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Tuna Trolling

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Tarin Keith with Yellowfin Tuna trolled on Iland Lures

Tarin Keith with Yellowfin Tuna trolled on Iland Lures

The rods we recommend for tuna trolling is a 5’6″ to 6’6″ conventional stand-up rod or a 6’6″ to 8′ chair rod rated for 30lb mono or higher.  Because tuna trolling is used for smaller tunas such as yellowfin tuna and albacore and larger tunas including giant bluefin (slow trolling) which can go over 1000lbs, a broad range of rods and reels are recommended.  Going to higher rated rods will allow the angler to put more pressure on bigger fish and shorten the fight time, but may take some of the sport out of fighting smaller fish.  Heavier line can also be a handicap when the fish are line-shy.

The stand-up tackle is exactly the same that is used for tuna chunking.

A reasonable guide for rod and reel ratings are as follows:

Fish Size Tackle
50lbs or less 30-50lb mono
50-100lbs 50-80lb mono
100-250lbs 80lb mono
250lbs or larger 80-130lb or higher

Tuna Trolling Reels

We strongly recommend using only lever drag reels for tuna trolling.  Two-speed reels provide an added advantage.   Tuna can be notoriously line-shy and for this reason all chunking is done with mono.  For even larger fish and added line capacity anglers can use a mono top shot of 100-200ft backed with braid of equal or higher rating.  The thinner diameter of the braid provides significant additional line capacity.  

Lever drag reels are a must for circle hook fishing (also recommended – see below).  The lever drag allows the angler to slowly increase the drag pressure to ensure the proper hook set.

Leader and Connections

We always use short bimini twist should tied into the main line. The double line created by the bimini must is then tied using a simple a clinch knot to a 300lb (or larger) ball bearing swivel with a snap.  The snap is attached to the much heavier leaders (used for wiring the fish) that are part of the lure or spreader bar rigging.

We recommend rigging lures using 80lb or higher fluorocarbon leader.  When targeting giants we use either 130lb or 200lb leader. 

If you prefer a wind-on leader, the bimni is simply hitched to the loop in the wind-on.  Be sure that there is a barrel swivel somewhere in the rig to avoid twist from a fouled lure.

Tuna Trolling Lures

As for lures they are a lot of choices.  There are dozens of effective spreader bars and daisy chains made by numerous manufacturers.  However, most of our favorites spreader bars are custom built using components from Olde Salt Tackle.  Our favorite daisy chains and feathers are also from Olde Salt Tackle.

When it comes to single lures nothing beats the versatility of the Iland Lures.  These are a well kept secret in the Northeast and are effective for yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, wahoo, mahi, white marlin, and blue marlin.  These are very tough lures that come in a wide variety of head shapes and colors.  They can be fished alone, however some of the smaller sizes are simply deadly for tuna with small ballyhoo rigged behind them.  The most effective colors are either black/red or green/yellow though on certain days other colors have also been very effective.  When the big marlin are around make sure to have at least one 10 1/2″ Iland Express in the spread (typically in dark colors).

Fighting Belts for Tuna

We recommend the Black Magic Fighting Belt and Harness. This is a uniquely designed belt and harness system that helps prevent side-to side slippage while reducing back strain. It offers true seat conformation, more stability and fighting leverage!

Tuna Trolling Checklist

  • 5’6″ to 6’6″ stand-up or 6’6″ to 8′ conventional rod rated for 30-50lb mono or higher
  • Lever drag conventional reel rated for 30lb mono or higher
  • 50lb or higher mono
  • 300lb  or higher ball bearing snap swivel
  • Tuna trolling lures

Please contact us if you have questions about our recommendations!


Tackle Recommendations
Click on any of the images or names to visit the manufacturer's website.  Click on the links or retailer logo to see prices or purchase.  If you can't find the product you want, try searching Amazon. Please contact us if you find any broken links!
Rods
Penn International V IGFA Penn International V IGFA
Offshore trolling rod - 6'10" to 7'8" - multiple one-piece models rated for 20-130lb mono -Aftco roller guides - EVA foregrip - Stuart aluminum reel seat
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Penn International V IGFA Penn International V IGFA
Penn International V ARA Stand-up Penn International V ARA Stand-up
Offshore stand-up rod - 5'6" - 6'0" - multiple one-piece models rated for 30-130lb mono - Aftco rollers - EVA foam foregrip - aluminum reel seat and gimbal
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
Learn more and buy on Amazon
Penn International V ARA Stand-up Penn International V ARA Stand-up
Shimano Tallus Trolling Slick Butt Ring Guided Rods Shimano Tallus Trolling Slick Butt Ring Guided Rods
Conventional rod - 5'9" to 7'6" - multiple models suitable for 20-100lb mono or braid - fast action only - medium to extra extra heavy power
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Shimano Tallus Trolling Slick Butt Ring Guided Rods Shimano Tallus Trolling Slick Butt Ring Guided Rods
Reels
Penn International VS Penn International VS
Offshore lever drag 2-speed conventional reel - models rated for 12-130lb mono and 20-200lb braid - 1.4/3.0:1, 1.6/3.8:1,  2.0/5.3:1, and 3.3/5.3:1 gear ratios - 4 ball bearings
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
Learn more and buy at Amazon
Penn International VS Penn International VS
Shimano Tiagra Shimano Tiagra
Offshore lever drag 2-speed conventional reel - models rated for 12-130lb mono and 40-250lb braid - 1.2/2.2:1 and 1.7/3.9:1 gear ratios - 4-6 ball bearings
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct

Shimano Tiagra
Shimano TLD II Shimano TLD II
Offshore lever drag 2-speed conventional reel - models rated for 20-80lb mono and 50-100lb braid - 1.4/3.5:1  and 1.7/4.0:1 gear ratios - 4 ball bearings
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Shimano TLD II Shimano TLD II
Shimano Tyronos II Shimano Tyronos II
Offshore lever drag 2-speed conventional reel  - models rated for 20-50lb mono and 50-150lb braid - 2.1/5.0:1  and 1.5/4.0:1 gear ratios - 4 ball bearings
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Shimano Tyronos II Shimano Tyronos II
Line
Berkley Big Game Mono Berkley Big Game Mono
Trilene monofilament line - shock and abrasion resistant - clear, green, and solar collector colors - available in 8 to 130lb test and 1/4, 1, 3 and 5lb spools - exceptional knot strength
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Learn more and buy direct from Amazon
Berkley Big Game Mono Berkley Big Game Mono
Lures
Ilander Ilander
Trolling lure - 8 inch - finest all-purpose offshore trolling lure for tuna, marlin, sailfish, and more - weighted bullet head allows lure to be pulled at high speeds - works well at 6 to 8.5 knots
Learn more and buy direct from MirrOlure

Ilander
Iland Cruiser Iland Cruiser
Trolling lure - 10 inch - red concave mouth makes large disturbance in the water - popping and smoking - weighted head ensures lure swims true - rig with natural bait or fish naked
Learn more and buy direct from MirrOLure

Iland Cruiser
Iland Express Iland Express
Trolling lure - 10 inch - jet design that combines jet action with ultra-light hollow-head construction - exceptional bubble stream - works on outriggers and as teaser - works great even at 8-10 knots
Learn more and buy direct from MirrOlure

Iland Express
Yo-Zuri Sashimi 3D Magnum Deep Diver Yo-Zuri Sashimi 3D Magnum Deep Diver
Floating slow trolling deep diver available in 7inch 3.125oz with through-wire construction
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
Laern more and buy direct from Yo-Zuri Amazon store
Yo-Zuri Sashimi 3D Magnum Deep Diver Yo-Zuri Sashimi 3D Magnum Deep Diver
Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bonita Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bonita
High speed trolling lure available in 6.75inch-4.625oz and 8.75inch-10oz sizes with through wire construction - ball bearing swivels and flat forged stainless steel hooks
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bonita Yo-Zuri Sashimi Bonita
Terminal Tackle
Mustad Ball Bearing Swivel Mustad Ball Bearing Swivel
77250-BN - Black Ball bearing Swivel, two welded rings
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Mustad Ball Bearing Swivel
Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader
Fluorocarbon leader  - invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear  and disappearing pink colors - 4-200lb test and 30/100yd spools
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon Leader
Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader
Fluorocarbon leader - additional abrassion resistance, lower diameter, invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear and disappearing pink colors - 8-200lb test and 30/100yd spools
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader
Berkley Prospec Leader Berkley Prospec Leader
Fluorocarbon leader - invisible, durable, max knot/crimp strength - clear, blue, pink, brown colors - 20-200lb test and 25/33/75/100yd coils
Learn more and buy at Tackle Direct
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Berkley Prospec Leader Berkley Prospec Leader
Other
Black Magic Belt & Harness Black Magic Belt & Harness
Belt and Harness for rods with 15-18" butts - available in 3 different belt sizes (27-48" 34-58" 42-65") and standard 17.25" or XL Wide 19.5" plates
Learn more and buy at Capt Harry's

Black Magic Belt & Harness
Black Magic Fighting Belt Black Magic Fighting Belt
Fighting belt (plate) for rods with 15-18" butts - includes strap - available with standard 17.25" or XL Wide 19.5" plate
Learn more and buy from Captain Harry's

Black Magic Fighting Belt