Despite the variety of offshore fishing scenarios you might encounter on any given day on the water, all of the techniques you’ll employ will fall into one of three categories. The categories include trolling, live bait fishing and cast and retrieve lure fishing. I covered the rods and reels you’ll need for each of these in a previous article. Now let’s take a look at the tackle that you’ll want to bring along to use with those combos
While there are countless trolling lures on the market, there are only four basic styles you’ll need for offshore fishing in Southern California. The top lure in this photo is a Daisy Chain, which is made up of several small lures inline and a hook on the last lure only. These rigs are effective when the tuna are keyed in on smaller bait (like they’ve been this year). I like to troll this lure a little further out than I would the others so that it is running at the back end of my prop wash.
On the bottom left is a cedar plug, which is a proven yellowfin tuna killer.
These plugs come in a variety of colors but the plain cedar color is my favorite. When run at a proper speed and distance from the boat, the plug should swim side to side without popping out of the water. On my boat I’ve found it swims best towards the back of my wake at a speed of around 7 MPH.
The middle lure is a deep diving plug. There are a bunch of different ones on the market, but the 5 and 6-inch lures like the X-Rap are the most effective. You’re going to need to slow down a bit to troll these right; I like 5-6 MPH. If you’re trying to cover water you’d be better off trolling a cedar plug or feather, but if you’re in an area with fish showing, these are a great way to get a bite.
Bottom right is a jet head feather. I like the jet heads over the normal heads, as they tend to make more of a commotion when trolling. There are a bunch of different colors available, so pick your favorite, just remember to get some dark colors for overcast days and bright colors for when the sun is shining. These lures should be rigged with a double trolling hook on the back and a swivel on the front of the leader. If you’re unsure of how to rig them, ask for help at your local tackle shop.
An easy way to cut down on the guess work when letting your lures back is to wrap a rubber band around your line at the right distance and then attach that rubber band to a cleat to keep your line low. This low angle will also keep your lures from popping out of the water if you run them closer or need to speed up the boat to get bit. When retrieving my trolling rigs, I just wind the rubber band right onto the spool.
Live bait fishing tackle comes down to just having some hooks and a few sinkers. I’ll always bring some Owner Flyliner hooks in sizes 1 to 3/0 and some Owner ringed Mutu circle hooks from 3/0 to 5/0. A lot of guys like the smaller, light wire, circle hooks for small bait but if I’m fishing anything less than a 3/0 hook I prefer a J-hook. As far as sinkers go, I try to avoid anything that has to be tied to my line to prevent a potential knot failure. For weights an ounce or under I’ll use a rubber core sinker and if I’m dropping my bait down deep, I’ll use a rubber band to attach a 3 to 6-ounce torpedo sinker.
Cast and Retrieve Lures
There are a ton of lures on the market, but I’ve found that it’s best to keep only a basic selection. Any more than that and I’ll spend more time tying on different jigs than I will actually fishing. If the fish are up splashing around, I’ll normally throw a chrome surface iron, like a Tady C or 45. If those fish are keyed in on smaller bait, I’ll downsize to an 80-gram Shimano Colt Sniper. If I’m marking fish deep I can let that Colt Sniper sink down a bit before retrieving it. Finally, if the fish are deep but not biting the Colt Sniper I’ll switch to a 100 or 130-gram Shimano Flat Fall jig. Both of these jigs come in a variety of colors, but I’ve found the chrome and blue or chrome and black variations to be the most effective.