Spreader Bar Tactics for Tuna


Tuna anglers in the Northeast have been running a little secret for the past 25 years – squid spreader bars.  Well, they’re no secret anymore as spreaders are now commonplace across the offshore arena, but original canyon hounds relied and still do count on squid spreaders to raise yellowfin, bluefin and bigeye tuna.

Captain Craig Angelini of the Canyon Runner, Point Pleasant NJ, consistently puts tuna limits on deck using spreaders, and though many variations exist, anglers need to understand which models to utilize and why. “It’s obvious to say match the hatch, but generally our bait to mimic revolves around squid, with the key being to pay attention to the size and color of the squid when selecting a spreader bar,” says Angelini. “If we are seeing the large, orangish squid at night, we’ll throw out the 9-inch pink/brown combo or red squids, otherwise if it’s a general pink size, then the 6-inch squids go out, usually in Bloomin’ Silver or Mini Mamba color patterns. The smaller squid work better too during the earlier part of the season in June and July.” If mackerel are the predominant bait, which may happen as well during the early part of the season, then Angelini will opt to throw larger 9-inch squids out on the bar.

Water clarity also plays a big part in determining spreader selection. “When we get that clean and clear cobalt blue, I’ll go with brighter colors,” says Angelini. “Use the rainbow and yellow patterns in those crisp clean waters, but when the waters are a darker green, or bluish green, dial down to deep hued colors like electric green and deep blue or purple.”

For speed, a 6-1/2 knot pace is the standard to pull spreader bars, but if seas are glassy flat, bump it up to 7-1/2 to 8 knots. “When conditions are ultra clear and calm, you want to move the bars a lot faster to be able to trick tuna,” notes Angelini. “If you troll at a 6-1/2 knot pace in clear conditions, the tuna won’t commit because they have that extra split second to see it and realize something’s not quite right. You can get away with moving slower in dirtier waters.” But trolling pace isn’t as important as to what your bars are actually doing according to Angelini. “Do not plow the spreader bars through the water. You want them hovering and slapping above, so whatever conditions dictate, adjust your pull accordingly to achieve that end.” Angelini likes to implement Green Machines during “average” conditions with a little chop and a little swell, but will switch up to bolt squid spreaders when conditions are too flat as they “dig in nice to really create a commotion.”

Learn to choose the right spreader bar for various conditions, then implement their use effectively, and you’ll see your tuna tallies going off the charts.

Photo Courtesy of Scout Boats

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