Striking Yellow Gold – Part 2

Ruben Villarreal
Striking Yellow Gold – Part 2

A quick review of February's article: When chunking for yellowfin, keep your chunk rig constantly moving. Let it drift out for about a minute; then reel back up and try the same method again, dropping more chunks into the established chunk line. Hiding your hook, either circle or live-bait style, increases your odds of hooking up since the yellowfin tuna have great eyesight. With jigging, I do not recommend only one size or type of jig because you never know what the fish want. A little variety is more helpful. Now, it's time to discuss the other two methods of attack: topwaters and sliders/stick baits.

Topwater baits are quickly becoming popular due to fact that they imitate flying fish so well. Once again, I don't recommend just one size of topwater because I've seen both big and small baits do very well. The best size depends on the size of the flying fish that are in the area that particular night. In order to be able to land fish from far out in the night, specialized gear was developed and tested to handle long fights. Thus was born spinning reels on steroids that can maintain steady and smooth drag performance without the jump and chatter of lesser design.

Very few of these spinning reels offer sufficient capacity with mono, so super braid line (gel spun polyethylene) is used because of its small diameter, strength, and no-stretch design meant for landing big yellowfin tuna. I recommend both 65# and 80# spectra line, depending on the size of topwater you use. The right action of spinning rods coupled with the good reels completes the topwater gear equation. For example, the Daiwa Surf 6000, Shimano Saragosa 18000, and Accurate Twin Spin 30 spin reels make good models for holding plenty of 65# super braid line. A rod with a stiff backbone but soft tip increases your casting distance due to how the guides are spaced and also the way the rod loads during the cast. Too soft tips are easily overloaded by large lures and do not cast well. Likewise, if the tip is too stiff, the lure fails to load the rod tip which makes long casts very unlikely. The Shimano Stella 20000sw and Daiwa Dogfight 6500 are great for the 80# spectra applications as they can be adjusted to deliver surprising drag tension.

The bigger topwaters that are good with this setup are Tuna Hunters, Halco Rasta poppers, and OTI poppers. What's interesting is that at one time, there were only a few stand-up, short spinning rods and only seven-foot lighter-action rods for kingfish and ling. Recent improvements in material and design bring us rods that are extremely strong and very light-weight. These new rods are taking the spinning topwater rod market to the next level and helping to usher in the fourth dimension in yellowfin tuna fishing: slide/stick baits. The newest rod in this line of development is the eight-foot Black Magic Ahi popper rod. It has Fugi SIC guides, is rated both for 65# and 80# braided line, and has plenty of backbone to take down yellowfin.

Now let's shift gears and discuss slider/stick baits for tuna fishing. This isn't really a very new type of application for catching fish, just new for our area. In a nutshell, a stick bait is a wooden bait that can vary in size from three to nine inches in length and can weigh up to nine ounces, perfect for making a long cast for yellowfin busting way out there on the surface. Stick baits vary in colors and rigging methods, such as a single assist hook in 11/0 size on the front with a 9/0 Owner Jobo hook on the back. This stick bait looks like an extreme High Roller wooden bait used for peacock bass; even blue marlin have been taken on these baits. One of the best places I know of that carries these baits is Nomad Tackle in Australia. What makes these baits so different from what we have now is how an angler can change the hook configurations to not only cast at surface busting fish but troll for deeper fish also. Since stick baits vary in both color and weight, they can be used with both spinning and conventional types of tackle.

Finally, a slider or glide bait is a lipless plug that stays below the surface to imitate a darting and fast swimming flying fish. Yo-Zuri makes one with what they call chameleon finish in that it changes color depending how it is being pulled through the water and how light is hitting it. One bait that I consider a slider (even though it isn't a true offshore bait) is the Rapala XBSB15 Sub-walk. This bait was really designed for stripers and for imitating mullet to lure big winter trout in south Texas, but it has proven to be a killer bait for catching yellowfin tuna. The Rapala Sub-walk is a good lure to use on an 80# spectra spin outfit. Another good bait for yellow fin tuna, especially on 65# braid outfits, is the Rapala XWR11 topwater, which was originally designed for redfish and big trout in the wintertime.

All in all, having some variety in your lure assortment is an important key to increasing your chances in taking home some yellowfin. I didn't spend any time on live bait in this article, but sending out some live flying fish on fluorocarbon leader of either 60# or 80# test, about five feet in length, will also prove irresistible for yellowfin tuna. Good luck everyone and be safe. The weather can be very dicey this time of year.