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Guide to UK Bluefin Tuna Fishing - Tackle & Tips

Recent changes to the fortunes of the Northern Bluefin Tuna have seen their range increase to include much of the seas on the western side of the British Isles. This includes the coasts of Devon and Cornwall up as far north as the Outer Hebrides.

Currently there are some regulations regarding where and when they can be fished for by recreational anglers and it looks like an opportunity exists to create a world class big game fishery right here in the UK. This is something that would have been unthinkable just a couple of decades ago.

Tackle for Bluefin Tuna Fishing

If you are thinking about fishing for these amazing creatures you need to understand how powerful they are and get your head around a lot of new and unfamiliar big game tackle that will be required. It’s very easy to underestimate the size and strength of these fish.

Here at Rok Max we have a lot of experience of bluefin tuna fishing tackle and can guide you through selecting suitable gear, setting it up give you the best chance of landing a Bluefin and guidance on fighting harnesses and belts. If you are correctly equipped and the gear is set up properly you will enjoy fighting the tuna you hook and also be able to land them without injuring yourself or the tuna. The Bluefin tuna is arguably the king of big game fish and demands more than a little respect.

Bluefin Tuna Fishing Advice

Tuna Fishing Reels

For general tuna fishing in the UK you will need a 50lb or 80lb class wide spool big game reel. It’s best to go with one of the tried and tested brands premium models – you should look at the reels from Avet (EXW or TRX models), Penn (Internationals) and Shimano (Tiagras). All of these have a great track record worldwide and won’t let you down.

Fishing Line for Tuna Fishing

Think about the type of big game fishing line you will be using (hollow core braid or monofilament) and look for a reel that will hold at least 700yds of your chosen line. You won’t necessarily need 700yds but you won’t want the spool being emptied either as the drag pressure changes as the level of line on the spool reduces and this is a common reason for fish being lost.

Tuna Fishing Rods

Look for quality big game rods with an IFGA rating of 50-80lbs or more. A full set of quality rollers is ideal but there are some OK rods that have a roller tip and butt plus conventional guides. My preference is for a bent butt rod where this is practical. The mechanical advantage this gives when playing fish is very noticeable.

My favourite tuna rods are the Alutecnos Albacore rods in the 50/80 size – these have a great action for playing fish and can withstand an awful lot of abuse. Also look at the range of rods we stock from Sunset – these are strong and very powerful with good quality fittings and a really tough blank.

Fishing Techniques for Bluefin Tuna


These methods revolve around towing lures and spreader bar set ups behind a suitable sport fishing boat. Big game fishing lures include hard plastic lures designed to fish anywhere from the water surface down to depths of up 50’ below the surface. A wide range of these lures are available at Rok Max together with information on how to rig and fish them.

Spreader bars use a metal rod to deploy 15 or so plastic squid baits in a pattern that looks like a shoal of fish. They are fished on the surface at speeds around 5 knots sometimes with additional teaser lures to provide splashing and general surface disturbance. The plastic squid at the back of the shoal is armed with a hook and because it is lagging behind is the one that looks weak and vulnerable.

Bait Fishing

Both live and dead fish can be used as bait very effectively for tuna - these methods include drifting techniques.

These can be supplemented by chunking - this is where a chunk of fish is thrown into the water every 20 seconds or so. As the boat drifts you will create a scent trail as oils are released from the chunks. These trails will in turn lead hungry fish to your baits.

Baits can be freelined or fished under balloons or at depth with a weight. It is also possible to troll with a suitably rigged dead fish combined with a trolling lure.

Please feel free to call Rok Max on +44(0)1635 736436 if you have any questions regarding tuna fishing either here in the UK or overseas. We also have good stocks of suitable tuna tackle to look at in our showroom or purchase online.    

Allan Shephard
I've spent a big chunk of my life either fishing, talking about fishing, teaching fishing or working in the tackle trade. My hunger for ever more extreme and challenging fishing adventures continues to grow and can only be satisfied by a regular angling fix! I hold AAPGAI advanced instruction qualifications in single & double-handed fly-casting and have had articles published by some of the biggest UK fishing magazine titles. I consider myself very much an all-round angler. I have fished in over 20 countries worldwide for a variety of species in both fresh and saltwater. Advising people how to kit themselves out with tackle and clothing for their next fishing adventure is always a pleasure – please take advantage of my experience and knowledge.