Article Written by Captain John Hughes and Blake Buell. Learn More About the authors below / Article Read Time: 5 Minutes
Deep Dropping is an effective technique used to fish deep ocean water, typically over 200 feet. This technique utilizes weighted rigs to get bait to the bottom of the ocean where some sought after species live. We have caught all kinds of fish while deep dropping along the Texas Gulf Coast. We generally see lots of Golden Tilefish, Barrel Fish, Yellow Edge Grouper and Warsaw Grouper with the occasional appearance of something unique like Snowy Grouper, Konger Eels, Stout Beard fish, Hake, and Black Belly Rose fish. I really enjoy the pace of this style of fishing as its pretty laid back and you have the potential to catch a lot of tasty fish. Deep dropping also brings out the little kid in you because you never know what you are gonna bring up from the deep.
When it comes to daytime sword fishing, it's a completely different experience than deep dropping. This style of fishing is often hours of waiting for your one shot at glory. We have caught over 200 swords in the last 2 years and released at least 50. The majority of Swords weighing in around 80-150 lbs but we have brought home several over 200 lbs, and the biggest this year being 240 lbs. We have seen all kinds of different bites and fights over the years and it never gets old. We have learned a lot since we started targeting these fish and we continue to learn more and develop new techniques.
Deep Dropping Set Ups
When Deep Dropping, we like to use small electric reels like the Daiwa Seaborg 1200mj spooled with White 65 lb Cortland Masterbraid on a Check n Bottom deep drop rod. We drop down 3-5 hook deep drop rigs with a 2-4 lb lead weight on the bottom and a small strobe light at the top. The bait of choice is usually squid, mullet or cut bait like bonita or barracuda. I like to look for structure anywhere from 500-1200 ft of water. Before I start dropping, I usually drive around a little bit and scan the area for the best marks to drop on. Anywhere there are good marks on bottom in 500-900 ft of water you are likely to catch Yellow Edge Grouper and Barrel fish. When fishing for Golden Tilefish I like to fish in the mud on the outskirts of large rocks usually from 900-1200 ft of water but they can occasionally be found in shallower water. A good tip when tile fishing is to attach an additional small weight to the top of the rig to help lay the rig down on the bottom. We usually don’t mark tilefish on the sonar but there always seems to be a somewhat live bottom. When fishing, we make sure to always be dropping the rig back to the bottom so it spends as much time in the mud as possible. We closely watch the rod tip to look for the bite and make sure we are quick with the throttle on the electric reel to set the hook.
Daytime Swordfishing involves a different strategy all together. Using small electric reels here won’t do the trick so the only options are the larger models like an LP, Hooker Electric or hand crank on a conventional reel. We use a combination of a Detachable Hooker Electric 50w and a conventional Talica 50 on a Check n Bottom daytime sword rod. Both reels are spooled with 65lb Cortland Master Braid and contain well over 1000 yards of line. We usually set the drag around 16-20 lbs depending on how heavy of a weight we are fishing. At the end of the line we attach a 250 lb 75ft wind-on sword fishing leader. At the top of the leader, around 5 ft from the connection to the braid, there is a wax loop where you attach your mainline weight. This weight is usually 2-5 lbs depending on the current and has 3 ft of 100 lb mono attached to it with a long line clip on the end. Along the wind-on leader every 25 ft, we attach 2 strobe lights using rubber bands. At the end of the leader we crimp on a 500 lb ball bearing swivel to one side and crimp our leader with our bait to the other side. The bait of choice here is a squid or a belly strip from a dorado or wahoo. These baits are sewn up tight to make them tough so they can survive the drop to the bottom and several whacks from a swordfish bill. When sending the bait down to the bottom, we use a sacrificial weight that we attach to the hook of the bait using light mono or number 17 fencing wire so it will break off when it hits the bottom. This can be tricky but practice makes perfect.
When targeting daytime swordfish we like to fish near cracks, the outskirts of large rocks or large drop offs around 1500-1700 ft of water. The idea here is to keep the bait between 100-250 ft off the bottom near the layer of scattered bait. We usually make drifts from .5-1 mi. long or around an hour at a time. When the bait is down we closely monitor the rod tip for the slightest inconsistency, anything irregular could be a swordfish whacking the bait with its bill. Staying focused and always watching the rod tip will heavily increase your odds. When we see a bite we reel up 10-15 times to tease the fish. We do this 2-3 times before dropping the bait back around 40 ft in order to feed the fish. When it takes the bait we drive the hook into the fish in full drag then quickly come back to strike and begin fighting the fish. They are normally pretty docile until they get up close to the boat then they can begin jumping or make a run back towards the bottom. These fish have extremely soft mouths so you don’t want to try to horse the fish in, you just want to take it easy and let them tire themselves out so you don’t pull the hook. When you begin to see the wind on leader you want to get it close so you can un-clip the mainline weight. When you eventually get to the strobe lights you just reel straight through them, popping the rubber bands and allowing them to slide down the wind on. Once the fish is close enough to gaff or harpoon you want to take your shot. It is important to take it slow and not rush; however, when the opportunity presents itself you need to take it because these fish have a lot of stamina and can fight for a very long time. Once you secure the fish be very careful because they can be pretty wild, not to mention the 3ft weapon they have on the front of their face. Make sure you bleed and ice your fish down good for the ride back home. One thing I wanted to mention is that while the legal size is 47in from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail, a barely legal fish is right around a year old. Its important to note that swordfish grow so fast that a 4 year old fish is around 200lbs so I try to release the smaller fish in hope that later on someone else catches a trophy.
With such a new style of fishing, we are still refining the techniques and trying to better understand the way these fish act. Deep dropping and daytime sword fishing are very tricky styles of fishing but can be very rewarding. There is nothing cooler than seeing a big swordfish make a jump then sound back down to the bottom or to hook up on the electric reel and not know what’s on the other end. While there are a lot of small details involved in each of these styles of fishing its the little things that make all the difference.
About the authors
John Hughes is the Master Captain and owner/operator of Cat Sport Fishing. Blake Buell is a Captain and started deep dropping and sword fishing around 7 years ago but it wasn’t until around 3 years ago that it became an obsession of his. To book a trip visit www.catsportfishing.com or follow them at @catsportfishing on instagram.Products mentioned in this podcast
Monofilament Nylon Leader Material
Fluorocarbon Leader Material