice and caught several swords during the day. When some daytime-caught swords started coming to the dock, it became easier for me to talk my customers into giving it a try. The more I caught, the more people wanted to fish for them. The more I fished for them, the more I caught. As I write this article I am at 333 swords, 230 of which have been in the last 2-1/2 years and caught during the day.

    THE TACKLE
    Let me say a word about electric reels here. I am not a proponent. If you are going to sport fish, use sport fishing tackle. An electric reel is a commercial fishing tool. How is it sport fishing if you simply press a button to reel in a sword? There is no challenge, no accomplishment for the angler. Just go to the fish market and buy some swordfish steaks. Yes, swordfish are difficult to reel in but I have had a 60-plus-year-old, 120-pound woman fight and land a 215-pound sword all by herself. Her picture with the fish is in my favorites on my phone and I show it to anglers all the time. The bill of that fish hangs in her living room and it is an accomplishment she will never forget.
    As for checking the bait or picking up at the end of a drift, I use a Reel Cranky and an 18V Dewalt drill. It’s easy and quick. No electric reel needed.
    I know the consensus regarding swordfishing rods is that one with a very soft tip works best. I have fished very soft tip rods and personally I do not like them. I use a medium tip rod built by Jeff Vadakin. In most circumstances it makes it easier to see a bite if the rod tip is not bouncing around as much. There is no substitute for paying attention to the rod tip. I make sure someone is staring at it at all times and that’s usually me! No matter what rod you are using, fishing it often and becoming accustomed to how it moves will aid you in seeing a bite more than anything else. One monumentally important thing about your rod is that it has the Winthrop guides. The Winthrop guides do not let the line slip in between the rollers. If that happens the line will break and you will lose everything. I also like the adjustable Winthrop butts. Being able to easily straighten or bend the butt lets me effectively fight a fish whether it is dogging deep or running across the surface. My preferred reel is a Shimano Tiagra 80W spooled with the 80-pound Saltiga line.

    THE RIGGING
    I am a firm believer in simplicity, which is reflected in my rigging. When I first started I used a 300-pound wind-on monofilament leader but have since scaled back to a 130- to 200-pound YoZuri fluorocarbon wind-on. I prefer the YoZuri fluoro because it has little to no stretch, and when you are fishing 1,500 feet down, stretch is not your friend!
    I have played with length some and have settled on 60 to 75 feet as being about optimal. I attach the wind-on with a 230-pound Spro swivel. Ten feet or so from where the wind-on ends I use 70-pound wax thread to make about a 2-inch-long stop on the leader by repeatedly half-hitching the thread back and forth over itself. This is where I attach my secondary weight, so it’s important that it doesn't move. The secondary weight is attached to a longline clip with 2 to 3 feet of 300-pound high visibility mono. It clips to the wax thread stop, which prevents it from sliding up and down the leader. I then slide two or three diamond strobe lights on the leader and finish it off with a larger 400-pound swivel. The strobes will slide to the 400-pound swivel when not in use, but when I am fishing I use a small rubber band to secure the lights 20 feet or so above the bait. I usually have several baits rigged and ready with a 2-foot leader on them. I crimp the leader coming off the baits directly to the 400-pound swivel. Note: If you make the leader coming off the baits too long, it will defeat the purpose of the wind-on.

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