Pro Talk: Casting to Blackfin Tuna in S. Florida

By Elliott Stark

Here’s what we learned…

Location: The Hump, Islamorada, FL

Tides: NA

Approach: If targeting blackfin in South Florida or the Keys, the use of the Hogy provides a great alternative to trolling.  The fish tend to stay up better with overcast conditions.  Without cloud cover, blackfin are known to remain deep during bright hours of the day surfacing only during corpulescent periods.  South Florida experiences a spring run of larger, 20 to 30 pound blackfin during the mid to late spring.  But just as blackfin of some size can be specifically targeted, for such trips it is always a good idea to keep wire rigs handy for wahoo encounters and keep a Hogy or live bait rigged on heavier spinning tackle ready for the weedlines and floating debris that can bring with them  dolphin, cobia, triple tail, and more.  The great thing about the Hogy, especially when Texas rigged, is that it can be cast into about anything without becoming weeded up and damn near everything that swims will eat it.

Bait Selection: 10″ Original

Rigging: 10/0 Weighted Swimbait Hook

Why this bait?

We were using 10 inch Hogy Original rigged with the 10/0 Swim-bait Hook  These larger, long shanked jig hooks provide enough penetration down the length of the body of the Hogy to fish a single hook, rather than a double hook rig.  This can make things a bit less chaotic for times when you have multiple hookups and are trying to unhook fish in a hurry without the worry of stray hooks flailing about on the deck.  The single hook also kept most of the fish from swallowing the bait and becoming gut or gill hooked.  This result, along with employing heavier tackle, would produce lively baits to bridle rig for the big wahoo, sharks, and marlin (which can be targeted in the Keys during summer months) which follow the schools of tuna.   It is not an uncommon occurrence while fishing for blackfin to have the fight, and fish themselves, truncated by something big and toothy.  In fact one of the fish we caught carried  the telltale scrape of a close call with the business end of a billfish.
Top Colors: Black, Bubble Gum, Bone. These fish focus on a reaction strike. Color is less important than a fast retrieve that makes the soft bait dance.

Retrieve:  The retrieve that induced the tuna to blow up the Hogy was a subsurface walk-the-dog type action with intermittent bursts of higher speed.  Pointing the rod tip toward the water and jerking the rod toward the boat in alternate directions, causes the bait to twitch from zig-zag from side to side as it makes it way boatward.   Varying the speed of the retrieve with pauses and periods of faster reeling to simulate a frantic fish trying to escape from the jaws of death, drove the blackfin wild for Loren, Matt, and myself.

Outfit: With these light spinning outfits, we were able to cast the Hogy’s a long way without having to attach additional weight.  The lure slowly sinks without the addition of weight, meaning that the angler can keep the lure in the upper part of the water column or on the surface making strikes a visual affair.

Rod: 6’ Ocean Master spinning rods.

Reel: Penn 5500 spinning reels

Line: 12 pound mono

Terminal Connection: Though sometimes over stated, the blackfin are known to be weary of leaders and swivels.  For this reason, we used six feet of 30 pound triple fish leader attached directly to the main line using a surgeon’s loop.   We tied the hook to the leader using uni knots.