Bluefin Tuna Tackle and Techniques

bluefin tuna season gearWith a huge spread of bluefin tuna south of the border and the wind that’s been clobbering the offshore scene over the last few weeks finally backing off, conditions look like they are improving and so is the bluefin tuna bite.

The biggest concentration of fish is still below the range of the day-and-a-half trips, but with scattered fish caught well up into one-day range, I expect these fish will continue to move up the line. If the weather holds, we may be seeing the beginning of the 2012 California tuna season.

Boats fishing 150-plus miles south have been encountering a mixed grade of tuna and while most of the fish are in the 18 to 25-pound range, others are 30 to 40 pounds and a few of them are straight 70 to 100-pound fish.

This variety of sizes can make for some exciting fishing, but it can also make for some tough choices when deciding what tackle to bring on a trip. Choosing the right setup for your trip, however, is not as overwhelming as it may seem.

Whether you’re on a school of 10-pound yellowtail or 100-pound bluefin tuna, three rod-and-reel combos along with a range of leaders and a handful of terminal tackle will cover all of your needs.

Everyone has their own favorite brands, so use whichever one you prefer. Just make sure the reel is in good working order and you’ve spooled up with new high quality, line.

I like to bring three setups — a light, medium and heavy combo.

Light Combo

Calstar Grafighter 800M (8-foot rod rated for 20 to 40-pound line) with a Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrow filled with 50-pound Spectra.

Medium Combo

Calstar Grafighter 700H (7-foot rod rated for 30 to 80-pound line) with a Shimano Trinidad 20 filled with 80-pound Spectra.

Heavy Combo

Graphite USA Predator (7-foot rod rated for 50 to 80-pound line) with a Shimano Trinidad 40 filled with 100-pound Spectra.


Owner Ringed Flyliner Hook in 1/0, 3/0 and 4/0

Owner Ringed Offshore Hook in 4/0 and 6/0


Tady 9 Heavy in Mint and White / Blue and Chrome

Tady 4/0 Heavy in Mint and White / Blue and Chrome

bluefin tuna season gearIf you’ve been following my column, you already know that I fish inshore species with straight Spectra to a 3- to 4-foot fluorocarbon leader. I fish most offshore species the same way. I connect the leader to the Spectra using the Tony Peña knot, a strong knot that’s quick to tie.

I rig my light combo with 40-pound fluorocarbon and tie on whichever Owner Ringed Flyliner hook is best suited for the size of the bait. This combo is well suited for any fish up to 40 pounds, but if there are bigger fish around the boat, I’ll leave it in the rack.

My medium combo is my workhorse on most trips. I’ll rig it with 60-pound fluorocarbon, but will drop down to 40 if I’m having trouble getting bit. You’re probably asking yourself, why retie when I already have 40-pound on my lighter combo? Well, I’d rather fight a big fish on a 7-foot rod than an 8-footer and the Trinidad 20 has a lot more line capacity than the 16 Narrow.

bluefin tuna season gearI keep leader weight the same, so I can’t put any more pressure on the fish, but this combo makes it a lot easier to put that pressure on the fish. I’ll fish either a Ringed Flyliner Hook or a Ringed Offshore Hook on this rig.

The heavy combo probably gets the least use out of the three, but I’ll grab it anytime the fish look like they’ll be willing to eat a bait fished on heavy line. Rigged with either 60 or 80-pound fluorocarbon and a 4/0 or 6/0 Owner Ringed Offshore Hook, this combo gives me the confidence to pull hard and will absolutely destroy a 100 plus-pound bluefin. I also use this combo when fishing jigs for bluefin.

You really don’t need a lot of gear but having the right tackle is only the first step to success, so join me again next week when I’ll break down the four specific presentations that will help you get bit even during the scratchiest of bites.

Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal...