When small to medium bluefins are on the menu, downsize your gear for drag-melting fun!
First things first. Tuna training starts in the gym, no, for real. Though I like to try and keep in shape as much as possible, when tuna season comes around, I make extra time to work the weights and cardio to be prepared to battle tuna. It’s not like fishing for tommycod, and you really need to be in physical shape to perform effectively.
So far, it looks like another year of insane bluefin action is upon us. While it’s a blast landing those true ‘horse mackerel’ in the 100- to 250-pound bracket, there’s also plenty of fun to be had on the lighter side of things with small to low medium class bluefin ranging from “football” size of 15 to 20 pounds and some small class BFT up to 50 pounds. Smaller tuna are a blast on lighter tackle and generally, if that’s a major class size of fish around, you can get away with using lighter setups that can also handle 50-pound class tuna if you happen to get into them.
Those smaller bluefin are more apt to stage inshore as well, along the 15- to 20-fathom line and within even 15 miles from shore. You can leave the 80 and 130 wides at home and scale down for some fun. For trolling, 30- to 50-pound rated stand up rods matched with Shimano Talica 20 class or Penn 30 Internationals running 40- to 60-pound monofilament line to an Aftco 300-pound snap swivel to interchange various lures. Top trolling offerings in my arsenal include 19-inch Chatter Lures Bulb Squid spreader bars and Bullet Head Daisy Chains, Gotcha Cedar Plugs, and 3- to 4-inch Williamson Feathers. Troll at a 5.5- to 8- knot pace, dialing in the right speed and direction they seem to be responding to. You don’t need a full clip on harness, but simple standup gear like Aftco gimbal belts can make playing out the smaller tuna much easier.
Another fun way to tug on football bluefins is by setting up on a chum slick and chunking for them like you would on an overnighter, except everything is once again scaled down. Start off by loading a small cooler full of fresh spearing which you can seine net or buy from a tackle shop if they have it in stock. The method is the same as you would use chunking yellowfin in the canyons, but scaled down. Using a size Penn 975 International or Shimano Torium 30 reel matched on a 20- to 40-pound rated 7-foot conventional rod spooled with 25-pound monofilament, Albright knot a 10 foot section of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader to a size 3/0 live bait hook. Thread a spearing on through the mouth and out then piercing the hook into the side of the bait to hide the shank, kind of like you would with a butterfish chunk. Dish out a couple handfuls of the fresh spearing to start the slick up. As the baits flutter down in the current, deploy your bait into the slick, sometimes pinching on a split shot or two 4 feet above the hook so that the bait floats down the same pace as the other spearing. Football bluefin will come into the slick like pack of wild dogs, gobbling up fresh spearing, sometimes so much that you can literally pitch baits back to them in the slick and nearly hand feed them. The light tackle drag ripping runs are more than enough to get you juiced up.
Football season is here, not for the NFL but for the BFT. Get out and enjoy the light tackle fun!