An East coast classic gaining traction on the West coast.

Chunking is a form of chumming. Chunking is where bait is cubed up, not ground, and is dropped into the water. This form of chumming is to attract the target species and is becoming a go to strategy for our west coast tuna anglers. Bait is cut into appropriate sized chunks to bait and attract the fish you’re after.

Although you may feel like you can only get a bite with the freshest live bait, it is surprising how effective the chunking technique is. I have noticed that during diving in the water when chunking that not all the fish in the school will start to eat the chunks, maybe one or a few fish will “turn on” and start feeding. But the important thing is the other fish will take notice. The non-feeders will follow along the active feeders and begin to follow the chunk line, too. Then, you have more fish interested in what is happening from and around the boat.

See the video below of chunking in action. Notice how other non-feeding fish begin to take part in the action. and these non “chunk” takers can be baited with live bait if needed but the chunking is what got it all started

The Timing of Chunks in the Water

The main goal is to put out a steady line of chunks that will fall through to the different depths in the water column and draw the fish to the boat. As the target species comes to the chunking line, some will turn on and start actively feeding. As they eat the chunks, they begin to follow the line to the boat.

The timing has to be consistent. Waiting too long between drops during chunking breaks up the pattern. The wind and current can affect the line of chunks by blowing the boat away from the  chum line, and currents can have the same effect as well.  if there is too great a distance between pieces, the fish are not able to follow the feed, and eventually it won’t have an association to the boat at all. You want a steady flow. One chunk of bait thrown every 10 to 30 seconds is a good target. It depends on how much bait you have on board, and the amount of fish below you in the water or in the school that you want to attract.

Advantages of Chunking Vs. Live Bait

Chunking will float down to the different levels in the water column. This gives more of a chance to attract more fish at different depths. The bait drifts and sinks steadily in a constant pattern. This is very different from live bait which can swim far from the boat taking the game fish with it.

Catching a Fish with Chunking

Use your standard live bait rig – hook / line / pole combo. Bury the hook in one of the chunks and drop that in line with your chunking pattern, pulling line off the reel to allow the chunk to sink freely so that it stays in the chunking line.

Put your rod in a rod holder, pull off about 100 feet of line off the tip of the pole and allow the bait to sink naturally. No need for the clicker or free spool. Just have the reel in gear when the fish takes the bait, and it’s game on.

Regulations and Cutting of Live Fish for Bait

With the increased complexity of fish and game regulations, stay on top of the regulations that pertain to game fish. Know what you’re allowed to cut up and fillet on board, specifically what species you are able to utilize and cut up for chunking on your boat. What you consider bait and meat for chunking may be considered game fish and have regulations attached to it.


John Shelton, the Fishing Chef, will help you get ‘that’ fish onto ‘your’ plate. John’s motto is ‘release it unharmed or do it justice on the plate.’ Executive Chef, photographer, and surfer, John photographs ocean marine life when he's out fishing, and creates masterpieces in the kitchen with what he keeps on deck. His photo works have been used in OEHHA Fish Advisories, National Geographic presentations, and nonprofit marine life groups. When he's not fishing, he's making great BBQ. Visit him at, and send him a message using the contact form using the link above.