Run and Gun; Casting for Bluefin Tuna

By Captain Bobby Rice,
Reel Deal Fishing Charters

Bobby, right, and his dad Bob Rice, showing their prize catch. Real Deal Fishing Charters Photo

While the majority of the Reel Deal charter business focuses on striped bass fishing, we also target bluefin tuna fishing with light tackle and I readily admit that these are my favorite fish to pursue. Not easily fooled, these spirited apex predators challenge the angler, particularly those deploying an artificial lure, to have essentially a perfect setup from the rod and reel, through the line to a flawless terminal end, with split ring, swivel and hook. With vertically jigging and casting or “jig and pop” reigning as the two dominant techniques for spinning rod bluefin tuna action, each method demands its own finesse with the following covering the highlights of casting.

Here we go – bluefin tuna begin busting all over the surface in the distance, talk on the marine radio lights up, your casting setups are ready as adrenalin surges, what is your first move for success? Positioning. You do not want to get in a game of cat and mouse chasing around bluefin tuna as they will win. Find a moment of calm to put in your due diligence and assess which direction the fish are moving, such that you can set up in front of them. Watch the bird behavior, consider the wind and tide; if needed, circle a mile or so out and observe again, then make your best calculation on where to make your bait presentation such that the fish swim towards it for the much awaited hook-up. Frustration may encompass your thoughts as on some days it can seem as though there is no rhyme or reason as to when and where the fish break the surface, but this is certainly an art and more time on the water will hone your skill at getting into the most advantageous position for casting.

Moving to your gear, when casting select at least a 7 to 8 foot rod with a good backbone. Last season, I moved up to the 7’ 500-gram Van Staal rod from the 325-gram, as I could apply more pressure bringing the fish to the boat faster for a quick release. While vertically jigging calls for an 18 to 20 foot fluorocarbon leader, shorten that length up on your casting setups to minimize leader material being on the spool when casting. If there is still leader on the spool, the friction generated reduces optimal cast performance.

What to attach to that leader? When the fish consistently present at the surface favor lures similar to stick baits. A broad range of such lure choices exist from high to low end, with the Strategic Angler providing consistent results as well as the A12 Sting-O also yielding hook-ups. Be aware of those value lures that still offer great performance at a lower cost. The exact size, weight and color changes often, so stay agile and swap out your lure whenever a spell of no hook ups occurs.

When marking fish more spread out in the water column, try casting a RonZ letting it drop down below the surface with a slow retrieve: do a couple reels, let it sink and then repeat, so that it travels in the water column like a wounded bait fish.

Hopefully your day rounds out with a fish at the boat, although if not there is always tomorrow! This dynamic light tackle fishery that exists off Cape Cod is truly a bluefin tuna angler’s dream and I appreciate each and every day that unfolds on these magical waters.