The past few years have seen some of the best big bluefin tuna fishing Southern California has ever experienced. While SoCal often sees “schoolie” sized, 15-60-pound bluefin, the last time these bigger, 150-250+-pound models visited SoCal in such numbers was around 100 years ago, when early sportfishing pioneers like Charles Holder, Zane Gray, and other founding members of the Tuna Club of Avalon honed specialized techniques like dangling baits underneath a kite to hook these line-shy beasts. Although fishing technology has evolved leaps and bounds in the years since, bluefin are still as line- and hook-shy as ever, and fishing for them has been a hard lesson in frustration for many local anglers.
With that in mind, here are 5 of the best big bluefin tuna lures and techniques for Southern California.
Kite Fishing with a Yummy Flyer
Trolling a yummy flyer under a kite has been a proven method for hooking the bluefin tuna in the 150+-pound range over the past couple years. It takes some heavy gear, practice, and a lot of patience to drag the kite around all day, but the big “blow up” bite when a tuna explodes on the bait makes all the effort worth it. Ali Hussainy of Local Knowledge fishing show covers “how to” rigging tips for getting the Yummy Flyer rigged up and ready for kite fishing.
Poppers were all the rage a few seasons ago, when big bluefin regularly corralled big anchovy bait balls at the surface in a sea of white water and foam. Last year and early this year didn’t see quite as many surface displays, but this summer has seen some better “foamers” of big bluefin. As a result, the popper bite has improved again to where we regularly carry one rigged up just in case we find a good spot of surface activity. Our favorite popper has been the Yo-Zuri Bull Pop [F] 5oz or heavier. Foaming bluefin can’t seem to resist these lures.
Foaming bluefin can’t seem to resist these lures.
Flat Fall Jigs
Although old-school party-boat regulars will remember hooking plenty of bluefin on chrome yo-yo jigs, Shimano’s Flat Falls have taken the market by storm and proven themselves as true bluefin killers. These jigs flutter down slowly to imitate a wounded baitfish or squid that bluefin just can’t resist. The heavier 200- to 250-gram glow-in-the-dark versions work especially well at night and around dawn and dusk. Since the fish can’t see your line as well in these low-light conditions, you can get away with using the heavier 100# or 130# test leaders needed to land these big, strong tuna. These jigs have rapidly solidified their place among the best big bluefin tuna lures.
Balloon Fishing with Bait
What do you do when there isn’t enough wind to fly a kite? Dangle a real flying fish under a helium balloon. Like with the yummy flyer rig under a kite, the balloon keeps your heavy leader up out of the water where the bluefin can’t see it. Big bluefin can’t resist a helpless flying fish flopping around at the surface, and this is the best way to keep your presentation stealthy.
Surface Iron and Stick Baits
Those who are brave enough to pull on a large bluefin tuna with the “long rod” can sometimes fool big breezing or foaming bluefin into eating a well-cast surface iron. Or, for the especially bold with a death wish to hook a cow on essentially a glorified bass rod, stick baits are quickly working their way into the SoCal market and work just as well as iron. Our two favorites are the Nomad Madscad and Riptide. These are good to for not only some tuna action, but they do very well on the occasional kelp paddy you come across offshore.