When the tuna are on small bait . . .

surfgoose

active geezer
  • Jul 29, 2010
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    Long Beach, CA, USA
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    Gary
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    whichever has the longest bunk
    I'm getting prepped for a 2.5-day trip in late July, an offshore look for tuna and other targets of opportunity. In talking with a friend who I helped do well last fall, he said, "You should write a brief post on Bloody Decks and help others like you helped me last fall."

    OK. If the fish are readily eating the chummed baitfish, if they are slashing the bait as soon as it hits the water, then of course no tricks are needed. But for too much of the time, the schools seem to be spooky about coming near to the boat, and they are locked into smaller bait than the boat has, or even if the boat has smaller bait, it seems impossible to cast it out to where it will interest the fish.

    So what has worked for me and others in that situation is to apply three rules:
    (1) Use the smallest hook that you can land the fish with.
    (2) Use the lightest test fluorocarbon line that you can land the fish with.
    (3) Use a device that will aid your cast in going much further, out to the outside edge and a bit beyond where the chum is landing, but not hamper the baitfish.

    (1) So there are several very small, very strong hooks. I have had the best overall success for the past half-dozen years with the Owner Mutu circle hooks in size 4. I also add a #4 size Owner split ring to the hook, making it a ringed circle. But the important thing is the strength of that tiny hook. I've caught Bluefin to forty pounds on it. Obviously if I see that the tuna are over thirty pounds I move up to a bigger size Mutu, but if a fatty comes out of nowhere and catches you by surprise then you have a fighting chance.

    These hooks are relatively expensive. Just remember how much the trip is costing you, and step up. And don't re-use them after a fish hits the deck. Once and done.

    (2) Use a quality fluorocarbon, at least an arm-length but I personally tie on at least 25 yards. The fish doesn't see it as much as mono, it tends to sink and that is a good thing, and it stretches a bit but not nearly as much as mono. There are several excellent knots to join the fluoro to your braided main line, pick one and learn to tie it well so that you have confidence in it.

    (3) If the bait is small and light and you need to cast it to the outside of the chum zone, the best and simplest method is to slide a 2" clear casting bubble, the kind that has a post through the middle that the line runs through, up your fluoro before you tie on your hook. Then also slide up your fluoro a clear Carolina Keeper several feet up your fluoro, to keep the casting bubble up away from your bait a couple of feet as you cast out. Then tie on your hook and fill up the casting bubble with water, and you are ready to add your baitfish.

    The several additional ounces of water-weight will make it pretty easy to cast, and the moment that the bubble hits the water the weight goes away and you can feed line to your baitfish. This also prevents the baitfish from running back under the boat, you can easily detect that. If you make a gentle cast, not try for forty yards and smack the bait down and stun it, you will find that your pick-up percentage will go way up.

    There are other tactics that you can use, of course. But if you try those three suggestions you will quite likely put a few more fish than usual onto your line.
     
    Carl
    Carl
    Interesting thought on the bubble.
    I thought you were gonna recommend a spinner there.
    I'm surprised the bait still swims after that launching and violent splashdown
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    palella09

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    Jul 2, 2015
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    Tony
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    12' Scrambler XT
    Thanks for the Intel... I use the clear bubble rig when I'm fly fishing the Sierras with an open face reel.

    I was recently thinking of this and how it would transition to salt water. I might have to give it a shot and try to ignore the weird looks I'll be getting on a sport boat.
     
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    bdubs73

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    Feb 7, 2008
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    In regards to number three: That is quite an interesting idea. On the one hand I have always thought of finicky BFT as being somewhat like finicky trout, and you are suggesting a classic trout set up here. Do you have a track record of this working on different trips over time?
    I am with you all the way on the other tips. Learning to get comfortable with the smallest hook, line, and reel possible has made a big difference in success for me personally..
    Thanks for sharing your thoghts!
     
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    ripped

    I Should Upgrade My Account
  • Dec 5, 2007
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    Gary
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    Vagabond
    Since we're going old school don't forget the cannonball split shot with an aspirin sandwiched against the line. When the aspirin dissolves the split shot releases and you're fly lining again. Or rubber band a life saver candy to your main line and rubber band a small torpedo sinker to the candy for the same effect.
     
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    surfgoose

    active geezer
  • Jul 29, 2010
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    Gary
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    whichever has the longest bunk
    onehottip -- Yep, I didn't invent it. On most trips I'm the only one using a bubble, on some trips there are several others too. I've read W.O.N. for over fifty years, and a succession of fine Salt Water Editors have given me a host of great suggestions. I make clip files, and during the half-year that I don't go fishing I review them, as well as going back into my own notes on past trips.

    It is really easy to learn and then forget, especially as I get older. I have to keep relearning and trying different tactics. In the past decade I've developed carpal tunnel and arthritis in my left hand, so I was forced to learn about and buy some effective spinning gear so I can switch-off my pulling hand. And have been pleasantly surprised at how deadly the modern spin tackle can be.
     
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    makairaa

    I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
    May 1, 2005
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    Philip Hunkins
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    In regards to number three: That is quite an interesting idea. On the one hand I have always thought of finicky BFT as being somewhat like finicky trout, and you are suggesting a classic trout set up here. Do you have a track record of this working on different trips over time?
    I am with you all the way on the other tips. Learning to get comfortable with the smallest hook, line, and reel possible has made a big difference in success for me personally..
    Thanks for sharing your thoghts!
    Thats how the guys used to fish for them in the 70's and 80's when you had to fish 8 to 12 lb test and anchovies for schoolie sized fish at the various islands. It works. Just be prepared for a little grief from the other passengers.
     
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    May 20, 2017
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    Huntington Beach
    Name
    Fish Monger
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    WFO
    For years now I've wanting to try a splasher and feather rig for the bigger bluefin tuna. Especially when they are on the smaller bait. Pretty much the same concept as the bonita rig but beefed up. Take a 3/0 - 8/0 heavy J hook and wrap the appropriate sized feathers on it then finish like another assist hook. Use a dense wood dowel as your spasher. My thought is it would trigger either a reaction bite with all the commotion and noise or instinctual bite mainly out of competition and survival. I'd like to hear anybody else's take on it and if you think it would work and any suggestions you might have. Thanks and keep it on the lowdown
     

    onehottip

    I Should Upgrade My Account
    May 8, 2006
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    Guerms
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    18.5 Wahoo cc , Evinrude Etec V6 135 HO
    There’s no reason why it wouldn’t work. The dowel needs to be drilled thru and then fixed. Maybe beads and swivels. Good luck and don’t get discouraged.
     
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    surfgoose

    active geezer
  • Jul 29, 2010
    3,061
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    Long Beach, CA, USA
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    Gary
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    whichever has the longest bunk
    In line with SouthBayKiller's thought, I prepared several "bait ball" jigs to give the appearance of a small ball of anchovies. A 60 gm metal jig (I have both Sniper and Megabait) with the treble replaced with a good single, and several similar-shaped soft plastic minnow bodies connected to the top ring so that they move easily alongside the body of the lure. Looks wicked in my pool, but I haven't had a chance to use them for real. I will try them out on the Navigante trip that is jigs-only each month starting June 18th, and see what happens.
     
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    makairaa

    I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
    May 1, 2005
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    Tustin CA
    Name
    Philip Hunkins
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    17 starcraft
    For years now I've wanting to try a splasher and feather rig for the bigger bluefin tuna. Especially when they are on the smaller bait. Pretty much the same concept as the bonita rig but beefed up. Take a 3/0 - 8/0 heavy J hook and wrap the appropriate sized feathers on it then finish like another assist hook. Use a dense wood dowel as your spasher. My thought is it would trigger either a reaction bite with all the commotion and noise or instinctual bite mainly out of competition and survival. I'd like to hear anybody else's take on it and if you think it would work and any suggestions you might have. Thanks and keep it on the lowdown
    My only concern would be the tuna eating the splasher instead.
     
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