Best False Albacore Fishing Tackle, Lures, and Techniques!
This article will outline the best false albacore fishing tackle and lures. False albacore are a terrific saltwater game fish. They are found in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. They are in the family of tuna fish. False albacore feet and large schools and are an extremely fast fish. They readily hit both artificial lures and flies. Anglers need the proper equipment in order to be successful.
The best false albacore fishing tackle is a 7′ medium spinning rod with a fast action, paired with a 3000-4000 size reel. This combination will allow anglers to cast the light lures that false albacore prefer. It also is stout enough to fight and subdue a decent fish. A selection of small spoons, jigs, and plugs will also be required.
Capt. Jim Klopfer has been a full-time fishing charter captain in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He caters to anglers of all skill levels. One of his favorite ways to fish is to target false albacore in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The following tackle and lure recommendations come from his decades of guiding experience.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
The one aspect of false albacore fishing that makes it so popular among anglers is the manner in which they feed. Often times, false albacore are encountered feeding ferociously on the surface. In these feeding frenzies, they are devouring helpless bait fish that they have trapped at the surface. The water literally boils as the fish feed with birds diving and bait fish fleeing.
However, despite this aggressive feeding, there are times when false albacore can be fussy and difficult to hook. The reason for this is that in many instances they have focused on smaller prey. Glass minnows are only and inch or two long and are one of their favorite types of forage. Smaller sardines, herring, finger mullet, menhaden, and sand deals are also favorite foods of false albacore.
Best rods and reels for false albacore fishing
False albacore average 5 to 7 pounds and grow to 15 pounds regularly. They also make a blistering run when hooked. This means that tackle used when false albacore fishing needs to be of good quality and an excellent working condition. This is especially true of the drag system.
As mentioned above, often times false albacore feed on small bait fish. This results in spinning tackle often times being the best choice to cast these smaller lures. However, the rod needs to be stout enough to handle a big fish in the real has to have plenty of line capacity as well. A 7 foot medium rod with a fast action paired with a 3000-4000 series reel is an excellent all round combination. Here is a link to a Penn Conflict combo that will work well.
Anglers can shop at Amazon for a Daiwa Black Gold reel and St Croix Triumph 7′ MF rod spinning combo in this link.
False albacore are prime candidates for anglers who enjoy casting a fly rod as well. In fact, this is a species that was made for fly fishing. The combination of them feeding visually on the surface along with the small size of the forage results in fly fishing being an effective technique. Anglers use between 7wt and 10wt outfits, depending on the size of the fish being sought. A 9wt is a good all-around outfit.
“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Conventional tackle does have its place and false albacore fishing as well. For the most part, this involves trolling and chunking with cut bait. A light conventional outfit is perfect for trolling spoons and small plugs in search of false albacore. They also work well when drifting with cut or live bait. Anglers also anchor up over reefs and other structure and free line baits as well. A medium conventional outfit with a limber tip is perfect for false albacore fishing.
Fishing line options
Most anglers opt for braided line these days. The small diameter of braided line results in much more line capacity on the reel as opposed to monofilament or fluorocarbon line. However, some anglers actually prefer having the stretch in the line that monofilament provides. False albacore strike so hard and make such a fast initial run that the non-stretching of braided line can actually be an issue. Most anglers compensate for this with slightly less drag pressure. 10 pound monofilament and 15 pound braided line are good options.
Leaders for false albacore fishing
False albacore can be fussy when it comes to leaders. In most cases, a 2 foot to 3 foot section of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader works very well. False albacore do not have teeth. However, often times Spanish mackerel are mixed in with the false albacore. It is not at all uncommon for a mackerel to dash in and take a lure or fly meant for false albacore.
If this becomes a nuisance, anglers can bump up the leader size to 30 pounds or 40 pounds. However, if this results in a decrease in strikes, anglers will have to go back down to 20 edges deal with the mackerel. Many anglers attach the leader to the running line by using a small black swivel. This is an excellent option when using a spoon as it will reduce line twist. Line to line knots can be used as well.
Top artificial lures for false albacore fishing
While live and cut bait produces plenty of false albacore, many anglers prefer to fish with them using artificial lures. It is great fun and sport to cast a lure into a school of feeding false albacore than feeling the bone jarring strikes! All of the most productive false albacore lures mimic bait fish, since this is the primary forage. They all put out flash and vibration, mimicking wounded bait fish.
The best 11 false albacore fishing lures are;
- 08 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait
- Yozuri Crystal Minnow
- Kastmaster spoon
- Bass Assassin Sea Shad bait
- White Spro bucktail jig
- Hogy epoxy jig
- Diamond jig
- Crippled Herring spoon
- Deadly Dick spoon
- Pencil Popper
- Clouser Minnow fly
Most of these top false albacore fishing lures will catch a lot of other saltwater species as well. Depending on the geographical location, anglers fishing for false albacore may run into striped bass, bluefish, bonito, jacks, king mackerel, and other species. Many anglers are not fussy about what bends their rod. However dedicated false albacore anglers find many of these other species a nuisance!
Hard bodied plugs are excellent false albacore fishing lures. They very realistically imitate did bait fish. Capt Jim’s favorite lure when pursuing false albacore is the #8 Rapala Saltwater X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. This bait is a little less than 3 inches long and closely mimics in size and action the forage that false albacore most often feed on. This is basically a jerk bait, as the Bass anglers like to call them. It floats on the surface, then dive down several feet upon retrieve. It has a very erratic action with a lot a flash and vibration.
The X-Rap is fairly light, but can still be cast a reasonable distance with the spinning tackle recommended above. It does help considerably to try to put the boat upwind of the fish. X-Raps come in a variety of colors. In most instances, lighter colors which naturally imitate the local bait fish are most effective. Capt. Jim’s to favorite colors are Olive and ghost (white). It is important to by the saltwater version, as it has stronger hooks and hardware.
This is a versatile lure that can be both cast and trolled. Anglers casting this lure try to place the boat ahead of a school of false albacore in hopes of intercepting it. The lure is then cast out ahead of the fish and worked back with hard, aggressive jerks and a pause in between. Often times, the strike occurs on the pause.
Click to read more about false albacore fishing!
Trolling the X-Rap can save the day during those times when false albacore are difficult to cast a bait in front of. As veteran false albacore anglers are keenly aware, there are days when the fish are on the surface for a very brief period of time before moving on. When this occurs, trolling can save the day in the X rap is an excellent lure to use.
Jig and grub combo
Soft plastic baits will catch plenty of false albacore. Capt. Jim likes the Bass Assassin line of jig heads and soft plastic baits. With all of the variations of jig head size and soft plastic body combinations, anglers can “match the hatch” to the forage that the false albacore are feeding on. A 1/4 ounce jig head with a 4 inch Sea Shad soft plastic grub body is a good and versatile all round combination.
It is important to go with the quality jig head with a stout hook. The Bass Assassin Pro Jig head fits the bill. It is available and several sizes from 1/16 ounce and heavier. When combined with the 4 inch Sea Shad bait, it is a proven false albacore producer. Just as with most false albacore fishing lures, lighter colors and knows with flash work best. Glow, red gold shiner, silver, and chartreuse are all good colors.
For the most part, these jigs are cast out in front of feeding fish. And aggressive retrieve normally works best. However, sometimes just burning it back in as fast as the handle can be turned will produce. They really are not effective when trolled as they tend to roll at the higher speeds which produce false albacore. However, they are very effective when the fish go down and are marked on the sonar. Anglers can drop the jig down and vertically presented to the fish.
Spoons are a natural when it comes to false albacore fishing lures. A spoon is basically a curved, shaped, and polished piece of metal with a hook in it. Acme Kastmaster spoons have been catching just about every species of freshwater and saltwater fish for decades. False albacore are no exception. This lure cast well and puts out a ton of flash and vibration. Anglers should try to match the spoon to the size of the forage. However, sometimes the best approach is just going with a heavy bait as it can be cast a long way.
These baits are extremely effective when both cast or trolled. When false albacore are up and down a difficult to get on, the extra casting distance that this heavier bait provides can make the difference between a been rod and not. They are also effective when jig vertically on schools of fish and that have gone deep. Finally, they can trolled using just a spoon, trolling sinkers, or planers to get the bait down a bit.
White bucktail jig
A white bucktail jig has been a staple in most saltwater anglers tackle boxes for decades. They are still effective to this day and will certainly produce false albacore. White is a most popular color, often times with some silver flash tide it. Capt. Jim likes Spro lures when casting a bucktail jig. It is a quality product that is fairly durable with a strong hook.
Just as with most lures, these work very well when cast in front of feeding fish. Capt. Jim does tend to like to work this bait a bit slower than some of the other lures. The natural buck tail will undulate seductively in the water, usually drawing a strike. 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce jigs will get the job done in most situations. It can certainly be trolled as well, in some anglers at a belly strip or strip of cut squid to sweeten the bait.
The Hogy Epoxy Jig is an example of what false albacore anglers call a “metal” style bait. These are kind of a combination between a spoon and a jig. They are outstanding lures that closely mimic bait fish. They come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. The 1 ounce size is an excellent choice, unless the bait fish are running especially small. It is fished a very similarly to a spoon. Epoxy jigs can be cast, trolled, or vertically fished.
A Diamond Jig is a fairly plain looking piece of metal with a hook in. However, do not let the looks for you! This unassuming bait has saved the day for Capt. Jim on many occasions. On days when the false albacore are fussy and seemingly refuse everything in the tackle box, they will often hit this tiny jig. This is especially true when false albacore are feeding on very small bait.
Often times, it is difficult to get close enough to the false albacore to cast lighter lures into them. Small Diamond jigs do not weigh very much at all. In most cases, the best approach is to slowly troll around the edge of a school of fish while rhythmically jerking the rod tip. The key to the effectiveness of this bait is its subtlety, do not overdo the action.
Flies for false albacore
Anglers who enjoy fly fishing find that false albacore are terrific sport. Fly fishing for false albacore has all of the best elements of fly fishing. Most of the action is visual is anglers primarily cast their flies in front of feeding fish. They grow fairly large, a 10 pound fish on a fly rod is a handful. The strike is jarring and the angler is into the backing in seconds. Finally, false albacore never quit, even up to the end.
While just about any bait fish pattern will fool a false albacore, Capt. Jim finds the Clouser Minnow to be the best all round fly. He likes to tie it on a #1 or #1/0 hook with medium eyes. All white and white over chartreuse are his two favorite color patterns. A D.T. Special is his second choice. When false albacore are feeding on tiny bait fish, it is not at all uncommon for flies to outproduce artificial lures.
Fishing for false albacore with bait
Anglers can certainly catch false albacore using live and cut bait as well. This is fairly uncomplicated fishing. Instead of tying on and artificial lure, and angler simply uses a # 1 or #1/0 short shank live bait hook. In most instances, the angler is fishing from a drifting or anchored boat. The live or cut bait is allowed to free line back behind the boat. This is a very natural presentation and is extremely effective, especially when fishing over a specific piece of structure.
Just about any live bait or cut bait can be used to catch false albacore in this situation. Anglers can cut fish into strips or into chunks and float them back. Often times, chum is used to get the false albacore right up behind the boat and in a feeding mood. When this occurs, the angler can actually watch the fish take the bait.
False albacore fishing tips and techniques
Many inshore saltwater anglers enjoy fishing for false albacore. They are a hard-fighting species that resemble tuna. There are techniques anglers will need to know in order to be successful.
False albacore are a pelagic species and are a member of the Scombridae family. Pelagic species spend their life in open water and do not relate to bottom or shoreline structure. False albacore migrate along the entire coast of the United States from Texas to Maine. They are also found in the Mediterranean Sea. False albacore are also known locally as “bonita” and “little tunny”. They are a terrific game fish when hooked on light tackle!
False albacore are most often encountered in large schools. In many cases, they are seen feeding ferociously on the surface. This visual aspect of fishing for false albacore certainly adds to the excitement! They are also found over and around structure such as reeds, wrecks, and oil rigs.
The best approach is to go with a 3′ to 4′ length of 20 lb flourocarbon leader. There will be times when dropping down to 15 lb leader will draw more strikes. However, 20 lb is a good all round strength, unless bluefish and mackerel become too much of a nuisance.
False albacore fishing techniques
As mentioned above, anglers fishing for false albacore often pursue them when they are feeding on the surface. However, by no means does this mean that they are easy to catch! While some species such as bluefish and mackerel will stay up on the surface for a long time, false albacore often pop up for a few seconds then move on several hundred yards.
Patience will pay off when fishing for false albacore. It is better to sit quietly in a good area and wait for a productive shot than it is to tear around chasing fish every time they surface. Usually, the fish will move in a pattern and anglers can set up in front of them. Sitting on “bait balls” can also be an excellent strategy.
False albacore are most often found in open water, fairly close to the beach. The area from a mile to twenty miles out is usually best. Rarely will false albacore move into inshore bays. In most cases it is a “find the bait, find the fish” situation. As always, birds can be a great aid in locating feeding fish.
False albacore fishing with lures
Most anglers fishing for false albacore do so using artificial lures and flies. It really is more practical as anglers are usually casting to breaking fish. The top artificial lures include spoons, metals, jigs, and plugs. For the most part, false albacore feed on bait fish and the most effective lures imitate wounded forage.
False albacore can be extremely fussy at times. They become keyed in on a certain bait fish, and lures that do not closely imitate that bait will usually be refused. This can be a challenge when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows as most lures are larger.
Small spoons that are dense and heavy work well. The Kastmaster is a prime example. Spoons are a great choice when fish are popping up for brief periods and moving fast. They cast well and can be allowed to sink deeper into the water column as fish drop deeper. They do an excellent job of imitating small bait fish. Metals such as Crippled Herring fall into the same category.
Plugs are excellent lures for false albacore fishing. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, making it fairly easy to “match the hatch”. These plugs have a lot of flash and an erratic action, which imitate wounded bait fish. Plugs are excellent trolling as well.
Jigs are another effective false albacore fishing lure. They are versatile and are a good choice when false albacore are lower in the water column. White is the most popular color, especially with some type of silver flash.
Fishing with live and cut bait
Anglers can certainly go fishing for false albacore with live bait. Bait fish are most often used, though false albacore will take a free lined live shrimp as well. Anglers fishing with bait fish use a cast net or Sibiki rig to catch fresh and frisky live bait. Shrimp can be purchased at local shops.
Live bait is usually free lined on a hook. Anglers simply float a live bait behind the boat, using the least amount of weight required to get the bait down and giving it a natural looking presentation. In most cases, a few split shot will get that done.
Anglers can also use fresh cut bait, especially when chumming. This is most often done when anchoring over structure. However, anglers can drift and chum as long as the wind and current are not too strong. Serious anglers will chum with live bait. This requires a lot of bait, but can be an extremely effective technique.
Where available, frozen glass minnows are used to chum false albacore as well. This is popular off of the Carolinas. Small jigs and even flies are drifted back with the chum as it disperses. This technique is used on tough days when the fish refuse to show on the surface.
Strategies for working breaking fish
As mentioned earlier, one of the most enjoyable and exciting aspects of fishing for false albacore is that it is often a visual experience. Novice anglers regularly make the mistake of charging around all over the place. This will occasionally pay off. However, in most cases a more patient approach works better.
The fish will be seen feeding on the surface. At times, they will stay up and in the same spot for a while. When this occurs, the boat is idled toward the fish, ideally upwind. The motor is cut and anglers cast in front of the feeding fish. A fast, erratic retrieve is generally the most productive. Hopefully, hookups ensue!
This scenario is the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, albies will pop up, feed ferociously for several seconds, then disappear only to pop up a hundred yards away and repeat the process. False albacore are very fast! This can lead to frustration by the angler. The best approach is to sit in an area where fish are feeding or moving through and wait for a good shot. That patience is usually rewarded.
Another excellent approach is to find bait balls and sit near them. These bait schools are easily spotted mid day when the sun is up in clear water. At some point, false albacore and other species will find them and attack.
Trolling for false albacore
Many anglers catch false albacore by trolling for them. This works especially well in deeper water, further offshore. In shallow, near shore waters, anglers can simply idle around, trolling small plugs and spoons. Most fish will be fairly high in the water column and the lures do not need to get down very far.
Trolling around bait balls can be very productive. Also, trolling can save the day when surface conditions are choppy and it is difficult to see or get on the fish. In deeper water, anglers use diving plugs or planers to get the lure down deeper. However, if fish are seen on the surface, flat lines will work fine.
Shrimp boats attract false albacore
Shrimp boats are false albacore magnets! They will attract tuna, king mackerel, and other species as well. The reason for this is that shrimp boats are basically chumming machines. As they sort through shrimp, smaller fish and other by-catch is shoveled overboard. This attracts the game fish.
Every area is different and anglers need to know the local protocols as far as approaching and fishing around shrimp boats. In some areas, shrimpers will sell a bucket of bait fish cheaply. It never hurts to keep a case of beer on board! Anglers usually just drift chunks of bait in with the existing chum. Anglers can use lures and flies as well. False albacore can be so thick in this situation that anglers pursuing blackfin tuna consider them a nuisance.
Fly fishing for false albacore
Many anglers who enjoy fly fishing consider false albacore to be the ultimate sport. They fight harder and make longer runs that almost any other species. They are also accessible to anglers with skiffs and smaller boats. All of the same strategies apply to fly fishing as it does to casting lures. The obvious difference is that flies will be cast instead.
Boat positioning is more important when fly fishing for false albacore. Most anglers can not cast a fly as far as a spinning rod with a heavy spoon. Also, it is very important to try and position the boat up-wind of the fish, for the same reason. All this means is that fly anglers need to be more patient.
Small bait fish patterns work well when fly fishing for these game fish. A #1 or #2 white Clouser Minnow is tough to beat. Epoxy flies such as glass minnows and surf candy are popular as well. Local fly shops will usually steer visiting anglers in the right direction. Fast, aggressive strips usually work best, but anglers should experiment is takes are tough. Sometimes no movement at all will draw a strike when nothing else will.
In conclusion, this article on the best false albacore fishing tackle and lures will help anglers catch more of these terrific inshore saltwater game fish!