How To: Sight Casting Topwater Tuna

Sight Casting Topwater Tuna

The season we all have been patiently waiting for is here!

Last week, Capt. Mike Hogan and the Salty Cape crew (avid angler John Burns and videographer Matt Rissell) joined Capt. Cullen Lundholm, of Cape Star Charters, on their first offshore Bluefin tuna trip of the season.

Engulfed in fog and guided simply by their radar, they were able to find hundreds of shearwater’s diving on bait fish.

“This radar got us into the area and now we’re in bunch of feeding groups of fish,” Capt. Lundholm said. “We picked up these birds at about three miles and the large amount of shearwater’s on the fish are a dead give away at long distance with the radar.”

Choosing the right lure in these conditions makes or breaks your hook up ratio. Given the vast amount of life from whales to breaking tuna to hundreds of birds, Capt. Hogan chose the Hogy Charter Grade Slider (Floating) in glow.

Charter Grade Slider
Hogy Charter Grade Slider (Floating) in Glow

“The beauty of fishing with these heavy sliders is the action is really built into the lure,” Capt. Mike said. “It’s really a plug and play retrieve.”

In these specific conditions, a slow/medium to medium/fast retrieve is recommended but implementing pauses and changing the retrieve speed throughout each cast can stir up commotion and draw a reaction strike. After you’ve made your cast, let the lure sink for maybe three to five seconds. An added benefit to the weight of these lures is that you can get under the birds when you cast. Even if you see fish cruising, that extra sinking time can prevent a bird hook up.

“We’re in a very dense bait situation,” Capt. Mike said. “I find in situations where there’s just super dense amounts of bait to be difficult to find these fish blind casting.”

An alternate method to blind casting it sight casting and in a situation where tuna are keyed in on massive bait balls, you almost need to drop the lure directly on their noses. Rather than drifting and blind casting into “fishy” areas, sight casting allows you to cast directly onto breaking fish in front of you. To do this, instead of running and gunning to different areas where you see tuna pushing bait, Capt. Mike suggests a walk and gun method.

“We’re cruising around very slowly so we’re nimble and agile on our feet,” Capt. Mike said. “We don’t have lines in the water so if we do see a school of fish push up and feed, our lines are in, we’re already in gear and we’re ready to walk to the fish rather than charging all over creation.”

This creates a much lower impact as far as boat traffic goes with these fish. Cruising at about 10-knots, keep an eye on the birds, schools of fish and whales while slowly working your way from bubble feed to bubble feed. Meanwhile, you are poised to target and cast at these fish.

Once you’ve hooked up, let the fish run.

“We’re gonna let him run around a little bit in the beginning before we lock the drag down on him,” Capt. Lundholm said.

A good rule of thumb when fighting tuna is to pass the rod off before you get tired. For example, if you can normally last 30 – 45 minutes on the rod, pass it off in half of that time. That way, everyone alternating is well-rested and ready to jump back in. And remember, if you’re taking a break, the fish is taking a break, too.

“There’s a zillion birds out there and I’m acting calm, cool and collected right now for the close but we gotta get back at it now,” Capt. Mike said.

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