Fishing Bait & The Tuna Bite

I always cringe a little when someone asks me, “What is the best way to catch (insert name of species here)?”  It’s not that I’m being difficult, but my answer will always be the same…

Tuna BiteIt depends

There are certain conventions to catching certain species.  These conventions offer a great starting point, but at the end of the day, getting bit can and will change day-to-day, even hour-to-hour.

Monday I went fishing with Pacific Queen Sportfishing for a day and half trip.  Everyone is excited about the tuna bite.  I’ve been writing a lot lately about what to bring out there and the potential scenarios you may encounter to deploy the various setups.  When it came right down to it on the water (at least on my trip), it was all about fishing bait.  That said, there were some small nuances that I noticed that I felt made a big difference and wanted to share here with you.

PacQueen Captain Gavin Harbour
Capt. Gavin Harbour

When he gave his trip briefing at the beginning of the trip, Captain Gavin Harbour said there is a lot of fish around.  He feels like they aren’t going anywhere soon.  That said, these fish are pretty particular and you really had to work to get a bite.  The payoff though is that these are a great grade of fish.  I’d say the “average” fish I saw on Monday was a solid 50-60-pounds, with the bigs on our trip ending up just shy of the century mark.

Here are my thoughts on how to capitalize on this opportunity…

40# Bait Rig

This is the bread and butter rig right now.  It’s that balance point of getting bit, and having a good opportunity to land these fish.

Here is a very important fact though…DO NOT go straight braid to fluoro.  I used an Avet MXL 2 speed on an 8-foot/30-50 rod.  The reel is spooled about half full with 65# braid, and I top shotted it just before the trip with fresh 40#. mono.  I terminated it with about a 5-foot length of 40# fluoro and eventually got my bites using a 2/0 J-style bait hook.  I saw a lot of guys drop to 30# and/or use much smaller hooks (Size 4 smallest I saw) looking for a bite, only to get broken off or pull the hook.  I wanted to maintain my hook size, but improve my bite and eventually found success collar hooking the bait.  Collar hooking had the side benefit also of keeping the bait down more and avoiding getting picked up by the abundant birds.  I got 2 bites and converted both opportunities on this setup.  Make sure all your connections are right and set your drag properly.  One odd thing was they didn’t want the mackerel for whatever reason.

They were really keyed in on the sardine.

60# Bait Rig

I used this setup for my rubber band sinker presentation.  The rubber band worked better in the pre-dawn morning, but was still viable throughout the day.  I got a hit right after lunch fishing this rig, but the fish missed the hook.  Would’ve been nice to get bit on the bigger string, but it is what it is.  There seems to be the “catchable” 40-80-pound fish in the shallows, and bigger fish outside.  You definitely want the big rig around in case you end up amongst the giants.

PacQueen igfishAs far as any other setups, I’d definitely have something to throw a heavier jig.  I gave my Jimyjigs flat fall rig a good amount of time, but didn’t have any success.  I was up on the bow fishing it for awhile with another guy who was fishing a flatfall also.  He got 2 bites (left, middle) and was able to convert one.  It was the only jig fish on the boat for the day.

I brought popper and surface iron setups.  I’d call them optional at this point.  I had my 20# reel in reserve just in case we got into that scratchy yellowfin bite, but the water temp dropped a couple of degrees from the previous day and we saw no yellowfin.

Make sure you practice the basics of bait fishing…picking a good bait, limiting your handling of it, changing baits often.  If you stay at the rail and fish hard, you should get your opportunity.  Good luck if you get out there.

Joe Sarmiento
Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing b...