Analysing Longtail Behaviour

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Follow these simple tips and tricks from Dale Ward and you could become one of those anglers who constantly catches Longtail Tuna.

Chasing Longtail (Northern Blue fin) Tuna along the coastline of South-East Queensland is frustrating but rewarding. Longtail Tuna are not always very quick to feed on anything cast at them, even when bait is thick. By casting a “well presented” lure into the feeding zone – a Longtail Tuna will strike and put on a dramatic fight but don’t expect a gracious battle as they shred line from your spool in a flutter of contention and rivalry.

Let’s admit there is no better fishing than either sight fishing or surface action. I have written many articles on choosing the right lures and there is a simple fact as to why fish whack certain lures time and time again…. Cause they work!!! When Tuna are feeding on smaller sized bait I tend to “Match the hatch” and down size to smaller profile surface slug (such as DUO Pressbait 85 for the slim profile, but has 28 grams in weight) that has not been represented in any top water high speed surface lure for a perfect swimming balance on the water’s surface and let’s admit the best fishing is visual.

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Pulling up on birds, working scattered bait patches for tuna with Spotted Mackerel slicing the water’s surface feeding below, it can also pay to alternate your lure selection and colour. I find that when the water is calm and glassed out pelagic’s will almost definitely sight a passing lure but most often the bait can be scattered which means the fish are also. Selecting the moment to cast is always the key; when fish are not bound in a tight area and are quite flighty it’s crucial to consider the species behavior, but this tends to be a task on its own as they dart in and out of the scattered bait erratically with no definite course. None the less determining a surface feeding pelagic’s direction or course will most definitely have success in hookup ratios.

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There seems to be a pattern in catching feeding tuna, it’s not just a matter of casting a lure into a bait ball and retrieving it at high speed. Getting a Longtail to actually chase your lure is about analyzing the Tuna’s behavior. They may be sipping the surface in pairs or busting bait off the surface with explosions and sometimes whacking bait on the surface then retreating to the depths and re-emerging 30 metres away. Learning Tuna’s reactions and where they are moving will assist any angler where to cast the lure to be in direct interception of the fish when retrieved. No use casting a lure directly into the feeding as this will scatter the bait and spook the Tuna. Casting beyond the bait ball and having the lure in a position to where the Tuna will move in conjunction with your retrieval is one way I tend to have the best outcome and almost a definite hookup. Now you will know where they will move next if you had been observing the behavior and usual direction of the fish. Often though, a positive hook-up is achieved by casting to the edges of the bust up to entice an individual fish into thinking a baitfish escaped the bait ball mayhem, usually the fish will eat without hesitation; the hardest part is putting the lure in the right spot.

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When pelagic fish are roaming through the water picking off the odd bit of bait, it can be a lot harder to present a lure. That is when frustration tends to set in. Casting to one side and then to the other side of the fish only for it to move so when the lure lands it is directly out of sight of the fish. Tuna will also occasionally make it difficult for any lure angler when they feed on the smallest of bait making it near impossible to make a lure presentable.

The fight from a Longtail is strong; they have so much endurance in their struggle to become free. Just when you think you have turned the head of one of these athletic torpedoes they make another run taking out all that line you just subtracted from the fish. Longtail Tuna are one sport fish I have caught a fair amount of, but time and time again I get that same euphoric reaction, and that’s what I chase every time I go fishing and that is something that cannot be re-created from any form of anything else.

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A very common evaluation with longtail are “They feed into the wind”! Now tuna typically will feed into the major force whether it be the tidal current, or wind direction, or a combination of both, but a local pattern seems to be that they feed in a straight line such as along the edge of a bank or current line; or they may feed in a circular pattern within the overall trend to feed into the wind. You can also expect changes in feeding behavior as the current slows, stops and then changes at the turn of each tide. It isn’t always predictable but you can generalize that as the tide slows and stops the baitfish are more likely to scatter around, and this may generate more spasmodic feeding from the longtail and other pelagics for an hour or so. Having said this, I also have experienced many situations where the change in tide just happened to coincide with a hot bite with larger schools presenting themselves for easy approaches and willing hook-ups.

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The laws of second guessing longtail behavior are definitely not set in stone – these rough rules will make you sound like you know what you are talking about, but the general guidelines with longtail behavior can be pre determined by paying attention while chasing them, there is no GPS secret spot when chasing longtail on lures, but as I always say “Fishing is not a sport of drowning worms“.

Dale Ward

About Dale Ward

Dale Ward grew up in both Sydney and Country Victoria and has fished as far back as he can remember. Dale has found himself casting lures at both freshwater and saltwater species along the East-Coast and prides himself as a new member of the Kaydo Fishing World team.

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