The Redington Grande fly reel is a perfect fit for Pacific Bluefin Tuna - Photo courtesy Redington

In our previous post (Chasing the Holy Grail-Part 1), we went over a bit of background, and the story behind Mason Stoller’s capture of a Pacific Bluefin Tuna on fly. In this post, we’ll get technical and cover gear, rigging and tactics. We’ll also recap the status of his world record application.

Tackle used:

Some Thoughts on Tackle & Rigging for Bluefin Tuna:

  • Fly Lines:

    • In Mason’s experience, Bluefin can be spooked by bright fly line colors. He sticks with  black, blue, green, or translucent/clear fly lines
    • Rio Products’ Leviathan fly line is one of his favorites because of its 70 lb test core, but since it’s designed for tropical waters, it gets a bit stiff and can tangle in our cooler waters. His other “go to” fly lines are Rio Products’ Outbound Custom T11 or T14 sinking lines. Since they are cold water lines, they do not tangle as much, and the fast-sinking shooting heads can make it easier to cast long distances
  • Reel Size:

    • Capt. Stoller favors the 11-12-13 model Redington Grande over their larger 14+ model. It has almost the same diameter spool as the 14+, so it has almost the  same retrieve speed, but it’s lighter. Both reels have great drags
    • The Grande 14+ model’s 700 yard backing capacity is not required when fishing from a private boat, since you can follow the fish if needed
  • Knots & Rigging:

    • Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon in 20 lb test is the base for Mason’s leader. He ties a Bimini twist on fly line end, then uses a loop-to-loop connection to the fly line
    • A 40 lb fluorocarbon bite tippet is connected to the leader using an Alberto knot. He feels that 40 lb fluorocarbon is a little light, but is willing to trade abrasion resistance for more bites. If he knows the fish will be larger, he steps up to 50 or 60 lb fluorocarbon
    • Capt. Stoller uses a San Diego knot for joining the fly to the bite tippet

Equipment Setup for Bluefin Tuna:

  • Drag settings:

    • For a 20 lb tippet, it is typical to set the reel’s drag to 5 – 7 lbs off the rod tip. Most fly fishermen don’t have a good feel for what this much drag feels like, and do not put enough pressure on the fish
    • The best way to set the drag is with a scale, but lacking that, if your drag is set properly, it will be hard to strip line off the reel to make a cast. If you can strip line off the spool with only moderate effort, the drag is not set heavy enough. 
    • It’s best to set your drag and practice pulling hard, so you get a feel for how much pressure you can apply. Fishing for Yellowtail and Mako sharks can be great practice for learning the right feel!
  • Right-versus-Left hand winding:

    • Capt. Stoller winds left-handed, and casts right-handed
    • He wants the hand with the most sensitivity and strength holding the rod. This allows him to better apply maximum pressure while still retaining the sensitivity needed to avoid break offs
    • Having grown up with spinning reels, he feels comfortable winding quickly with his left hand