King mackerel are aggressive predators with extremely sharp teeth. To catch them with consistency, you must prepare accordingly. Though there are many ways to rig your rods for kingfish, I’d like to focus on a few techniques that have worked for me over the years. These techniques can be utilized on both spinning and conventional tackle.
To start, you’re going to want a rod in the 7-foot range that has a sensitive tip, so you can feel the bite, but also some backbone to turn the head of a smoker that just peeled off 100 yards of line in 20 seconds. Sometimes, a big king will swim right back at the boat after a blistering run, and you will have a better chance of coming tight with a higher speed reel. You’ll want nothing less than a 5-to-1 gear ratio.
When it comes to line choice, you can certainly spool your reels with braided line, but I prefer 20- to 30-pound monofilament, as I’m kind of old school and learned to fish for kingfish before braid became so popular. That said, you’ll want to connect your main line to 4 to 10 feet of 40- or 50-pound fluorocarbon leader with a size 4 or 6 barrel swivel. I like to stay on the long side with my leader to be a bit stealthier. This step will help to avoid line twist, especially when using a spinning reel.
Now it’s time to put together some rigs. You’ll need some #5 stainless steel, coffee-colored wire, and depending on the bait that is available, octopus hooks ranging from 3/0 to 7/0 and some treble hooks in size 4 and 6. If you are using smaller baits like pilchards, you’ll want to use a smaller main hook and smaller treble hook for your stinger. For bigger baits like goggle eyes, blue runners and speedos, step up your hook size for your main hook and stinger. Use a haywire twist to attach a 20-inch length of wire to the main hook. Don’t over do it, as four to five twists on a 45-degree angle will suffice. Finish off your haywire with three to four straight wraps to secure the connection.
Now it’s time to attach your stinger to the main hook. Again, depending on the size of your bait, attach 4 to 8 inches of wire to your stinger hook with a haywire twist and then attach the other end of your stinger rig to the eye of the main hook with another haywire twist. It’s extremely important to rig your stinger with enough slack so that your bait will swim naturally.
Now you are ready to attach your rig to your leader. Use an albright knot to connect your rig to your leader. If you don’t know how to tie an albright knot, do an Internet search and plenty of pages and videos will pop up.
You can fish this setup a couple of different ways. If you will be drifting, fish at least two rods. You’ll want one bait on the surface and one deeper, from 30 to 60 feet. Send your surface bait out first and allow it to swim away from the boat. You can attach a balloon to your main line to help keep track of where your bait is. Depending on conditions, add 4 to 8 ounces of lead to your deep rod. Slip your lead on above the swivel or attach it to the main line with a rubber band. If you utilize the rubber band method, it’s highly likely that you’ll lose your sinker on the strike.
These rigs can also be used for slow trolling baits. Slow trolling can help determine what depth the fish are in. Start trolling in about 60 feet and head out to 200 feet and then back to 60 feet. Once you find the fish, set up your drift at the depth.
When kingfish strike, they typically go on a long run away from the boat. Take your time and slowly work the fish toward the boat. Don’t be surprised if you get it close and it takes off on another short run after it sees the boat. Let the fish run and tire out. You should then be able to get your fish back to the boat for a gaff shot to the head.