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HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?



Sacco Leadin

    It’s no big secret that tuna swim deep. The average bigeye spends most of its time hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface. Of course, there are days and even nights when fish are high up in the water column, easy to find, see, and catch. But every tuna fisherman knows there are far many more days when the fish are deep below … out of sight and out of mind. And for trolling fishermen this can be a sometimes-frustrating equation, but keep the faith! There are some solutions.
    On the Castafari, we have employed a few trolling techniques that have enabled us to target fish well beneath the surface. Whether you’re presenting live bait, dead bait, or artificials, getting your baits deeper can be a game changer, and can help connect you with a whole new dimension of opportunity.
    There are a variety of reasons why tuna would be hanging down deep. Boat traffic and noise can push fish down. Bait balls and a thriving thermocline holding deep in the water column can attract fish and keep them there. Consequently, it’s important to always pay close attention to your fish finder, and keep a keen eye out. More importantly, once you find fish down deep, it’s very helpful to keep track of the variables that might have put them there. Logging things like time of day, stage of tide, moon phase, water temperature, and GPS location will help shed some light, and believe me, you need all the help you can get! A school or mass of fish will usually hold its depth. So it helps to be aware of what put them there and to be ready for it ahead of time.
    There are three major methods of deep trolling that we employ on the Castafari: planers, downriggers, and free weights. Yes, free weights are a great way to get a bait down, if done correctly. When it comes to trolling live bait, slow trolling is paramount, and free weights and/or downriggers are effective here. Don’t be fooled by common misconceptions. Fishing is not defined by how complex you make things; it’s defined by how effective you make things.

    TROLLING LIVE BAIT
    When trolling live bait, the position of your hook is essential. In order to ensure a natural presentation, it is imperative that you position your hook in the most frontal position possible so the bait swims naturally. Front-bridling your baits is highly recommended for slow trolling. I also recommend using an elastic band instead of floss when attaching your hook. This will help to counteract the pull of the boat and allow a little give, especially in rougher sea conditions. Mackerel, pogies, squid, and bluefish are great live trolling baits for targeting bluefin tuna. Whiting, herring, and cod are not as good in this trolling application. Stick to what works.
    Your trolling speed is what matters most. If you have trolling valves at your disposal, that's a big bonus. If not, you will need to “bump troll” in and out of gear to ensure around a 1- to 2-knot troll. Anything in excess of 2 knots will usually result in a dead bait after 15 to 20 minutes. If you don’t have trolling valves, trolling upsea will help to slow you down to the right speed. Tacking diagonally in a zig-zag course against the wind will help boats maintain the right speed, especially vessels with outboards.
    On the Castafari, when trolling live bait, we generally employ a combination of free weights and a downrigger. Our typical set-up is a three-rod spread that consists of three different live baits placed in three different depths of the water column (surface, middle, deep). If you choose to use three or more rods, be careful not to make sharp turns as the baits will sink and mainlines will tangle. Our top bait has no weight and is sent back a good distance from the boat to ensure there is enough slack in the line to keep the bait in the water. I recommend placing this surface line in an outrigger or center rigger to help keep it away from the other two lines. The second bait is set with a free weight tied to the main line with a black rubber band roughly 20 feet up from your bait. If you want to step it up a notch, you can employ a slider rig here too, but remember to half-hitch an elastic band next to the slider rig to keep the weight from sliding down toward your hook. Also, be sure not to make your leader too long as the slider will stop at your barrel swivel, and you don’t want your mate to have to handle an exorbitant amount of line when it comes to wiring the fish. We usually use 15-foot 180-pound fluorocarbon leaders in this application.
    Spray painting or taping your weights black is recommended. For weight size, I recommend 16 to 32 ounces, depending on speed and current. Ideally, you want to keep a very close eye on the scope of your main line as you troll. Your scope will enable you to keep track of and maintain your bait's depth. This scope should be roughly 45 degrees at all times. Simply deploy twice the amount of line as your desired depth. We usually like to set this middle bait down at 50 feet, which means 100 feet off the rod tip. This can be run off the opposite outrigger, or right from the rod tip. It helps to use a line counter as you deploy your mainline to maintain accuracy. There are too many margins of error offshore, so eliminate them at all costs!

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RIGGING SPLIT-BILL BALLYHOO






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Rig your ballyhoo effectively for trolling for marlin and tuna.

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