Atlantic Bonito Tackle and Tactics
Atlantic Bonito Tackle and Tactics
Saltwater Edge Tackle and Tactics: Atlantic Bonito
Atlantic Bonito are typically the first of the “ocean speedsters” to arrive in the waters of Southern New England each year. Usually arriving somewhere between mid-July and mid-August the fast and tasty bones offer an exciting change of pace to the striped bass fishing that consumed the first half of the season. They are a great gamefish on both light spin and fly gear. This Primer is intended to make your time on the water more effective by helping you determine your tackle needs and provide a review proven tactics. Buckle up for some of the most exciting fishing of the year!
The spin fisherman will need a good quality light tackle rod that will throw lures in the range of ½ to 1 ½ ounces. Your reel must have a smooth drag as it will be tested. The choice of line and leader is where it gets interesting because you have a tremendous amount of choices. In simple terms with monofilament there is the benefit of reduced cost and inherent stretch so when the fish surges as they often do your connections have built in shock resistance. Braids offer a number of distinct advantages most importantly a positive impact on casting distance which is a distinct advantage with this fast moving target; but also strength to diameter ratio which will help the line cut through the water during a bonito’s drag melting run. There is also the classification of “super lines” some of which are specifically optimized for spinning reels utilizing multiple stands of a super strong material which is then fused together to create a “uni-filiment” (think dental floss). These innovations are the engineers answer to the fisherman’s desire for maximum casting distance; a big plus for shore bound angler especially. As for leaders, many anglers feel the sharp eyed bonito give good reason to upgrade to fluorocarbon leaders in the 8 -12 lb range.
Here are recommendations from the Saltwater Edge staff and some of the Ocean State’s top guides for their preferred set up and a couple of their “go to” lures and flies.
Captain Eric Thomas (teezer77.com)
St Croix Avid 8ft (length helps with distance)with Shimano Spheros 4000 spooled 20lb PowerPro Slick 8 20lb line (casts a mile) with a 4 foot 12 lb SeaGuar fluorocarbon leader with no swivels (bones can be picky).
Captain Corey Pietraszek (plugnplaycharters.com)
G Loomis 7ft LR844 with Spheros 4000 (smooth and affordable) spooled with 14lb Fireline. “Go To” lures Deadly Dick 1L with Silver or Blue tape and the Rebel Jumpin Minnow with only a 1/0 VMC 9626 as tail hook (top water bonito are a blast!)
The bonito is an excellent fish to target with the fly rod and is one of the highlights of the season. Because the common baits are small like silversides, young of the year herring and sand eels they can be very well imitated with flies. Most anglers use a fast action 8 or 9 weight rod (8 is better if you can handle it) with 200 yards of backing. The reel should have a top notch drag system. For the 8 weight use sinking 300 grain lines and for the 9 use 350 grain attaching a short leader/tippet of about 5 feet in overall length. A simple three foot butt section of 30 lb mono and a 15lb fluorocarbon tippet will provide the stiffness to allow your cast to unfurl. Sinking lines get the fly in the feeding zone instantly, load the rod quickly, and they can punch through the wind and chop much most efficiently. Use the non-slip loop knot to attach the fly as it allows for a more natural movement as opposed to the straight and stiff clinch knot. Despite the teeth that bonito have cutoffs are uncommon and in addition these fish can be leader shy so it’s wise to take advantage of both the abrasion resistance and
underwater transparency provided by fluorocarbon tippets.
Captain Jim Barr (skinnywaterchartersri.com)
For flies Jim likes sparse Hi-Tie Clousers on 1/0 Mustad long shank hooks in chartruse and white with a good mix of flash, very light tan and olive over white
Like any gamefish different tactics will produce on different days. Generally, the first hot stable weather of a July “Bermuda High” should get the water temps to 70 degrees and party started in Southern New England. You want to target clear, moving water with some structure to focus the bait; reefs and steep drop offs for example. Bones prefer clean and a rainy spell will sometimesmove them out until clarity returns.
Bonito and it’s larger relative the false albacore “feed with speed” preferring to feed inline while charging through the bait versus a bluefish for example which will spin to hammer a plug they failed to chomp on the first pass. There is a debate about retrieve speed. Some like to “rip” the lure or fly across the surface to stimulate a strike. Be sure to maintain a speed where you are “connected” to your offering (easier said than done with fly gear). It’s a common mistake to reel so fast that the lure skips across the surface and setting the hook is more difficult. The other school advocates a slow retrieve that leaves your lure/fly in the strike zone longer. Toss a weighted Bunny Fly or jig into the school and let it fall through the bait. It is “easy pickins” for a tiny tuna to nail the apparently stunned bait on the drop. Best
advice is to vary your retrieve between the two extremes.
- It is far more effective to study the movements and try to establish a pattern than to “run and gun” For example there are some “hot spots” above the reef in Watch Hill and the bonito utilizing the structure below commonly “pop” in two or three locations with this information you can position the boat so you are ready.
- Fish the water you have identified regardless if you see breaking fish at the moment as the surface feeders are the “tip of the iceberg” and most of the feeding is 3-4 feet below the fray. Blind casting can be extremely effective when fish appear to be unwilling to “stay on top”.
- When you come upon breaking fish try to position the boat upwind or
- up current of the school and shut off the motor.
- Try to lead the fish by 3-4 feet allowing them to see and then take
- your offering
- On bright days the bones seem to prefer long slender jigs like Deadly Dicks, Swedish Pimples and Po Jee’s
- On overcast days and early morning try white soft plastics and Bunny flies
- Brighter lures and flies in dense bait balls
- We hope this Tackle and Tactics Primer is helps you move you up the learning curve with this challenging gamefish. Once you have landed a bonito then question becomes “How should you prepare it?” All I can say is
- are in for another treat!
If you have any feedback or want more information please contact email@example.com or call 401-842-0062
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