Tuna are shockingly powerful creatures (watch this Giant Bluefin Tuna video, if you don’t believe me) but what’s the best tactic to apply when you’re trying to catch them? Trolling, chunking, or jigging? The answer, of course, depends on the situation. Where are they feeding, and what are they feeding on? Are those fish schooled up over structure, or are they meandering along the Continental shelf? Whatever the case may be, here are the basic ways you can target tuna.
This is probably the most popular method, and is applied virtually everywhere tunas are found. A few anglers use high-speed tactics, trolling lures at between 10 and 14 knots. But more often, speeds of six to eight knots and a mixed spread of rigged ballyhoo, artificial lures, and spreader bars is favored.
Trolling tip: Don’t troll in a straight line. Zig-zag patterns are much more effective, and you’ll notice that the tuna often strike right before or right after your lure or bait crosses your wake.
When tuna school tightly over an underwater hump or ledge, or are staying in one specific area, chunking becomes deadly. Baitfish or squid cut into domino-sized pieces are tossed into the water to start a feeding frenzy, then baited hooks get dropped over the side. The key to successful chunking is to make sure the flow of fish-attracting tidbits remains steady. That keeps the fish near your boat—and your baits.
Chunking Tip: When tuna are in your chunk slick but refuse to take a hooked bait, try dropping leader size. Often they’ll bypass baits tied to 120 pound test leaders, but will chomp on those tied to 60 pound leaders without hesitating.
This form of fishing has been increasing in popularity since the Butterfly Jig craze hit the scene a few years back. It’s most effective when you can locate specific fish or pods of fish on the fishfinder, then stop your boat, and drop the jigs close to the fish. Using rods, reels, and line designed specifically for jigging is imperative, in order to offer the tuna the correct presentation. And this isn’t like “regular” jigging; tuna jigging (some people call it “speed jigging”) is a unique tactic. (You can learn how it works by checking out Rudow’s e-Guide to DelMarVa Inshore & Offshore Fishing).
Jigging Tip: When bluefin tuna are feeding on sand eels near bottom, reach for a pencil jig—the tuna won’t be able to resist it.