Winter tuna slam on artificial lure

It wasn’t long into the fight then my handle of my Finnor LT80 broke off giving me even less hope of landing the fish.

During a recent Tuna fishing trip I was invited on a large commercial fishing vessel and boy, o boy was it an exciting trip. We did not expect too much as it was the end of the season and the warmer current lines were starting to change and disappear. The skipper decided that it was going to be a short 3 day trip as this was the only gap in the weather. We launched on Friday afternoon at around 5 PM after a good catch up with the crew and with all preparations done, we dispatched to the deep blue. We launched out of the beautiful but cold Hout Bay on course to the deep waters of Langebaan on the West Coast. The vessel can only do about 8-9 knots max so this made for a long steam ahead of about 12 hours which makes it very important for the skipper and first mates to be extremely alert at all hours of the night, hence shifts being taken in order to let everyone get enough rest for the following days ahead. 

We arrived Saturday morning around about 5:30 AM at our skipper’s starting coordinates. The bait master started getting bait and chum ready for the mornings fishing ahead and we got sorted and ready for the day at around 6:30 AM.  We put in the Bungies (Bungie cord on thick mono with a small or medium sized squid pulled at the back end) ready and out. It was not even 30 minutes and we got our first strike on the bungies and it ended up being 2 Skipjack tuna, lines in again and continued steaming ahead. It wasn’t long before we went tight again on the Bungies and the skipper turned as the marks on the echo/fishfinder looked promising. The crew started poling for longfin tuna which resulted in about 20 odd longfin tuna ranging from 8-25 kg. After that we had about 4 or 5 more shoals of fish for the day delivering between 2 to 50 fish per shoal. As well as a couple of yellowfin tuna coming up and swimming around the chum with the crew getting some yellowfin tuna between 40 and 70 kg. The day really passed by fast as we were on the fish every now and then which kept our minds busy. At 5:30 PM the sun was already under the horizon and the skipper steamed a couple of miles up current to ensure we ended up on the same or similar coordinates in the morning.

I felt I was back in the game and fought the fish for approximately another 15 minutes after which, while winding the whole reel broke off the reel seat close to the gearbox, luckily I still had the handle knob in my hand.

Juandre Geldenhuys

We arrived at our sleeping/drifting coordinates at 8 PM and most of the crew had started getting ready to settle for the night and have a proper meal before they sleep. One of the crew members decided to drop a vertical jig down as the skipper said he was seeing some longfin tuna marks on the fishfinder/echo. On his first drop down he went tight on a big longfin tuna of around 20kg, immediately most of the crew and ! got excited and started to either bait or drop jigs down. My first drop I was pleasantly surprised with a decent yellowfin of around 40kg, after a short 5 minutes fight and my next 4 to 5 drops were quiet. On the next drop I hooked a longfin tuna very high up, I saw it flash in the lights of the boat and I horsed it, the boat in probably 3 or 4 seconds and then it got gaffed and lifted to above the gunnel and then it dropped off the gaff back into the water after which it probably took me another 3 or 4 minutes to land the feisty longfin of around 15kg.

I had to take a 5 minute rest after that longfin tuna, I shined up my glow in the dark jig and dropped it down to around 100m and started bringing it up again after retrieving for 20 meters. I hooked up to a fish that at first didn’t feel that big, but after it shaking its head for a couple of seconds it started peeling line off my reel like there was no drag on the reel. Eventually after it dumped around 100m off my spool in seconds I realized that this was a very big fish and I really believed at this stage I was never going to see the fish after hearing so many similar stories of commercials hooking giant fish at night and getting spooled. It wasn’t long into the fight then my handle of my Finnor LT80 broke off giving me even less hope of landing the fish. 

I had to palm the handle to even be able to reel in the slack the fish was giving by swimming straight up. Eventually one of the crew suggested trying on the handle of a Stella (which didn’t fit) and then a Saragossa which fit perfectly. I felt I was back in the game and fought the fish for approximately another 15 minutes after which, while winding the whole reel broke off the reel seat close to the gearbox, luckily I still had the handle knob in my hand. At this stage I felt like I really lost the battle and that I would surely not land the giant now. I held the reel and struggled for about 5 minutes after which the skipper decided to get a pair of gloves and hand lining the fish for the last bit of the fight, and for about 10 minutes of nerve wrecking reeling in the slack of the line gained by the very experienced skipper we started getting colour on the fish. There we saw that it was a big and beautiful Southern Bluefin tuna while it was circling the boat, and it was a nerve wrecking couple of circles as the fish presented itself a tricky gaff opportunity which didn’t happen and then scraping the rudder with the braid and that the braid has absolutely no stretch, my heart was racing and brain thinking of the worst case scenario. All in all, after the immense battle and team work we gaffed the fish next to the boat completing my artificial lure tuna slam of yellowfin, longfin and Bluefin within 2 hours of each other and all in the dark. It was an insane trip with an awesome skipper and crew, and the following morning we steamed home as the fish weren’t really eating and we slowly steamed home with the bungies in the water and arriving at Hout Bay harbor that evening at around 7PM. 

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