We’re not sure if Tuna are getting smarter, but it seems that any time we can get an edge on fooling these amazing creatures is an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. I can help to cringe at the scenario of encountering a trophy fish and not having used every trick and tip at my disposal.

In the Northeast and most of the locations where Yellowfin Tuna are targeted the ocean is blue/ purple and this translate to water clarity in addition if you look at the anatomy of Yellowfin Tunas they are equipped with a very large eye in ratio to their body size meaning unparalleled vision, hence comes in the inclusion of fluorocarbon.

One of our key approaches in the Northeast is to rig ballyhoo on a skirt for trolling, you simply cannot beat a skirted ballyhoo. The skirted ballyhoo rig can be set up in a few different ways. It is important to note that none are wrong as long as the bait swims upright and paddles. Most experienced Captains can take one look at rigged ballyhoo and tell you if it’s going to swim or spin like a helicopter. Attention to detail and lots of practice make for a great swimming bait.

Ballyhoo skirt one of the deadliest rigs for targeting offshore species.

Looking to improve our trolling techniques we’ve adopted rigging our ballyhoo with Seaguar Fluorocarbon, specifically BLUE LABEL for three reasons:

  1. Visibility: while having the line be less visible is not as big of a concern during trolling I do believe having fluorocarbon as the leader helps especially when targeting finicky game fish with great vision like Yellowfin and Big Eye Tuna.
  2. Abrasion resistance: Although tunas and Mahi Mahi both have small sharp teeth they can cut through mono. The fact that fluorocarbon is a harder than mono adds a little more probability to landing these toothy critters.
  3. Stretch: Fluorocarbon has less stretch than mono and in trolling for me that provides a more secure and immediate hook set from the fish.

This season we caught our personal best Yellowfin at 118lbs on a party hat style ¼ oz sea witch with large ballyhoo. This fish was caught on 130lb Seaguar fluorocarbon and fought on 30lbs of drag. It only took 25 minutes for the first time tuna anglers to subdue the fish.

The gear:

  • Seaguar 100% Fluorocarbon- This product is the highest quality, most dependable fluorocarbon on the market. We use about a 20′ leader. For us trolling we use BLUE LABEL specifically.
  • 130-250lb Barrel Swivel, I can’t express how important it is to get a high quality barrel swivel to prevent line twisting as well a the weight of fighting a large fish.
  • Crimps to match your Fluorocarbon, again another important piece to be aware of is using high-quality crimps specifically matched to the line. If the sizing is off you open yourself to failure.
  • 8/0-10/0 Southern tuna bend style hook – Sized to bait, I prefer a southern tuna bend style hook, these are made by a few manufactures. Be sure it is very sharp! Never trust a hook is sharp out of the box
  • Egg sinker ¼-3/4 oz – sized to the bait.
  • Chafe gear for swivel end if you choose.
  • Skirt: Sea Witch is my go-to in 1/2 oz. I am not particular on color.
  • Wire to secure the bait to hook. At the top of the rig mainline is crimped to the wind on a swivel.

This is a very basic rigging set up and there are a ton of rigging tutorials on ballyhoo rigging. For the sake of this article, I stress you try fluorocarbon for your leader especially on those finicky days.

One of the most important pieces of this whole process is to test your rigging, don’t just drop it in and hope for the best. Place it in clean water outside the prop wash, watch for the ballyhoo to swim chin down as well as paddle. The skirted ballyhoo has caught many species on my boat including Blue Marlins, White Marlins, Sailfish, Big Eye, Bluefin, and yellowfin tunas, wahoo, Mahi, mako sharks, and even a Swordfish! Everything will eat this bait!

Get out there and try it.

Seaguar leader

Check out the Seaguar website to check it out.



Austin grew up as an outdoorsman in Maryland where fishing and hunting captivated his passion.  As he became versed in the outdoors, he focused on the Chesapeake Bay area, truly an outdoorsmen’s paradise.  He got his first job on a charter boat out of Deale, MD at the age of 13 years old, his mom would drop him off at 4 am and pick him up at 7 pm every weekend. This experience fueled his passion to continue to work in the realm of targeting big-game. As he grew older, he became focused on trophy quarry like Tuna and it soon became an addiction, at age 15 he went on his first tuna charter, and as the saying goes “the rest was history”.  His expertise and tenacity to hunt out tuna in his backyard became an art.  He spent every free moment sharpening his sword as an angler.  Austin has been mentored and worked alongside some great Captains. He took his learnings and passion and has applied them to his charter business, Primary Search Sportfishing In Ocean City, MD. His vessel is a 54ft Blackwell custom sportfish. Like many of his peers as a Pro Contributor of BD Outdoors, he spends an unfathomable amount of time on the water.  The few times we are able to get him to write or develop content for us we hang on to every word as we are aware of his prowess and knowledge in this field.

To learn more or book a trip with Captain Austin Ensor check out: