Just a few of many interesting explanations for these choices by the experts:
Live-baiting swords off Southern California and Mexico offers Capt. Chris Badsey unparalleled thrills. Once they nail a live bait pitched to them, these swordies often jump like marlin, then dive to great depths. He cites "being towed backward by one swordie 17 miles over a 6 1/2-hour period ... then the fish really took off!"
Capt. Dean Panos related one incident showing "how strong swordfish can truly be." He hooked a swordie off Miami on 80-pound gear that eventually weighed in at 349 pounds, initially spending more than three hours fighting it with the drag at 24 pounds. During the fight, the fish came right to the surface then dove unstoppably back to the 300-foot area where first hooked - 17 times in all. "I can only imagine what it would be like to fight a swordfish weighing more than 800 or 900 pounds. I don't think marlin of equal size come even close."
Their remarkable colors and acrobatics make them top choice for Dave Bertolozzi with Yo-Zuri in Florida. Additionally, it's often possible to sight-cast to them, adding yet another notch in the excitement meter. Their edibility doesn't hurt either. "The everyman's offshore gamester," says Capt. Mike Holmes in Texas. This editor seconds all that; my one-fish pick, given appropriately light tackle, would be the dolphin as well.
"... because everything else is just bait!" says top Bermuda skipper Allen DeSilva. "The only thing better than catching a blue marlin is catching a bigger one!"
Several participants specified smaller marlin (whether blues or just in general) on light stand-up tackle. Adrian Gray would narrow it down to 200-pound blue marlin on light two-speed gear. Capt. Dan Kipnis would take any/all marlin less than 300 pounds on 20-pound conventional gear.
Capt. Gary Dubiel of North Carolina has done it all, including catching more tuna than he cares to remember, and now, "A light spinner with 6-pound line and a big trout are as relaxing and satisfying as it gets for me."
This top choice as the only game fish for several anglers, most citing the aspect of sight-casting baits to them, whether they're tailing down-sea off Key West (Capt. Mike Weinhofer) or teased to within pitch-bait range in Guatemala waters (Andy Hahn).
Even though he makes his living chasing stripers on the Chesapeake Bay, Capt. Richie Gaines says his one-and-only would be the snook since they "fight doggedly, have a lot of stamina and jump like billfish when hooked." Also, they're accessible on fly, lures or baits.
Echoing the sentiments of many survey participants, tarpon are, "Hands down, the ultimate game fish," says writer/photographer and fly-fishing ace Mark Hatter, who's based in Florida but fishes around the world. Capt. Dave Kostyo and Capt. Chris Myers, also Florida-based, both point out the tarpon's diversity in its fight. "A perfect combination of speed, stamina and acrobatics," says Myers. And, adds Capt. Ed Walker who fishes Florida's Gulf coast, they're tough: He cites a five-hour battle between angler Raz Reid and a huge tarpon, at the end of which Walker jumped into the shallow water, unhooked the silver king and watched it swim away strongly. "To me," Walker says, "there's no question which fish is toughest!"
Devotees of the behemoth of all inshore jacks say for excitement and challenge, no other species compares. "The most formidable adversary (other than the occasional blue marlin), I've yet to meet in any ocean of the world," says Hawaii-based, Indo-Pacific fishing expert Capt. Rick Gaffney. And English globe-trotting fishing journalist Dave Lewis adds this kicker: "GTs are caught in some of the most remote, beautiful, unexploited areas of the globe."
Capt. Brant McMullan of North Carolina would rather fish for big kings than anything, to see them skyrocket on live baits and then make "those long, sizzling runs that are music to my ears." And they rank high in the unpredictability department, he notes, often doing a 180 and heading straight back to the boat.
Who'd know better the challenge presented by big black marlin than Australia's famed Capt. Laurie Wright? He picks the species for his one-and-only.
Cast Your Vote!
We've heard from the experts. Now let's hear from you! Let's see how the "popular vote" compares - go to www.sportfishingmag.com/gamefishratings to see the same survey the experts took and cast your votes. We'll tabulate the results to publish here and in the magazine. Don't let others determine which is the world's top game fish! Then visit www.sportfishingmag.com/gamefish to see a list of category winners and read about an attribute of game fish not included here.