The Best Tuna Baits

Tuna is one of the world's most valuable commercial fishery. More than 70 countries worldwide fish for tuna, according to the Rhode Island Sea Grant. Tuna is a sought-after food product whether served fresh, frozen, cooked or canned. In the northeast part of the United States, the most important commercial species caught are bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye tunas. Use of baits is an effective way to catch these enormous and delicious-tasting sportfish.

  1. Tuna

    • Different types of tuna include albacore, yellowfin, blackfin, albacore, bluefin and skipjack. Tunas are stout-bodied in the mid-section with two closely spaced dorsal fins. Typically, their dorsal side is metallic dark blue while their underside is white or silver. Tunas vary in size; blackfin and skipjack rarely exceed three feet in length while the northern bluefin can grow to 10 feet and up.


    • Use baits like whole squid, butterfish, ballyhoo and other small fish to entice tuna. Hook the bait through the mouth, using a circle hook. A 50- to 80-pound fishing outfit with braided line and a 6- to 12-foot leader rig works well. These baits work because they're natural forage to tuna. Drop the bait at about 50-75 feet, using a 10 to 30 oz. sinker, then crank back up to about 10 to 20 feet. Keep your baitfish close to the bottom for best results.

    Artificial Baits

    • Using many artificial baits is effective for catching tuna. Lures like diving plugs, swimbaits and jigheads are productive. Diving plugs like Rapala and Yo-Zuri are effective for trolling at speeds of 7 to 9 mph. Choose jigheads with sharp hooks and large eyes size from 1.5 to 2.5 ounces like Hammer Heads. Choose 5 to 6-inch swimbaits and thread the jig heads through them to attract tuna. When tuna fishing in low-light conditions, choose darker-colored baits like deep purple and dark blue. Light-colored and solid-bellied artificial baits are productive for daylight tuna fishing, especially when rigged with 4- to 5-foot of 60-pound leader topped with a barrel swivel.

    Fishing Methods

    • Many tuna anglers catch fish by pole-and-line from boats with baited hooks. Set the hooks in depths of 180 to 500 feet and suspend at varying depths. Cast in areas where tuna like to congregate and feed, such as humps, ridges and hills of the 20 to 30 fathom lines. This fishing technique works really well when tuna hold tight on structure while foraging for squid or small red hake. Other techniques include jiggling and slow trolling.

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