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April 02, 2010

Fishing the Kite Thong

A time-honored tool to help you fly when there's no breeze

Presenting baits to game fish with a kite is an ancient tactic, really not too much this side of the Fred Flintstone era! Over the past couple of years, the fishing kite seems to have come of age as it has shed its South Florida-sailfish stereotype by catching a lot of different game fish in a lot of different places. We're not just talking about offshore species but a host of nearshore and inshore fish, such as king mackerel, cobia, sharks, tarpon, bluefish and striped bass.

A misconception shared by all but the most devoted kite anglers is that you can't fly a kite without a breeze. While a light to moderate wind certainly helps with launching and keeping a kite airborne, it isn't a requirement. On still or ultralight wind days, experienced anglers use helium balloons to lift their kites. A large helium balloon affixed to the backside of a kite takes it airborne in just a hint of a breeze and allows the deployment of multiple baits. Any wind, no matter how light, helps fortify the system, helping the kite support the weight of multiple baits and preventing it from being pulled down into the water when a fish runs off with a bait. Even on breezeless days, though, a helium balloon-kite combo will fly high and sturdy enough to keep baits splashing attractively at the surface.

Nearly any large tackle center that sells kites will also carry helium tanks and balloons. However, newcomers to kite fishing might be confused about or intimidated by how to correctly attach a helium balloon to a kite, deploy it, and drift or slow-troll with it. And because of this, many will forgo this option, which could be a costly choice. Remember, the basic premise of a kite is to hold baits right at the surface, where splashing and distress vibrations telegraph long and far, and toll in game fish. It also enables more baits to be placed into a spread. And in some cases, a kite is used to precisely position a single bait - like when fishing from the beach and dangling a bait over a trough or even dropping one into holes within lush vegetation.

Jeffrey Liederman is a serious saltwater angler, an accomplished tournament competitor and an innovator when it comes to building a better mousetrap fishing-wise. When he's not on the tournament circuit or splitting his time between pursuing a business degree from the University of Miami and helping with the family company, Capt. Harry's Fishing Supply in Miami, Liederman can be found chasing sailfish and both nighttime and daytime swords off Key Biscayne. Hailing from a fishing family and having been groomed by years of work on tournament boats, Liederman is a master at kite fishing. To facilitate using a helium balloon with his fishing kites, he devised the Kite Thong.

"Attaching a helium balloon to a fishing kite can be cumbersome," says Liederman. "It used to be that you'd have to use floss to center the balloon to the backside of a kite and then tape it in place. Sometimes the tape would stick and you'd pop the balloon as you tried to peel it off. It took time to balance the balloon and secure it properly. Then if it wasn't set just right, you'd have to peel off the tape, undo the floss and start all over. The Kite Thong simplifies the entire procedure. It offers a fast, easy, durable way of securing a helium balloon to a kite - the first time. It also gives you the ability to fine-tune the kite to steer right or left by a simple thread adjustment. It's just so easy and functional."

The Kite Thong, which works on SFE and Frenzy kites only, consists of three equal lengths of Dacron fastened to a heavier triangle of waxed cord. Two of these equal lengths are fastened to the top corners of the kite, and the third is fastened to one of the bottom corners.  
When in place and properly adjusted, a helium balloon is centered, balanced and secured on the back of the kite, held fast by the Thong and pieces of Dacron tied to three of the kite's corners.

Attach the Thong to the kite by fastening two of the Dacron strands over the top kite spars and the third over one of the bottom spars. Placement of the bottom tether will determine how the kite flies: Attach it to the bottom left, and the kite will list to the right, and vice versa.

 

When you're fishing two kites, it is important that they fly away from each other to prevent tangling and cover a greater swath of water.

Inflate the helium balloon and slip it between the kite and the Thong. Adjust the tether lines on the Thong to cradle the balloon securely, and then tighten the legs with the sliding swivels to secure the balloon between the Thong and the kite. That's all there is to it!

 

Once configured, a helium kite is really no different to deploy than astandard kite. Either tether out the balloon on the breeze or slowly motor forward during the launch. Once the first release clip comes up, attach a fishing line to it via the porcelain ring that rides on the fishing line. Secure the hook to the reel and continue letting out the kite while the fishing line free-spools off the reel, with the clicker on. When the second release clip comes up, repeat the procedure. Once both clips are deployed and the kite is in position, lock up the drag on the kite reel. Take the hook from the first fishing outfit, which is on the farthest line, attach a bait to it, toss it over and slowly reel that bait through the water until it is directly underneath its clip. Take the second line, add a bait and deploy it the same way.

Liederman warns against overloading the helium balloon-kite system if you want it to fly high: "If the wind is really, really light, we sometimes cut back on the amount of lead on our lines (sinkers to keep the lines beneath the kite) and also the baits. If we're using goggle-eyes and there's no wind, we'll sometimes drop a line and fish two baits instead of three so the kite won't be stressed. Another option is to go with smaller baits like threadfin herring to fish multiple lines off the kite."

There are two important considerations with the balloon rig. The first is precise adjustment of the release clips so they release easily when a fish takes a bait. The second is the use of lighter line, 50-pound-test braid versus 80- or 100-pound, on the kite reel. "This results in less weight and resistance, which helps keep the kite flying and functional," Liederman says.

Kite flying on a windless day just might be what the doctor ordered. When the fishing seems slow and the deeper lines aren't cutting it, pull out the helium balloon trick, rig up a Thong and watch the panicked, splashing action from the baits unfold right at the surface. You just might find that those very same sights and sounds are just too much for an impressive fish or two to overlook! And that's a good thing.