Five Fishing Tips to Catch the Biggest Tuna

There are many techniques to use for Deep-Sea fishing. The method you use will depend on what species you are targeting, the bottom formation and structure, and to a certain extent, your personal preferences. The basic methods are high-speed trolling, used mostly for blue-water, big-game fish like marlin, sailfish, tuna and other fast-swimming ocean hot-rods, slow trolling, usually using several rods, with or without downriggers, for the more coastal species like Striped Bass, Sea Bass, Bluefish, Dorado, etc…., and vertical fishing, also called Long-Lining, used on deep shoals, reefs, and other structure, for cod, tuna, halibut, sole and similar species.

High-speed trolling is pretty easy. You need a stout rod, and a heavy jig, or heavily weighted bait. Cigar minnows, squid, needlefish and ballyhoos have all been used and all are effective for certain species. The bait, or jig is tossed out, and a few hundred yards of line are let out while the boat speeds forward at several knots speed. The rods are placed in holders, and the angler sit sit back and relax. When the rod tip bobs erractically, someone will yell “Fish On”, which tells the person driving the boat to put the motors in neutral, while you are fighting the fish.

Normally, you would put on a fighting harness to ease the strain on your back, while the mates don gloves, gaffs and anything else they may need. As you fight the fish, the boat driver will manuever the boat as needed to bring the fish in. Some fish can put up an hours-long fight, so the angler may have his hands full for a while. Fish caught this way are big, mean, mobile, hostile and agile, sometimes weighing a ton or more. This is as extreme as it gets.

Slow trolling involves the use of several rods, fished ‘Spider’ style by hanging them, over the side of the boat. They are baited with jigs, lures or live bait, and the boat is simply cruised along at a leisurly pace until a fish is caught.

These are usually school fish, once one is caught, the boat will often troll back and forth over the same location, until the fish stop biting, then move to a new location. Eels, squid, jigs and lures are all good choices for this type of fishing.

Vertical fishing is just what the name suggests. A stout rod is rigged with 2 or more hooks on dropper loops, above a very heavy weight, and then the rig is just dropped straight down over the side, to several hundred feet deep, or more. If the rig hits bottom, it is reeled in so the weight is just off the bottom, and the rig hangs straight down, so that it doesn’t get tangled up with other lines.

This is the most common type of fishing done on ‘Party’ charter boats, who may take as many as 30 people or more out on a trip. The most common species taken with this type of fishing is Snapper, Grouper, Cod, and Halibut. Squid is the bait of choice, but cigar minnows, cut-bait and jigs are also used from time-to-time.

If you go out on a charter, they will usually furnish the rods, reels, bait, and equipment. It’s a good idea to let them, because they know from experience what works, and what doesn’t. If you insist on bringing your own, there are a few guidelines.

Saltwater gear is not just bigger freshwater gear. Stainlees Steel rod guides, and reel bearings, fighting butts, and big, double crank handles are necessary features. Don’t try to bring your catfish rod on a Deep Sea excursion, unless you want it destroyed, and come home with no fish. Like wise, steel leaders are a must-have to fight toothy marine fish. Saltwater gear is considerably more expensive than freshwater gear, so unless you plan on going to the sea every week or so, it’s more feasable to let the charters furnish the equipment. It doesn’t cost any more to use their equipment.

One of the best rigs for Yellowfin (Ahi) Tuna, and others, is a spreader rig. It is a metal bar that allows you to run 5 to 7 jigs, side-by-side while you are trolling. It simmulates a school of fleeing baitfish. Another good rig is to ‘Daisy-Chain’ 5 or six tuna jigs, one behind the other.

My favorite Deep-Sea species is go go fishing for Albacore. This involves high-speed trolling, but it’s a little less intense than going after Bluefin, or Marlin. You need a rod rated for 80 pound test line, and a good Deep-Sea reel. Mine is a Penn. My best luck has been with Dk. Blue feathered tuna jigs, but I have also had good luck with sardines, and anchovies. When using real bait, you want to hook them through the nose, so they will swim naturally. This is especially important if you are trying to hook wahoos.

Once you’ve hooked a fish, you want to keep the line straight out in front of you to avoid line tangles. The rule-of-thumb is ‘No angles, no tangles’. The boat driver will manuever the boat as needed so you can do this.

Whatever you do, always follow the Mates instructions and suggestions to the letter. They not only know what they are doing, but they know how to do it safetly. They have way more experience than you do, so listen to them, and you’ll have a great fun trip.

Happy fishing.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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