For a big-game angler, catching a 1,000-pound marlin is akin to sliding on the green jacket after the Masters, winning an Olympic medal or taking home the Stanley Cup. There simply isn't a greater achievement.
A few newbies might get lucky and catch what we affectionately call a grander on their first offshore adventure - not fully appreciating the accomplishment - but for those anglers and captains on a grander quest, landing such a magnificent specimen takes time, determination and commitment. To stack the odds in your favor, plan a trip to one of the world's hottest locations, hook up with a knowledgeable captain and plan your trip to coincide with the best bite. The following locations represent what the editors at Marlin feel are your best bets for a chance at a grander.
1. Cairns, Australia
Ever since Capt. George Bransford landed the first 1,000-pound black marlin off Australia in 1966, this location has accounted for more big marlin than any other spot in the world. Capt. Peter Wright estimates more than 800 granders have been caught here. These waters are a known breeding ground for black marlin, hence the abundance of really big female blacks in the area.
"Large marlin need to eat a lot, which puts us in the right place at the right time," says Capt. Darren "Biggs" Haydon, who's fished the reef for 22 years and currently runs Allure. "In saying that, l have had many large marlin in my baits, only to have her light up and go electric blue, then see two or three small fish dart in and take her away. l would say at this point the female is ripe to drop her eggs, and the small males are ready to commence fertilization."
While lures have accounted for a few catches here, the top boats use giant baits for big blacks. Skipping dead bait along the edge will give you the best shot at success.
Capt. Jared Weir on Shaka pulled a 25-pound Spanish mackerel for North Carolina boatbuilder and top tournament captain Paul Spencer and his son Daniel in 2007. Just before 5 p.m. the crew got ready to change the bait when a big black wolfed it down like it was tossing back a peanut. Daniel fought the fish, and wireman Charles Perry went to town on the leader. The fish, a 1,120-pounder, was one of the top fish caught that year. But they've been known to get bigger.
"I don't think I have seen fish much bigger than 1,300 pounds here, but l have heard stories and hope that one day the real giant will jump on behind my boat," Haydon says. "l have taken 10 over 1,000 pounds for my clients, with 1,103 being the biggest."
More captains choose to release the big black marlin caught off Australia these days, and many will also go after them on 80-pound or even 50 if you're up for it.
When to Go: September to December
Where to Stay: It's a good 30-mile run from Cairns to the fishing grounds, so many of the game boats offer multiple-day charters and house their clients on a mothership out at one of the reefs.
Visitors will also find a long list of accommodations of all types within the tourist town of Cairns. Visit www.cairnsinfo.com for a full list.
Cairns Professional Fishing Association