Catching Giant Bluefin Tuna from a Small Boat

By Captain Ryan Collins

One of fishing's most sought after thrills is to battle with a giant bluefin tuna. For most, the drive to catch an enormous tuna borders on obsession. The tuna's beauty, the opportunity for big money, as well as the fish's sheer size have pushed many fishermen to shell out thousands of dollars, and dedicate years of their lives to the hunt for world's most respected fish.

Tuna in the Atlantic Ocean can grow to a length of nearly ten feet, and weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds. These massive tunas are equipped for reaching speeds of over 40 mph. The fish's incredible strength and unmatched level of endurance, make giant tuna fish the world's most difficult fish to tame-even while using the heaviest of tackle.

For the weekend warrior, catching a large bluefin tuna might appear a lot more like a pipedream than reality. A small boat, restricted budget and limited amount of time on the water do certainly affect one's odds of catching a giant. However with the correct gear and plan, catching a huge tuna from a small boat is achievable.

The Equipment

Targeting giants from a small boat means it is time to put away the spinning rods and conventional stand-up gear. Choosing swivel rod holders coupled with 80 or 130 class conventional reels makes wrangling the big boys much easier.

Swivel rod holders, unlike typical rod holders found on most modest boats, allow a rod and reel setup to rotate 360 degrees. This means there is no need to ever lift the rod and reel setup from the swivel rod holder. The angler fights the bluefin by using the boat, instead of his or her body.

In a perfect world the swivel rod holder would be secured on the bow of the boat. However, installing the swivel rod holder on the bow is not functional for many smaller boats. The second best location would be at the corner of the stern.

Good communication between the fisherman and the helmsman is critical when fighting a bluefin tuna from a swivel rod holder. It is often necessary to operate the boat in accordance with the tuna's death circles. An experienced helmsman should be able to assume boat maneuvers based on the angle of the rod and line.

Even so having the angler and skipper on the same page is absolutely essential to landing a giant tuna.

An 800 pound tuna fish puts incredible strain on the swivel rod holder, particularly when the bluefin is straight up and down beneath the boat. Having a brute of a tuna beneath the boat is the ultimate test for the rod holder. A bad job installing the swivel rod holder will result in devestating equipment malfunction. Backing plates are extremely important and if you are unsure as to what you are doing, it is best to ask a successful veteran before ever dropping a bait in the water.

We usually utilize Penn International 80 or 130 rods and reels when targeting giant tuna. Many fishermen also opt for comparable rods and reels from companies such as Shimano or Okuma.

Bent butt rods are an absolute requirement for wrangling giants from a swivel rod holder. The bent butt positions the rod nicely at around a 45 degree angle from the vessel.

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