My experience with this has been pretty similar. I hooked through the nose, not the eyes, and I typically used only two or three sardines, but I think the size of the bait would be the determining factor in both cases. My hook of choice is a Quick Rig Charlie Brown in 7/0, but in this kind of fishing, a ringed hook is not strictly necessary.I have done this a couple of times. I think the tuna were tuned in on puffers so if one of those swam by and could be grabbed and send to the bottom it was almost instant bite. Otherwise 3 to 4 sardines pinned through the eyes, no need to try to keep alive, I was using a Mustad perfect circle in 7/0 or 8/0. Definitely at night and heavier gear. Really funny dropping a leaded bait down to the bottom. I then would crank up slowly to keep the ground fish from picking at my offering and would get bit 15 or more feet from the bottom. This at the hurricane bank.
A couple of observations:
- It may take you a couple of drops to figure out how quickly you need to get off the bottom. The bottom feeders can be very aggressive with this presentation. My experience has been that once you hit the bottom, you need to take three quick turns before slowing your retrieve to a crawl. Get the bait 8-10 feet off the bottom, and you can avoid (most of the time) having a strange creature grab your bait.
- This is one of those techniques that can be a very slow pick, a steady bite, or even really hot. I think most techniques are like that, but the chandelier seems to be even more so, if that makes any sense. You just don't know if they're going to want it. But if they do, sometimes they are nuts for it.
- Fishing this way, you need to pay close attention on the drop! If the bite is even reasonably on, they seem to hit on the way down even more than on the way up. When that happens, it's easy to miss the bite, and by the time your sinker reaches the bottom, you have no bait on your hook. For other folks, this may be a relatively easy part of fishing, but for me it's quite tough. If your sinker stops on the way down, even for the briefest of instants, get in gear and wind! It seems counter intuitive, since you use a big circle hook and the tuna seem to inhale the bait, but if you don't get tight on the fish within about three seconds (often less!), the fish is gone and so is your bait.
Like I said, I really kind of stink at this skill, no matter how closely I watch my rod tip on the drop. Even so, I've caught big tuna this way, and I've seen cows caught on it a lot.