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

We caught up with Capt. Brad Philipps recently. If you don’t know who Brad is, you should. He’s caught and released more billfish over the past decade than anyone on the planet. Brad’s released an astounding 23,000 billfish during the last 11 years in Guatemala, averaging roughly 15 billfish releases per trip. In the process, he’s won numerous accolades, including The Billfish Foundations’ Release Captain of the Year Award 10 years running.

Brad calls Guatemala home these days, running his 40-foot Gamefisherman, Decisive, in the billfish-rich waters of the Pacific and operating his excellent lodge, Guatemalan Billfishing Adventures, alongside his wife Cindy. But before that, Brad fished all over the world, from his South African homeland to legendary billfish destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Madeira. 

The best thing about Brad is that he’s exceedingly intelligent and enthusiastic. There’s no better interview on the subject of offshore fishing in all the sport. And so, we got to talking briefly on the subject of trolling.


SF: Brad, you’re one of the best trollers in the business. What is it about trolling that gets your juices going? 

BP: Trolling gives one the opportunity to cover ground and look, Mike. It adds the element of the hunt to the game. You are not just waiting for things to happen, you make things happen.

SF: When did you first start fishing offshore? 

BP: Probably 25 years ago, or more.

SF: What's more fun, in your mind -- trolling lures or baits for billfish? And which is more productive? I imagine it depends on the situation. 

BP: Yeah, it all depends on the situation, the target species, species’ size, the angler’s choice and ability, the crew’s experience, boat set-up, etc. But my favorite is a mix of either lures and teasers -- which you'll replace with a pitch bait -- or baits and teasers. It brings the best of all worlds together. 

SF: I know a lot of captains talk about positioning lures or baits in certain areas on the boat wake. Do you do that? And, if so, why? 

BP: Yes, very much so. First off, I like larger lures closer to the boat, and smaller lures farther back. Position them in clearer boat-wake channels. I also like to run larger teasers short, with smaller hooked lures further back. Or teasers short and hooked baits further back. If the fish does not tease, there is something with a hook to fall back onto.