It’s wise to be ready for the albies before they come racing in.
It pays to be prepared. No doubt, most of us have heard this phrase before. But, when it comes to albie fishing, it holds especially true.
The season begins, and soon we’re preoccupied with bass and bluefish. Days turn to weeks, then to months, and before you know it, the leaves show a tinge of red. But with these changes, something electric is lurking on the horizon. A false albacore angler’s obsession is there, sometimes buried in the winding down of summer, but it’s there. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, albie fever is real, and when it strikes, you’ll want to be ready.
The unofficial start of my little tunny season typically begins around September 1. By this time, there will usually be reports of offshore action, and for those plying beaches if you want to be in the game, your albie outfitting should be well set. That first morning, when daybreak greets you, and the water explodes right in front of you, the last thing you want is to be unprepared. Successful albie fishing, especially for those casting from shore, requires you always be ready! This is not the time to question the age of your leader material, or to realize your forgot to change that rusty treble hook.
We all have our opinions on fishing rods, and there are plenty of fishermen out there who prefer the “one-size-fits-all” approach. Obviously, the rod you are using to toss big surf plugs, is not ideal. Length is a matter of preference and location, such as beach or jetty, but a good range is 7 to 9 feet, rated medium to light, with fast action. You want something that can toss epoxy and tin jigs from 3/8 to 1-1/4 ounces, or even slightly heavier; but you also want that soft-tip action for tossing plastics, both weighted and unweighted. Some stock brands are Tsunami Airwave Elite LT and Blackhole Suzuki Special LT rods. For a rod that may satisfy those hoping for the “one-size-fits” option, something along the lines of a 9-foot medium action rod like the St Croix Seage surf rods should cover bass off the sand beach and albies.
For reels, you’ll be best served by selecting a quality spinning reel in the 4000 to 5000 size range, which includes a smooth drag, with spool capacity up to 200 yards of braided line. The Shimano Stradic is a favorite among albie hunters, as is the Penn Battle III. For braided line options, offerings from Sufix, PowerPro, and other trusted brands, will put you in the zone. Regarding line color, I think that is less a concern than breaking strength: I recommend you use 20-pound braid. Ultra-thin with extreme castability, is what you want to reach those charging schools. The number of strands is also something to consider, eight-strand braids cast further but four-strand braids are tougher, tailor your choice to where you fish.
For leaders I mainly use 15-pound fluorocarbon. This handles almost all situations; however if I’m fishing an area with rocks, docks or other obstacles, I’ll increase to 20. You have a couple of options joining your mainline and leader; a tiny Spro Power Swivel works well and, I’ve found that they don’t put the fish off at all. However, in close quarters, I recommend tying the leader direct to your braid, allowing the angler to reel leader through the guides.
The following lures have all proven worthy of a place in my albie surf bag. Jigs are the go-to lures for many an albie fanatic. These include epoxy style jigs modeled after the now defunct Maria Jigs, such as those from Hogy and Game On. Imitating a variety of small gamefish from silversides, bay anchovies, to peanut bunker, jigs ranging from 3/4 to 1-1/4 ounces will get it done. Metal imitations in the same style include old standbys like Deadly Dicks and Kastmasters, have also earned their place. And we would be remiss if we overlooked soft plastics, including Albie Snax and Zoom Flukes. These slender baits can be fished on a jighead, or weightless on a 4/0 swimbait hook. Lastly, for those days when the fish are keyed in on micro-bait, a wooden casting egg trailing a small fly can be just the thing to crack the lockjaw.
Finally, one last important note I’ll add: footwear. Some of the locations our expeditions will take us will be slick with seaweed, and marine growth. Always keep safety in the forefront of your priorities and incorporate relevant footwear options, from studded boots to stretch cleats so you can enjoy the thrill of albie fishing with stable footing should you choose to fish the boulder fields or jetty rocks this season.
I’ll see you in the suds!