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Q&A with Mr. Billfish, Captain Brad Philipps
by Mike Mazur
Brad Phillips
Courtesy Brad Philipps

SF: Do you generally start off your fishing with a basic structured spread then tweak as needed to fit the conditions? 

BP: Yes, but it’s less the conditions and more the fish that tell you the most each day -- and it’s the info gained from them on which you base your decisions on how to tweak your spread or style that day. 

SF: How important is that? To fine-tune a spread, that is? 

BP: Very important. It’s what separates the best from the average, and sometimes it’s small things, not rocket science but small changes that increase your odds. 

SF: Are you a believer that most boats/engines have a "sweet spot" that brings billfish up?

BP: Absolutely. Good captains find this sweet spot on a boat. Most boats have a sweet spot, you just have to tweak things until you find it.

SF: Who's the best troller you know? 

BP: Tough one (laughs). I have fished alongside some very good trollers in various destinations, but they all have one thing in common -- they really understand the basics and have had years of experience getting good at what they do. Seeing more fish and having some bait-trolling background makes you a better all-round troller, I believe.

SF: And surely it’s important to have a great mate. 

BP: This can't be underestimated. Especially if you want to start pulling teasers and pitch baits to your trolled spread. Great mates can make ordinary captains look good. 

SF: Do you think to be a great captain, you must first start in the pit?  

BP: It definitely helps, as one needs to understand all aspects of the game to be good on the bridge. But being great in the pit does not mean you will be great on the bridge. Some of the best captains were not necessarily great in the pit, but they probably worked under some great captains in their time.

SF: Any little trolling tips you've learned over the years that you feel set you apart? 

BP: There are not too many 'secrets' out there, just doing things a little better is what sets the best apart. Staying on the fish is a no-brainer -- do not troll off them! It can be easy to do with a big spread out there and a fast-trolling speed. Catch the ones you should catch and don't get too stressed about those you had little chance at.

SF: What's your most memorable day on the troll? 

BP: We raised well over 130 sails and released 80 of them on circle hooks and 20-pound-test in a single day. We also released five blues in a day, one of them being a grander that we pitched to off the bridge teaser! Another was trolling and teasing in more than 100 sailfish to release 51 in a single day for a single angler on a fly rod. These are all trolling highlights for us.

SF: I’d say, Brad. Many thanks for the time.

BP: Any time, Mike.