How-To: Catching Bluefin Tuna on Clear Poppers

Fishing for bluefin tuna on the west coast is similar to our fishery on the east coast in many ways. Large schools of tuna anywhere from 40″ to upwards of 90″ aggressively feeding on the surface, as well as down in the deep. One west coast technique that has become increasingly popular in recent years is using clear poppers to fool bluefin tuna keyed in on micro baitfish. In this post, we’ll explore why the clear popper is so effective, how to retrieve it, and when to use it.


First, let’s talk about why the clear color is such a successful popper choice. Bluefin tuna are known for their keen eyesight, and they can be incredibly selective when it comes to what they eat, especially when dialed in on extremely small forage. Clear poppers are designed to mimic the movement of a baitfish on the surface of the water. The clear coloration makes them nearly invisible to the fish, allowing anglers to fool even the most wary bluefin. Picture instead of matching one individual baitfish, the clear popper resembles a whole bunch of baitfish.


When it comes to retrieving the popper, there are a few different ways you can approach it. We find the most effective technique is to retrieve it with a steady, fast-paced retrieve. This will create a commotion on the surface of the water, mimicking the movement of a school of baitfish. Bluefin tuna are aggressive predators, and they will often strike at a popper that is retrieved quickly and erratically.

Another retrieve that is extremely effective is the pop and pause retrieve. Instead of an erratic, fast paced retrieve, you’ll want to stall the popper between pops. I wouldn’t say this is a stealthier approach than the previous retrieve, but it certainly isn’t as erratic and it’ll often trigger a strike on the pause.

Choosing a Popper

Hogy Clear Charter Grade Popper

Another important factor to consider is the size of the popper. Bluefin tuna can be quite large, so it’s essential to use a popper that can withstand extreme force. Hogy Charter Grade Poppers come in a 5.5″ and 7″ model. Each popper comes through-wired and tuned for a flawless pop and stutter. Being aft weighted, these poppers cast extremely far and are a dream to cast on heavier spinning gear. I personally prefer the 7″ model as it is a larger presentation. This will help to create more commotion on the surface of the water, drawing more attention to my offering.


So when is the best time to use a clear popper for bluefin tuna? The answer is simple: whenever the fish are dialed in on micro forage and feeding on the surface. Topwater feeds can happen at any time of the day, but it is most common to experience a surface feed during the early morning and late afternoon hours. Slack tide is also known to produce more active fish. Look for signs of feeding fish, birds diving into the water, and balls of bait on the surface. These are all indicators that bluefin tuna are in the general area.


Check out this video filmed over in Southern California targeting surface feeding bluefin using the Clear Charter Grade Poppers.

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