Stickbaiting big bluefin, European-style by Andy Smith

As anglers, the vast majority of us are a curious bunch and from curiosity, knowledge grows. The switched on angler is the curious angler. If there is a way to increase knowledge, the general result is to refine proven techniques, expand knowledge into new realms and for the dedicated, break new ground or begin a revolution.
While the number of anglers diversifying their tactics with alternate techniques to target bluefin tuna across Victoria and Tasmania is growing, there is a worldwide band of fishos that are realms ahead in the journey of discovery.
There are three species of bluefin tuna found across the world's oceans and they are closely related. Other species may grow larger than the southern bluefin tuna we encounter here in Australia (recorded weights up to 260kg), but the pacific bluefin tuna and Atlantic bluefin tuna share many similarities to our local species such as feeding patterns, behaviour and similar tastes for food like pilchards, mackerel, sauries and squid.
It is fairly self-explanatory; the pacific bluefin tuna is found mainly in the North Pacific Ocean, from the east coast of Asian waters across to the west coast of the United States, being recorded occasionally around Australia and New Zealand. Made world famous by shows like Wicked Tuna, these beasts have been caught over 400kg in weight.
The Atlantic bluefin tuna hangs about in the Atlantic Ocean and also the Mediterranean Sea, where numbers of fish appear to be increasing in a similar vogue to the southern bluefin tuna off our coastline. These guys have been known to grow the largest of the three bluefin species, over 450kg, so why not chat to some guys that target these serious large speedsters around Europe and the Mediterranean?
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to discuss many facets of specific lure casting to big bluefin tuna with two passionate European anglers, who just happen to be lure makers. They're probably the most hardcore of the hardcore with the detail these guys go into!
Lorenzo Rocchigiani, an Italian that lives and breathes everything fishing-related and co-founder of Jack Fin Lures, kindly provided plenty of input into chasing bluefin tuna on stickbaits. Also more than happy to contribute was Orkatz Aranaz, one half of the hardcore Amegari Lures partnership from Spain.
Between them, these guys (and their lure maker business partners) have spent a huge amount of time targeting tuna very specifically, casting lures to them with significant success. Think of this style of fishing as the ultimate tuna hunt and while the numbers of anglers in Southern Australia are growing, we really only target small school-sized fish or pull the stickbaits out after a few fish.
Like all professionals at the top of their game, many similar aspects shine through between both these guys. They both cannot reinforce strongly enough the importance of being geared up for this style of fishing to target serious tuna on the cast.
For their boats, while very different in styles, both anglers have similar requirements, mainly in clear space. Smart, efficient use of space and room is essential, as a cast at no notice is often required and no one wants to stuff a chance at a mega tuna because their rod or reel gets tangled about in the boat's snapper racks. Lorenzo has a preference for an inflatable boat - a fast, totally open, obstruction-less vessel that allows the anglers to cast freely at 360° and approach the fish activity way more silently, compared to a boat.
Stealth and speed are considered crucial, as Orkatz also highlighted with his preferred 7-8m boat. He likes a centre console if the weather is consistently warm along the tuna season, as it maximises fishing room. A highlight for Orkatz is enough outboard power to run faster than other boats around when it comes to getting there first during a feeding frenzy, coupled with a silent idle engine.
These techniques that both anglers employ are widely known in Europe and the United States as 'run and gun.' Time is spent searching for fish and you are always on the hunt. Orkatz regularly covers around 100 nautical miles a day and could not stress enough that you should harness the technology that your boat provides, such as quality plotters and sonar. Read the bird and ocean life. Quality Polaroid sunglasses like the Spotters Nexus Lens assist greatly in finding birds and bait. Orkatz will focus his sounding on fish within the surface feeding zone, with his sonar set to the top 80m.