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GOING HARD
FOR TUNA

By Capt. Darren Dorris

  The scene is similar in all cockpits, no matter whether it’s a 61-foot sportfisherman, or a 26-foot center console. The throttles come down and settle on 7-ish knots. Light is just breaking to the east and the crew is full of the anticipation of a great day of trolling.
  The target: Tuna. The crew fastidiously deploys the spread, typically consisting of spreader and tracker bars, lead head-ballyhoo combos, daisy chains and bird rigs.
Once set, the crew settles in waiting for the first bite of the day. eyes locked on the surface commotion created by most of the baits working behind the boat. That’s all it is … the surface commotion.
  For as long as cedar plugs and green machines have been pulled behind would-be tuna anglers’ boats, we have been fishing only that, the SURFACE! The top 3 feet of the hundreds of feet we are fishing in!

  WHY?
  Well, because it works? Because we convince ourselves that we can create a bait ball/feeding frenzy concept behind the boat? While this may be a bit true, what about deeper? Can we fish effectively below that 3-foot mark? The answer is yes. Enter hard baits.
  Hard baits are any lure that is in fact hard plastic, very different from the soft-shell squids and natural ballyhoos that are in your typical spread. In the case of tuna fishing, these baits fall into two main types, lipped and lipless trembling-type lures. These types of baits are far from new. Striper fishermen have been trolling these baits for years. Think Stretch 30s and more.
  You’re thinking why mess with the spread, right? It works. So why add hard baits?
  Because they do more than just increase your catch. They WILL enhance your existing spread. As said before, most tuna anglers’ spreads are surface spreads. They rely on creating enough commotion to draw the fish to the surface to feed.
  The first reason to add lipped hard baits to your spread is that deep-diving lipped lures run 30 to 50 feet deeper than the surface lures. This deeper bait grabs the attention of deeper fish, causing them to rise in the column.
  How does this enhance your existing spread? What happens often is the deeper diving plug draws a strike, which is the point. The byproduct of that deeper strike is it ushers the rest of the school up to the threshold that they feed on the surface lures.
  What I am suggesting is not changing your existing spread but enhancing the depth of your spread to entice those deeper fish that would not normally come up to feed to do so.

Hard plastic baits can be just the ticket to spicing up a trip with eye-popping action and aggressive bites.
Hard plastic baits can be just the ticket to spicing up a trip with eye-popping action and aggressive bites.
Hard plastic baits can be just the ticket to spicing up a trip with eye-popping action and aggressive bites.

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