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August 11, 2010

Chasing Kings

Big king mackerel have big appetites

Kingfish baitPrior to live-lining a bait, I'll strip off line up to the Bristol knot that joins the braid to the fluorocarbon wind-on, some 20 feet up from the hook. Then I secure a balloon float to the double line or along the fluoro wind-on if I want to "shallow up" the bait. The lead circle hook is lightly embedded just in front of the bait's dorsal fin. I prefer a stinger that is free-swinging, so I let that trailing circle hook dangle.
 
The bait is then free-lined well back in the chum slick, where it won't interfere with our yellowtail fishing. I place the rod in a gunwale holder, back off the drag and engage the reel clicker so there's just enough tension to keep the line from backlashing on the strike but not so much that the king feels the pressure.
 
I fish with a relatively light drag to avoid kinking and breaking the 38-pound-test wire leader. On the strike, I leave the rod in the holder and, once the king has full possession of the bait, advance the drag until one of the circle hooks sets. Then someone picks up the outfit and has fun! If a king misses on the strike and there's still a chunk of bait left on the rig, free-spool the remains and stand ready to counter when the king circles back to pick it off.

At anchor or on the drift, we frequently add a fishing kite to the spread. With this in play, there's one big bait swimming under a balloon float and another kicking up a ruckus at the surface. Big kings react wildly to distress vibrations. And since the back of the bait will be breaking the surface, there's little concern over a king's seeing the terminal hardware.

Yearning to log a bunch of trophy kings this coming season? Give our approach a try, and go bottomfishing. Stir up the reefs, wrecks, ledges or rigs, and you'll ultimately and undoubtedly wake up a sleeping giant. Send out a meal that's fit for a king.

The Best Kingfish Baits

Menhaden
Also known as pogies, these baits are common in large schools along the Atlantic seaboard.

Little Tunny
Smaller individuals of this species, aka bonito and false albacore, make great kingfish baits.

Threadfin Herring
These fragile baits attract just about any predator and are called greenies in South Florida.

Yellowtail
The yellowtail snapper is a major food source for kings (and fishermen) in the Florida Keys.

Spanish Mackerel
Big kings prey upon their smaller cousins, which are fished live or rigged dead with multiple hooks.

Cero Mackerel
Although seldom pressed into service as bait, this king mack relative will attract strikes too.

Blue Runner
Known as hardtails, these hardy small jacks are arguably the most widely used bait of all.

Goggle-Eye
More correctly known as bigeye scad, the goggle-eye is another South Florida favorite.

Ballyhoo
These halfbeaks swim in large schools and are fished live, or drifted dead, with multiple hooks.