Lure Trolling for Yellowfin Tuna with Shawn Rotella

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Instructor: Shawn Rotella

Explore the intricacies of yellowfin tuna trolling with Captain Shawn Rotella. Discover expert tactics, best lure choices, and deep-sea secrets to elevate your sport fishing game.

Description / Review / Instructor

  • Species Highlight: Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), a thrilling catch in the deep blue.
  • Expert Insight: Captain Shawn Rotella from Fishing Kona Style shares his expertise.
  • Trolling Techniques: Tactics for when skipjacks are present.
  • Fish Behavior: Understanding predatory patterns.
  • Post-Catch Process: Gilling, gutting, and cooling your catch.
  • Factors Influencing Tuna: Tide patterns, habitat structures, lure colors, and trolling speeds.
  • Lure Recommendations: Dive into the lure arsenal for optimal results.

Yellowfin tuna, known scientifically as Thunnus albacares, is one of the most sought-after fish in the deep blue. Their sleek, torpedo-like bodies, marked by a distinctive yellow dorsal fin, make them both a challenge and a thrill to catch. As an avid angler, you might already be aware of the nuances of tuna fishing. But do you know the specifics of using lures for yellowfin tuna fishing? In this guide, we'll delve deep into the art and science of trolling lures to catch these magnificent creatures, especially when schools of skipjack are in the vicinity.

Meet the Expert: Captain Shawn Rotella

Captain Shawn Rotella, the man behind Fishing Kona Style, is not just any fisherman. He is a master of the craft, creating lures tailored for species ranging from tuna and wahoo to marlin. His in-depth understanding of the dietary preferences and behaviors of pelagic fish, combined with his prowess in yellowfin tuna lures creation, makes him a figure of authority in this domain.

Videos to Learn Yellowfin Tuna Fishing Techniques

Yellowfin Tuna Chunking Drifting and Live Baiting - A Video for Learning
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Top 5 Yellowfin Tuna Surface Lures

Trolling Tactics & Setup

When Skipjacks are in Play

When schools of skipjack dart around, feeding on smaller fish such as flying fish, it's an open invitation for predators like yellowfin tuna and marlin. In such scenarios, here's how you should set up:

  1. Spread Theory: Aim to make your lure spread imitate a school of feeding skipjacks. This means using a combination of lures that resemble both large and small skipjacks chasing after flying fish. Remember, yellowfin tuna aren't shy of going after a big meal, so don't be hesitant to use big lures.
  2. Lure Placement: As per Shawn's experience, tuna often target lures that are furthest back in the spread. This is primarily because tuna are wary of the prop wash. Thus, smaller lures should be placed way back in the spread configuration.
  3. Spread Configuration: The wave position for each lure plays a pivotal role in attracting the fish. Shawn emphasizes understanding the wave patterns and adjusting lure placements accordingly.

Understanding the Predators' Behavior

While catching tuna is the primary goal, it's essential to note that the waters often have both marlin and tuna feeding on the same prey. The lure that attracts a tuna could very well entice a blue marlin. Hence, Shawn's mantra: be prepared for everything. His standard tuna trolling spread includes a mix of bigger poppers with a couple of quieter lures in the back.

Processing Your Catch: Gilling and Gutting

After successfully catching a yellowfin, the next crucial step is processing the fish. Shawn offers a systematic approach:

  1. Gilling: Carefully remove the gills.
  2. Gutting: Clean out the internal organs.
  3. Cooling the Tuna: It's vital to get the tuna's core temperature down as soon as possible. Ice brining is recommended, along with inserting ice into the belly cavity.

Factors Influencing Tuna Behavior


While there isn't a notable difference between incoming and outgoing tides, the changeover point is crucial. This period is considered a major feeding time for tuna. Therefore, knowing the current and tide change times can significantly boost your chances.

Moving Water & Structure

Areas of upwelling are prime spots for yellowfin tuna. These zones offer a confluence of nutrients and small fish, attracting bigger predators.

Lure Color

The choice of lure color can make a significant difference. For instance, if the fish are feeding on squid, opt for daisy chainn lures. Shawn points out two primary color themes:

  1. Fish Colors: Blue and silver dominate this palette.
  2. Squid Colors: Pink and purple are the go-to shades.

Lures Trolling Speed

When it comes to trolling speed for tuna, it's essential to maintain a lower rpm, around 7-8 knots. This ensures a cleaner wake, allowing the lures to run optimally.

The Lure Arsenal

Shawn has an impressive array of lures in his spread. Key features to note:

  1. Hook Rig: Proper rigging ensures that the fish gets hooked effectively.
  2. Hook Placement: For tuna, the hook's placement in the lure is crucial. Given that marlins are also around, a heavier setup is advised.

In Conclusion

Trolling for yellowfin tuna is an art that requires knowledge, experience, and the right tools. With insights from experts like Captain Shawn Rotella, and by understanding the intricacies of yellowfin tuna lures, tuna trolling, and other related aspects, you're well on your way to mastering this skill. Happy fishing, and may your next catch be a record-breaker!


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Seth Horne - In The Spread, Founder
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Shawn Rotella

Captain Rotella, the acclaimed mastermind behind Night Runner Sport Fishing, offers a unique deep-sea fishing experience in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. With a state-of-the-art 38' custom-built vessel, he provides a diverse array of charters, including Giant Blue Marlin, Mahi Mahi, Yellow Fin Tuna, Wahoo, and other species. Rotella's commitment to customer service, world-renowned lure crafting skills, and family-friendly atmosphere make his charter service a beacon for fishing enthusiasts worldwide.

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