Offshore: Slidebaits For Tuna - The Fisherman

Offshore: Slidebaits For Tuna

The Savage Gear 3D Mack Stick finds its mark on this 150-pound class bluefin caught by the author near the Texas Tower.

The side-to-side slide action often proves irresistible to tuna.

Nothing compares to the rush of getting to the offshore grounds and pulling the throttles back as you come across crashing, thrashing, splashing depth charge explosions of tuna blowing up the ocean’s surface. That’s the kind of action that makes your brain short circuit if you can’t keep your cool.

When firing with aggression, the tuna grounds can be a place of explosive scenes and a great time to toss artificials. Most anglers love to reach for that big-concave lipped topwater popper, or even drop a metal jig down to the school, but there’s another option available – slidebaits.

Tuna busting on the surface are pushing baits from below to pin them to the top for an attack. When tuna break through a school of bait, it sprays in many directions, not just up to the top. Poppers definitely elicit that aggression strike of a fleeing baitfish, but when larger baits like mackerel or herring are spraying out and running away from the mayhem, skittering off to the sides to flee the attack, slidebaits are key to attracting attention. The side-to-side slide of the action proves irresistible to both bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

My go-to slidebait is the Savage Gear 3D Mack Stick in size 130mm to 210 mm. Color pattern favorite is black and silver, blue/silver and green/black. Other lures that will work include the Island X Sidewinder, Yo-Zuri Hydro Monster Shot and Williamson Popper Pro.

If surface feeding tuna just aren’t taking those poppers and jigs, lessen your frustration by offering up a slidebait.

Proper action of the slidebait is key to eliciting a tuna strike. The easiest method is to cast out the slidebait, let it sink for a five count, then reel in to a tight line, sweep it let it sit for a second, sweep it again in a sweep, sit, sweep, sit cadence.  About 85% of the time, tuna tend to hit it when it sits for that split second, though sometimes when there is competition around, the continual sweep-sweep-sweep and not letting the lure stop or sit works better. Adjust to what the tuna are telling you. If you see them following it in but aren’t hitting, try to switch up the cadence to quick paced jerks or long sweeping pulls. The original “walk the dog” style can also be applied to slidebaits.

Slidebaits are generally equipped with treble hooks, but in clear water I think the large trebles may spook the tuna from hitting, One trip I noticed bluefin following the lure right to the boat but refusing to hit until I switched the trebles out to siwash hooks which presented a better attack ratio.

Slidebaits aren’t just for schoolie fish either. One of the largest bluefin I’ve caught off the Jersey Shore came off a Savage Gear Mack Stick. On deck of the Mama Tried at the Texas Tower, my crew and I came upon tuna schools chasing large baits. Two of the guys were up on the bow casting big poppers but I noticed they weren’t getting any attention. I sent the Mack Stick out. Once it hit the water I began to work it with the long sweeping pulls when it got whacked by a 150-pound class bluefin.

If you’re getting frustrated watching tuna on the surface or feeding just below and not hitting poppers or jigs, try tempting them with slidebaits. Always have at least one angler tossing them out to work the upper water column. The side to side flash of the slidebait usually proves irresistible to both bluefin and yellowfin tuna.



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