By George Poveromo, October 6, 2013

Daytime sword fishing has been the rage for several years now off South Florida and the Keys, and is rapidly expanding into the Gulf of Mexico and off the mid-Atlantic – and for very good reason: when your bait is pulled precisely through the right crevice or within 100-feet above prime structure – and the fish are there – you’re virtually guaranteed a bite, followed by a tough, long fight, and – if you opt to boat the fish – incredibly fresh steaks.

Yet, day swording isn’t without criticism; the majority of this fishing is done with electric reels and commercially – the polar opposite of sport fishing. A legitimate excuse for full-blown electric reel outfits is they’re a must for retrieving heavy weights (between ten- and 15-pounds based on current – i.e. Gulf Stream) from great depths (averaging between 1,500 and 1,900 feet). This is a virtual impossibility to do by “hand-cranking”. Yet, there are ways to battle this ultimate top-tier big game fish the good old fashion “hand crank” way, and more recreational anglers are doing just that, along with exercising their option to boat or release their catch.

ENTER THE CALVARY – Electric assists are becoming hot ticket items. They’re being used to retrieve heavy weights, while giving anglers the choice of “hand-cranking” their fish. And the latest entry into this arena by Hooker Electric will surely draw even more recreational anglers into the game.

Just recently, Hooker Electric introduced a detachable drive designed specifically for a Penn International 80 VSW, their first adaptation for a Penn reel. This was spurned by their success with a similar detachable drive for the Shimano Tiagra 80 reel, and demand from Penn customers. These detachable drives are also pulling double duty, when anglers opt to deep-drop for bottom fish, with the full electric option. A bit more on this later.

THE MACHINE – Wired for 12 volts (with the option for 24 volts) the Hooker Electric Detachable Drive features a brushless motor – which generates less heat, and weighs 2-1/2-pounds (total of 11-pounds when on the Penn International 80). Its ten-foot long electrical cord simply plugs into the boat’s power outlet, while its business end affixes securely to a custom reel side plate via two “quick release” pins; the actual reel side plate is replaced by a special adapter plate by Hooker Electric, which accepts these pins and drive gear.

When it’s time to retrieve a weight/rig, just turn the unit’s Variable Speed Control Knob; the retrieval speed can be governed from a slow and steady rate on up to an impressive 500 feet per minute! What’s more, the retrieve also can be controlled from up to 100 feet away with its two-speed wireless remote (1/2 and full speed). Weight limitations? The unit has passed factory testing by “dead lifting” 50 and 60-pound blocks.

When in the “sporting mode”, and a fish is hooked up, simply push the two Quick Release Pins, remove the assist, and get to “hand cranking” on the fish. Once you believe the fish is solidly hooked, transfer the fishing outfit to a fighting chair or into a stand-up harness. It should be noted that the reel can’t be manually retrieved unless the drive is removed. Yet, the drive can be affixed to and removed from the reel in less time than it takes a well-honed Indy 500 pit crew to change a tire.

THE CHIEFTESS SPEAKSHooker Electric’s Trista Evans claims the new detachable drive is the fastest unit on the market, at a max speed of 500 feet per minute. “It’s a sleek design incorporating the latest technology,” says Trista. “It’s a beautiful , lightweight, ultra strong unit made from 6061 Aluminum, and it retains the use of all the reel’s original components, such as drag system, anti-reverse, bearings, and fully functional handle. Options will include a line counter and also a level wind”.

“We have a full line of permanent Hooker Electrics for Shimano reels, such as the 20A and 30A/WLRSA, 50A/WA/WLRSA, 80WA and 130A, plus the detachable drives for the Shimano Tiagra 80, and now the Penn International 80. We’re looking at expanding our Penn line to possibly include a detachable drive for their 130, or perhaps even their 50 or 70 International.”

GIVING IT A WHIRL – Just prior to this writing, I had the drive installed on one of my Penn 80 Internationals designated for day time swording. Though we made several drops off Islamorada one day, without so much as a strike, the unit was as smooth as could be, and retrieved the 11-pound weight up from 1,800 feet in about 5 minutes. The drive did everything as promised, and putting it on the reel and removing it took seconds; You can bet I will get a lot of future use out of it.

In addition, anglers who sport drop for day swords, but also partake in the ever-growing popularity of deep dropping for bottom fish (depths approaching 2,000 feet, multiple hooks, and full electric mode), can use one detachable drive to power two reels. That is, the drive can be used on a reel set up for day swords, and also on a totally second reel rigged exclusively for deep dropping for bottom fish. This saves the expense of having two individual electric rigs, or rigging time.

A tip of the white visor goes to Hooker Electric, not just for the overall quality and strength of this product, but for delivering detachable drive units that will help encourage a lot of people to put the sport back into day time sword fishing. A great animal like that deserves nothing less.