• Published:December 10, 2013
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Few names are as recognizable in the South Florida charter boat scene as Capt. Bouncer Smith. He currently averages more than 400 charters per year and is a master of many fishing techniques, from kite fishing for sailfish to targeting a wide variety of species on the wrecks and reefs to tarpon fishing at all times of the day and night to trips to the Bahamas to fly-fishing and much more. He helped pioneer the fishery for daytime swordfishing and is considered one of the best swordfish captains in the world. He's also easygoing, congenial and a true gentleman to boot.

We caught up with Capt. Bouncer on a rare Sunday morning between charter trips for this interview.

FishTrack.com: Bouncer, it seems like you've always been fishing in South Florida. Were you born and raised there?

Capt. Bouncer Smith: No, I was actually born in Pontiac, Michigan. We moved to Florida in 1956 and I started fishing on head boats in 1963. I moved over to charter boats in 1966, got my license in 1968 and was running my own boat the very next day. By 1976 I was in business for myself. I spent a year in Ft. Lauderdale and a few seasons in the Florida Keys and summers in Ocean City, Maryland, but the rest of the time I've been right here.

FT: You're well-known for your ability to target a wide variety of species for your clients, everything from tarpon and snook to sailfish, swordfish and the wreck and reef species. What are your favorites to target?

BS: If I was fishing for fun it would be anything I could throw my fly rod at. I'm not so much concerned about the species -- it could be Spanish mackerel, bonito, dolphin, tarpon or whatever. I really like shark fishing on the fly. If I had just one species for the rest of my life, it would be tarpon because there are so many different ways to catch them, but sailfish and swordfish are also great. Bottom fishing is the most challenging, along with daytime swordfishing.

FT: What are your favorite destinations?

BS: It's hard to beat South Florida with the variety of fishing we have right outside the front door. I also like the Cayman Islands. A few years ago they asked me to come down and help them run a swordfish tournament, the Cayman Islands Swordfish Challenge, and I really love it down there. Great people and beautiful scenery. And there's great swordfishing in April now that we've started to get it figured out.

FT: What are some of your most memorable catches over the years?

BS: I've had two that really come to mind. The first was my world-record halibut that I caught in Alaska on the fly that weighed 111 pounds. The second was being the captain of record when Marty Arostegui landed a swordfish on the fly. It would have been a record but we had to release it -- his fish was one inch under the legal length.

FT: Daytime swordfishing is one of your specialties -- any tips to pass along?

BS: First, use lead. You have to be able to find the bottom and nothing works as well as lead. We've also found that a single, very sharp J-hook works the best for hooking swordfish. [Author's Note: Bouncer Smith is a huge proponent of circle hooks in just about any style of fishing but recommends J-hooks in this situation, saying that anglers are basically trolling a single bait at 2 knots with a half-mile of line out and virtually no dropback].

We're also working on a new technique that's IGFA-legal where we use the electric reels as downriggers and catch the fish on a second, manual reel. If you're interested in catching a big swordfish under IGFA rules then come fishing and learn how we're doing it with this two-rod method.

FT: You fish a lot with families and kids on your charter trips. Any thoughts on the next generation?

"The best advice is to get out there and go fishing. You can't catch 'em on the couch."
-- Capt. Bouncer Smith

BS: The main thing with kids is to not stay out too long. It should be fun and when it's not, come home. Start simple and work your way up. A kid's first trip shouldn't be an overnighter in the canyons. Quantity is more important than quality too. Most kids would rather catch a dozen mackerel than wait for one sailfish.

FT: Any final advice you'd like to give our readers?

BS: The best advice is to get out there and go fishing. You can't catch 'em on the couch. And share the sport with your family and friends - -always try to introduce someone new to fishing when you can. You'll both appreciate it in the long run.


Capt. Bouncer Smith runs the 33-foot center console Bouncer's Dusky out of Miami Beach Marina in Miami, Florida. He can be reached at www.captbouncer.com or by phone at (305) 439-2475.