Going Low And Slow For Albacore
ALBACORE!! The very sound of that name brings on a fever into the hearts of blue water anglers. Fast, powerful, and agile, these pelagic tuna provide plenty of sport for those who pursue them.
These tuna are what many would consider the perfect size for a game fish. Although 90 pounders can be found off Africa, around these here parts, a 50 pounder is a real trophy. The majority of these fish will range from 20 to 35 pounds, big enough to provide a spirited fight, but small enough so that being able to catch a dozen or so isn't too hard a task.
Traditionally, albacore fishermen find these briny nomads by first finding some 62*F water and then putting out the troll lines. In lieu of an onboard thermometer, some old salts simply look at the water and when the color changes from "inshore green" to "offshore blue", the lures go in.
Others, however, feel that nothing goes in unless signs of life appear. These signs of life include baitfish, birds, whales, dolphins, and jumping tuna.
I cannot emphasize how many times fish have come up on "blind strikes" when there have been absolutely no signs of life appear, so when the temp break appears, or the color break shows up, toss them lures overboard!
When it comes to lures, the three most popular are the Zuker tuna feathers, the Tuna Clone, and the plain ol' cedar plug. Understand, other brands and lures can be trolled and at times with great success, but these are the big three when it comes to albacore trolling lures.
These lures are most often rigged with 50 - 100 pound test leaders or tied directly to the end of 60 - 80 pound test mono lines. Certainly, one could rig these lures on lesser strength lines, but for optimal results, the heavy lines are used to keep albacore from running out yards and yards of line on a hook up.
The thinking behind this is that by keeping the fish from taking line, the fish is towed behind the boat and its friends end up following it, wondering where it is going. By following the hooked fish, they discover extra food (the other lures) and will bite them. This is the theory that when practiced, will often end up with all of your lines tied up to an albacore!
Trolling speed is generally between six and eight knots, a good compromise between fast enough to cover a lot of water, and slow enough for albacore to strike a lure.
There is a problem, however, in blindly following this trolling pattern. That problem is that sometimes that trolling speed doesn't produce fish. Whether it is that the water is too clear, or too flat, or too ... whatever ... sometimes we are just too hard headed to change things up to change our "luck".
If you are in albacore water and strikes don't come for the traditional lures, it may be time to go low and slow for albacore. The number one lure for this tactic is the four to five inch swim bait armed with a 1/2 to one ounce jig head.
A two to four ounce two eyed torpedo sinker or banana sinker is tied to the end of the main line. A four or five foot 20 - 25 pound test fluorocarbon leader makes the connection between the the sinker and the swim bait. Alternatively, a like sized egg sinker is slipped up the main line and a swivel makes the connection between the main line and the leader.
Unlike the six to eight knots that is typical when searching for longfins, once you are in longfin territory (as evidenced by birds or bait or whales or whatever), drop back the trottle until it is just going forward (salmon trolling speed) and have the swim baits following the boat, thirty to eighty feet maximum.
You may not be able to stop these fish on the lighter tackle, but when the tuna aren't responding to the traditional methods, this is a good trick to keep in mind.