We’ve heard it all too often lately, “There’s no trouble finding tuna, but I can’t catch the buggers”! More often than not however, those fish are still feeding on something (or willing to); it’s just a matter of throwing something different, or trying a different approach, to bring success.
What to use?
A stickbait of 150mm is often the first thing cast into a tuna school here in the southwest. Whilst a large stickbait can be a great lure some days in winter when the fish are feeding well, they’re not always the best lure to choose. Much of the time, inshore school tuna are eating small fish such as whitebait, and these don’t often exceed 8 or 9cm. The lure being cast is over one and a half times the size of the bait! Downsizing the lure would be the first starting point. Downsizing the lure means less weight on the rod, so you’ll have to lighten your rod and line to ensure a long cast is maintained. The most popular tuna casting rod we sell is a Daiwa Saltist Hyper 7’4, which is a PE 3-5 (approx 30-50lb) rod. We would reccomend downsizing to a rod in the PE 2-3 (20-30lb) or 1.5-3 (15-30lb) range, in a 7’2 and up length. Yes, you’ll take a bit longer to fight fish, but at least you’ll hook them in the first place. Match with a 4000 size reel loaded with 30lb braid. Downsize your leader to 30 or 40lb and change to fluorocarbon; every little thing helps.
Lures we would recommend throwing once those fish get fussy and on small bait include the Nomad Riptide 105, the Bassday Bungy Cast, Halco Sli-Dog 105, the Fish Inc Flanker 85 and 105, and the Fish Inc Winglet 87mm. Some anglers have begun throwing 4-5″ soft plastics which is another good option, and although they won’t cast as well as a stickbait, when thrown on light tackle the distance is more than adequate. Berkley Gulp Jerkshads and Z-Man Streakz are ideal soft plastics to throw at tuna.
The main point here is to downsize everything for success on those tuna feeding on small bait.
Racing up to, or into, a school of feeding tuna is the most common way for an angler to approach, but not usually the best. Particularly on those calm days, a quiet and stealthy approach won’t spook the fish, and they’ll keep happily feeding. Many anglers notice that they spot fish feeding hard from a distance, but the fish go down and disappear before a cast can be had. A quite approach should solve this problem. Run the outboard until you reach a comfortable distance from the fish (experience will teach you when), then use the wind to drive you towards the fish. A keen eye will show you which way the feeding fish are moving. It will make things a lot slower, but at least the fish won’t know you’re there. An electric motor is also a good investment for an ultra stealthy, but quick, approach.
And if all else fails, remember one thing; persistence pays off.