15 MINUTES WITH: Mike Hogan
Location: Crab Ledge Tuna, Cape Cod, MA
Introduction: The famed waters off the Eastern portion of Cape Cod holds an amazing amount of large blue fin tuna. Often, these fish can be quite hungry, but there are also many times when these fish have a serious case of lockjaw. There’s a lot of bait to forage on out there, including large herring, sand eels, mackerel, bottom fish trash from draggers, and bluefish. There is no shortage of bait, tuna and whales! Needless to say, it can be very frustrating to spend the day watching the food chain erupt up all around but to no avail on the deck of your boat. While there’s no guarantees with finicky tuna, I feel very strongly that unweighted soft-baits the best bet for cracking the code.
Tides: There is a great debate on which tides are better for blue tin tuna. Some anglers swear by slack, some anglers like moving water. The fish tend to key in to various stages over time. I find that time of the day i.e. early in the morning bite tends to trump tide.
Approach: While big bulb squid bars (which are the norm) all most always produce, they often work against you when you have seriously finicky tuna at hand. They key is to understand why they are “behaving poorly” Is the water to calm and they can see the gear? Is there too much bait to compete with? Are there too many boats spooking the fish? I find that more times than not, all of the above are causing you problems. Regardless, I always recommend shift gears if even one of the reasons above are causing you problems. For me, this usually means:
1. Switch to big soft baits: Big baits are easy to see. The soft plastic looks far more natural in the water than bulb squids.
2. Reduce your speed: Un-weighted rubber doesn’t need a lot of head-way to look alive.
3. Lighten your leaders: Flouro is a must here. But go with the lightest weight possible. If your target is 150lb class or less, I’ll go as light as 80lb test. I use 130 on the larger fish. Use at least 10” of leader. Wind-ons are ideal. Less knots and terminal gear to spook fish.
4. Drop a few lures WWB (Way-way back) You always read that the boat attracts fish. I subscribe to that theory myself, BUT, I catch all my finicky fish WWB. Just saying.
5. Check for weeds obsessively: We’re talking a weedy area, so yes, check often. But also, there’s something about a bait getting cranked in that can generate a strike. I check as much as I can until I get burnt out.
Bait Selection: The Hogy Slow Troll Spread
(1) 10/14” Daisy Chain with small bird (150’)
(1) ) 10/14” Daisy Chain with no Bird (130’)
(1) ) 10/14” Daisy Chain with large Bird (65’)
(1) 14” Slow Troll Single with small bird (200’)
(1) 14” Slow Troll Single with no bird (100’)
(1) 14” Slow Troll Single with no bird (30’)
Why this bait(s)? The large size and whipping tail on this bait give it a deadly action. A big huge soft bait may not look like any one thing, but it’s soft fluid action looks alive, big, and a lot of calories. They are also light and easily reeled in to check for weeds, which can also be a problem in the area. Birds are not essential to this technique but I like the birds for two reasons. Firstly, they help attract fish. But secondly, the soft baits are hard to see, and the birds help serve as a marker as to where my baits are.
Colors: I always stick with bone, bubble gum, black and bally. I fish black and bally on overcast days for better contrast against the sky. I tend to favor bubble gum in high light do to its visibility. I like to show off that rubber action. Bone is great early in the morning. There are generic colors. I tend to use lures I know that work, and focus more on my presentation in terms of boat speed, direction, lure placement and where I’m marking fish.
Retrieve: Part of the charm of trolling soft baits for tuna is how easy they are to fish. Granted, outriggers will help widen your spread’s profile and minimize tangles, they are absolutely not necessary. In years past, I have trolled rods from t-tops, I make good use of flat line clips, and troll fewer rods with BIGGER birds to compensate for fewer offerings in the spread.