Captain Ray Rosher saw his first sailfish fishing on a headboat with his grandfather. “He would use a hand-carved styrofoam float and a live pinfish,” Rosher remembers. When Rosher was a teenager he caught his first sailfish with his father off of Miami. It was in 1979 that Rosher began working as a mate in Miami for kite fishing pioneer Bob Lewis and his son Jimmy. Rosher worked until 1999 running a private boat for the Kelly family and eventually graduated to the bridge as captain of his charter boat, Miss Britt. Today, Rosher manages a three-boat fleet operating out of Coconut Grove, Miami.
In his 40 years chasing sailfish off south Florida, Rosher has seen incredible changes in tactics and technology. “My grandfather used pinfish, I caught my first sail on a dead ballyhoo, and now we fish live baits from a kite,” he marvels.
In that time, Rosher has worked to develop tackle and tactics to make sailfishing more efficient. His early work with Bob Lewis introduced him to kite fishing and then Rosher developed his skills with the help of John Dudas Sr. and Bill Harrison. Staying ahead in the competitive south Florida sailfish scene taught Rosher the value of innovation. Between working as a charter captain and leading tournament teams, Rosher is looking for any advantage.
“There are no secrets today,” he laughs. Rosher explains that tournament teams and recreational anglers know all the tricks to catch sailfish. “When I started out, we didn’t know how to catch and handle the wide variety of live baits available to us,” he points out. Today, the pros keep hundreds of live baits in pens to season them for tournament use and less serious fishermen can buy their live baits off of a variety of live bait boats on their way to the fishing grounds.
Instead of hiding away his tricks and twists, Rosher has freely shared his stockpile of knowledge. He jokes, “Being secretive really doesn’t work for me.” Rosher has contributed advancements to almost every aspect of rods, reels, line, rigging, and fishing. “It’s a lifelong passion and the education never ends,” he says.
Rosher’s objective is to make sailfishing easier and more effective. The hardest part of sailfishing is hooking the fish. When a saillfish takes the bait, the angler must do all the right things. Retrieving or feeding line at the right time is crucial. A lightweight, responsive rod and a high speed reel is essential to getting the job done.
When Rosher started out, he remembers using PENN Senators and Squidders. “The reels had a slow retrieve for sailfishing,” he chuckles. Now, he chooses PENN’s Fathom Lever Drag 40 Narrow High Speed model. “It’s light with a fast retrieve” he says. Pulling in 60 inches of line with each turn of the handle, the Fathom 40. can keep up with a charging sailfish. When the fish runs, a Fathom's smooth drag is crucial. “The narrow reel holds more line and provides a much faster retrieve,” he adds. The combination of features makes the reel perfect for trolling live bait or ballyhoo for any billfish.
Rosher remembers early offshore rods built of heavy fiberglass with a parabolic action that would bend all the way to the foregrip. Sailfishing requires a more responsive rod. Rosher matches his PENN Fathom Lever Drag High Speed. to a Carnage II rod. Carbon fiber and fiberglass SLS3 construction is thinner and lighter to move quickly and accurately. Fuji Alconite guides can handle abrasive braided line. An aluminum reel seat and gimble provide a solid base for the reel’s power.
According to Rosher, the most significant advancements are in fishing line. “Braided line has allowed us to pack more line on a smaller, lighter reel,” he says. Rosher fills the reel with 20-pound ProSpec braid. “Braided line is thinner and stronger than monofilament, so it passes through the water easier,” essential when kite fishing for sailfish. Over the braid, he adds a 200-300 foot topshot of 20-pound Berkley ProSpec Chrome monofilament. “Modern monofilament is so tough, we’ve caught and successfully released sailfish that were completely tangled in the line, several were bill wrapped on the straight 20-pound mono,” he says.
Rosher’s years of experience and innovation have one objective: catching sailfish efficiently and easily. As a tournament captain, he looks for every advantage to quickly hook, fight, and release sailfish. On his charter boat Rosher’s tackle makes it easy for inexperienced anglers to catch the fish of a lifetime. “I’ve really enjoyed the improvements that all of the new tackle has brought us.” he reflects, “It has made sailfishing way easier and more possible for anybody to enjoy.”