Bonito Fishing High Speed and Great Action…….with Captain Lee Parsons
Every year this time I make my annual pilgrimage to the guru of Bonito fishing off the Carolina Coast to Captain Lee Parsons of Wrightsville Beach. This yearly meeting has become a tradition for me and it’s one I never cease to enjoy. While Lee has a great perspective on all types of saltwater light tackle fishing, his advice on Bonito fishing is unsurpassed. Even though I can probably quote his advice for these silver speedsters chapter and verse I still love to sit down with him and hear it again. And each year I hear yet one more thing that can make Bonito fishing more effective and fun. His years of knowledge and passion for fishing never ceases to amaze me. He’s a true fishing purest that never slows in his pursuit of becoming better and more knowledgeable than the year before.
Again, this year Lee starts by reminding me that Bonito season starts at or near tax day or April 15th. That’s one way to think about it or better yet, the season fires up when and only when the water temp is right. That means when the water gets near 60 to 64 degrees. Bonito are sensitive to water temperature and this dictates how long they stay in the area. They always follow the cooler water of spring. Once it warms, they’re gone. This is usually only a range of a few weeks.
Another important factor is, don’t hit the water too late. Make sure you’re on the boat heading out before daylight. Having that second cup of coffee and catching the latest news can cost you a good day of Bonito fishing. You need to be making that first cast or trolling the minute the sun appears. The same is true with the evening. The best fishing will take place just before dark.
Look for the birds chasing the bait. This is the best indication that Bonito are nearby. Your chances will always be better over some type of structure and commonly a mile of 2 off the beach depending on the water temp. Once you’ve located a busting bait ball, ease your boat slowly to the ball and cast over it. Don’t speed up your boat or “run and gun” as it’s called. This will spook the bait and the Bonito will dive. If you’re trolling, troll around the perimeter of the bait ball so as not to scare the bait to the bottom. Remember, the bait is busting the surface due to the Bonito pushing them up from underneath. If the bait ball leaves the surface, just sit tight. They will likely come back up near where they dove from in a few minutes.
When it comes to tackle, Captain Lee prefers a 7’, medium action rod and a reel loaded with 15# braid line. “Using an 18” leader jig head with a curly tail, soft plastic is my “go to” lure.” He also likes to use the Crippled Herring and different variations of the Sting Silver line. When it comes to topwater, Captain Lee goes with Heddon’s Zara Spook. Just cast and use a fast retrieve. Then get ready to work your drag because once the fish hits, the spooling will begin. Be ready to adjust your drag to slow the fish down, but not so much that it’ll break the line.
Trolling is a good tactic to locate the bait and the Bonito. Lures like Clark Spoons, various Yozuri lures and Pro-Troll Trout Killers in the ice pink color make for good trolling. Sting Silvers can also be added to that list of options. Just troll over the structure at about 5 knots and the next thing you know your drag is humming.
Again, watch your drag and expect a couple of runs. Have the net ready and enjoy the day.