Chumming for Tuna

August 24, 2020
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Chumming for tuna is an art form that can be lethal when executed correctly. Yellowfin and bluefin tuna are highly migratory, with migration patterns overlapping with baitfish. Chumming allows you to switch the tuna's focus to your offerings, allowing you to catch more fish and avoid obstacles. In The Spread's library of tuna fishing videos provides valuable knowledge.

The Art of Chumming and It Is an Art

When the topic of chumming for tuna comes up, one thing that you have to accept is that there are several viable techniques for how you chum. Depending on where you are in the world, the type of chum you use and how you distribute it will vary. Chumming tuna is an art form, when executed at a high level. It can be an absolutely lethal fishing technique. The context for this article is on yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna.

What we, at In The Spread, have tried to do is compile as much chumming for tuna tradecraft as possible, so you can draw from a wealth of knowledge. Our library of tuna fishing videos will instill you with ample know how, so you can go out and crush some yellowfin and bluefin tuna using chum. We may not have filmed in every fishery, but we have filmed in some very key areas with a few of the best tuna fishermen on the scene. All the fishermen we film with are extraordinarily experienced and wide open about sharing their wisdom. If you are reading this article and have not watched any of our tuna fishing videos, take the time to check them out.

Tuna Movements Relative to Baitfish Migrations

Yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna are highly migratory. These migrations correspond with their spawning behavior and with their food needs. Many times you will see these migration patterns overlap with that of baitfish. They have a huge appetites, consuming as much food as they possibly can on a daily basis. When fishing for tuna, you want to become a source of food and hold them around your boat for as long as possible. Chumming, in various forms, allows you to switch the tuna off from what they were focused on to what you have to offer. This will be a subtle transition and if executed correctly will allow you to pick off fish after fish, as you hold the schools attention with tasty morsels. By becoming the source of food, you can move tuna away from any obstacles or structure that may cause your line to be cut off.

Tuna Are Always on Food

It is always about food for tuna. Whether you are in Nova Scotia targeting bluefin tuna or Venice, Louisiana going after yellowfin tuna, these fish know where the food is. It could be man made structure like herring boats, trawl boats and oil platforms or it could be natural bottom structure that attracts the bait. You can also find tuna in open water. One way or another, the tuna are on food. Find the food, find the fish. Birds are also a dead giveaway as to where the food is, in most cases. You will want to know how to read the birds, as well. This is usually an open water thing and not associated as much with man made structure.

Becoming the Food Source

What the chum allows you to do is become the source, that conveyor belt of food. You want to attract the tuna to your boat and keep them there. There are a multitude of options when it comes to chum. You can use live bait, chunks, ground bait and even scented oils. You can use these individually or in combination. Quality should always be at the forefront. Using quality baits equates to quality fishing. In almost any type of fishing, the better your bait, the better fish you are going to catch. Get the best bait you can.

What Qualifies as Chum?

If you intend to use live bait for chumming tuna, be sure to carry as much as you can take. You do not want to run out in the midst of the frenzy. Having several hundred live baits may seem like a load and it is, but you can go through that amount in short order. Some of the more ideal baits will be pilchards, goggle eyes, finger mullet, menhaden or pogies and blue runners or hard tails and mackerel. These are all great options. If there is a more prevailing type of bait fish in your area, by all means use that.

For your dead bait or chunks, again, have a large supply on hand. Even if you are fishing live bait, it is a good idea to always have some dead bait on hand and ready to use. This may be in the form of frozen bait that you have thawed out and chunked. By-catch, if you can get it off a commercial fishing boat, it a great option. You will see in our Chunking and Chumming for Yellowfin Tuna video how we obtain by-catch and then use of to bait big yellowfin tuna. Pilchards, sardines, mackerel, various minnows, mullet and menhaden are good options for frozen bait. For a full day of fishing, you will probably want to have upwards of fifty pounds of bait.

Chunking and Chumming for Yellowfin Tuna

Tactics, Techniques and Preparation Related to Chumming

As for actual tuna chumming techniques, there are a lot. Most are somewhat specific to the area you are fishing and the type of structure you may be on or whether you are in open water. Most good fishermen are going to look for tuna in areas they have identified as holding fish on a regular seasonal basis. Once they arrive on scene and determine there are fish, one of two methods are usually employed. Either you get on the structure and situate yourself up current or in close proximity to pitch baits or you position your boat well in front of a moving school and then start sending out baits. You will see multiple methods in our videos. Be measured in how many baits you are putting out. You don't want too much or too little. If you are putting out too much, the tuna may just feed on that and not take your hooked baits and if you chum with too little, you may not hold their attention and the fish will move on. Consistency is the key. Be slow and steady.

Live Bait Chumming

With live chumming you want to get your baits away from the boat, so they don't try and hide under your hull. One cool method is to throw a lot of bait out on the surface. This will get the tuna in a frenzy. A chum bat is very useful for this. Tuna cannot resist a pile of bait on the surface. Once you have the tuna coming up, take a five gallon bucket, add a dozen or so baits. Get your boat slowly moving, throw out the baits from the bucket and your lines at the same time and then give your motors some gas to create some white water. The baits will flee to the white water for protection. When the white water dissipates, the baits become sitting ducks. Bam. Your hooked baits get nailed.

Dead Bait Chumming

For chumming with dead bait or chunking, a good method is the setup on the up current side of whatever structure you are fishing. Finding the up current side is not always easy. You can use the assistance of your bottom machine to mark baits schools down deep. The bait schools will be on the side you want to fish. Take advantage of the current to move you chum slick away from your boat and towards the structure. Start feeding out chunks a few at a time to attract the tuna. Drift hooked baits back with your chunks at the same natural sink rate. This may be more important than you hook, line or leader. If the bait is not sinking that same way as you free bait, the tuna will ignore it. You can control the sink rate by how slowly or quickly you feed line into the water. Once you hook up, keep throwing chunks 2-3 at a times to keep the fish excited while you fight the tuna on your line.

Using Live and Dead Baits

When fishing for yellowfin tuna, combining live and dead bait can be a highly effective strategy. If you have located a school of tuna on your fish finder, start by chunking dead bait to create a scent trail and attract the fish closer to your boat. As the tuna approach your chum slick, strategically pitch a few live baits into the water. The natural movement and vibrant appearance of the live bait will be irresistible to the yellowfin tuna, triggering their predatory instincts. The combination of the enticing scent from the chunk bait and the lively presentation of the live bait creates a potent attraction that tuna find hard to resist. This deadly duo of live and dead bait will significantly increase your chances of hooking up with yellowfin tuna and experiencing an unforgettable battle.

Quality Matters in All Things Tuna Fishing

Tuna are tuna and you will find the bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye are voracious eaters. If you can find good spots that hold fish and can capitalize on sound chumming techniques, you will catch your limit. Don't be cheap with your bait. This is an expensive game. Good tackle is a must, but having a sound understanding of how to bait fish is the key. Knowing how to present baits is what you have to work on. Our tuna fishing videos will give you a heck of a head start. Take the time to learn from fishermen that have achieved tons of success. These are the guys that will hold nothing back. They have nothing left to prove and really just want to help you be a better fisherman.

In The Spread is one of the world's premier sport fishing video companies and educational outlets for demonstration, explanation and insight on how to catch fish. Get inside access to our video library by becoming a member.

Seth Horne In The Spread,
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