When Capt. Ryan Riggs departed from Virginia’s Rudee Inlet on the morning of August 31, 2016, at the helm of the 57 Bobby Croswait, Full Pull, he had no idea what kind of day lay ahead. His team returned that afternoon having accomplished one of the rarest feats in big-game fishing: a fantasy slam consisting of five different billfish species in a single day. This is his story.
The weather hadn’t been too good, but we decided to go fishing anyway and headed toward some pretty water in 500 fathoms. The anglers on board were Paul Shaw, David Rood and Cass Wood; Ben Polk and Montukie Lewis were the mates for us. It was a little bumpy going out, but not too bad. We set out our usual spread — dink ballyhoo, dredges and squid chains — and around 9 a.m., we had a bite on the long rigger. We didn’t see the fish until we had it on the leader, and it turned out to be a spearfish. It’s the third spearfish we’ve caught just this year while fishing out of Virginia Beach and Ocean City, Maryland. A little while later, we raised a small blue marlin that came in hot on the right squid chain, missed the right flat, switched to the left chain and then ate a pitch bait. It was about 150 pounds, really lit up. We usually average around 10 blues a year on this boat between fishing off Charleston, South Carolina, and Virginia, but this was our first one of the season.
Around 10 a.m., we had another bite. This one turned out to be a sailfish, which we found in about 500 fathoms. When we had that one, I started thinking fantasy slam, but I knew that we still needed a white marlin and a swordfish in order to make it happen. About an hour later, we caught the white we needed, and the bells started ringing in my head. As soon as we let that fish go, I told my guys to pull ’em in, and we steamed about 20 miles to a spot in Norfolk Canyon. R.J. Boyle is a friend of my boss, and I’d been talking with Nick Stanczyk in Florida about daytime deep-dropping, so we were geared up for the final species: swordfish.
When we got out there, we had a couple bites that we missed; we’re almost positive they were swordfish. Then we caught a shark, and time was running out on us. We swung around for one more drop, one last drift. Then we had a bite that we hooked, and we thought it was probably a swordfish. The water was really green, so we had to get the fish right up beside us to finally identify it. When I got the boat turned where I wanted it, the fish popped up in the clean wash beside the boat. There it was: a 60-pound swordfish. We had done something special — a fantasy slam!
It’s been almost surreal to think about what we did. The entire experience was really incredible and a true team effort. — As told to Sam White by Full Pull’s Capt. Ryan Riggs