Big Swordfish | In The Spread
Big swordfish are something you need to be prepared for, if you do any swordfishing, at all. You never know what is going to eat your bait, at the depths you fish for swords. Dropping baits a thousand plus feet to the bottom of the ocean means you are operating in another dimension. A strange and unpredictable realm. Big swordfish present a set of issues that even the best swordfishing anglers can have a difficult time handling. One miscalculation can cost you the fish of a lifetime. Most guys are able to deal with a hundred to two hundred pound fish. You can almost swim them up. The wild card is the fish that exceeds three hundred pounds, one that may be five hundred to eight hundred pounds. This is when the entire fishing calculus changes. So, if you are venturing out to the grounds where the xiphias gladius roams, you need to tbe prepared. There is no predicting what you will catch.
How do you know if your bait has been eaten by a behemoth? Are there any tell tale signs that a big swordfish in on the end of your line. Fishermen that have caught giants indicate that there are signs that will let you know that you may have a giant fish on. Don't get me wrong, there is always a chance that a pig will just swim up from the depths and present itself on the surface for you to stick a dart in. It is possible, but not likely. So, what do the best of the best have to say?
Let me share a common scenario. You are diligently watching your rod tip for the indication of a bite, when you see that movement. Something is on your bait. Your rod may bow over almost touching the surface. That would be a good sign that something nice is taking a shot at your bait. On the other hand, you may notice just a normal bite where the rod tip bounces a bit. When you go to move the bait, the rod may load up. You may be unable to gain any live, as your attempt the drive the hook home. Is the fish staying down or have you snagged the bottom? It may seem there is a stand off. What happens next is the tell. The rod will stand straight up and you can gain line like nothing is there. This is where a lot of guys will loose a big swordfish. What is happening is the fish is coming to the surface and you have to catch up by reeling like crazy. You pray your hook hit pay dirt and is impaled in the swords mouth area. At some point, your fish will either breach the surface or hunker down in the thermocline and you can come tight. If your fish does not breach, you have no idea what you are battling.
Before you ever get to this scenario, you better be ready with all your darts, harpoons and gaffs. There will be zero time to get things ready. Things can go sideways very quickly. Before you drop the first bait, you need to have your gear setup. Don't get lulled into thinking that it will be the same old thing where you will swim the fish to the boat for a gaff shot. You need to have harpoons on your boat and you can't be afraid to throw it and throw it again. If you don't take the shot at a fish that is close, there is no chance of sticking it. You will only get a few shots. Practice throwing and practice more. Be sure to aim a little low, as the fish appears higher in the water than its actually position. There may come a day when a big swordfish eats your bait, so be ready.
Let's back up to the point where you come tight to something that seems different, big, powerful. Boat driving is going to be critical, at this point. Having a good boat driver that understands what is going on with the fish and the angle to the fish makes the anglers job much easier. If the boat driver does not have experience driving on swordfish, it can costs you dearly. Driving the boat on swordfish is different than what is called for in any other type of fishing. Driving on big swordfish is a magnitude order higher, so you better hope your wheelman knows what to do. This is a mental game as much as anything. In big swordfish fishing, you need to imagine what the fish is doing as it swims and circles round and round. If you do not maintain the angle on the fish, you will have problems. Maintaining the angle means the line is coming off the rod tip and going straight down next to the boat. It is all about up and down. Communication between the driver and the angler is critical.
While all of this is going on, your first goal needs to be getting the lead off, if you are fishing with a lead dropper. Some guys use a break away system where this does not come into play. But, if you have a lead on, you need to get it off asap. With the lead on, you can't always tell where the fish is exactly and this can impact decision making. Once you have the lead off, you can start to apply more drag.
Drag is always a huge factor in big game fishing and one that has to be applied with care and understanding. You need to be drag conscious, especially with big swordfish. Giant fish will swing their head side to side to free themselves of what is pulling on them. When they do this, they will pull drag, so you do not want to apply too much heat. Applying too much drag will pull hooks. As your fish gets closer to the surface, ease up on the reels drag and use your hand to apply drag by squeezing the spool or pulling on the line. Do this carefully. One key factor is knowing how much drag it takes to bend your rod. The more bend, the more drag required. Knowing this will allow you use your hand with more deftness. This is a high level skill that is mastered with a lot of time fighting fish.
I mentioned the thermocline earlier, as a place big swordfish will hunker down. The water temperature at the bottom is a lot cooler that it is near the surface. Swordfish are not used to the warmer water. As they come up into warmer water they have a harder time breathing, so to speak. The thermocline is an area in the water column that serves as a break between the deeper cooler water and the warmer near the surface. There will be a sudden change in water temperature here. When swordfish hit the thermocline, they put on the breaks. They want to stay in the cooler oxygen rich water. Big swordfish hit this area and can be hard to get them out. It requires crafty work by the boat driver and the angler.
Once you are able to get your giant swordfish out of the thermocline, you will start to gain on the fish. Be patient. All of this can take hours. When the fish tires, it will start to circle like a tuna. The circles may be bigger than what you experience with tuna fishing, so boat driving plays a bigger roll. Getting to the point means you are nearing the end. There will be a gain line loose line time period, as the fish slowly planes up. The fish may go deep, but with each gain in line, the depth of the dive becomes shallower. The driver has to find the spot where you can consistently gain line. As the fish starts circling closer to the surface, you need to put pressure on the fish to keep it planing upward.
All of this can seem overwhelming. There is a lot going on and a good team makes all the difference. You need to know what you are dealing with when tangling with big swordfish. Your knots, connections, tackle, crew, boat setup and mental approach need to be sound. There is no margin for error in this game. If you want to know more about all of this, check out our Big Swordfish Tactics video. This two hour video breaks down what is discussed here and a heck of a lot more. All of our swordfishing videos share extremely high level fishing knowledge, so you can go out with confidence and catch that fish of a lifetime or a mess of fish to stack in your freezer. I wish you all the best fishing. Remember, it is with knowledge that we grow. Fish smarter!
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