Image Courtesy of Double Haul Anglers
Atlantic Bonito are typically the first of the "ocean speedsters" to arrive in the waters of Southern New England. Usually, somewhere around the Newport Folk Festival, 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 of proven tactics. Buckle up for some of the most exciting fishing of the year!
Light Tackle Choices for Atlantic Bonito
Atlantic Bonito Rods
The spin fisherman will need a good quality light tackle rod that will throw lures in the range of 1/2 to 1 ounce. The Mojo Inshoreand the TFO TacticalInshore rods both fill the bill. Light in the hand with good power in the lower half. The TFO versions also come in 3 piece Traveler Spinfor those who might have need for a travel rod as well.
The "cadillac" of the inshore rods is the St Croix Legend Inshore it is loaded with all of St Croix's best technology. It's sensitive, powerful and feels great in the hand.
Shore bound anglers logically prioritize distance in their rods selection while still looking to throw smaller lures. Two shop favorites are the Tsunami Air Wave Elite 8' 8" and the Lamiglas GSB 8' and 9' models
Atlantic Bonito ReelsYour reel must be substantial enough to handle the powerful runs and have a smooth drag as it will be tested. We like the Daiwa Saltist 4000because it has the overbuilt Digi Gear providing nearly 40 inches per turn retrieve speed, which may become a critical feature when the bonito turns and burns back at the boat. It is smooth and reliable due to Daiwa's proprietary Mag Seal a vicious, magnetic material that dynamically lubes and seals the Saltist. Another reel with big performance in a small package is the Van Staal VR50 with 37 inches per turn and all the drag you will need in a nine-ounce package. Shimano is always known for smoothness, and the Shimano Twin Power FD is no exception the 41 inches per turn is best in class. You can't go wrong with any of these choices.
Atlantic Bonito Terminal Gear
The benefits of the braided lines really shine when chasing bonito. Most notably, the smoother eight carrier braids like Power Pro Super Slick V2 allow maximum casting distance. Also, the strength to diameter ratio helps the line cut through the water during a bonito's drag melting run. We typically rig with 10-20 lb braid depending on the reel selected.
As for leaders, many anglers feel the sharp-eyed bonito give good reason to upgrade to fluorocarbon leaders like Ande and Seaguar in the 10-15 lb range.
"Go To" Atlantic Bonito LuresHere are the recommendations of two of the Ocean State's top inshore fishing guides:
Image courtesy of Teezer77 Charters
Captain Eric Thomas of Teezer77 likes the Point Jude Lures Po-Jee because it casts great and has a heavy back end that tracks well. Other flat-sided metal lures can skip along the surface the Po-Jee rides at a slight downward angle and stays on the dinner plate.
Point Jude Po-Jeenotice the weight distribution
The Hogy Epoxy Jigs in bright purple and pink stand out better when there is an abundance of tightly schooled bait. When the bait is dispersed, it makes sense to match the coloration of the predominant baitfish.
Surf guys like to have a few Hogy Heavy Jigs as well for the situations where maximum distance is required.
A newer addition to there epoxy game is Game On Lures with the EXO Jig. We have found them to be more durable than other epoxy jigs. They shored up their line up by adding a 3/4 oz and the Electric Chicken color scheme last season.
Captain Corey Pietraszek Plug N Play Charters
Captain Pietraszek prefers the Deadly Dick 1L with Silver or Blue tape, as it has delivered for his clients for years.
Corey's secret weapon is the Rebel Jumpin Minnow, with only a 1/0 VMC 9626 as the tail hook. He has had plenty of bonito crush a topwater - it is something to see!
Here are the split rings (suggest 4H) and pliers needed to swap out trebles.
Save Your Day With This Creative Solution
As a last resort or if you are not in an agile center console you might try a trick that Captain Bj Silvia of Flippin Out Charters shared with me recently. Most anglers don't think to troll; but bonito are popping up sporadically and sounding before you can get off a cast, or if they are simply not showing on the surface, trolling can be effective. Trolling works for BJ along rip lines and allows him to cover more water. He does not have a lure preference as just about any lure used for casting can be trolled for bonito, including flies. On one occasion his technique hooked up four clients at once!
We hope this Tackle and Tactics Primer helps move you up the learning curve with this challenging gamefish. Once you have landed a bonito, then the question becomes "How should you prepare it?" All I can say is, you are in for another treat!
If you have any feedback or want more information, please contact the shop at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 17, 2021
Was at Breton yesterday and didn’t see Bonita but caught a few chubs on the fly that gave a great fight on the fly rod. Also caught and released two nice keeper bass on the fly