How Hard Are You Pulling
Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, October 7, 2013 Species: Albacore,
ALBACORE! Just the very name of these longfins of the seas is enough to start a fever in any red blooded angler of the briny deep. These hard charging, hard fighting denizens of the open water are electrifying on the strike and breathtaking in their initial run after the hook up.
They are also considered the perfect size. At an average of 15 to 30 pounds, they are big enough to be challenging, and small enough so that you can catch a passel of 'em without beating yourself up too badly.
And catching a passel of 'em is always a possibility when you are out after these tuna. They travel in huge, and I mean, huge schools. I remember a few years back, I was fishing with some friends just outside the North Farallones when we encountered a school of albacore that stretched out for over eleven miles!
When you have a school of albies surrounding the boat, chomping at the bit, eating the paint off your boat, the one limiting factor that will keep you from loading up on them is how fast you can get one into the boat after hooking up. How fast you can get one into the boat is dependent on how much pressure you can put on the hooked fish.
"How many pounds of drag are you setting your reel at?" I am often asked, and to tell the truth, I really don't know! Most of the time, the drag is set by "feel" instead of tying the line up to a scale and getting a numerical value. OK, this sounds like heresy, but that is how I do it.
Obviously, there are more factors that go into getting that "feel". You have to start with tackle that is in pristine condition. The guides on your rod have to be smooth and clean. The drags on your reel have to be smooth and chatter free.
The line has to be new and fresh. Your knots have to be clean and dependable. And, your hooks have to be strong and sharp. (As a note, sharp hooks tend to make smaller, cleaner holes and don't tend to fall out.)
To develop that "feel," you have to do a little homework, pre trip. Take your rod and reel, string the line through it, then tie it to something solid like a street post, fire hydrant, or trailer hitch. Back off about fifty yards, then using a smooth pull, try to break the line. It is not an easy thing to do!
My favorite line for live bait albacore is 15 pound test P-Line CXX. This line is pretty much mislabeled as it breaks close to 25 - 27 pounds test. I have tied this line to a sign post, backed away, and pulled as hard as i could while pointing my rod straight down the line. Even with the drag locked down and my thumb on the spool, I could not break the line! I was pulling much harder than I would ever pull on a salmon or striper. This is the key to kicking some albacore tail!
You have to set the drag at something before you fish, so I suppose I set it to something light like three or four pounds. When the albacore takes the bait, it will swim away from you. When this happens, I point the rod directly at the fish and throw the reel into gear. As the line comes off the spool at low drag, I will start tightening the drag until you hear and feel a distinct acceleration.
This will mean that the hook has been buried in the corner of the mouth. The tuna will streak away from you at high speed. Lift the rod up and enjoy the run!
When the fish slows down, increase the drag until the fish stops swimming. Now lower your rod so that it is pointing to the fish and instead of lifting the rod to gain line, pull straight back. Push the rod forward and crank in the slack. Repeat.
This takes some getting used to, but by using the pull/push instead of the pump/drop method of fishing tuna, I have landed 25 pound albies in under a minute. This may be hard to believe, but try it!