World Record! Angler catches 9 billfish species in 26 days!
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has started recognizing their newest “Conservation” clubs with six new “Royal Slam” clubs. These clubs consist of anglers catching all IGFA-recognized species in certain categories.
The IGFA “Billfish Royal Slam” recognizes anglers who have caught the following nine species within their lifetime: Atlantic and Pacific sailfish, Atlantic and Pacific blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin, white marlin, swordfish, and spearfish.
Chris “Kitt” Toomey and Brett Cannon wanted to go one step further than joining this exclusive club, they embarked on an expedition that would set new world records for completing the “Billfish Royal Slam” in world record time.
Chris completed his slam in 32 days (beating the previous world record by four days) just several days after his buddy Brett set the world record by catching all nine billfish species in just 26 days. The pair fished off the coasts of Australia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Cabo, Kona Hawaii, Miami and the Florida Keys.
Royal Slam Expedition: by Chris “Kitt” Toomey
When we initially set out on our quest for the royal slam on March 24, I was going to be the only angler and Brett was going to be the video/cameraman. My goal was to catch the royal slam in under 36 days – the existing world record held by my friend and neighbor, Rob Ruwitch.
After a slow start to our trip, I began to re-think things. I was not having as much fun as I had expected and soon realized I did not like being the only angler on the boat for such a long period of time.
After returning to Hawaii from Port Stephens, Australia (after a failed attempt at a black marlin) I decided it would be more fun if both Brett and I fished together with the same goal in mind. Sharing the same highs and lows that come with our successes and failures along the way made the experience much more enjoyable and unforgettable.
Of course, the royal billfish slam is an individual achievement, and having two anglers in pursuit of one of each species tends to slow the process down, but for me the benefits of sharing the experience with a good friend was worth the trade-off. It also stopped me from throwing in the towel during the early going.
Brett finished off his royal slam with a black marlin in Exmouth, Australia on May 4 – 26 days after catching his first of the nine billfish species, a spearfish in Kona, Hawaii on April 9.
Brett had beaten the previous world record by an astonishing 10 days and averaged a different billfish species every 2.88 days!
My quest was more drawn out. After a slow start, I held my own until it was time to catch the broadbill swordfish – the 8th species on my list. I struggled to stay connected with several that I hooked up with, and after several days of trying, while battling high winds and rough seas in the Florida Straits, we decided to head to Exmouth, Western Australia to pursue Brett’s final species – the black marlin.
During the early morning hours of May 4, both Brett and I released black marlin.
I then returned to Miami to finish off my slam with the swordfish that had eluded me on my prior attempts.
Fishing off Ft. Lauderdale, I was able to catch my swordfish on May 8 to finish my slam in 41 days.
While I was happy with 41 days, I had not achieved my goal of beating 36 days, so I decided to return to Hawaii to try to catch another Pacific blue marlin and spearfish.
I had previously caught these species, but catching them again could shorten my royal slam window by up to two weeks. I released several more spearfish in Hawaii, but could not find a blue marlin. After several days had passed, I decided on a last-minute strategy of flying to Costa Rica to get in on a blue marlin bite they had been enjoying for several days.
I arrived in Costa Rica on the night of May 14 and released a Pacific blue marlin after just two hours of fishing the next morning! This reduced my royal grand slam time to 32 days, and my goal was achieved!
Achieving the goal of catching the royal grand slam in just 32 days felt somewhat surreal. Having my good friend Brett achieve the goal in just 26 days was just as rewarding.
There were a number of times, especially early on, when I wanted to simply quit and return home. It sounded so much easier when I was planning the trip prior to departure. The travel alone was exhausting.
The uncertainty of each day made planning beyond a few hours virtually pointless. Upon arriving in a destination, you did not know if you would need a day, a week or longer to catch your target species. This made airline, hotel and boat charter arrangements an enormous challenge. Having a good friend with a positive attitude as a travel companion can really help when motivation wanes.
Fortunately for us, most the captains we contacted understood the urgency and importance of timing. They all went out of their way to help us achieve success in catching our target species as quickly as possible. We had great experiences with all the captains and crews with whom we fished along the way.
I would not trade the experience for anything. We met so many great people and traveled to many amazing fishing destinations around the world. We accomplished our goal and had a great time in the process. We really could not have asked for anything more.