When Tuna Won’t Bite

How to Use a Fail Proof METHODICAL  and non emotional approach to catching tuna when they just wont bite.   Learn How below utilizing 4 proven techniques! Anyone who has fished Tuna long enough has had that frustrating moment when they just wont bite.  They are feeding, but they wont bite!  Man this can be frustrating, especially when you have clients on board who really don’t understand that sometimes Tuna just do this.  They see the fish, but you as the Captain can’t even catch them?  What are you.. a rookie? I think there are at least 10 explanations as to why tuna do this and about 100 opinions more.  This post is not the end all to solving the problem, but hopefully a place to find some answers and help find new solutions to the ongoing non lure grabbing tuna concerns. Back as a charter Captain in Puerto Vallarta (even before the Cow craze of the 2000’s) I used to find huge schools of large yellowfin.  They would pop up, boat would close in on them, they would go down.  We would spend days chasing them around and fighting to get even one strike.  It was a way of life. Now that problem could be alleviated with live skipjack, but sometimes there were none to fill the tuna tubes or even get on the line.   I even invented a device called the “Bait Cannon” to try and solve this problem.  But this is talk for another time. In any event, lets proceed with the topic at hand. For now, assume the problem is the tuna schools come up and go down and you are chasing them around with no luck getting a strike. Lets go over the potential scenarios
  • No Live Bait
  • Not Enough Live Bait
  • No Kite
  • No Skipjack
  • No Fluorocarbon
  • Wrong Lures
  • Have everything but nothing at all works
For the purpose of this article we are going to assume you are armed with the right tools to catch the tuna (we are going to assume you are a professional tuna fishermen and generally know what they will or will not grab) What I am going to propose are 4 methodical steps you can try to help get those tuna from out of the ocean and into your fishold (and later  your belly) OK Here We Go:  Remember to assume you have everything needed but they just wont strike!
  1.  Stupendously Light Fluorocarbon:  Put on some ridiculously light fluorocarbon like 15 lbs.  You would not believe how often this will work.  Do you usually lose the fish?  …yes most the time, but at least now you know the problem.  They are being line shy.  Scale up from there and hope they will bite something heavy enough to actually catch them.  Note:  This applies to both bait and lures (that assumes you are willing to risk that nice new lure you bought just to know why these fish wont bite)
  2. Kite Kite Kite:  Stop or slow the boat, chum all your bait if you have it, and run the kite as far back as you can.  This is a waiting game but very effective.  Don’t chase the schools, just get in the area, chum whatever you can and sit with 1 or 2 kites 200 yards out.  It works with patience, and again make sure the kite keeps all terminal tackle out of the water.  For bait go slow if no bait run a yummy flyer or flying fishlure skipping the waves.
  3. Downriggers:  Downrig a skipjack or a big ass lure that looks like a skipjack.  Run it deep 60 ft plus.  Often times big lurking tuna not interested in the top water sardine feeding action will nail a big skipjack down deep.
  4. Stupid Distance:  If all else fails, start the troll but run some sort of jet head 300+ yards back and start a circular troll (keep some short ones as well just in case).    This is quite a chore, but has actually worked  more often than you think.
In Conclusion: We have all played the game chasing the tuna around watching the birds and still nothing.  Of course this is maybe 10% of the time at most when they don’t bite using normal tactics.  But boy are those frustrating times. Before I would chase them with blood in my eyes and vengeance on my face like a warrior in the 300 movie……  but now, I simply go to my peaceful place and break out a methodical approach rather than an emotional chase.   I close my eyes, ignore the birds (obviously stay in the area and keep an eye or its a waste of time,  … but stop chasing) and begin the routine.  I certainly cannot say it works every time, but it is dang close to almost every time.  Give it a try, you will be pleasantly surprised. Update for A South African Client: Let me first say that I have a lot of time with the same scenario you are dealing with. Let look at what I have found over the many years. To begin lets look at the kite, which sadly (because its a pain) is often the absolute best option. These Lures: Flying Fish Lures/ when connected to a kite and trolled fast to skip across the water with a Stinger hit is often a quick ticket. As the boat approaches the surface feeding school drops, correct? With a kite you can position the boat to bring it over the school or at least have it back to where they resurface and grab it. This can be done with those lures or a mackerel (usually tied – we call it cocido). Now, I assume if you are unable to get skipjack then your tuna are feeding on those mackerel or smaller baitsfish. So in that case this kite option is a very good one. Plus since the terminal tackle is out of the water you are able to use heavy leader. Another great option is a downrigger and a desperado series Lure Desperado Series Lures with Fluorocarbon. On that Lure you could easily go with 60-80 lbs fluorocarbon as the line is lost to them more so on the troll. These allows you to get fish even when the school drops. You can also use a heavy trolling weight. I like to utilize this desperado technique with a shotgun lure similar to this: Mahi Morsel >> blues and greens for some reason are my preference. This shot gun lure on 80lbs fluorocarbon max and double back as much as 300 yards but 200 should be plenty. It is hard to hook them that far back, but it does work. Again, like the kite you can change your speed based on if the feeding has dropped below the surface. Ot you can bring the boat in a way that circles the school but the shotgun is so far out it reaches the feeding tuna. On this same spread a good teaser set back past the white wash on one side can help. So you have the downrigger, maybe some smaller jet heads on the outriggers, and the long shortgun. This method is effective. It might take several passes but it most certainly does work. It’s a bit abnormal when accustomed to trolling a standard spread, but again it works. The other option is flyline the bait on only 30 lbs fluorocarbon, but this makes it very hard to bring in a 100+lbs fish and often won’t work unless they are up and eating. Another killer trick is to chunk. This means cut up bait into chunks. Stop the boat to a drift only, put one chunk on the hook. Pull out 100 yards of line into a bucket of water, drop in all the chunks of bait with your chunk on the hook right in the center and drop the line freely so it stays in the center of the chunked bait. This is a quite effective method as well for big tuna. Works best with squid if you are able to get squid. Does not need to be live. The squid sinks well in big chunks and attracts the tuna for sure. On this setup go with about 30-50 lbs Fluoro max. I know it is light but better to hook and lose than not hook at all. Ok my friend, all I ask for this advise is for you to report back. I wish you the best of success and I am always here to help in anyway I can.

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