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August 11, 2010

Chasing Kings

Big king mackerel have big appetites

Have you ever cursed like an irate pirateover catching a 36-pound king mackerel? Well Jim Hanrahan, Bobby Brack, Keith Brack and I did exactly that in the Bahamas one day last summer. As we were yellowtailing a Bimini reef, two hefty kings darted through the chum slick. We free-lined our "king crusher" bait, and both fish charged: Unfortunately, the smaller king got there first, igniting our sea rage!

Keith Brack skillfully played out the fish from our anchored boat. We immediately iced this fish and pitched out another king crusher bait on a nearly identical outfit. It didn't take long for the trophy king to strike, severing the bait and somehow missing the hooks. Then it circled back and consumed the head in one bite, and the fight was on. Hanrahan took the rod, and a light drag enabled the huge king to keep taking line. Fortunately, the fish stopped with a quarter of the line left on the reel. It was a long and tedious fight for Hanrahan, but when I gaffed the fish and heaved it into the cockpit, it weighed 50 pounds, 6 ounces and shifted our moods 180 degrees.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Anglers seeking trophy-class king mackerel have heard countless times that using ultralight wire, tiny treble or single hooks, light drag settings and frisky live baits is a must to fool them. And there's no denying this works, as many big kings continue to be caught in this manner on live menhaden, hardtails, goggle-eyes and even fresh ribbonfish. But to consistently score the trophies, you might consider straying from this tactic.

I'll come clean here and admit that the biggest king mackerel taken on my boat - a 66 3/4-pound monster - was caught a couple of decades ago by Margo Vincent and Poppy Brownlee on a live goggle-eye while we were sailfishing off Florida's Palm beaches. I'd love to claim we were targeting big kings, but we weren't. Yet nearly every 40- and 50-pound-class king I've taken since has been caught intentionally and come on baits that make large goggle-eyes look like minnows! Confused? Read on.

Shake It Up, Baby!
Chumming stirs up life. Once anchored, we deploy at least one large mesh nylon bag containing a block of frozen chum. Then we supplement the slick by ladling out a mixture of thawed chum, silversides, fine-grain scratch chicken feed and just enough seawater to make this mix thick and pasty (it's kept in a five-gallon bucket). In addition, we'll sweeten the chum line periodically by broadcasting small chunks of Spanish sardines, pilchards or even ballyhoo.