Jigging and popping (casting) tuna is the most exciting way to experience New Jersey’s inshore & mid-shore pelagic fisheries. Our tuna fishing has been absolutely phenomenal the last few seasons and there’s no reason to expect otherwise heading into the 2022 season! Prepare now and be ready for the action.
Now I am by no means an expert on Tuna. On the contrary; with just about a dozen or so offshore trips under my belt. I’d very much consider myself a beginner in this realm. As someone who lacks experience, I have plenty of questions for the guys in the know. The most important of which is what equipment should I be using? I’d also like to help others in my position who need help getting into this awesome summer time fun fishery here in NJ. Below I will share some of the expert advice I’ve received from some of the fishiest folks I know.@swagmattic – Matt Sorrentino, Author of Jigging & Popping Tuna 101
Centaur Angler’s Choice Rods
Jigging and Popping Tuna Rods are available from a number of different manufacturers. When looking for the right product, I’m choosing a company that puts serious thought and effort into construction, performance, quality control and most importantly, stands behind their products. Centaur Angler’s Choice is just that. They are not just a brand, but the manufacturer. They design, build and test their products locally for our fishery, in our fishery. All Centaur rods are made using high quality materials; most of which are sourced from Japan.
Jigging & Popping Tuna Rods from Centaur come in 3 levels and are designed to match New Jersey’s inshore and mid-shore pelagic fishery.
Best Entry Level Tuna Rod For Jig & Pop
Centaur Constellation Series Rods
The entry level Centaur Constellation is the best choice for beginners who just want to get their feet wet. At $189, this budget friendly rod will catch a lot of fish and definitely not break the bank. Constructed from high quality components these rods are built right and are super tough. They include FUJI Alconite guides, aluminum gimbles and custom reel seats, all features found on rods two and three times their price from other manufactures.
Best Mid Range Tuna Rod For Jig & Pop
Centaur Combat Arm Series Rods
The Centaur Combat Arm series lands middle of the road and features an upgraded double layer cross section Toray (more on this brand below) carbon blank. This technology offers increased power and increased deadlift capabilities which allow for heavier drag. The guides also have under wrappings to add extra strength and protection on those pressure points. All of this means the angler gets the added edge to fish harder. In addition all the Centaur fishing rods feature a beautiful hand painted epoxy clear coat finish. Which will protect the thread wrappings for long term durability.
Best Quality Tuna Rod For Jig & Pop
Centaur Chiron Series Rods
The Centaur Chiron is the top dog in this fight. It’s the most expensive for a reason. The Chiron Series offers anglers the best fishing rod from Centaur.
Fishing rods all start with the blank composition; graphite/carbon materials and the process in which it’s made.
The Chiron features Toray carbon fibers. Toray is the world’s largest and best supplier in advanced composite materials offering the highest performance carbon fibers for fishing rods. No compromise… the Chiron gets the best!
The Chiron’s also have an added process which greatly improves the blank’s capabilities and reinforces its durability. Using a carbon ribbon outer wrapping, wrapped in X spiral pattern, an incredibly strong construction is created. This offers the ultimate in strength to weight ratio and most of all increased hoop strength, maximizing the deadlift capabilities and reducing torsional load.
The butt section is also strengthened to allow the angler to put even more pressure throughout the entire rod. This eliminates energy loss when lifting heavy loads helping you the angler better fight the fish especially in the end game!
Silicon Carbide (SIC) guides are the gold standard of guide ring material and have been for over 20 years. They are best suited for fast pulling species, heavy drag situations and big fish demands like painfully long battles. SIC is Fuji’s premier material handling high heat situations and offering unequalled hardness and polish. Its ability to prevent line abrasion is bar none.
When targeting tuna, do not under estimate the importance of top quality guides! If you can afford it always go with the rod that has the best guides. They greatly increase the longevity of your braided main line.
Centaur Angler’s Choice Jigging and Popping Tuna Rod Options
The chart above lists the options for the Centaur Jigging and Popping Tuna Fishing Rods we stock at Fisherman’s Headquarters. The models are broken down simply. The number is the length. S for spinning and B for baitcasting/conventional. M for Medium, L for Light and UL for Ultralight. Don’t let those ratings fool you however, these are some seriously powerful rods.
Centaur Popping Rods
Who doesn’t want to see a tuna air out on a top water plug?!?! Nothing beats the exhilarating style of casting to tuna! Choosing the right rod for the size class and time of the year can make your experiences in this game way better!
Early season (May/June) we tend to see a good size class of bluefin and at this point in the season they are typically eating larger forage. It could be adult menhaden/bunker, mackerel, herring and/or hake. The Centaur 81 is the right call to fish larger lures to match the hatch.
As summer rolls in we start to see yellowfins in the mix with school bluefin feeding on the inshore lumps. It’s common for baits to begin to congregate there. The Centaur 79 is perfect for these roles casting smaller to medium size lures; poppers, stickbaits and/or plastics. This past season (summer ’21) the 81 came in handy as we had beautiful run of round yellowfin, commonly in the 50-70# class with the occasional much larger fish.
Late season (November/December) is cold and the weather gets gnarly but it can offer some of the year’s best fishing! The winter bite is known for having bluefin in the 40-65” class feeding heavily on baby hake, sandeel, sardines and butterfish! This time of year the fish can be skittish and commonly fast moving and and down. A stealthy approach with long casts is essential! Call on the Centaur 81 for this game, casting larger lures and it has the backbone needed to land these brutes.
Choosing the Right Reel For The Job
Pairing your rod with the right reel is huge. And I’ve talked to Fish Head’s shop tuna guru and Blue Runner Sportfishing mate Willie Davis (@epic_willi3) to get the low down on making the perfect combo.
Epic Willie recommends Shimano, “Fish the best quality that you can afford. There’s no better investment than the Shimano Stella and Shimano Twin Power for top of the line quality and performance. I depend on these reels and they always hold up.” Both Penn (Penn Slammer) and Daiwa (Daiwa BG MQ & Saltist MQ) also have options that produce results.
When choosing a reel two things you should consider is gearing and line capacity. Yes drag is important but now-a-days just about every reel has adequate drag.
Gearing: When jigging you want standard gearing or a reel with power gearing. When casting/popping a reel with high speed gearing is preferred.
Line Capacity: Depending on the target class fish you’ll want no less than 250yds of line, preferably 300-400yds.
Willie shares, “As far as reels for casting to tuna, the best options are the Shimano 14k and 18k reels because these have a higher gear ratio which offers a great quick line retrieval rate.” This allows the angler to pick line up much quicker to maintain contact with the lure. Remember you can’t hook a fish with slack line!
Also, the Centaur 77 and 79 matched up with a 10k reel is a great outfit for our local fishery’s demands.
These rods and this style does not call for a 14k or 18k size reel! Why? The retrieval speed is way too quick to properly work a jig! For a 53 or 52; 6k, 8k, 10k is the perfect size for the jigs and class of fish we see locally the majority of the time! For 51; a 20k is perfect for this big fish rod as it has a 220-400g jig rating.
The ideal conventional (baitcast model “B”) options are listed below.
51BM; Talica 16, Speed Master 16, Ocea Jigger 4000 – This is a BIG FISH rod and should be used when hunting 65″ and larger fish.
52BL; Avel MXL, Talica 12, Fathom 30/25ld, Speedmaster 12. In short this is a great all around rod for both Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna.
53BUL; Avet MXL/MXJ, Talica 12/10, Fathom 15ld, Speedmaster 12. This is the ideal choice for fishing the inshore to midshore grounds; ridges, lumps and wrecks.
Jigging Tuna Advice
Choosing a tuna jigging outfit is one thing. Knowing what to do with it is a whole ‘nother ball game. I reached out to Capt Justin Swanson of Just N’ Tyme Sportfishing for a few quick tips for Newbie Tuna Jigger Advice. Captain Justin is a mid-shore tuna specialist in central jersey. The majority of his trips feature new tuna anglers jigging and popping tuna for their very first time. He’s a captain who excels at teaching anglers how to catch fish properly.
Here’s what he had to say:
- Once you drop the jig to the bottom it is time to find your jigging rhythm. Quickly lifting the rod tip about 12” and reel with a down stroke and as you return the rod lower, reel with an up stroke to always keep contact with the jig.
- Know where the fish are recording on the sonar and focus on that area of the water column or below.
- Mix up your speed. Some days they want it very quick and other days they seem to prefer a slower lazy pace. Sometimes they want the classic yo-yo style or a couple bounces on bottom. In other words change things up until you find what they want.
- Set the hook with at least 2-3 forceful hook sets; these fish have hard jaws and it takes some extra effort to sink that hook in.
- HOLD ON and keep steady pressure. When the fish stops taking drag its your time to shine. Getting into a rhythm again here helps too to keep the fish coming up rather than the opposite. Focus on utilizing the power stroke of the rod and always cranking down to keep the line tight.
- Do not ever drop the tip! Do not high stick! Be cognizant especially when fatigue sets in!
Pro Tip: Angler mistakes happen with sloppy technique and when fatigue sets in. Take a look at the photo below of FishHead Greg (Capt. Greg Cudnik) to point out some key highlights as he fights the end game (close to the boat). First, take note of his stable wide stance with thighs agains the gunnels. Also his shoulders are over his hips. An angler should never get over the top, extended forward, stressing the lower back. Even though it’s late in the fight and his muscles are burning, leaning back in a hero stance is not the right thing to do at this point in the fight. The fish is doing its death circles and getting very close to gaffing. Greg has the rod under arm which offers two advantages. One, it utilizes the power stroke of the rod and also prevents a high stick event. Small lifts of the rod with quarter or half turns of the handle is all that’s needed to keep the line moving in his favor. When the rod is in a deep bend like this the blank’s strongest and most powerful section (the rear – butt) is engaged and utilized. Lifting high would incorrectly use the middle and upper portion which had mush less power. Two, this technique utilizes different muscles than the classic butt on thigh/gut stance, some of which are still fresh even late in the fight. Use these fundamental ideas to better battle our next tuna on light tackle!