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Using Hawaiian Trolling Techniques for Northeast Tuna…

Upgrade the Starting Lineup

Lure colors, shapes and sizes are important. Second to location, it will determine whether you hook up or not. Luremakers in Hawaii are as well known to the local fisherman as the Red Sox’s infield is in Massachusetts. The level of thought and variations to seemingly similar lures is impressive. At first, I could not believe that a particular shade of blue or a slight shape variation mattered, but tuna are impartial judges. You owe it to yourself to expand your spread beyond a few mass-produced lure manufacturers that make up the typical Northeast offshore options. I started making my own resin heads several years ago, and began to uncover the minute differences that certain species prefer and why those differences make certain lures more successful. A hand-turned lure made by a fisherman who has an eye for what makes lures catch give an angler a feeling of confidence when you splash it. Based on the skirt size, there are three main lure sizes, 9-, 7-, and 5-inch. Generally speaking, the bigger the lure, the bigger the fish. Ahi (yellowfin over 100 pounds) seem to prefer bullets, scoop noses and jet heads—all sub-surface shapes—of 7 and 9 inches, trolled farther away from the boat. Marlin like a lure that splashes and lays down a good smoke trail. Most of my marlin strikes have been on a 9-inch plunger fished on the short rigger. Mahi are equal opportunity feeders and will hit nearly anything, but they quickly wise up and will require bait or a different technique to get more than a few out of the school. Try a variation of sizes and shapes, but again, get beyond the light plastic molded lures. Skirt choices matter and skirting a resin-head lure should be within your skill set. The local shops in Hawaii have walls dedicated to every skirt color imaginable. Typically, two skirts are used for a resin head. I prefer a solid skirt color as the underskirt, with a more translucent skirt on top. The result is a very real looking, iridescent lure. As for the actual color choices, this is a very subjective topic, but I am generally a supporter of natural huesin blues and greens, and contrasting bright colors.

Lure Color can make a huge difference. Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Single Lures Reign

It is a rare sight to see anything but single lures trolled in Hawaii. Spreader bars, daisy chains, and dredges are all notably absent from the Hawaiian starting lineup, though an exception might be the occasional use of a bird. There are two reasons for this. First, the average trolling speed is fast— typically 7.5 to 10 knots, and spreader bars do not respond well to that speed. Second, it is usually rough and windy off the coast of Paradise. Due to the persistent 15- to 25-knot trade winds, steep 4- to 6-footers out of the east are the norm. Spreader bars seem to tangle with themselves and every other lure in the spread with such sea conditions. My go-to game plan is to use small birds on my outriggers and shotguns, and run heavy corner lures with release clips off the transom. On the outriggers, the drag of the bird does a great job of keeping the line tight and preventing lures from sliding across the spread in the wind. On those rare calm days, I like to break out the spreader bars and daisy chains to add more action. Consider keeping your trolling spread simple, with just single lures. You can run more lines, take multiple hook-ups, and if you spot fish in the distance, can pick up the speed without reeling them in.

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