Daytime Swordfish Rig – The Right Way

Capt Charlie Ellis with a Daytime Swordfish

Capt Charlie Ellis with a Daytime Swordfish Caught aboard Top Gun

When I first started experimenting with daytime swordfishing, I was literally overwhelmed by the volume of information on the topic that was just plain wrong. While the concept makes sense – use braided line, heavy weights, heavy wind ons, figure out a way to fish effectively at 1800ft without snagging bottom or tangling/wrecking a $300 rig – fishermen from the carolinas to the keys have constatnly worked to refine a process that gets you tight with fish instead of the ocean floor.

Like most anglers when they discover a new form of fishing – I turned to the internet to compulsively research this topic. Personally – I prefer to fish breakaway systems for swordfish during the daytime. While I have tremendous respect for the electric reel fishermen who consistently boat fat broadbills, the whole point of daytime swordfishing is to go head to head with the gladiator of the sea.  If you can’t set up your own rig, fish effectively at 1800ft of water in current, get tight on a fish, and then hand crank that beast to the surface AND wrestle him into the boat – you’ve got no business in this sport.  Swordfish are powerful adversaries unlike any other billfish – they deserve a fair fight…and no animal can win against a machine.

So – for those of you out there who are learning the sport or have become frustrated with snagging bottom or misinformation about how to set up a leader, I thought i’d share two videos which I found extremely helpful in perfecting the rig I use today. Who better to look to than one of the true pioneers of day time swordfishing – Capt. Nick Stanczyk:

Capt. Nick is now offering his famous swordfish rig for sale at  You can purchase everything you need to go daytime swordfishing with the same rig and tackle as the pioneers of the sport! Visit this link to purchase everything you need to go Daytime Swordfishing like the professionals. 

The hardest part of really pulling this rig together is making “annotations” in the main line so you know how much line is out. The best way to do this is to literally measure the line (be creative – you’ll figure it out) and use sharpies to mark your fishing depth and surface depths.  It takes time and patience to get it right – so put in the time to research or book a charter with Nick and he’ll point you in the right direction.

Another prolific daytime swordfishermen is Bouncer Smith – he won the hydraglow summer slam not too long ago using a rig similar to Nick’s – making use of a spreader bar. I’ve used the spreader bar method as well, successfully, but the breakaway system doesn’t always work quite as well.  It’s tricky to deploy the rig and get tight on the bottom – but the spreader prevents tangling if you still haven’t mastered the art of making the drop.

Tracking down a swordfish spreader bar ain’t easy – take it from me.  You’ll have to custom fabricate one yourself or find one online (good luck!). We’ve had trouble using the duct taped three brick technique as well – as the weight tends to flop on the way down.  DO NOT use lead if you’re fishing a breakaway system – you’ll burn more money than you could ever imagine.  Experienced day time swordfishermen make 5 to 7 drops in a day – and you have to plan on breaking a few rigs off here and there. Its best to make your own using concrete or buy clearance dumbbells from sports authority (12 – 15lbs).

The best advice I can pass along to do-it-yourself anglers considering an attempt at daytime swordfishing is to research, research, and research some more. Really think about the physics of this operation before you give it a go.  Also – you can’t just go out in the middle of nowhere in 1600 ft and have at it.  You need to find structure other wise you will waste your time and money.

Book a charter or fish with people more experienced than you.  It’s literally the best way to get your feet wet with this very technical form of big game fishing.

Good luck!

Here’s a few other resources i’ve found helpful:

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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