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February 22, 2013

Schooled on Tuna

The Pacific coast of Panama offers unrivaled casting action for big yellowfins.

“On the retrieve, I like the ­reaction bite, and speed triggers that,” Andrews continues. “Hold the rod tip high, reel fast and make little twitches of the tip — they’ll blast it. If we are not getting the bite, I usually change the lure size. I do not focus on the color as much as I do on size. Another technique that works sometimes is ­taking a big cup-faced popper, cast it out and let it sit; then give it a big sweeping pop and let it sit again for three to five ­seconds. I have seen them explode on that, and when they do, hang on!” 

Battling Giants

“When you get bit by a giant, let it go. Don’t try to slow it down,” ­Andrews adds. “Let it do all the ­running it wants. Use the boat to try to keep pace so you don’t lose all your line. Don’t let up. When you are ­resting, it is resting, but good technique will whip the fish faster than strength every time.” A good harness ­system and fighting belt help. “We use the Black Magic XX-Wide as the plate,” Andrews says. “A harness also helps for back support and leaning on the fish. We have a small strap that we wrap around the spinning rod and clip to the harness.”

If you want to catch a large yellowfin on casting gear, there’s no better place than Panama. It’s an intense ­experience, from the bite to the endgame. “You might have caught a 200- or 250-pound yellowfin on a trolling ­rod, fishing a Tiagra 50-wide,” Andrews explains, “but that is nothing like this.” 

Yellowfin Haven 

The Gulf of Chiriqui lies off Panama's Pacific coast on the western side of the isthmus, and the fertile waters offshore of the Gulf hold numerous game species. The famed Hannibal Bank is found here, as are Islas Coiba and Montuosa, all well-known fishing hot spots. The area is renowned for its population of black marlin, but it has gained an equally impressive reputation for producing many yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds and a few over 300.

What: Large yellowfin tuna on casting gear

When: January through May

Where: Islas Secas Resort, Republic of Panama

Number: 800-377-8877