Catching tuna with swimbait lures (TUNABITES)
This is a writeup I provide to customers who purchase my swimbaits. I hope it is useful! - Mark
Tips for fishing with Tunabites
I. Putting the swimbait on the jighead
First of all you want to match up the jighead size with the swimbait size. The small & medium sized lures are often best for casting / drifting for tuna. These small swimbaits match up best with a ¾ ounce or 1 ounce jighead. The larger size swimbait (used for trolling, and sometimes casting) match up best with a 1 ½ to 2 ½ ounce jighead.
Get yourself some super-glue in the gel variety. The hook goes up through the flat side of the swimbait, not the curved belly. Line up the jighead to see where the hook should come out. You can scratch the back with the hook to make an indicator spot to guide you. Put just a few drops of super glue on the flat part of the jighead (where the head of the swimbait will butt up against it). Do not over-do it with the glue! Just a few drops to anchor the swimbait.
It is most critical for trolling to get the swimbait on perfectly; less critical for casting.
II. Tieing on the jighead
A. For trolling, use the 2 and 2 ½ oz jigheads, and at least 30 lb line (preferably 40). You can tie the jighead directly to the 40 lb test. Sometimes I use a torpedo / mooching sinker…so I tie the 3 or 4 ounce sinker on my line, then add 4 to 5 feet of leader (this is where a 40 or 50 lb fluorocarbon leader is a good idea). Then tie on the jighead.
B. For casting I tie on the light jighead directly onto my 20 or 25 lb test. If I start getting “chewed” off (like when the fish are all 25 – 35 lbs), then I will tie on a very small swivel onto my 20 / 25 lb line, then add about 15 to 20 inches of 40 or 50 lb fluorocarbon leader, then tie on the jighead.
III. Chasing jumping tuna – When we are “sight” fishing (chasing jumpers) we zoom up to the school, then slow down and quietly sneak up, and put the boat in neutral. If the fish are still boiling like crazy, they usually inhale the lure as soon as it hits the water. Other times, the fish go down right when you get to them. In this case, they might still hit the lure within a few seconds. Other times (more often), you have to let the lure sink. So I keep it in free spool for a good 5 seconds after the cast, and let it sink 20 feet or so before putting the reel in gear. Then I reel in the slack, and feel the line / lure as it sinks. Take a few cranks to give it some action....pause....a few more cranks, and so on. Sometimes the hit is obvious; other times it is a very subtle take….a little hesitation…a very slight pull. When this happens, I reel like crazy….6 or 8 turns of the handle, to get the line tight, at the same time lowering the rod tip….also known as “reeling down to the fish.” This is the same way you bobber fish for salmon in the river. Use the reel to set the hook initially, then raise the rod up. Don’t rear back wildly, just pull back enough to sink the hook in and load up the rod.
IV. Sometimes you do all this (cast to jumpers, let it sink…) and they still won’t bite. That’s when I do my slow-trolling with swimbaits. Rig up several rods with 2 or 2.5 ounce jigheads. Also rig up 2 rods with torpedo sinkers in front of the jigheads (as described above). The rods with only the jighead are fished off the stern; the rods with the extra sinker are fished in front of the others (towards the bow, like off the side). So you see the jumpers 1/8 of a mile away. You zoom towards them at 15 knots. When you get about 100 – 150 yards away you slow down to about 10 knots. Now you let out your lines……get them way back (~ 200 feet). The reason you let them out while still going 10 knots is so that the lines will deploy very quickly (less than 10 seconds). Now the lines are back where you want them, and you have arrived at where you see (saw?) the jumpers, so you pull the throttle back all the way, and go as slow as you possibly can while still in gear….like salmon trolling speed. Now those jigheads will sink…sink…sink…but you are slow trolling. The fish will often just climb on…every hook…in this situation.
I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any questions.
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