[Daytime swordfishing is the hottest fishery in South Florida, and no one is better at it than Bill Dobbelaer of Lighthouse Point. It's not for everyone, but if this specialized fishing appeals to you, follow these five suggestions and you'll be well on your way to success.]
1. Drop Carefully
"In most fishing, the sport is in the fight, but here the trick is in presenting the baits correctly," says Bill Dobbelaer, general manager of Global Fish Mounts (www.globalfishmounts.com), in Pompano Beach, Florida. Daytime swordfishing off Fort Lauderdale takes place in the Gulf Stream in 1,500 to 1,800 feet of water over seamounts. You have to know where your baits are at all times to keep from hanging them up. Dobbelaer uses a 150-foot wind-on leader with a 10- to 12-pound stick lead at the upper end of the leader, just below the Dacron-to-mono splice. When deploying baits, he heads north, down-current, while the angler slowly lets out line.
He makes a three-step drop, letting out a third of the line at a time, taking up slack in between. The leader must remain stretched out behind the boat, where it won't tangle with the main line. Baits are rigged to swim on tandem in-line hooks. The more easily the rig moves through the water, the less it's going to tangle on itself.
After the second pause to take up slack, the angler drops all the way to the bottom. When the lead hits the ocean floor, he yells "bottom" and begins retrieving line as Dobbelaer turns the boat 180 degrees to head south, into the current. The angler continues retrieving line as Dobbelaer powers into the current, keeping a close eye on the angle of the line as it leaves the rod tip.
When the line is perpendicular to the surface, the angler drops again until it hits bottom, then reels up a few feet and he's fishing. Dobbelaer bumps the boat along, keeping the line vertical while the angler drops every so often to find bottom. This keeps the bait in the strike zone and out of the rocks. The weight hangs on a 30-foot dropper, with a short section of breakaway line just above it. If you hang up on the rocks, you want it to be the lead; if the hook hangs up, you lose the lead, the wind-on and a lot of expensive braided line.
Dobbelaer uses 65- and 80-pound-test, solid-core braided line. "We tried heavier braid," he says, "but it offers too much resistance." The thinner diameter of lighter braids makes it easier to find bottom in strong current, yet provides enough muscle to fight large fish.