Finicky Charlie

This is what you've been waiting for: clean blue water, a light southerly breeze, and the tuna bite that's been eluding you all summer. You hear shouts of joy from boats all around you, and a quick spot check with the binos shows swinging gaffs and bent rods. But your rods are zingless. The watching becomes unbearable-what's the problem? Although the answer is almost always impossible to pinpoint, it probably comes down to a subtle detail or two. If you find yourself in this angler's hell, try these tips to get a bite on your boat.

  • Alter bait size. Some days tuna eat whole baits, other days they want small chunks-who knows why? If you're not getting hits with whole fish, try using a few chunk baits, and vice versa. Of course, make sure the entire hook is hidden in the bait. Still no bites? Put out an oddball bait. You never know when a squid or a live spot will be chosen when drifting among a butterfish or bunker slick.
  • Lighten your leader. Use a fluorocarbon leader, and drop down in poundage. Some days require leaders as light as 30-pound test.
  • Slow the flow. Try decreasing your chunk flow to one chunk every six or eight feet. Sometimes this forces the fish to feed right at the back of the boat.
  • Motion of the ocean. Keep a "floater" line drifting behind the boat. With no weight, strip line from your rod tip so the bait sinks at a natural rate. Allow it to drift back 50 to 70 yards behind the boat, then reel it in and drift it back again. Don't just let it sit back there in the current-90 percent of the fish that eat this bait will take it while it's drifting back naturally.