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Understanding Lures for Bonito and False Albacore


My Cousin Bruno Demir with a couple nice Bonito off of Monomoy Island.


It's fair to say that in the Northeast, Striped Bass and Tuna dominate the fishing season focus. There are however, a couple species that have created a 'sub-culture' of sorts amongst anglers that have an addiction and obsession over what is termed the 'funny' fish. The Atlantic Bonito, False Albacore, and Spanish Mackerel are three representatives from this group that make seasonal visits to our waters usually at the peak of water temperatures. Their anticipated arrival results in meticulous examination over leaders, knots, lures, hooks, and gear. For kayak anglers, the arrival of these slashing speedsters is cause for scheduling time out of work in an effort to sneak up on a pod these fish. For boaters, these fish represent an inshore option for scaled down, tuna-like fishing. Fishing light tackle with smaller reels and screaming drags as the line peels off the spool is absolutely an intoxicating experience.


The below video from Ryan Collins of MyFishingCapeCod.com exhibits some of the amazing feeding visuals of these fish. Before getting into some of the lure topics below, enjoy the footage from Ryan.


The behavior and habits of these fish can be described as unpredictable and that may be a kind term. Other unprintable words can be used for the times in which these fish frustrate anglers. One tide in certain weather conditions, they may be feeding up on top with a very discerning taste for size and shape of the offering. At other times, they may not show at all on the surface but be unguarded in what they may attack. A good morning of albie fishing could be followed up in the afternoon with not a single sighting or bite at the same location. It's difficult to establish 'hard' and singular truths when it comes to targeting these fish, but there are those times when the requisite stars align, these fish drop their inhibitions and will feed on a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes, which can lead to some fantastic fishing. Some of the tendencies of these fish will be outlined below.


There are a diverse number of techniques to catch these elusive fish and in turn, a large variety of lures. This post is intended to break down the four basic lure categories for these fish and suggest some of the specific situations in which to fish them.


All of the lure types are trying to match the hatch and do so with a presentation that tries to satisfy the criteria to crack the code to catch these fish. The tastes or desires of what these fish may prefer to eat can change from tide to tide, day to day, or location to location. Some times imitative colors work and sometimes a completely 'wild' or loud color stands out and gets taken.


METAL JIG

Prior to the arrival of a multi-material, multidimensional jig, the metal jig, or 'tins' as they are sometimes referred by, occupied the majority of someone's tackle arsenal for these fish in the late summer and fall. Simple, durable, and most importantly, long casting, an all metal jig offers the proper size to weight ratio to launch a small offering a reasonably long distance through the wind into breaking fish.


The Kastmaster, the Deadly Dick, the Point Jude, Daddy Mac, and the Hopkins brands of lures all make metal jigs and tins that will work for these funny fish. Below is an image of the Monomoy Tackle 'Forage' jigs.


If these metals had one negative trait, it was that the dense metal composition also sank very quickly. A very fast retrieve is needed almost constantly to keep these jigs along the surface. One could say that these metal jigs are sort of a 'one liner' or a 'one trick' pony. They cast well and the metal makes them inherently durable.


PROS:

  • Casting Distance

  • Durability

  • Compact in size

CONS:

  • Fast Sinking

  • Requires a fast retrieve

  • Difficult or challenging to finesse or work the lure compared to others.


COATED METAL JIG

Perhaps the most studied or scrutinized lure in recent memory developed is a metal jig coated in a mixture of Epoxy or Resin. The advances in technology, color matching, and molds has led to a very large variety of multi-material jigs being produced.


The metal provides the majority of the weight and the coating portion can vary in thickness and in shape around the metal lure to create the final profile of the lure. The trade-off from an all metal jig is that there is a compromise in casting distance for greater advances in other areas. There's a compromise happening. In my personal view, the greatest benefits of this type of lure is two fold. First you get this visual quality of the lure as light passes through the translucent outer coating of the material that is appealing to the fish in simulating certain baits. The second quality is that the coating on this type of jig provides a bit of buoyancy or action on the lure as a result of the coating. Another way to view this property is that the coated jigs allow for a more 'swimming' action of the lure on the retrieve and these lures are easier to make skip across the top if that is a presentation an angler wishes to make.





Another undervalued benefit from my point of view is that these coated jigs are larger for their size compared to a metal jig. In some instances, when the funny fish are on microscopic bait this is a deterrent, but in many fall run situations, the larger profile of these jigs can separate your lure from a crowd that can bring on a bit whether its from a funny fish, striped bass, or bluefish.



Virtually every major lure manufacturer has a version of this type of lure in a variety of imitative shapes and colors to closely match the forage or the 'hatch' as its called. Some of these manufacturers include Hogy Lure, JoeBaggs Tackle, Game On, Fat Cow, and RonZ. There's no shortage of options and they all work.


The advancements in this type of jig seem to be boundless. Manufacturers are playing with the ratio of metal to epoxy/resin and achieving jigs that are now more resin than metal and getting even more translucency and buoyancy. The resin can be tinted and toned to be something other than clear. Some jigs are even being made with a 'soft' poxy.


PROS:

  • Reflective/Refractive quality of the epoxy/resin material

  • Versatility of Retrieves

  • Reasonable Casting Distance.

  • Durability

CONS:

  • In situations of smaller or micro baits, the size of these jigs may reduce effectiveness.

  • Epoxy/resin may become brittle or discolor over time.


Please take the time to watch this video below from Ryan Collins of MyFishingCapeCod.com. The Albie fishing begins +/- minute 12 if you wish to fast forward to that point, but there is some great footage using resin coated jigs from kayak and shore. All credits for the content go to Ryan Collins. IF interested in content or membership please visit www.myfishingcapecod.com for more.


SOFT PLASTICS

At times when Albies and other 'funny' fish are present in an area but very finicky, using a soft plastic lure can produce a bite when other lures won't. Soft plastics can be so effective that there are a large number of anglers that only fish this type of lure not matter the situation. These lures offer such a range of finesse finishing opportunities in terms of surface retrieve and control over presentation on top, that many anglers simply prefer this to any other lure. With debris in the water, a soft plastic rigged weedless can provide a surface presentation that can be 'weedless.'

Albie Snax - Registered Trademark of Fish Snax Lure Co - soft plastic in Amber

One may ask, why choose another lure at all. As with most things, there are trade-offs. Casting on windy days can be challenging. The presence of bluefish can be challenging and expensive. The embedded single hook in the body can at times slightly limit hook-up ratios. The benefits seemingly outweigh the problems and soft plastics are seemingly a must have in tackle boxes for anglers.


The above photos is of an Albie Snax as the caption mentions but other manufacturers have great options as well including Hogy Lure company, Gravity Tackle, NLBN (NoLiveBaitNeeded), East End Lure Company, JoeBaggs, RonZ, and others.


PROS:

  • Finesse, top water retrieve

  • Variety of Rigging Methods - weightless and jigheads

CONS:

  • Casting distance

  • Durability in the presence of toothy fish

For some visuals on how to fish a soft plastic for false albacore, please see the video below from Ryan Collins of Myfisningcapecod.com



HARD PLASTIC PLUG

The final lure 'type' being presented for 'funny' fish here is the use of small plastic plugs that would otherwise be used for other species such as Striped Bass and Bluefish. These lures can be exclusively topwater, spook style lures or be subsurface swimbait lures, either lipped or unlipped.


If you are someone, like me, that trolls for Bonito and False Albacore at high speeds, lipped shallow or deep divers can be very effective and companies like, YoZuri and Rapala make excellent lures in smaller sizes for these applications.


In this article, we have largely talked about casting applications, and plastic plugs have a place in that type of fishing technique as well. Small plugs can be cast blindly or to visible, breaking fish. You may say there is a compromise here as well over soft plastics. You gain some casting distance and some durability, but some of the 'finesse' in the hands of the angler are taken away.


Spooks and topwater plugs are becoming increasingly popular, but they admittedly have limited uses. A topwater offering is effective sometimes only on the fish that crash the surface that you see, but its said by many charter captains that the fish you 'see' are only a small fraction of the fish you don't see below the surface that are undoubtedly present. It's for that reason that in many respects subsurface plugs or jigs are preferred.


PROS:

  • Benefits in High Speed Trolling and Control Depth fishing

  • More durable than soft plastics

CONS:

  • Limited 'finesse' techniques preferred by a lot of anglers.

  • Limited Casting Distance compared to jigs


READING AND REFERENCE








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