Getting Under Aggressive Birds and Targeting Slow Feeding Tuna
The season we all have been patiently waiting for is here!
Go Heavy and Get Under!
There are very few things in life more frustrating than whiffing on a hard to get to feeding tuna because a bird grabbed your lure, damaged your leader and eliminated your short window of opportunity.
By casting a heavy-weight 6oz Charter Grade Slider, you can largely avoid this issue and get under aggressive birds when the lure lands on the water. The 6oz Slider will sink just fast enough to drop “just below the bird strike-zone” but stay “just in the tuna-strike zone.”
The two other benefits of fishing with heavy-weight sliders is that (1) The 6oz version casts a mile and (2) the heavy-weight slider is super easy to fish – even in windy conditions. Just sink, cast and reel! The heavy lure will do the rest, including fight off the wind and the birds.
3 Steps with Captain Mike
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. Mike chose the heavy-weight 6oz Charter Grade Slider (for casting distance and fast sink rate) in glow (for high visibility).
6oz Hogy Charter Grade Slider”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.”
Step One: Carefully approach the school as not to disturb the feeding cycle. I prefer the “walk and gun” method so as not to spook the fish.
Step Two: As hard on your nerve as it is, be patient with your cast! If possible, wait for a big boil and drop the plug right in it. Remember, you are competing with massive amounts of bait, likely densely packed sand eels. Try to drop it on a tuna’s head. With so much bait in the water, it’s tough to get seen. If I find these dense bait situations, it can be difficult to find these fish blind casting. THAT SAID: If there are two anglers, have one blind cast and the other site cast to targets.
Step Three: After you’ve made your cast, let the lure sink for maybe three to five seconds. This added time will give your lure a chance to bypass the birds and get to work catching tuna! 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.
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.