Some successful offshore anglers are so secretive about their spots and techniques for catching big game that they would sooner hand over the key to their personal safe than impart locations, baits and tackle specs to aspiring anglers.
But not R.J. “Bobby” Boyle, one of South Florida’s foremost authorities on day- and night-time swordfishing. Sort of a “Renaissance Man” of offshore fishing, Boyle — a former minor-league baseball player and nightclub owner who now runs a tackle shop and art studio in Lighthouse Point — strives to help those who long to catch the “gladiator of the deep.”
Boyle travels around the U.S. and abroad conducting swordfish seminars and is now producing a comprehensive series of instructional DVDs entitled, “In the Spread.”
He’ll answer any and all questions from customers at his shop, and for some really loyal customers — like Jerry Turner and his son Jeromey from the Houston area — he provides on-water, hands-on instruction.
Recently, Boyle and crewman John Bassett, aboard Boyle’s 31-foot open-fisherman, guided the Turners to the catch of three swordfish in two day-dropping trips: an estimated 45-pounder that was released alive; and two others weighing 300 and 100 pounds. The swords were caught between 10 and 18 miles off Hillsboro Inlet in depths of 1,500 to 1,800 feet.
“We’ve been fishing for these seven to eight years,” Boyle told the Turners. “In the beginning, we had little secrets. We work together now. It’s a big ocean — plenty of swords.”
Boyle and Bassett use what they call a “glorified mutton rig” to catch deep daytime swordfish. A Lindgren Pitman electric reel holds 3,500 yards of 65-pound braided line connected to a short length of 250-pound-test wind-on leader that is in turn connected to 150 feet of 300-pound-test line tied to a single 11/0 hook. A 10-pound sash weight drops the bait to the bottom. Two water-activated strobe lights are clipped to the leader 15 feet and 30 feet from the bait. Baits include squid, bonito belly, mackerel and even plugs made of exotic freshwater snakeheads sewn to the hook.
“Make sure the bait is swimming so it looks real and lifelike,” Boyle told the Turners.
The trenches, holes and ledges around which Boyle and other swordsmen drop their baits typically lie in the Gulf Stream, which flows north like a rushing river at speeds averaging around four miles per hour.
To get the bait down to the proper spot and avoid tangling the gear on ledges and other structure, Boyle started to deploy it nearly a mile south of the target area. To reach a depth of nearly 1,600 feet, he let out about 2,000 feet of line. When the lead hit bottom, he brought up about 100 feet of line. Keeping the line straight down and unbowed, Bassett headed the boat slowly south so that its true drift was still north, but at about half the speed of the rushing current.
“Now the whole day is consumed with watching the rod tip,” Boyle said. “You do not want to miss that first tap on the rod tip. You notice the rhythm of the rod and look for anything that doesn’t look normal.”
So, for about 15 minutes of the first drift, there was little conversation as the eyes of the entire crew were glued on the tip of the bent-butt conventional rod seated in the gunwales.