Guy Jacobsen is no stranger to IGFA world records, having set four current marks for swordfish, including back-to-back line-class records in 2017. In 2020, he set his sights on the shortbill spearfish, a notoriously tricky species to target, especially off New Zealand. The new year was just 13 days old when he and his captain of 12 years, John Batterton, went hunting aboard Jacobsen’s 48-foot G&S, Hookin’ Bull. This is Jacobsen’s story of that memorable day.
I have been targeting this fish for a few years, but our shortbill spearfish opportunities in New Zealand are limited. A few normally come in with the currents in the first few weeks of warmer water hitting the New Zealand coast, so this year we decided to go all out and tow small lures on light leader. We left my home port of Houhora, in the far north of New Zealand, on an absolutely perfect day, with wind forecasts at light and variable and calm seas. We headed to one of our favorite fishing grounds, located 25 nautical miles from port, known as the Garden Patch. It was the second day of the season, and we were fishing all 16-pound-test tackle.
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When we arrived, the water was a little disappointing, with temperatures lower than expected and the water missing the clarity and color favored by our target species. We spent the morning out wide in 1,500 feet, with the current pushing hard to the south following the coast, so we figured the water we had expected to find had probably moved with the current. Three hours later, following the current push in about 1,200 feet, we found the blue water and a rising sea temperature that had passed 70 degrees. Then our Bonze Bruiser lure on the left long rigger was attacked by what looked to be a good-size spearfish. On its third attempt, the light-wire hook found the fish’s lower jaw, and the reel screamed on the first run. In typical spearfish style, it dived deep several times before our mate, Brad Batterton, managed to grab the leader. Back at the Houhora Big Game and Sportfishing Club docks, the spearfish weighed 45.8 pounds, 3 pounds over the current 16-pound-test record from Hawaii.
Later this season, if they are still present, we might see if any opportunities arise for a spearfish on 12-pound-test, but for now, we are all very happy with this pending record. —By Guy Jacobsen, as told to Sam White