Your average offshore fisherman hates false albacore – better known as bonita in the south and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are not prized on the table and have a nasty habit of eating jigs, lures and trolling baits intended for much more palatable targets such as yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi. In other words, false albacore are a nuisance on the bluewater scene.
But then a funny thing happens. Every fall, they migrate up the coast from the Carolinas to Massachusetts, instantly transforming from pest to prize. Anyone with a small boat, kayak or just two feet in the sand can have a crack at these mini tuna, which fight 10 times harder than all other inshore species within that migratory range. Their visit, however, is brief, which is why members of the false albacore cult work so hard to find a fix while they can. Chasing these speed demons will test your patience and traction, but you can increase your chances of success by remembering these critical rules.
1) Lead, Don’t Follow
False albacore are the Indy cars of the ocean. Everything they do, they do with speed and aggression. But what they not do is turn around and look behind them. A school of albies picks up such steam when a swarm of baitfish rush in that the encounter often lasts only a few seconds. You see some boils, some splashes, maybe some fast lines just below the surface or a fish that airs and is done. Then, they’ll do it all again 50 or 100 yards away, sometimes seconds after you last saw them, sometimes not for 10 minutes or more. Part of the challenge is just getting yourself in a position to hit them with a cast. But even when you make it your goal, a common mistake anglers make is to cast where the albies are Were instead of where they are going.
You’ll often see albie freaks watching instead of the cast. They are looking at how long schools stay awake when feeding and, more importantly, which direction they are moving. If you can get an idea of that general direction, not only will you have a better chance of positioning yourself in their path, but you’ll also know where to take a cast when they finally do. appear in the beam.
For a fast-moving albie to grab your lure or fly, it practically has to run into its face, and once your offering is behind it, it’s completely out of the question. Therefore, the goal should always be to steer the fish slightly. This is easier for boaters, but surfcasters can do it by noting which way the fish are moving up or down the beach, then getting well ahead of the action and waiting for the fish to come to them, rather than run after each set of boilers. but being late to the party with a cast.
2) Speed kills
There is no such thing as finesse fishing for false albacore. Once again, when they feed, it is fast and violent, and they are driven by foragers that react to that violence. When the albies attack, the bait is showering in the air, swimming for dear life. Therefore, a slow moving lure or fly may look so unnatural that it will be rejected. The trick is to match speed to speed.
When you finally get a solid strike on a feeding school, let your lure strike, drop the rod tip into the water and spin like crazy. You can’t roll fast enough to make a metal utensil or spoon skip an albi, I promise, so go ahead and really burn. Under water, the fish are swimming as fast as they are eating, they are simply sensing the frantic movement and flash of the live bait. This high-speed return does the best job of matching what they’re already looking for down there.
If you are casting flies, now is the time to rely on a two-handed pull. As soon as your Clouser or Deceiver touches bottom, tuck the rod in, point the tip out of the water, and start stripping the line with both hands like you’re milking a cow at high speed. This method takes some practice to master, but you’ll never get a fly to move as fast with a normal one-handed strip.
3) The eyes have it
False Albacores have exceptional eyesight. If you think about it, they have to make it home to small bait fish while moving at such high speeds. In the perfect scenario, there are so many albies around hammering bait that they indiscriminately bash anything that comes their way, but that’s not always the reality. Although they may only have a split second to devote to your lure or flight, they see more than you might think in that fraction.
That Epoxy Jig
I can’t tell you how many times going from 30-pound fluorocarbon leader to 20-pound or even up to 12-pound has made all the difference in the number of bites I’d score. Likewise, increasing my lure or fly up or down just one size was the ticket to going from a casual feed to a hookup every time I got a good strike on a school.
Albies can be as selective as raising wild trout, and sometimes adjusting the forage to hand is a must, while other times you can get away with being close enough. As an example, if albies are anchovy, don’t assume they’ll crush the Chartreuse Clouser they ate last time. Make an effort to match that bait with a brown-backed reel. Likewise, epoxy jigs have become very popular for these fish in recent years, and unlike classic metal lures, they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors so you can match the bait in hand as closely as possible. to be possible.