Long Range trips out of San Diego is one of the best trips you can possibly offer yourself. San Diego is the West Coast's Tuna capital with many pelagic fish coming through from April to October+ and a quick access to warmer Mexican waters.
Since there is a variety of pelagic species your captain might be going for, it is best to be prepared for anything and by anything I mean 10 pound yellow tail to 150-250 pound range Bluefin or Yellowfin tunas.
Below are the list of Rod/Reels I currently have in my arsenal. You just never know what we will target until the captain leaves the dock with their shared plan.
The unwritten rule of thumb on longer range trips is to bring 4-5 rods only and as many reels as you feel are necessary and can fit in your tackle bag. That rule allows others to equally be able to store their gear on the boat with your rods and helps filter your choices onboard.
My Rod / Reel Setups:
Seeker 270-H - 8ft - Rated 15-40# Paired with a Shimano Gold TN14 reel; spooled with 50# braid
Seeker 6480 - 8ft - Rated 20-40# Paired with a Shimano Gold TN16 reel; spooled with 50# braid
Seeker 665-H - 6Ft6" - Rated 30-80# Paired with a Penn Fathom 40NLD2 (2 speed Lever drag) reel ; Spooled with 80# Braid
Penn Carnage III Rail Rod 7ft - Rated 80-150# Paired with a Shimano Tyrnos 30-2 (2 speed Lever Drag) reel ; Spooled with 100# Braid and a 100# Mono Top shot
My first two rods cover the practice of catching "school size" fish (12-30# range weights usually) by fly-lining sardines or casting surface jigs at a kelp paddy.
My third rod reel option opens the door to different techniques, fly-lining sardines for larger grade fish (40#+), rubber band sinker setups, Yoyo- Jigging and dropping heavier flat fall jigs.
My last setup is the Rail Rod, meant to handle HUGE fish when needed. I hope to use it at night time when dropping 3-500gram Knife Jigs for my first Blue Fin Tuna. It can also be used during the day to drop heavier jigs or fly-lining for big fish that might be close to the surface.
I plan to add 4-6 foot leaders (also called top shots) of fluorocarbon line to each reel based on what is biting the best in that moment. This allows for adjustments on the fly which is necessary on these kinds of trips and only having 4 rods to play with.
IMPORTANT: seen it way too many times onboard, get your reels tuned ASAP. The season for reel repairs holds a strong amount of demand and can get hectic to get done in a timely fashion. You do not want your reel to fail onboard. You want to make sure all is lubed up and drags are in working condition and your chosen line is in perfect condition.
Lastly, here is a helpful guide made by an awesome Penn fishing representative (from Norcal) by the name of Steve Carson. These are suggestions he makes as he goes on MANY long range trips every year. He calls it the Don't Leave the Dock Without Them list. You do not need to buy all of these, you can also rent rods you do not have if you call the landing in advance. This is just to show you the similarities with how I am setup above for each weight class:
1. 20-25 POUND RIG
Reel- PENN Fathom star drag FTHII15SD or FTHII12SD
Rod- Conventional 7 to 8-feet, rated for 10-25 or 12-30 pound lines. Ex: PENN Carnage III CARWCIII1025C80
Applications- Finesse live bait for school size bluefin & yellowfin tuna
2. 30-POUND RIG
Reel- PENN Torque 2-speed TRQ15LD2, PENN Fathom 2-speed FTH15LD2 or FTH15XNLD2
Rod- Conventional 7 to 8-feet, rated for 15-40 pound lines. Ex: PENN Carnage III CARWCIII1540C80
Applications- All around live bait use for yellowtail, dorado, and finesse live bait tuna to 75 pounds
3. 40-POUND RIG
Reel- PENN Torque 2-speed TRQ25NLD2, PENN Fathom 2-speed FTH30NLD2 or FTH25NLD2
Rod- Conventional 7 to 8-feet, rated for 25-50 or 30-60 pound lines. Ex: PENN Carnage III CARWCIII3060C76
Applications- Live bait use for tuna up to 100 pounds; light & medium jigs for tuna & yellowtail
4. 60-80 POUND RIG
Reel- PENN Torque 2-speed TRQ40NLD2, PENN Fathom 2-speed FTH40NLD2
Rod Conventional 6.5 to 8-feet, rated for 30-80 or 40-100 pound lines. Ex: PENN Carnage III CARWCIII40100C78
Applications- Tuna up to to 175 pounds with live bait and fall-type jigs; yo-yo jigging for yellowtail
5. 80-100 POUND RIG
Reel- PENN International 2-speed 16VISX
Rod- Conventional “Rail Rod” 6.5 to 7.5 feet, rated for 60-130 pound lines. Ex: PENN Carnage III CARWCIII80130C70
Applications- Live bait or fall-type jigs for tuna up to 300 pounds