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Slow Pitch Jigging for Barrelfish

June 27, 2018

Bryan and I have been planning to go for barrelfish after we met Capt. Jack from one of our trips. Capt. Jack talked about his spots where it is "almost" guaranteed to produce a barrelfish. He told us that the ride to the first spot is about 45mins, that his spot has snowy groupers and golden tiles too. We stayed in contact for about a year waiting for the perfect time to go.


We finally got the call around 2pm on June 22, 2018. Capt. Jack told us that the fishing the last few days has been good, current is about .5-1 knot and that the forecast for the coming 2 days is going to be the same. Bryan texted and told me to pack. 


Packed the tackle box with the heavy stuff, deep neo 400g & 320g, super drain 400g & 500g and a prototype 640g which will remain unnamed for now, also brought cutlass 230g and 280g, zslow 280g and 350g and slow squid 400g. Only brought 2 rods; the Custom built Sea Falcon Z Shaft Slow Pitch Rods Heavy and Hard Heavy.

We respooled our reels from 30# to 20#, from 0.325mm to 0.29mm, might not be much difference but that 0.035mm diameter difference across 900ft will be a factor when current and water resistance comes into play.

spooling line using triangle sports HD140


By around 7:30'ish we threw all our gear into Bryan's Tacoma and headed for an adventure.

 We arrived at Capt. Jack's place around 2:30'ish in the a.m. We talked for a little bit and deviced a plan for the next days' fishing and went to get some sleep.


Woke up the next day around 7a.m., I wandered around the 2nd deck balcony and was greeted by these views, looks like scenes from the movies. 

 Bryan and I then went to grab some foods and drinks for the day. We stopped by Baby's Coffee shop, grabbed coffee and a bagel sandwich with eggs and bacon. This place has very good coffee. 

 coffee shop


some of the damages left by hurricane Irma still remains


We got back to the dock, put our gear on the boat and headed offshore. We left the dock at around 10:30a.m. Yup, we started late but this is due to Capt. Jack's info from the days prior, the bite has been good around mid day and mid afternoon, he said said it doesn't make sense to go early.

 bays and canals on the way to open water


We headed to the first spot which was about 890ft. The water was slick, it was about 0-0.25 seas, the biggest swell was the wake made by the boat trolling for mahi along the weedlines. 


We rigged up and got ready for the first drop. Bryan had an assortment of prototype NLO Jigs and I rigged up a 5# weight just in case my 400g jigs can't find the bottom. ;)

 Bryan showing off his PR skills from a moving boat. Bryan won the Sportfishing Magazine contest on strongest knot in 2017. His PR knot was tested and broke at 99.9% strength. 

 This is dedicated to Marcos Rivera who tied a PR knot from a moving boat in about 35mins, practice makes one perfect.


After a 45minute boat ride Capt. Jack informed us to get ready for the first drop. I took a peak at the GPS to get a sense of how deep we are so I can grab the appropriate weight jig.



Due to the water being calm with barely a drift, I opted to dropped a 400g deep neo instead of the 640g jig. 

 blakcbelly rosefish that hit the 400g deep neo on the first drop, alot of work cranking 890' for such a tiny fish


2nd drop produced a better result, a little snowy grouper.

 snowy grouper


Bryan also got his first fish of the day, a whopping 31# snowy grouper on an NLO prototype jig in flying fish image.


  31# snowy caught on an NLO prototype jig in flying fish color and an RCW custom built sea falcon hard heavy rod 


We did a few more drops and more rosefish came up and a couple small snowy grouper in the 8-10# range so we decided to move to a different spot to look for that elusive barrelfish. The fish that we specifically came here for.


Since the conditions were perfect and the drift was mostly 0.5- 0.8 knot I decided to switch jigs from 400g deep neo to 280g cutlass jig at 850ft.

  280g cutlass with Majorcraft assist hook on tail and an assist hook i tied using decoy pike 3/0 and A.S.S. assist cord


The sea falcon cutlassfish jig 280g brought up a nice size gray tile.

 gray tile that hit a sea falcon cutlass jig 280g from 850ft


Still on the 2nd spot Bryan caught something big. I know it was big by the way he fought the fish. He never got the rod above 45degree angle. Drag was screaming and the fish is constantly taking line.

the proper/ right way to fight a fish using a slow pitch rod


Came up a barrelfish, scratched off the bucket list, 26# on the scale when weight it back at the dock.



"When my 280g NLO Prototype flying fish imaged jig hit the bottom it was GAME ON! This beast actually took 25-30 yards of line on 16#s of drag the instant I set the hook. With not much structure to worry about I let her do her thing and gained as much line as I could when she allowed. A give an take battle ensued over the next 10 mins. Id gain line and she’d take all of it back plus more. It truly amazing that these fish actually fight like an amberjack on steroids pound for pound. To fight that hard for the entire fight in those depths is truly amazing."


 ~ Bryan Dietz ~ June 23, 2018 on fighting his first barrelfish 


 26# barrelfish caught on an NLO 280g prototype jig with flying fish image, RCW custom built slow pitch rod


The current IGFA record for barrelfish is 29# that was caught on a 30w and 50# line while Bryan's fish which was 3.1# shy of breaking the record was caught on an accurate valiant 500N and 20# mainline. 


My fish on the same spot, a blackbelly rosefish almost the same size as the zslow 350g it tried to eat.

 rosefish trying to eat a zslow 350g


I changed jigs from zslow 350g to deep neo 400g, it just takes forever for the zslow to get to 850ft. I needed to get down there fast before Bryan gets another barrelfish and I will never hear the end of it on the drive back home. A decent size snowy grouper followed soon after.

 snowy grouper that hit a deep neo 400g


A couple more fish came up, mostly rosefish. 

 We decided to move to a different spot. Reeling in 20+ rosefish from 800+ feet gets old fast and I still haven't caught a barrelfish. 


We decided that this will be our final spot. Time was 3:00PM and it was burning hot with 0-1 wind and no cloud cover overhead and we still have a 6hr drive back home. 


This spot was not as deep as the other two, 750ft, but still deep.


 I dropped a deep neo 400g and as soon as I hit bottom I did a couple of long falls accompanying it with a half pitch so the jig doesn't stay in the same spot. When nothing hit the jig near the bottom I began to do a series of slow pitches. I was counting the pitches as I often do to know how far off the bottom the hit is. If I get hit, I commit this to memory and play the same area on the next drop.


 On the 9th pitch I told myself 2-3 more pitches and if nothing hits I'm going to drop the jig again, another full pitch and the jig got slammed hard, the line went tight and then it slacked. I was caught offguard. I tried to reel fast to recover as much line as I could. After a few cranks on the handle the line tightened again and the 15# drag began to slip. Whatever it is, it peeled off alot of line, the most line any fish took off my reel the whole day.


I sat on the cooler, put my foot on the gunnel and prepared for a fight. 


Barrelfish is one of the best fighting fish I've ever caught, that 21#'er fought way above its weight class. It fought from 750ft all the way to the top. It pulled drag and had strong headshakes digging towards the bottom.  Sometimes the barrelfish felt like a grouper, just a dead weight and then in an instant it peels off 15-20yards yards of line on a 15# drag. No wonder these fish are known to stall out electric reels.


After the barrelfish fight I took a video of Bryan fighting a golden tile, it was also an excuse to rest my sore arms.

 After we got the golden tile iced on the cooler we packed and headed back to the dock.  A short ride later Capt. Jack stopped and informed us that he saw nice bottom and told us to drop and see what's down there. The depth was 450'. I got my 2nd gray tile of the day. We dropped a couple more times and then we headed back to dock to weigh and clean the fish.


We weighed the barrelfish, we each caught a barrelfish, 21#, 22# and a 26#. I caught the smallest while Bryan caught the biggest which was 3.1# shy of breaking the IGFA world record for barrelfish. The world record was caught on a 30W and 50# test while we were using accurate 500n and 20# main line.


On June 23, 2018 we caught what we SPECIFICALLY came for, barrelfish and probably became the first in the USA to catch these fish using slow pitch gear and technique. 




Custom Built Sea Falcon H slow pitch rod

Custom Built Sea Falcon HH slow pitch rod

NLO prototype jigs

40# yozuri topknot leader

20# yozuri braid mainline

accurate valiant 500n

majorcraft zoc assist hook



Custom Built Sea Falcon H slow pitch rod

Custom Built Sea Falcon HH slow pitch rod

Sea Falcon Deep Neo

Sea Falcon ZSlow

Sea Falcon Cutlass

40# yozuri topknot leader

20# yozuri braid mainline

accurate DFS slammer 500n

majorcraft zoc assist hook


 see you on the next adventure!



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