From the left Capt Nick Sytanzyck and master angler Vic Gaspeny with a deepwater Sword

The ultimate warrior of the ocean. A true denizen of the deep that is still largely shrouded in mystery. A species that travels through warm tropical oceans, sub tropics and has even been recorded around the British shores. The mighty Broadbill Swordfish. This rare species of billfish is difficult to find, hard to hook, tough to fight, and even more dangerous to boat. For that reason alone Graeme decided to contact the world’s number one swordfisherman.A guiding legend that has given him world record bonefish on flyrod.Enormous Bluefin Tuna over 800lbs.Mako sharks,Tarpon,Grouper and other unbelievable specimens. He is the one man today who has, in the space of just seven years, revolutionised a technique being copied around the world by other top charter captains. His expertise in putting his customers on their intended quarry is unsurpassed….he is known simply as….

Richard Stanzyck with some of the bills

I have known Richard Stanzyck for at least twenty years and after several fairly average sorties up and down the Florida Keys I finally came to rest on his doorstep, Islamorada. Once there my catch rate of fish over a wide span of species rocketed unbelievably. Bigger fish, more fish. New species. Each time I returned he would have a different target or new technique for me to try. I could soak up all the tips he poured out and giving me all the top fishy information was really the killing the cat by choking it with cream! The first ever evening he took me Tarpon fishing; we hooked no less than 7 Silver Kings, landing four. The downside being the fact my wife Hilary got the largest, estimated at 135lbs. That one was half of a double header we hooked up, barely half an hour from his fishing resort, Bud n’ Mary’s Marina. A specialist in anything he approaches Richard and I once took a double header of double figure Bonefish on fly, which would still be considered an event. Over the last forty years my big fish rally had been racking up. I stopped recording individual Marlin when I passed the 250 mark and although still a lover of the sharks, (my largest at 1500lbs, 7 others over 1000) really took the enthusiasm out of me. With a fish half the size of a 4wd vehicle by the boat where do you go from there? On the billfish front I had taken Blacks, Blues, Striped etc Plus the Atlantic and Pacific Sailfish and rarer Shortbill Spearfish there was still one of the Billfish to go. The sought after Holy Grail of billfish, the Broadbill Swordfish. I had one night with Capt Luis Laje’off the edge of the Condor bank, from Faial Island in the Azores.

A Cordless drill is used to crank the bait up

 Richard is no stranger to Broadbill Swordfish as he was one of the pioneer anglers out from Miami’s pier 5 that would catch them on the drift, at night, using Cyalume lightsticks and squid baits. Everyone was there, until the stocks crashed from excessive commercialling, when everyone forgot about them and went for other species. Then Richard got to thinking about how the Cuban long liners used to fish at great depths, very much like the “Old man and the sea”. His long-time fishing buddy, the famous guide Vic Gaspeny (many British Bone and Tarpon anglers will have fished with him) thinking areas of techniques and baits, Richard has incredible fishing “hunches” and Vic is the perfectionist who records everything moon,tides,wind,fish baits, everything from every fishing trip he has ever done.

But they had one more contact to call in. The National Hurricane Centre gave Richard a good idea on Ocean Currents and sea temperatures which might have proven attractive to the gladiators of the sea. It proved a deadly combination and on their first day with experimental deep dropping they came up with a sword. Can you imagine the excitement aboard? He started with livebait but graduated to belly strips of Dorado which is the current favourite. They kept everything quiet and kept grinding the drifts out, each time they would think of an alteration to their rig, to their lines, to the weights they used. The absolute key to what is now recognised as the world’s best swordfish technique came about entirely from Richard’s younger days, where his experience with commercialling  giant Swordfish/Grouper and Snapper gave him a mental outlay of ocean seabeds and currents that no electronics could reproduce. I saw in his “secret “swordfish room a monster two foot diameter wooden drum that is essential for measuring out and marking the line, which he assures me is imperative to his outstanding

belly strips or small Dolphin fish make great Sword baits

success. The swords are all near the bottom and those depths are jaw dropping. The shallowest he has hooked them was 1,300 feet, the deepest over 2000 feet! And if you think he just got lucky on the first trip, read on, for his catch stats are now in the public domain, he has generously passed this on to boat captains and anglers around the world! Try these stats for size and you begin to realise that he may well have pioneered a technique with more success than the early Zane Grey. He and Vic ran out to do daytime swords and ran a staggering 54 trips in a row without blanking! He has tried fishing hooks and two baits purely as a searching experiment and boated double headers of 130 pounders, no less than FOUR TIMES! Over the years of refining his technique he recorded over 500 swords, Fishing Buddy and sword fanatic, Vic Gaspeny may now have landed more of this species than any other angler-156 swords to 420lbs. Broadbill are incredibly strong, and Richards’s longest battle raged for SEVEN HOURS before an estimated 550 pounder put an end to proceedings with a breakage. He has discovered several areas of deep ocean where the Broadbill bite. He calls it the “Honeyhole”, as he has had 37 bites in a row, and probably landed 200 of the not-so-elusive billfish, before other boats wised up and moved in. He had-wait for it-TWENTY trips in a row when he boated 3 swords in a day. Back at his home Tavernier Key I watched DVD after DVD of battles of big swords.  One fish was on the leader and you thought it was gameover.Yet the Billfish flailed its massive bill, almost cut the deckies’ throat, knocking him into the water. My own shot at getting the sword soon dawned and together with son Mike (he definitely was on second strike!) Vic Gaspeny and a cast of Capt Scott Stanzyck, Richard’s son Capt Nick Stanzyck and deckie Hunter, plus pro- photographer Ron. Surely it will be sure shot deal? Yeah- right! Take a camera man on the boat with a specific target and strange things happen. We were aboard Bud n Mary’s flagship boat, “Catch 22”, built by Craig Blackwell. It has a cold moulded hull, with light glass covering marine plywood to give it speed. It has the famous Carolina flared bow, that cleaves through the waves on its 30 mile run out to the drop.54 feet gives you all the luxury you want for comfort fishing. The Bud n Marys’ specialist sword boat is now run by Capt Nick Stanzyck who looks like turning into one of the best guides the Florida Keys has ever produced. Small wonder as he has been rammed full of fishing information since a child, and he definitely is a fisherman first. His boat is the 34 foot “B and M”. A 40 year old Crusader powered by twin Yanmar diesel that has seen a huge amount of fish over its gunnels.

Richard is the day time Sword pioneer

So here’s the deal. You fish just one rod. Yes, that’s tough, but review Richard’s catch stats and it works. You cannot afford to drop two sets of deep gear and not get a foul up. A single 80 lb class trolling rod, curved butt for increased leverage and a Shimano Tiagra 80 wide twin speed reel. On this is loaded around 4,500 feet of Tufline 80LB braid, which is marked by pen at various depths,500/1000/1500 etc. The hooks are Mustad 9/0 to 11/0 offsets, as the swords don’t have the narrow jaw of a marlin; they have a mouth like an expandable dragline bucket, and can slot pretty much anything they want down the hatch. The end gear is so complicated I can’t really describe it, as it’s like nothing you have seen or used before. It has been published, and now catches daytime swords for other captains around the world who were desperate to try it. I’ll try anyway, so here goes. A belly strip of tuna, Dorado or barracuda is sewn onto the hook and leader(300lb mono).Then you run back up the trace some distance before you have a Lindgren-Pitman strobe light, powered by batteries. Richard tried chemical lightsticks but they burst at depth, a point I could equate to as I myself had them burst while deep-dropping for grander Sixgill sharks out in Gibraltar Bay. Then there is a huge gap along the trace before a bunch of egg sinkers weighing about 2lbs, then another long gap to a second strobe light.Then, a breakaway loop is tied onto the trace with waxed thread, which uses 20lb nylon as the breakout point when a sword takes. The 2lb of leads is not the main weight, but the massive 12lb CONCRETE BLOCK certainly is!!  When a sword takes, or you want a bait check, the boat is powered forward, the 20lb mono loop pops, and the 12lb block breaks off to fall to the ocean floor. But even then, cranking 1600 feet of line and bait up through a 3 knot plus current is not high priority for most anglers. So they use an 18volt DeWalt cordless drill with a reel handle attachment to wind the bait up, changing batteries as they burn out. These end rigs are expensive as each strobe light is $50 and the cost of snagging one rig on the bottom is close to$300!!  The big rig is dropped down, using a small Dorado we caught for bait on the way out.

Am I too old for this s**t or what?

                  In the first hour it is obvious the Gulf Stream current is ripping along at 3 ½ knots and Scott continually bumps the “Catch 22” in and out of gear in an effort to keep the line vertical. The bites are tiny, but everyone had total fascination in what was basically a piece of fibreglass and some yellow string. Strange how all eyes were staring at a motionless rod tip. Nothing came so we moved 20 miles closer to shore. The Florida sun bakes down, the azure blue of the Gulfstream sending shafts of sunlight through the depth like crystal rods. Morning turned to lunchtime. Lunchtime to afternoon. Afternoon to early evening. We had drifted miles, towing the bait with the current.”We used to wait no more than five minutes for a bite “said Vic. At 6.30pm an almost imperceptible double dip of the rod tip sends everyone into a panic. Half a mile below we had a knock on the door. Suddenly I am in the familiar position of the fighting chair, seated in a bucket harness, and the 80lb Tiagra reel is snapped on. I power up but am immediately warned off when I lift in the chair and lean back for some good old fashioned marlin and tuna cranking.”Slow and easy” says Vic “we often tear the hooks out, and remember this is braid-so no sudden movements”. Sound words of advice from a man who has boated half the world’s share of swords in just seven years. I would listen alright, as I hauled and cranked with sweat dripping.

Graeme's Cuban night shark on the wire

                I gave it a good half hour, my pounding heart trying to imagine my first Broadbill deep below. Yet something told me it wasn’t quite right. I Couldn’t put my finger on it, but I whispered to Mike who was swivelling the chair that it didn’t feel much more than a 100lbs.However, I still treated the quarry as though it was the “Swordmaster”.Another ten minutes and more gaffs were being readied than used by a Jap longliner. With 500 feet to go Richard suddenly said-“Something ain’t right. That fish should have angled up. It’s still too deep”. A further five minutes and all eyes are looking over the stern as the white belly of a big fish turned to……Grey ?????  Hunter took a wrap on the leader and hauled the quarry to the surface, broaching a 150 pounder, but I could tell by all the groans that it wasn’t a sword. It was still a rarity though, only the 2ndever Cuban Night shark that Capt Scott had ever taken. Somewhere around 130/150lbs, it had a long snout, and Mike who was over the side with the camera, assured me later it had a plentiful supply of big teeth. Vic mentioned that this species is extremely aggressive, and was the bane of the night fishermen of Cuba, who feared bringing them into the boat. I was a bit disappointed, but then from hook-up to leader grabbing everyone thought it was a Sword, so in effect I had experienced the adventure of the hunt. All concerned had put in a really long day, from dawn to dusk, and I slept fitfully that night.


                  Two days later Scott took out a couple of American anglers in “Catch 22”.Richard told me to go and see what was hanging up at the dock. Not one, but TWO Broadbill Swords. It was then I realised Big Game fishing really is just a lottery. I had one more full day aboard Nick Stanzyck’s  “B & M”.Another long day, resulting in just one bite late in the afternoon. Cranking like fury, it comes off. When Mr DeWalt finally speed-wound the end tackle to the surface it turned out the Sword had bitten the Dorado off, right behind the hook!!! From the bend to the point of the hook was just 3 inches. That was how close I came to getting my first Sword, so you would think I would have got lucky, but you seldom get what you think you are owed in fishing. What kept me going with enthusiasm was seeing pictures of Richard and Vic with immense 400 pounders. Small wonder they call this species the “Gladiator of the sea”. Maybe next time I’ll get to add this Holy Grail of the billfish family as a scalp to my fishing belt. But don’t worry. I’m already on the case for taking the first Broadbill Swordfish in Britain on my 17 foot boat. And if it happens it will all be thanks to “THE DREAM MAKER”….Capt. Richard Stanzyck.

CATCH 22 heads out to the Gulfstream


                                                                     Copyright-Graeme Pullen.All Rights Reserved.