Tips & Techniques for Catching Swordfish During the Day or Night

Apr 28th 2023

Tips & Techniques for Catching Swordfish During the Day or Night

Swordfish fishing can be done during the day or night, but you’ll need to adjust your approach accordingly. Until a few decades ago, catching swordfish was typically viewed as a secondary, nighttime bonus to a saltwater fishing trip—anglers would put out some bait overnight for the night lookout to monitor on the off chance a swordfish decided to take a bite.

Today, the offshore angling community has accrued plenty of knowledge on how to catch swordfish all around the clock. Swordfish are no longer viewed as lucky strikes but as prized trophies that check all the boxes: reliability, size, beauty, fun and ferocious fights, and top-notch eating.

Interested in landing one? Here’s a guide to daytime and nighttime swordfish fishing.

Follow the Bait

No matter where or when you’re targeting swordfish (or any other species), the goal is to mimic the predator’s prey. That means you’ll want to use similar bait and place it in strategic locations where swordfish typically feed. Basic stuff, right? Let’s dive deeper.

Choose the Right Depth

During the day, you’re going to want to fish extremely deep—from 2,000 to 5,000 feet is standard. Use heavy deep drop weights rigged on heavy rubber bands to reach the depths where the bait lives. Use long leaders from the sinker—150’ is ideal.

During the night, keep your swordfish fishing shallow. Squid (one of their favorite baits) migrate at night, presenting an opportunity to mimic their movements at depths of 100 to 800 feet or so. 20’ leaders from the sinker is a sweet spot. Naturally, you’re going to need light sticks for catching swordfish at night. Use battery-powered lights, as chemical lights implode at depths of around 400 feet.

Experiment With Bait

Squid—a popular bait for catching swordfish—on a ledge by the sea

Like everything in fishing, anglers have plenty of opinions on which bait is most productive. Squid is an excellent starting point. Some anglers add a small, rubber squid skirt when not using dead squid. Tinker mackerel, American shad, mahi bellies, and bonita strips are also all solid swordfish fishing bait choices. If you need a great source for dead bait, you can’t go wrong with Baitmasters of South Florida.

Be Diligent With Your Rigging

Proper rigging is always important, but it’s especially critical when you’re fishing at extreme depths during the day. Spend the extra time and effort to prep your line right the first time. You don’t want to be wondering if your bait is still intact when it’s a half-mile below the surface, especially when it’s prone to be slashed by swordfish bills.

Recognize the Bite

Whether you’re swordfish fishing during the day or night, the most obvious sign you’ve got one on the line is when your drag goes off and keeps on going—the fight begins! However, it’s not always that cut and dry.

During the nighttime, keep an eye out for your fishing light. If you see it near the surface, it’s time to figure out which rod has the fish and light (or reel them all in). During the day, when your bait is deeper, you’ll probably feel a distinctive, light tap on the tip of your rod from an interested swordfish.

Know How to Swordfight

An offshore angler fighting a game fish

Catching swordfish requires strategy and finesse. How you approach a swordfish fishing fight is largely a matter of personal preference and style. Some anglers use a cat-and-mouse teasing strategy, reeling the bait in quick, upward bursts and then dropping it freely after the swordfish strikes. This tricks the swordfish into thinking it killed its prey, and then they feed on it as it drops. Other anglers prefer to keep drifting and let the swordfish feed uninterrupted until it’s time to bury the hook.

Regardless of how you entice your swordfish, setting the hook when the time comes can be very challenging, especially during the day when you’re swordfish fishing at extreme depths. Some anglers use their boat’s propulsion to set the hook deeply, but this can be overkill, resulting in pulled hooks. A safer option is to reel continuously and assertively until the drag stalls or slips, signifying that you’ve reached the maximum amount of pressure and the hook has been buried.

As you learn how to catch swordfish, be prepared for a ferocious fight. Swordfish are known to leap when they approach the surface, and they’re extremely fast and heavy. If you’re reeling in a marker—let alone a double marker or triple marker—you’d better be ready with your fish fighting safety gear to prevent injury or spills overboard.

Shop Tournament-Grade Fishing Equipment

Planning a swordfish fishing trip? We have the top-quality fishing tackle you need for catching swordfish and other pelagic game fish. Our bottom and swordfish rigs collection is a great place to start. From saltwater trolling lures and dredge and teaser baits to dredge bars and lead weights, our wide selection ensures that you’re able to get everything you need from one convenient place. Show up prepared for your next swordfight!

About Author

Les Orr is a co-owner of Fish Razr and a native of the Gulf Coast of Texas. He grew up fishing the inshore waters of the Galveston Bay system and occasionally offshore. He moved to South Carolina for a job opportunity in 1994, and his love of the offshore grew in the Charleston area. He currently lives and works in Mt. Pleasant, SC, with a wife and two young kids, 12 and 13 years old. His son is becoming quite the angler and loves going offshore to catch dolphin, tuna, wahoo, and the occasional marlin or sailfish.