Texas Billfish Super Slam

Booby Trap catches four billfish species in just four hours

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So where does one go when looking for a billfish Super Slam? Here's one place -- Surfside Marina in Surfside Beach, Texas. That's precisely where I traveled last week to fish with one of the hottest boats in the Gulf of Mexico, the privately owned Booby Trap. This was no light task – in the individual angler category, only 20 Super Slams had ever been registered with the IGFA prior to our trip (one of which was actually held by this same boat in 2009). It is a feat that is beyond rare and a huge challenge to undertake. But the weather was looking good for the next three days, and as I walked down to the marina, I was met….By Mike Mazur
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…by Capt. Brett Holden (center) and his crew. The boys of the Booby Trap were feeling confident, and we planned to run out 100-plus miles into the Gulf, to the continental shelf, and overnight for several days. The goal: Catch four species of billfish in a single calendar day. Likely, they would be sailfish, blue marlin, white marlin and swordfish, and Brett and the boys spent the afternoon rigging…By Mike Mazur
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...copious amounts of ballyhoo, which would serve well for most of these pelagic swimmers. This was one of many trays of baits that were prepared that afternoon. Tack on 65 bags of ice, unimaginable gallons of fuel, food enough for a small army and a group of six enthusiastic anglers, and you had the right recipe for success. But first….By Mike Mazur
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…local Texan Tom Hilton paid a visit to Surfside. He rapped a bit with Brett, and the two studied some satellite imagery on Brett's iPhone from Tom's excellent sea-surface condition website, Hilton's Realtime-Navigator.By Mike Mazur
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With a good idea of where to head based on some nice-looking masses of water, Holden pushed his 52-foot Viking convertible toward the Freeport Jetties and the open Gulf. Equipped with a bevy of Furuno NavNet 3D electronic displays, this boat is ready to fish. But there's something else that stands out about the Booby TrapBy Mike Mazur
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….like all great boats, it has an excellent, diverse team, with each man perfectly capable of running the boat, wiring or wrenching on fish or working in the pits, as Capt. Holden is doing here. It’s all about teamwork when pursuing such lofty goals. And so, the lines were set…By Mike Mazur
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…and a daisy chain teaser was dropped back into the spread for good measure. It didn’t take long for one of the lines to snap down from the outrigger. And onto the rod jumped…By Mike Mazur
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….Elvis Presley! No! Not even Elvis is as cool as this guy -- "Disco" Luis Herrera, an old-school South Florida fisherman who hooked up with the Booby Trap crew a couple years ago in the online forum world, was fishing with the boys on his second trip in two years. The Booby Trap crew fishes hard, but like most good boats, they also have a good time on the water, and "Disco" was just getting warmed up, sparking laughs with his antics, '70s glasses and afro wig – and, yes, that is a small disco ball hanging from the hardtop. But what was "DL" hooked into?By Mike Mazur
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A very nice wahoo, that had smashed a skirted ballyhoo on the surface. The fish came alongside the boat, a gaff was sunk, and…By Mike Mazur
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…crewmembers Shayne Ellis (left) and Jeff Wilson held up the nice ‘hoo. The wahoo fishing would stay hot during our entire trip — we caught into the double-digits, despite the fact we weren’t even targeting them. But wahoo weren’t the only game fish feeding heavily around the rips, weedlines and oil rigs, and as another line snapped down from the riggers…By Mike Mazur
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…I decided I’d try my hand at Texas offshore fishing. It felt like a very solid fish, and before long…By Mike Mazur
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…a monster mahi (or “cheechata,” as this crew calls them) came rocketing out of the water. Take a good look at what 40 pounds of bull dolphin looks like above the surface. And here’s what it looks like…By Mike Mazur
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….when onboard. Travis Joyce (left) and Jeff Wilson wrangle with the monster. We caught more than a dozen dolphins, and the majority of them weighed between 25 to 45 pounds. Almost all of the fish were big bulls and they all swam as singles along the weedlines and rips. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen better quality dolphin. By the way…By Mike Mazur
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…perhaps these dolphin were so big because of what they were eating. Yes, those are two small turtles (about the size of baseballs) that we found in this fish’s stomach.By Mike Mazur
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While the turtles kept the dolphin full, that first evening we enjoyed some of Capt. Shayne’s terrific mahi ceviche. This is the beautiful thing about overnighting offshore – with a bit of improvising (and good fishing), you can eat very well.By Mike Mazur
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The next morning looked to be another very nice day on the Gulf – and we needed to get serious. While we’d caught a boatload of mahi and wahoo the first day, our only billfish had been a lone sail. We had a sound game plan for the spots we intended to fish, but we needed a bit of good fortune for the day, and luckily…By Mike Mazur
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…Disco Luis found "MJ," the unofficial mascot of the Booby Trap. That's MJ on the left of Luis and Travis – yes, that totem-pole-looking thing. "MJ" stands for Michael Jackson, though I never quite got the story on how his name came to be. But soon, the good-natured Booby Trap laughter started in, and, sure enough, MJ brought luck! At about 11AM, after a number of cheechatas and wahoos, Travis hooked into a small white marlin around the East Pocket and scored a quick release. A half-hour later, around the Little Sister platform, the short-right line snapped from the rigger and…By Mike Mazur
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…out of the water flew a wild sailfish!By Mike Mazur
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Capt. Jeff wires the fish behind the transom and prepares to execute a safe release. And just like that, we were suddenly in good position. We’d need more than a little luck, but the plan was coming together – and, make no mistake, it was a plan. Brett called both fish – the white and the sail – at both areas. And now, he knew exactly where he wanted to run….By Mike Mazur
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…the oil platform known as Cerveza. Jeff Wilson watches the spread as we trolled around the rig, working both in tight and along the outskirts of the iron structure. With two billfish already in-hand, we were beginning to feel pretty good, and soon…By Mike Mazur
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…Luis broke out his classic blue marlin dance that he learned from the old salts of Chub Cay, Bahamas, back in the day. Would it work?By Mike Mazur
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Yes, it did! A hot blue slashed the long-right, and Travis dropped back to the fish and then came tight, the 30-pound outfit doubling over like a willowleaf! With the 125-pound fish going crazy on the surface, Capt. Brett….By Mike Mazur
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…backed down on the fish like nobody’s business, while Travis cranked like mad keeping up with the slack. Then the blue…By Mike Mazur
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…launched into a series of spectacular leaps like only a blue marlin can. We all hooted and hollered, and then…By Mike Mazur
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…Travis began to work once the fish sounded. But soon, the small blue succumbed to the gear. Jeff wired the marlin, brought it alongside and pulled it off along Booby Trap's starboard side. The celebrating had begun -- and no one was happier than…By Mike Mazur
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….this man, Brett Holden. All that remained was the swordfish – and over the last two years, the Booby Trap has been without question the top boat for daytime swords in the northern Gulf, and perhaps in the southeast U.S. We'd run to a spot the crew calls the "Booby Trap Dome" and broke out the big, deep-drop rods. Then…By Mike Mazur
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…Holden grabbed one of his squid rigs, tossed it overboard and began the drop, while Travis made his way to 80-pound outfit. One fish was all it would take at this point.By Mike Mazur
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Amazingly, it only took 30 seconds once the squid hit bottom. The rod bumped, the reel was wrenched, the blank doubled over and – just like that -- Booby Trap was tight, sucka! Travis worked the fish to the surface, when out at a distance…By Mike Mazur
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…the familiar “windshield-wiper” action of an angry sword cut through the water’s surface! As the fish got closer and closer, it…By Mike Mazur
Swordfish Jumping
Swordfish Jumping
….made a lunge in the wash towards the transom, flashing it’s sword and huge eyes above the Gulf’s surface!By Mike Mazur
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As he's done hundreds of times now, Brett Holden leaders the fish closer and closer, and then he released it back into the depths of the Gulf. The Super Slam had been accomplished for angler Travis Joyce and the Booby Trap – amazingly in only 4 hours. After some raucous celebrating, we decided to have some fun, so we dropped again….By Mike Mazur
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….and scored a double on swords! Luis and Travis worked these fish up from the depths, and before we called it a day, we added yet one more sword for good measure.By Mike Mazur
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The final tally was four swordfish, a sail, white marlin and blue marlin in one day, with the slam requiring only four hours. Every billfish was released. If approved, the accomplishment will be the second official IGFA-registered Super Slam for Travis Joyce and the Booby Trap. Only 20 offshore Super Slams have been recorded in the IGFA history books. To have set out with the express purpose of achieving such a feat – and actually doing it – is a once-in-a-lifetime feat, and to have documented the experience was a special privilege. Till next time, tight lines, suckas!By Mike Mazur