Use heavy gear for heavy fish

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Capt. Scott McDaniels of the Sea Adventure 80 breaks down the secrets for success when fishing bluefin

SAN DIEGO — Capt. Scott McDaniels of the Sea Adventure 80 is fired up, fresh back from a successful bluefin trip and ready to dish some fundamental truths.

“We cannot make the point enough that big gear is for big fish,” he says. “We the crew go around every trip before departure and ask the fishermen with light line and small hooks to gear up for the big fish.”

In 99-percent of the cases their advice is taken seriously, but every trip someone sneaks a light line in the water.

“Sure they get a quick bite, then an hour later the fish on light line breaks off! It’s a heartbreaker for the angler but for the crew it’s a crime for many reasons,” he says.

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McDaniels wants his anglers to be winners. “Give yourself a chance of a lifetime,” he adds. How? He didn’t hesitate. You need a day plan and a night plan, and the gear to match. The day, when shy bluefin can see the line, has been mostly a bait bite. Night, when you can get away with heavy line, is the time to kill cows.

THE DAYLIGHT BLUEFIN bite can be quite a bit touchier, requiring lighter gear to fool these wary tuna. Capt. Scott McDaniels suggests anglers bring 40-, 60- and 80-pound outfits with 2-speed reels. Use the heavy gear if it’s wide open in the corner, or go small (but not too small) during a slow pick. SEA ADVENTURE 80 PHOTO

After daybreak

For the day plan, you need to bring 40-, 60- and 80-pound 2-speed outfits. And you have to back it up, McDaniels says. What does that mean?

“The way you back it up is to use 40-, 60- and 80-pound fluorocarbon on the front end, and 20-pound heavier Spectra for backing. If you choose to fish 40-pound test, use 40-pound fluoro but 65- or 80-pound braid. You can pack a lot of Spectra on a reel,” he says.

The 40-pound rig is for a picky bite. If the fish are boiling heavily in the corner and whammo, you get bit, break out the 80. Or use the 80 with your Flat-Fall jig and fish deeper.

The rubber band / sinker rig is another option. During daylight, McDaniels recommends trying it with a 40- or 60-pound rig. “A chrome sinker with a rubber band works a lot better. I think the fish see it and swim over to look at it. I don’t know why the rubber band works better but it does,” he says.

And the daylight bait? What does McDaniels like? Large sardines on ringed circle hooks.

McDaniels shared a new wrinkle that’s helped the Sea Adventure crew land more tuna. “We’ve got a new thing, we used to use just a 20-foot mono topshot. Now we recommend 100 feet of topshot. Spectra line doesn’t stretch. Fish were breaking away by heavily shocking the line. That longer topshot is like a shock absorber. It doesn’t break.

“That’s critical for these big fish. A little longer topshot really is the hot dope. In the long run you’re not shocking the line as hard. If they kick at the same time a big swell comes you need to have that stretch,” he says.

Good things happen to good people, he says. Know your drag setting and talk with the crew about drag setting and line splicing.

What about the kite? The Sea Adventure 80 gets fish that way too. If you have your own kite and want to fly it, bring it. “We’ll work with everyone who has their own kite too,” McDaniels adds.

If you’re on the Sea Adventure 80, you’re going to be around the fish. “I don’t run on blind hunches. We always point the bow towards fish. If there’s fish there, we’re going,” he says.

THE NIGHTS CAN be trip savers, giving anglers extra shots at landing a personal best bluefin. These tuna bite 24-hour a day, so it only makes sense to fish them the same way. SEA ADVENTURE 80 PHOTO

The night bite

The night bite is the Sea Adventure 80’s bread and butter, the time when the cows come marching. “You fish bluefin 24 hours because they bite 24 hours a day,” McDaniels says.

He views crew experience for the night bite as a critical factor. “We’ve got two trained killers running the boat. Some of the boats have a night driver, generally a guy who is working his way up. They’re eager and working hard. We have guys that have a little blood running out from the sides of their cheeks. When the anglers get up at daylight we’ve already found a spot of fish at 4 a.m.,” he says.

Days can be tough. Nights can be trip savers, especially with this grade of fish. If you’re after a personal best 100-pound plus bluefin, you won’t care when you caught it, just that you did.

At night, anglers can get away with using heavy gear. The fish can’t see the line, they just bite. “Think about the cows that are caught, around 70-percent of big tuna are caught at night. There’s a reason for that. When big fish bite during the day they get away, they’re busting off. At night anglers are using line that’s suitable to catching big fish,” he says.

Break out the big guns. “For Flat-Fall jigs, use a bigger reel packed with 100- to 140-pound Spectra. On top of that, have a bare minimum of 80- to 100-pound mono and a 150- to 200-pound leader,” McDaniels adds.

A lot of guys use short leaders, but McDaniels strongly favors going longer, at least 6 feet but preferably 10. It’ll save you from breaking off due to line shock, and puts your connection beyond the tail of a big, swimming tuna. When a tuna dives its tail is hitting 200-pound leader instead of 80-pound mono.

McDaniels revealed a secret that will be welcome news to weary anglers. At night, he says it isn’t necessary to work your glow Flat-Fall. “When the fish come up it’s bite time. When they go from 40 to 50 fathoms to 15 fathoms they’re going to bite. During the night just drop your Flat-Fall to the bite area and wait like you’re soaking a bait. They’ll just go up and inhale it,” he says.

He’s seen it time and again. Anglers will be working hard retrieving their jigs and it’s the tired guy just laying his rod on the rail that gets bent on a 200-pound tuna.

Bait is another night option. Baits are somewhat different at night as opposed to the day. “At night we use either frozen giant squid, frozen flying fish, or live sardines,” he says.

THE NIGHT BLUEFIN bite is the Sea Adventure 80’s bread and butter. You can get away with using heavy line, so pull out all the stops and go for it like this angler. SEA ADVENTURE 80 PHOTO

For bait at night, McDaniels says you’ll want an 80- to 150-pound leader.

Whichever sportboat you choose for your tuna hunt, McDaniels suggests going with a boat that does more than bleed a tuna before dropping it in the RSW. “For sushi grade tuna, if you’re going to bleed it, also take all the gills and guts out and stick the hose inside and clean it out. It only takes 60 seconds more until there’s no blood, gills, guts or heart going into the fish hold. The only thing that’s going into the fish hold is sushi grade and that’s what comes out of the hold,” McDaniels says.

He has another wise suggestion when it comes to getting to fish on your favorite boats, the ones that boast a reputation for great customer service and catching fish. They fill up fast. “Early reservations make a big difference. It gets you on your first choice boat. If you don’t make an early reservation you’ll wind up on your 3rd or 4th choice boat.

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