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Tuna In Sight? Break Out The Spoons

Burnley Leadin

    It was one of those rare days offshore, when the sea is slick calm and the wind is blowing at my favorite speed, light and variable.
    We were running southeast out of Virginia Beach when I saw a big school of tuna pushing water. I knew this was one of the most frustrating sights on the sea because it is all but impossible to get a tuna interested in anything as they head to wherever they are going.
    I had heard of a technique using a number 4 or 4-1/2 Drone spoon on a long leader fished in front of the school, but had never had the opportunity to try it. I rigged the spoon on 30 feet of 50-pound Hi Seas monofilament behind a 3-ounce trolling sinker and fished it way back by dumping about half a spool from my 30-pound class reel filled with 50-pound line.
    Then I maneuvered the boat in front of the school and swung it around, presenting the spoon about three or four feet ahead of the lead tuna. The strike did not come right away. I guess the spoon had to work its magic for a few minutes in order to aggravate the fish into striking.
    When the rod bent down and line began streaming off the reel, I had one of the party pick it up and the fight was on.
    I was pretty sure the fish was a bluefin, and since it was well below the minimum size at the time, I knew we would have to let it go. Fortunately, the fish must have had the same thought because it became unhooked as I was leadering it in. My guess was it was 30 to 40 pounds.
    By the time we fought that fish, lost it at the boat, cleared the deck and put the spoon back out the school of tuna had disappeared. After spending a short time looking for them we continued on offshore where we had a fair day on yellowfin that we could keep.
    Another trick that would incite a strike required a bit more effort. If the tuna didn’t respond to the spoon right away we would pick up the rod and try to make the spoon pop on the surface. As you can guess this was no easy task with half a spool of mono line out, but even when the spoon didn’t pop out of the water, the erratic action caused by the mate whipping the rod back and forth in as wide an arc as possible did, on occasion, inspire a strike. The whipping technique was easier if there was no weight ahead of the spoon.
    Spooning tuna is not something we did on a regular basis. The long drop back does not work well in the normal tuna spread where we ran five lines from our 8-foot beam, 24-foot Albemarle. We did have success on those occasions when we saw schooling tuna moving on the surface.
    Spoons also worked to attract tuna to a regular spread. This worked best when pulling baits such as ballyhoo and mullet. The spoon would be run on the way back, just beyond the end of the turbulence. Once again I would use a 30-foot leader and a 3- to 4-ounce trolling sinker. The spoon would run just under the surface, popping out and splashing from time to time.


7 surface signs of pelagics


We're used to relying on our electronics for so much offshore, but putting your eyes and powers of observation to use will make you a better fisherman.

The smaller the boat,
the bigger the fish

small boat

A return trip to the Azores may not have produced the sheer numbers of fish as past trips did, but the enjoyment level remained superb.