Line, Leader and Terminal Connection Combinations when Fishing for False Albacore
The only real difference between tuna jigging and casting lures, and striper casting and jigging lures is the size of the outfits, the heaviness of the leaders and the strength of the terminal connections. The lures themselves are not all that different in size, which means that by upgrading your terminal connections for tuna, you can use the same gear.
- Braided Line: You have two choices with braid: hollow core and traditional solid style. For my reels 18000 and above, I use hollow core and since braid is very expensive and will last multiple seasons, I am pretty consistent with my sizing. 100lb on my 18000 and 130lb on my 20000 sized reel. I like hollow core because you can have a spliced loop that is strong and smooth but also has minimal drag going through the guides while casting or if under strain with a big fish. The loop will allow you to simply and quickly change pre-made wind-on leaders. Your local shop can put a braid in your line for you if you don’t know how or have the time. If you break off your loop while fishing, you can create a new loop with a Bimini hitch or the faster and easier Spider hitch, which isn’t quite as strong. (TIP: I reverse the line on a spool after a season. Your shop can do this for you)
- Leader Material: Some anglers use mono leaders for casting and jigging and in addition to the huge cost savings, there are some advantages. 1) Mono is softer and suppler. That means it will take less memory set than fluorocarbon and that is not worth it as heavy fluorocarbon leader can sometimes act like a slinky on your reel. 2) Mono has some stretch, given its shock-absorbing characteristics and connections hold better when there’s a lot of pressure at boat side. 3) It crimps better than fluorocarbon leader. It’s more forgiving. THAT BEING SAID, I personally use fluorocarbon leader 100% of the time for the simple reason that it is less visible underwater. Tuna have such keen eyesight and I believe that mono over flouro would trade in a number of those single fish days to skunky days. I’ll live with the headaches. TIP: Flouro gets dirty. Keep alcohol wipes and wipe them throughout the day. I also replace my fluorocarbon leaders after every trip, even on fishless days. A simple teeny, impossible-to-see-by-the-naked-eye, nick in the line will hold light and lose its stealth. There are a number of knots you can use to tie leader directly to braid. Some of them are fascinating and ultra-slick through the guides, giving you extra casting distance, but I prefer the ease and convenience of a loop-to-loop connection of a wind-on leader. I figure I will have more fishing time if I can put a new leader on in a quarter of the time.
- Leader Size: With tuna, the lighter the fluorocarbon, the more likely you will be to get bit. Unfortunately, practicality often gets in the way of the fun and you have to live with fewer bites but more landed. For Bluefin likely to be over 100lbs, I use 100lb leader for casting and 130lb leader for jigging. For smaller, school sized fish, my default is 80lb but I carry 60lb for problematic days when the fish are being super picky. (More on that later).
- Leader Length: The longer the leader, the better as tuna do not like seeing the braid to flouro connection. But it is difficult to cast, therefore I make casting leaders much shorter. My default casting leader is 12’ whereas my jigging leader is 30’ or 40’, especially on conventional reels. You also need extra leader for jigging because the presentation is entirely different. There is far more line in the water in contrast to the water around it. With a cast leader, only a small percentage of the line might be visible on the surface
- Terminal Connection: My general rule of thumb is that I tie direct with a loop knot at 60lb test and below, and crimp the line above. 80lb can really go both ways and I will crimp it if I feel I need the chafing gear. 100lb and above is crimped all the way. In most cases, I will crimp with ½” chafe gear to a 220lb swivel and attach a similarly sized split ring to the swivel. This is the best way as the swivel will minimize torque on the connection during a battle. The split ring gives added abrasion resistance and easy lure changes.