The subject line in the email from Gary Carter read, “Possibly Most Incredible 24 Hours in History of our Sport,” and it immediately grabbed my attention. Why wouldn’t it? Carter holds several IGFA world records for billfish on light tackle, and I knew it had to be something really special for him to make such a claim. And it was. The message described two incredible days aboard Hookin’ Bull off New Zealand: “Just got off the phone with Guy Jacobsen and John Batterton … in a 24-hour period they caught the pending 30-pound IGFA world-record swordfish, 555.6 pounds, and then the pending 20-pound IGFA world-record sword, 593 pounds. The existing records were 392 pounds caught in 1976 and 310 pounds caught in 1979, respectively.”
On the first day, Jacobsen followed his normal mantra offshore of “dream big, plan thoroughly.” The crew dropped a squid down to 1,500 feet on 30-pound-test and came tight almost immediately, but the belly in the line after the initial run caused the line to break. Thirty minutes into their next drift, the familiar slack in the line was the sign they were hoping for as the sword headed toward the surface. The result was a 555-pounder, a record they have been chasing for quite some time with many stories of heartbreak.
But the pursuit of the 20-pound record did not take nearly as long. The crew got a late start on the second day and hooked a fish on the first drop that they eventually ended up losing. The crew didn’t give up, and three baits later, they were hooked into a nice sword on 20-pound tackle. Once on deck, Batterton believed the fish would comfortably beat the existing mark of 310 pounds. Those thoughts were verified back at the Houhora Big Game and Fishing Club when the scale read 593 pounds — their claim for the record was confirmed.
I talked to Jack Vitek over at IGFA to get some more information about the original records Jacobsen and Batterton had shattered, as well as to check on the status of their world-record applications — they had just arrived. Angler David Nottage caught the 20-pound record off Palmilla, Baja California, Mexico, and John “Jack” Willits landed the 30-pound world record off Nantucket, Massachusetts. Both record fish were caught on trolled bait (a flying fish and ballyhoo, respectively) during the day while the swordfish were basking in the sun.
But swordfishing has changed quite a bit since those original world-record catches, due in large part to the advancement of daytime deep-dropping techniques. Now it’s not uncommon to see giant swords caught on a regular basis here in the States, and the recent firestorm of big swordfish catches off New Zealand over the past couple of years has flooded the Internet and social media. But even with all those big fish, I don’t think anyone could have imagined something like Hookin’ Bull’s historic catches.
Jacobsen (right), Batterton (left) and the crew of Hookin’ Bull raised the bar, but I have no doubt that others will set their sights on a new record. Will it ever be beaten? Only time will tell, but we can honestly say we might never see anything like Hookin’ Bull’s back-to-back records — it truly might be one of the greatest 24 hours in all of sport-fishing history.