Amazing Bluefin Tuna Catch on Antique Tackle

Shimano president Dave Pfeiffer stepped back in time to land a 219-pound bluefin tuna over 200 pounds on linen line and antique tackle.

Amazing Bluefin Tuna Catch on Antique Tackle
Hooked up, the old-fashioned way. Dave Pfeiffer uses skill and finesses with a Coxe big-game reel, circa 1930s, and a rod made of solid ash. The rod, with virtually no give, “served mostly to keep the line away from the boat!” says Pfeiffer. The linen line swelled when wet, he adds, creating additional drag in the water and making drag tension with the limited star drag on the old reel a tricky proposition.Courtesy Dave Pfeiffer

This past Thursday (August 23), the Tuna Club of Avalon held their annual Linen One Tournament. It’s an antique-tackle-only event requiring pre-1940’s reels and rods and linen line only. No modern tackle of any kind.

I fished the tournament with Greg and Michael Stotesbury on their classic 33 Owens Brigantine along with Dr. Mike Hanse and Steve Behrens. (Greg is the sales manager for AFTCO).

Our targets: The big bluefin holding offshore of Southern California this season. Our line: 24-thread linen.

Linen was the line of choice among anglers around the turn of the 20th Century — and was used by Dr. C.P. Morehouse to land his historic 251-pound bluefin off Catalina Island in 1899. Unlike modern fishing lines, linen lines require regular washing and spreading out to dry thoroughly so they don’t rot. A 24-thread line is equivalent to 72-pound test.

Linen lines for fishing aren’t made today; the line on the reel I fished is more than 60 years old.

Morehouse’s 251 bluefin was historic since it was the first bluefin over 200 pounds weighed in at Southern California’s Avalon Tuna Club the year after it was formed (1898).

In 1901, one other bluefin over 200 pounds (a 216 caught by Mrs. E. N. Dickerson, also on 24-thread line) was weighed in.

The private, exclusive Avalon Tuna Club, located on Catalina Island, is an historic and iconic club in the sport of saltwater fishing, with many of the rules and ethics it established still in use today. The club has continued its annual Linen One tournaments.

Finally, after well over a century, a third bluefin tuna over 200 pounds has been landed on 24-thread line.

Amazing Bluefin Tuna Catch on Antique Tackle
End game of a tough stand-up battle for Pfeiffer off Southern California.Courtesy Dave Pfeiffer

I was fortunate to have had the chance to catch a 219-pound bluefin in this year’s Linen One Tournament, using truly antique gear: 1920’s solid ash rod, a 9/0 1930’s Coxe reel, and a dead flying fish, after a 48-minute fight. I can’t easily express what a thrill this catch was and is, for me.

Amazing Bluefin Tuna Catch on Antique Tackle
Pfeiffer (right) and the rest of the team celebrate their accomplishment back on Catalina Island.Courtesy Dave Pfeiffer
Amazing Bluefin Tuna Catch on Antique Tackle
Historic moment justifies the angler’s smile.Courtesy Dave Pfeiffer

About the author: Dave Pfeiffer, longtime president of Shimano Fishing in North America, is an ardent participant and enthusiast in the sport.