How To: Tips for Tuna Fishing South of Martha’s Vineyard #503


I tend to fish the same bluewater spread, anytime, anywhere. I like big, lightweight spreader bars loaded with smaller bulb squids. I’ll fish five bars to simulate the ultimate bait ball. I’ll have two weighted lures on flatline clips, where I move their placement in the spread. I rarely deviate from this spread, other than changing colors. In addition to being a HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL spread, I like the efficiency of a dialed in spread. I know just how it swims, I know where it goes and how fast to fish it in any sea conditions, I know how the spread does on the turns, etc. This allows me to focus on finding fish instead of tinkering with lures. SIDE NOTE:  This spread is ultra light despite its massive footprint, allowing me to fish light weight with an ultra-strong trolling outfit. I like lightweight bars capable of trolling up to 7 or 8-knots to cover ground.

Bar Size: I mix and match bar sizes. For me, the bigger the better. I want to simulate a massive bait ball.

The Classic Hogy Spread: Mixed Bag

Outside Rigger: 40″ Flexi-Bar – 6-inch UV Green Mack

Inside Rigger: 40″ Flexi-Bar – 6-inch UV Amber Squid

Flat Line: Pre-Rigged Harness Jig 6oz Olive Sand Eel

Flat Line: Pre-Rigged Harness Jig 6oz – Tinker Mack

Inside Rigger: 40″ Flexi-Bar – 6-inch UV Amber Squid

Outside Rigger: 40inch Flexi-Bar – 6inch UV Rainbow

WWB: Pocket Bird Bar 

Not Sure of the Situation – Mixed Bag

Unless I have prior knowledge of the fishing situation, I always start the day offshore trolling with a “mixed bag” spread (above). Basically, you’re hedging your bet on a color

If I don’t know “what color has been hot” or what fish are feeding on, I’ll start with a mixed bag, in terms of colors, as there are so many possibilities of what they can be eating. I tend to like natural colors with one high visible pattern mixed in. Once I boat a fish, I’ll make note of the color. If I take a second fish on the same color, I will swap out a color that has not received any attention. I’ll keep up with a progressive system of dialing in on a color until I end up with a carpet bomb (see below).

I Know What They’re Eating – Carpet Bomb

If I know what they are eating, I’ll load the entire spread with a single color with mostly the same lures. The whole concept of the carpet bomb is to have matching lures to simulate a school of bait. The carpet bomb looks very real. So real, that even if the fish are feeding on something entirely different, you have enough critical mass to create your own feed, even if it’s against the grain. I always have one off color lure in my spread. It’s my opinion that an off color can look like a sick or wounded fish and therefore more vulnerable and possibly inducing a strike on a hesitant tuna.

Boat Speed: With the classic Hogy spread, my trolling speed ranged from 3 to 8-knots. I tend to troll faster than average, sometimes at 8-knots. That’s why lightweight spreader bars are essential. They flex their way through fast boat speeds. I slow down on rough days and speed up on calm days. I let the spread dictate my speed. I’ll go by what looks best and try a variety of speeds until I crack the code. Since I fish the same spread every time (see above) I have a very strong command for how the spread reacts to various conditions. I pay more attention to how the lures are looking given the conditions that day. I look for a spread when the baits are swimming in perfect harmony. That said, I have a few rules of thumb.

  1. Cool water = a touch slower
  2. Warm water = a touch faster
  3. Rough = slow
  4. Calm = fast

Lure Placement: People often talk about which wake, length, etc. is best. I’m very formal in this regard. I go with what looks good and what’s working. Basically, your goal is to fill out the spread so there’s an offering at any angle if the fish approaches the spread. Some trips, fish like the spread close, others farther back.

Weed: Check often! It’s easy to get lazy. I like to check every 15 – 20 minutes if I have enough sleep in me!

Outriggers: They are worth the investment but not essential. Fish the 6-rod spread if you don’t have them, keeping your “inner short rigger” very close, maybe 30-feet back. Keep the flatline 10 – 15 feet back and your long rigger much farther at whatever length looks best.

Teasers: Sometimes tipping your bait with a soft plastic or pork rind can be the different between catching fish or not. Tip a few lures in the spread and work from there.

Finding Fish: Preparation is key for finding Bluefin south of the Vineyard. Start by looking at the latest sea surface temperature readings. Look for extreme temperature breaks where the water fluctuates three or more degrees over the course of only a few miles. This is about as much “structure” as there is south of Martha’s Vineyard, so it’s a good place to start.

Once you have steamed out to the area, you will want to start looking for signs of life. Whales, birds and porpoises can all indicate that there are schools of bluefin nearby. Also pay very close attention to your temperature gauge in order to find the temperature breaks.

When you feel confident that there is sufficient life in the area, when you have seen schools of bait or located a distinct temperature break, it’s time to deploy you spread.

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