photo credit: Tampa Bay Times
Kingfish (also known as King Mackerel) are heavily targeted by charters and tournament anglers alike. Not many species have the potential to be the fish of a lifetime quite like they do. Properly targeting these trophies requires a well rounded set of skills and assets. What does it take to be a successful Kingfish angler? Much more than you might think!
How do I set up my boat to target Kingfish?
As most things on this list, recommendations may be arbitrary. What works best for some anglers (tournament or not) does not necessarily mean it will be your secret to success. Nonetheless, recommended vessels are typically powerful, robust center-consoles, anywhere from the mid 20’ range up to the mid 40’s. Speed is key for getting on the fish before other anglers.
Your boat will need to be decently stocked with different equipment. Kingfish may be caught on a kite, on a drift, on a downrigger while trolling, or even while sitting anchored. Everything depends on the conditions. Not being prepared with the proper rigging can make all the difference. Bait storage is essential to targeting this species. Having plentiful storage to not only hold bait, but also keep it healthy is a must.
Technology on your vessel is also a necessity. Finding structural points, reefs, wrecks, and other defining features on the ocean floor is key to finding bait and Kingfish. Proper GPS units and chart plotters help get you on the fish while staying safe while on the water.
What gear do I need to target Kingfish?
Fishing for Kingfish requires much of the same gear a boat should already be stocked with if fishing in these waters. It is nothing out of the ordinary. For general use, you are going to want a decent bait rod (7-8’) that can handle between 20-40lb line. Typically, a conventional reel is used with at least 350 yards of 25-30lb monofilament or fluorocarbon. You are going to have your reel set between 8-10lbs of drag. Set your drag before casting a bait to eliminate any possible mistakes while hooked up. This is partnered with a 2-4/0 bait hook and a stinger of your choice for that tail end of your bait. This is the most basic approach to catching these fish. In most cases, other approaches are necessary to secure “the big one”.
Other ways to catch Kingfish range from kites to downriggers. As with most cases in the sport, YouTube is always your friend. There are thousands of videos detailing the gear used for these types of fishing and how to properly set up.
What bait should I use for Kingfish?
Again, this is going to be a fairly broad suggestion. Due to the various ways to target Kingfish, there are hundreds of possible baits to use. Typically, a flashy bait is preferred. This goes both for live and artificial. If running a rig, such as the Blue Water Candy, typically you will want to use a 7 strand steel leader with a rating of at least 60 lbs.
Fishing a variety of baits and styles at once behind your boat is a great way to dial in the bite. Fish enough lines off your vessel to gather research, but not too many to make retrieving a fish impossible. Having well trained/versed co-anglers is a necessity with Kingfish. When one is hooked, the other lines need to be in and out of the way as soon as possible.
What else do I need on the boat to successfully target Kingfish?
Apart from the main rigging, there are many items you can have on your boat to make you an accomplished Kingfish angler. One taken for granted is a decent gaff. You will want one with decent size and grip. 12ft is a great size to go with these lengths of boats. As always, practice makes perfect. You will want someone on the gaff that will be effective and efficient to assure there are no mistakes or lost fish.
Another key factor to take into consideration is weight loss. When tournament fishing, the fish is weighed upon arrival at the dock. Kingfish, like most other species, lose weight while on deck or in your kill bag. This can be 10s of lbs lost, or an entire tournament thrown away. You can minimize this with proper care while at sea. Properly gaffing the fish to limit the amount of blood loss is extremely important. Keeping the fish as cold as possible will also help conceal some of the weight. Ice alone isn't enough to retain all the weight. Mixing sea water, ice, and even kosher salt on occasion can make a slurry in your kill bag that will keep the temperature well below freezing. Due to the warm temperatures these fish may be targeted in, we highly recommend our Fathom 6 King Fish Cooler Bags. They are specifically made for this type of fishing and for protecting against excess weight loss.
How do I win a Kingfish tournament?
Practice, research, and repetition. These tournaments can bring first prizes up to half a million USD, so saying competition will be rough is a vast understatement. Getting on the water and dedicating time to the art is paramount in your success. There are so many articles, videos, and lessons written up online, but speaking with other fishermen will always provide the best tips and tricks. It goes much deeper than simply fishing. You will have to step out of your comfort zone. In the end, experience and dedication will always require a little luck to get the job done.