We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Michael Hogan, owner and president of Hogy Lure Company, to discuss cast and dropping to finicky bluefin tuna keyed in on sand eels with the Hogy Sand Eel softbait. Here's what we found out...
Cast and Drop: In the spring of 2012, Hogy introduced the 7" Sand Eel. While this bait is hugely popular for striper anglers targeting striped bass feeding on sand eels, they are a deadly tuna bait. In recent years, finding a bait small enough to replicate a small sand eel, but heavy enough to cast, has been a challenge. When paired with the 2oz Barbarian Jig Head, this bait can be easily cast to breaking fish. Since the softbait is relatively small in comparison to the lead head, it is a casting dream.
Location: Anywhere tuna are feeding on sand eels.
Tides: Depending on where you are fishing, the water can be moving heavily or not.
Approach: When tuna are keyed in on pods of sand eels, they are really keyed in on bait balls and when this happens, it is difficult to catch tuna on the blind cast. As a result, you have to be on top of these fish. Furthermore, the technique requires a smaller bait, so you will have less visibility. So you have have two choices which are: (1) to wait for fish to break near your boat or (2) run and gun on the schools or (3) a mix of both. I prefer # 3, to cruise around at 8-9 knots. At this speed, my fish finder is still sending me accurate readings, but I’m not going too fast to spook fish. I will also troll two spinning rods in the holders so I am still getting the benefits of trolling and if I take the boat out of gear for good marks on the fish finder, my baits will swing toward the fish. It’s amazing how many fish hit the troll.
Rigging Selection: 2oz Barbarian Jig Head
Bait Selection: 7″ Hogy Sand Eel Softbait
Why This Bait? It’s hard to comment much on the imitative looks of the bait. It’s a sand Eel, but what you can’t see in the picture is how soft this bait is. It has a noticeable quiver as a result of the action notches molded into the bait. It’s just big enough. The bait itself weighs nearly 1/2oz and when paired with the 2oz barbarian jig head, it is a casting machine. The 2oz Barbarian is a proven classic. It has taken some very large tuna on my boat.
Colors: Light Sand-eel, Dark Sand-eel, Grey Ghost
Retrieve: This bait is so soft, not much is needed here other than speed. Point your tip to the water and start cranking! If you are dropping on fish on your recorded, drop the bait. Keep in mind that the darter head is large enough relative to the bait, so it will sink OK. The upside is, it’s light weight gives it a very natural presentation in the water.
Rod: 8′ Heavy Action St. Croix Legend Salt Spinning Rod
Reel: Shimano Stella or Saragosa 18000
Line: 80lb Power Pro Braid
Leader: 80lb Fluorocarbon leader
Connection: Use a slim beauty knot for line to leader