It’s amazing the lengths anglers will go to when they’re prepping up offshore baits. Ballyhoo get rigged and salted. Ribbonfish get love, care, and a chandelier of treble hooks. Eels get scrubbed with steel wool until they’re shiny white. And often, all that work pays off. But, what about when it comes to swordfish baits?
The stock answer is to get the biggest squid you can, stitch in a monstrous hook, and stitch the tentacle portion of the body to the mantle. All that stitching is a must because swords often beat their prey with their bill several times before trying to eat it, and squid are on the delicate side. Drop down a squid without securing the body parts together, and you’ll usually reel back half a quid after missing the strike.
Some anglers swear by mahi or bonito belly strips, which are far hardier and still seem to get plenty of strikes. Others like to put a rubber skirt over an eel, which is practically impossible to dismember without a very sharp knife. And some use rugged plastic Hogies rather than opt for more natural baits.
After years of sticking with squid I began trying them all, and after one particular day where we had 11 bites and boated seven swordfish while using the full assortment of baits, I’ve come to a singular conclusion: The bottom line is that a hungry sword will attack just about anything you present properly, but it had better survive the initial attack or you won’t catch the fish. It. Must. Be. Rugged. Very, very rugged. It has to retain shape and the hook has to stay put when that bill wacks at over and over again. And if it does, and if you react properly when bit, you’ll get your hookup – and the battle of a lifetime.