Trolling tuna with sidetracker bars on mid-sized boats
There is no question, none, that sidetracker spreader bars are the hot new tuna treat in the waters of New Jersey and New York and they are gaining popularity up north as well. Gone are the days when you need a 70-foot sportfishing battle wagon to set out an effective tuna trolling spread. The advent of the sidetracker spreader bars allow for deploying a wide trolling spread on a mid-sized boat such as a center console in the 24- to 36-foot class without the use of outriggers.
The ease of setting the spread is what makes the sidetrackers so appealing. A multi-directional rudder on the bottom of the bar can be switched and locked in place at a 45-degree angle either way you want it to run, right or left, so every bar can be used on either side of the boat. The 45- degree angle rudder pushes the bar outward, in essence creating a wider spread and appearance of a large bait school. You simply set the rods at different positions on the boat from bow to stern to achieve a wide spread.
Sidetrackers allow anglers to widen the area out so the spread is not so compact, in essence, creating a mini school on the offshoot outside of the main school; a small compact breakout school with its own bubble trail. Additionally, trollers can now make quicker turns, as bars don’t slide into each other due to the resistance of the rudders which keep them grounded. As well, anglers starting out with a sidetracker need to just remember one simple notion – the long end of the rudder is always pointing forward toward the boat in the direction you want the tracker to go in.
Justin Braun, owner of Chatter Lures, runs a 6 rod spread and sets out two of his trademarked Chatter Lure sidetracker 36-inch bars from the bow, two 19-inch bars mid-ship and two 36-inch bars out the back stern. “If you do have outriggers, don’t be afraid to link two more 19-inch bars on each outrigger to blow the lines far out and away from the boat,” says Braun. The cool thing about the sidetrackers is that the further you put them in the rod holders up toward the bow, the wider they will spread out, so in in practicality, you can have your entire spread set out from bow to stern. Most anglers in center consoles will run three rods on each side – bow, mid-ship and stern – then two more off the back rocket launchers to troll 8 sidetrackers effectively. And its not like you can’t use outriggers if you are equipped. In essence, you can put two more sidetrackers on each outrigger to troll 12 lines, just be sure your crew is competent enough to handle all the lines in the water. Generally accepted hot colors that have been lights out on bluefin and yellowfin on sidetrackers are the Black/Purple, Rainbow, Zucchini and Blue/White squid bars.
Troll your bars at a 4- to 6-knot pace for tuna, sometimes moving in S-patterns to sink the bars and change up the monotone direction. Obviously, you don’t have to troll with 10 or 12 rods, as 4 to 6 rods is mostly manageable on smaller vessels. To easily add to your spread, put out the 4 to 6 sidetrackers, then drop a few cedar plugs in the wash off the flatlines too for more hooks in the water. Sidetracker bars have most certainly elevated the game for small and mid-sized boat anglers looking to get into the tuna game more effectively.