All of us who chase Bluefin Tuna lose fish. It is inevitable and part of the game. The goal is too simply raise the odds in your favor of not making a mistake or having a gear failure. We have learned some painful lesson’s over the years giant fishing and most would apply to catching 50″-60″ fish on lighter stand-up gear.
1- Set your drags often and right! We set and reset out drags on a fairly regular basis using a basic brass drag scale, but not by hand or feel. We also will pull the drag 10-15 times before setting the drag. Warmed up drags are different than cold.
2- We never “jack” the fish to set the hook, just crank on the reel to set the hook.
3- In general, we will leave our reels set at 75% of strike while trolling, knowing that at strike they are dialed into a drag setting that we have confidence, is appropriate for the gear. When the fish hits. We will crank up the slack quickly, as they are often swimming at the boat, go into neutral, and leaving the drag at 75% either move the rod to the port or starboard corner rod holder, or put it in the harness if fighting stand-up and get the angler into the corner.
4- Our goal now is to get the fish straight up and down off the corner of the boat. See the picture above. Depending on the fish and the gear the fish will take at least one long run. We are still at 75% of drag (unless we are about to get spooled on a Tiagra 30 in which case you have to bump up the drag to whatever you need to and take a chance). We do not back down on the fish, as they rarely run straight back. We will turn the boat and chase at an angle, turning toward the fish.
5- Once we have the fish circling and straight up and down off the corner, we will bump up the drag to strike and start to try to bring him up. We will be bumping the boat in and out of gear and turning to keep the fish off the corner but not passing under the boat if it can be helped.
6- Last thing I would add, is that one of the big lessons we have repeatedly learned from Giant fishing is that you if you want to boat the fish, you need to put a lot of pressure on them early and keep it on them. This is where really knowing your drag settings are accurate come into play and not being hesitant about pushing the drag to strike and beyond if needed. If we have Giant on, we are trying to get it alongside the boat in 25-30 minutes and if we are over 45 minutes the chances of figuring out a way to screw up and lose it or having a gear failure go up exponentially!
Of course when you have a really big fish on for whatever gear you are using, that is all wishful thinking. This is what works for us on a big heavy boat, with an inboard engine and lots of space. This might not be the best way in smaller boats with outboards.
Good luck out there and we are hoping for a reasonable weather window between storms.
Jim and Collin
Karen Lynn Charters