By Seth Funt and Michael Grant
Wind-on leaders are usually made for seamless connection between your main line and leader, so that you can reel a fish all the way up close to your rod tip when landing or releasing. With lighter lines and leaders, combinations of smooth knots such as a Bimini twist and Yucatan may be used. On heavier big-game wind-ons with Dacron loops, we frequently use loop-to-loop cat’s paw connections. There is one time where we always include a swivel in our wind-on leader system: when we are chunking dead bait for yellowfin tuna. Unlike all of the other wind-on leader applications such as trolling and live baiting, retrieving chunked dead bait can cause severe twist in your main line and leader. To help reduce line twist, we connect the wind-on leader to the main line with a high quality barrel swivel.
For our standard tuna setup, we use conventional lever-drag reels spooled up with at least 300 yards of 50-pound-test braid backing (we use Sufix Performance Braid) and at least 300 yards of 50-pound-test monofilament main line (Sufix Superior Monofilament). The ends of the backing and main line are formed into double lines with Bimini twists and connected together with a cat’s paw.
Next, we tie the main line monofilament to a No. 5, 120-pound-test Spro Power Swivel with a 5-turn clinch knot, making sure to lubricate the knot before it is drawn tight so that the heat created does not damage the line. On the other side of the swivel we tie on the leader with another 5-turn clinch knot.
For the leader itself, we use 30 yards (90 feet) of 50-pound Sufix Invisiline fluorocarbon. If the fish are aggressively feeding, you can increase the size of the leader to 60 pound. Likewise, if the fish are leader shy and are enjoying your free chunks but not your hook baits you can decrease the size of the leader to 40 or even 30 pound. The rule of thumb is to use the heaviest leader possible without turning off the fish. The goal is to be able to muscle the tuna to the boat as fast as possible to preserve the quality of the meat and minimize the time it is in the danger zone of being eaten by sharks.
The setup is terminated by tying a 4/0 VMC Nemesis Circle Model #8382 onto the fluorocarbon leader with a clinch knot or Palomar knot.
Finally, as for the rod itself, we use 50- to 80-pound-class conventional rods. However, it is critical that you use a rod that has all roller guides such as Stuart or Aftco. The roller guides allow the small Power Swivel to pass easily through the guides without fouling. If you were to use a rod that has ceramic or SiC ring guides, the swivel can break or crack the guide inserts if you hook a fish before the swivel gets through the guides, resulting in line cuts, lost fish and a useless rod for the trip.
We used this wind-on leader setup with great success catching yellowfin tuna in the Bahamas’ Northwest Providence Channel during last year’s tuna migration. We located flocks of terns feeding above schools of tuna by using our boat’s radar (we will discuss this tactic in a future Offshore Seminar). As the boat slowed down and came off plane, handfuls of cut sardine chunks were tossed overboard.
After the boat came to a rest, circle hooks were baited with a single cut sardine chunk. With the reel in the rod holder in free spool with the clicker on, we pulled line off the end of the rod hand over hand thereby allowing the chunk to sink naturally without any drag or resistance along with additional cut sardine chunks. Over and over again, our baits were picked up by tuna feeding 50 to 75 feet below the boat prior to the swivel passing through the rods’ roller guides.
Once picked up, line starts screaming off the reel. Wait to slowly increase the reel’s level drag to strike until after the swivel passes through the guides and then pick the rod out of the rod holder and fight your fish. If, on the other hand, you pull the leader and main line off the reel far past the swivel without a bite, simply raise the lever drag to strike and crank up your bait to repeat the process again and again—without having to worry about line twist. FS
First published Florida Sportsman April 2014