ISLAMORADA, Fla. — Roland Martin never met a fish he didn't want to catch, or couldn't catch, which explains his latest feat here in the "World Capital of Fishing."
The bass-fishing great, who retired from the tournament trail a couple of years ago, set dockside tongues wagging here this week when he boated a 227-pound swordfish. Besides its size, what was remarkable about the catch was that Martin landed it alone.
"I wouldn't recommend anybody trying to get a fish that big in the boat by himself, but everything just sort of worked out," said Martin, who has owned a seaside cottage here for more than 20 years. "I've fished by myself most of my life, so going out alone was no big deal. I didn't think twice about it until I got the fish up, saw how big it was and then thought, 'Now what?' "
Martin, a licensed charter boat captain, was checking out offshore fishing prospects for an upcoming excursion when he decided to stop about 30 miles offshore and see if he could get a swordfish bite.
He dropped a line down as he crossed a drop-off that descended from 1,600 to 2,400 feet. The swordfish grabbed the squid Martin was using for bait and the fight was on.
Martin battled the swordfish for more than 30 minutes before finally getting it to the surface. If that wasn't difficult enough for the nine-time BASS Angler of the Year, there was the matter of getting the 8-foot fish in the boat.
The swordfish jumped several times around Martin's 28-foot Mako and, when it was played out, Martin dragged it to the stern. Holding the heavy Penn International 80 outfit with Electra-Mate reel-winder in one hand, he then gaffed the fish.
After pulling the swordfish closer, Martin held the gaff handle between his legs and eventually managed to put a tail rope around the swordfish's 3-foot crescent-shaped tail.
Once he hauled the fish through the Mako's tuna door, Martin headed for port, a bit wearier than when he set out, but otherwise none the worse for wear for a 69-year-old. After a two-hour boat ride, Martin took the fish to Bud N' Mary's Marina, where it was weighed.
"I must have drifted 4 or 5 miles between the time I hooked it and got it in the boat," Martin said. "I've caught 100-pound-plus tarpon while fishing by myself, and just about everything else I've gone after, but this was the biggest fish by far. It was pretty cool, really."
Pity, though, that nobody was there to hear Martin and the familiar refrain that's characterized most of his catches shown on the popular Fishing With Roland television program down through the years: "Oh, SON. It's a big, BIIIGGG fish; it's a MONSTER!"