PRO’S CORNER: Kings of Fall & Leader Choices

Glenn Hoflund with his 58½ inch kingfish.
Glenn Hoflund with his 58½ inch kingfish.

As we move into the fall, the king mackerel bite really picks up…especially for the bigger ones. During the height of the season when we’re catching big numbers, I seem to get fewer big ones, but as the temps start to drop, I get more big king action.

In October, while on a guide trip, my clients and I were roughly 10 miles to the west of the pass hovering over a reef, bottom fishing. As always, I free line a live bait behind the boat in the current. I had the bait rigged on a light wire leader out for quite some time…nothing. I put the steel away and floated another like bait out, but this time on a 50 pound fluorocarbon leader with a 5/0 circle hook. No sooner had I put the rod down and set the bait-runner feature, off it went. After some time of a screaming drag and some boat jockeying I gaffed this 58½ inch king for Glenn Hoflund.

While this is the biggest king to ever hit my deck, it’s not the first time this same “presentation” scenario has played out. Steel leaders have caught me many kings, but fluorocarbon leaders have caught all of my biggest kings and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten instant results, like I just described, by switching from steel to fluoro.

There’s a down side. If you didn’t already know, kings have teeth…lots of very sharp ones. Given this fact, you know you will lose many fish using a fluoro leader. I’ve lost more circle hooks than I can count, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in order to get the bite in the first place. When you’re lucky and tighten up on a fish at the right moment, the circle hook will lodge right in the corner of the mouth, with the eye of the hook firmly planted on the outside of the jaw. I don’t suggest using any other hook. During the fight, especially near the boat when the fish changes direction, a regular “J” hook can swing around and take a hit from a tooth…done!

I think kings have really good vision and when they find themselves in areas abundant in forage along with lots of fishing pressure, they can afford to be cautious. A cautious fish will decide not to bite for many reasons, so there will be times when your presentation has to eliminate at least one element of a fish’s ability to detect fraud…his vision. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible in water.

There’s pros and cons to this and I’m not giving up my steel leaders, but give fluoro a try this fall while those really big kings are patrolling our area and see if it doesn’t at least get you more bites.

~ Capt. Randy “C-note” Cnota

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