5 Best Live Bait Options For Skipjack Tuna

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering my 5 best live bait options for catching Skipjack Tuna this year. Now I have to admit to being a traditional bait user for most of my fishing life as I like to find a good spot and then see what I can attract. Of course there is maybe not the excitement of attracting and working a fish as there is with lures, however it can be just as much fun for sure.

However, when it comes to Skipjack Tuna and their feeding habits, there are other aspects to it such as how they find their food as well as presenting it in a manner that will make it attractive to them too.

So let’s check out some good live bait options for Skipjack Tuna below…

What is Livebait?

For the purposes of this post I am going to give the name live bait to anything that is, or has at some point been alive (often referred to as ‘natural bait’). This means that it can actually be alive (often kept in a live bait well for example), fresh but dead or even frozen. This is opposed to lures, which are artificial creations designed to mimic live bait.

Obviously the type you choose will vary based on local conditions however when it comes to using live bait, I would stick to the following two rules:

  1. Use local bait if possible – Skipjack Tuna are generally found in open ocean waters in warmer climates right around the world meaning there can be a variation on what is available to them within their local habitats.
  2. They move fast – This is a species that spends a lot of time on the move both around the surface and in deeper waters as well hence tend to feed on baitfish so something along these lines is always a good choice.
  3. Go to a local bait shop – In most cases, the local bait shop will sell bait that is good for local conditions. If in doubt, ask the shop keeper or a local.

That said, as with most species, Skipjack Tuna are opportunistic when it comes to their eating habits meaning they will eat just about anything dead or alive such as Live baitfish, squid, fish fillets and anything else they can find.

Oh, and while we are on the subject, Skipjack Tuna fillets make a great bait in their own right as well.

live bait options for skipjack tuna - squid in live tank

Bait Pros

  • You can match exactly to what fish eat naturally
  • Generally easy to use
  • Often cheaper than lures
  • Most fish will take a bait
  • You can cast and let the bait sit in the water (i.e. no need to cast and retrieve)
  • Bait is great for kids (meaning they can at least catch something)

Bait Cons

  • It is smelly and gets all over your clothes, tackle box and everything else take with you
  • Will deteriorate in the sun
  • Fish tend to swallow the hook more with bait (making catch and release more difficult)
  • You can lose a lot more to smaller or vermin species
  • Bait can come off hook easier in faster moving water or when trolling
  • You need to make more tools with you such as a knife and cutting board

My recommended live bait options for Skipjack Tuna

Based on my own experience and research, let’s have a look at the main 5 options I have listed above in more detail:

Slimy Mackerel

live bait options for skipjack tuna - slimy mackerel

Also known as Blue mackerel – actually I think this is its proper name – ‘slimies’ are a schooling pelagic species that occurs in tropical and temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean. They can actually grow quite big however at juvenile size, are in my experience a fantastic bait fish for trolling most large predatory ocean species including Skipjack.

They school in large ‘balls’ and can be found at varying depths on small reefs, outcrops or even man made structure such as pipes etc. as well.

When trolling, the best method with these is to hook it through the nostrils with a largish hook (around 7/0 – 9/0) and in the mid section of its back with a floating hook (trident hooks on a wire trace will work better if you are chasing Spanish Mackerel too). Alternatively, should you be fishing in an area where the fish are a little deeper, try a dropper or paternoster rig to keep the live bait a little closer to the bottom.

And while we are at it, if you are using a bait jig you will often get Yellowtail Mackerel (Yakkas) as well. If you do, keep them too!


live bait options for skipjack tuna - Bonito

Bonito are another common option for chasing Skipjack – in fact they are often confused with them. They are great as a live trolling bait or cut into fillets and again, there are a large number of ocean species that will take them.

They actually share the same family lines as Skipjack and are often called White Tuna. Their flesh is the same consistency as Skipjack Tuna and as with Slimy Mackerel above, can grow large enough to be a food source in their own right.

Sand eels

live bait options for skipjack tuna - sand eels

Live Sand Eels are another popular bait for Skipjack Tuna as they are strong and will stay alive from quite a while when on the hook. While they are actually eels, they are eel-like in their appearance and can grow up to 30 centimeters (12 in) in length and are found off the western coasts of Europe and in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas as well as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They are great for chasing Skipjack whilst trolling.

If you are planning to use sand eels however, you will need to actually ‘fish’ for them first using a standard running sinker rig with a small hook (1/0 or 2/0) and night crawlers or sea worms as bait. In some areas however, they can be ‘raked’ off the sand at depths of 1 – 2 feet.


live bait options for skipjack tuna - Squid

Squid is a another go to bait for fishers all over the world chasing just about any saltwater species you can think of – we use them for both deep sea and surf fishing ourselves. It is also incredibly strong on the hook so it makes sense then that Squid is another great option for trolling Skipjack.

It is also a great option if there are no ‘livies’ around and you need to use frozen bait as well.


live bait options for skipjack tuna - Anchovy

And finally, whilst you may not like them on a pizza, Anchovies are another fantastic bait for almost any type of saltwater fish you are after. They are commonly found in they are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and in the Black and Mediterranean Seas. As bait, Anchovies are popular due to their oily skin that offers a secondary attractant to fish.

In terms of chasing Skipjack, they work well on the trolling line and as with Squid, are also good as a frozen option should you not be able to get your hands on anything living.

You can also include Pilchards in this category as well.

What should you be looking for?

We have touched on this above however the type of bait you choose can depend on where you are trying to catch your fish. For example if you are working in shallower waters, then eels, Bonito fillets or even squid would work well.

Keep in mind here that you are likely to be trolling rather than casting and retrieving so you will need to match your bait to the species that are found in that area. Again, do your research into the environment that you are fishing in.

live bait options for skipjack tuna - Skipjack Tuna

The next consideration (and a very important one) is to ensure that any bait size you use fits within the specification details of your gear. In some cases, rod specs include a tackle weight which is the highest designated weight that the rod can handle.

In most cases, however, you are going to be looking at this from the power rating of the rod. This is effectively a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy ones need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:

  • Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. Leave these at home here.
  • Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for all-round use with light to medium-weighted baits for Skipjack Tuna fishing.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would recommend these for Skipjack fishing if you are working in particularly deep water or trolling at faster speeds.

As mentioned a number of times in this post, when I discuss live bait options for any fishing type, I always say to check with the locals to see what is found in the local system. The idea behind this is that you want to match your bait to what it is that the fish eat naturally.


 And there it is – my post covering the best bait for Skipjack Tuna to strike this year. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.