Dropping your kingfish baits down to the very bottom can produce kingfish strikes, even when fishing shallow water depths.
When the start of a SKA event is signaled, more than likely the majority of the tournament boats won't venture more than a mile or so from shore, in hopes of catching a winning. With a wide variety of inlet mouths to fish and several hot spots along the beaches in the southeast and gulf coastal waters, the majority of the tournament boats will select their kingfish hole within sight of land. And often times, winning kingfish are landed in less than fifteen feet of water and within a stone's throw of the surf.
Obviously the baitfish schools are plentiful here and in turn, attract good numbers of big kings. With a few skills, trolling the edges of these baitfish schools will produce kingfish large enough to grab one of the too soots in man Southern Kingfish Association tournaments.
However there are several offshore fish havens that continually produce kings, where tournament boats have a honest chance in hooking into a giant kingfish. In most cases, offshore kingfish generally run smaller than the kings that migrate in close to the beaches and inlet mouths of coastlines, often weighing form 5-15 pounds. However there are certain areas of offshore waters that continually produce big kingfish and are yet to be discovered by the majority of the SKA fleet.
But with the right fishing skills and homework, you can escape the crowds and land a money fish without the dangers that crowded fleets present. More importantly, the competition is raised to a new level when several kingfish boats may well be fishing for only a few big kingfish. This is what is normally described as a traffic jam of boats which compete for beach or inlet kingfish in what may only be a hole the size of a football field!
In most SKA sanctioned events, over two hundred boats will get the signal to start fishing! Several of these tournament boats will have spent plenty of time out on the water, practice fishing. Nick Parish, captain of the Wendy's/HydraSport team boat, "Royal Flush", often spends several days before the tournament begins, scouting offshore, live bottom ledges. Parish and his Royal Flush fishing team knows that they can weigh in a good size kingfish by fishing in close to shore, but if they locate winning size k _ offshore live bottoms, they will often choose to fish offshore. Simply because they can escape the crowds and the competition that several boats present.
Many of these offshore holes are often tagged as the "First Drop". And more than likely they are located within a few mile run offshore and generally in water depths from 50-100 feet. Keeping this in mind, to be competitively fish these offshore holes, you won't need a fast boat and a large fuel tank.
Jacksonville Florida's, Nick Parrish, often catches his share of winning kingfish along the beaches and inlet mouths, but he also pre fishes several offshore live bottom, holes as well. If quality size schools of kingfish are located at offshore live bottoms, in most cases, his "Royal Flush" fishing team will select these waters during the kingfish event, instead of fighting the crowds.
"Our fishing team often spends several days pre-fishing offshore live bottoms," Parish remarks. "During the summer months, there are several offshore hot spots where you can escape the crowds of boats. There, we look for live bottom ledges in water depths from 70 - 100 feet. Some of these live bottom ledges may be small while others are massive in size. However we often prefer to target the smaller live bottom ledges, simply because they are often overlooked by most king mackerel tournament boats."
"However another good reason to target small live bottom ledges, is to simply get away from barracuda, which normally hold close to man-made structures and wrecks. Live bottom structures often hold good numbers of bait-fish and kingfish. And with the right fishing tactics, your chances of catching a 30 - 40 pound "Smoker" are excellent!"
The "Royal Flush" fishing team often employs the same fishing tactics that catch big beach and inlet kingfish, while fishing offshore live bottoms. In fact, instead of live bait trolling with traditional cigar minnows and blue runners, which are native to these offshore live bottoms, Parish often trolls with a combination of menhaden and ribbon fish that are native to inlets and beaches.
"We use the very same fishing tactics that catch kingfish in close to shore," adds Parish. "Here we will troll a couple of big menhaden from our T-top rod holders as flat lines, with a set back from 40-70 feet. A third bait, either a ribbonfish or a big menhaden is then fished just behind the prop wash. Finally we fish two baits down deep with the aid of down riggers. We will normally vary the depths of the downriggers until we find the depth of water in which the larger kings are holding. We also vary the set back distance from the downrigger ball from 10-30 feet, until we find the right combination. Once again, most of these fine adjustments are determined while practice fishing, but we also adjust the depths and set back distances of our baits during the tournament day as well. We also begin our day of tournament fishing by fishing with one ribbon fish down deep and one live menhaden."
The Royal Flush fishing team also gears their terminal fishing tackle to the size of the kingfish they are more likely to catch.
"If we feel that we have a good shot of catching 30-40 pound kingfish, which northeast Florida waters are more likely to produce, we normally spool up with fifteen pound fishing line, #3 wire leader for our leader wire and #4 wire for our stinger hook," remarks Parish. 'We also use #6 - 4x treble hooks for small baits and #4 - 4x treble hooks for large baits."
"However the key to catching 30 - 40 pound offshore kingfish, is once again, pre fishing. Once you have found an offshore live bottom ledge, which is holding 30 - 40 pound kingfish, display plenty of patience. During the 1998 "Nassau Sport Fishing Association Kingfish" tournament, we fished all day without catching a fish over twenty five pounds, then after most of the boats had left, we landed a 43 pound "Smoker"!
The giant kingfish took first place honors in the Southern Kingfish Association sanctioned, "Nassau Sport Fishing Association kingfish tournament" and beat out the majority of the kingfish boats that were fishing in close to the beaches and inlet mouths. Two fishing seasons ago, the Royal Flush fishing team took second place aggregate honors in the "Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament', while also fishing a small area of live bottom.
Steve Proctor, skipper of the "Blue Magic", Pro Line fishing team, also has a unique fishing tactic for catching big, offshore king mackerel.
"When we find numbers of kingfish holding at offshore live bottoms, I have one fishing - - tactic that consistently catches better than average size kingfish," instructs Proctor. "Once we have determined the depth of water where these big offshore kingfish are holding, we will rig a dead cigar minnow and drop it down to this pre determined water depth. I believe that big offshore kingfish are lazy feeders and when they find our deep rigged, dead cigar minnow, they soon find themselves in our fish bag and eventually, on the "SKA" tournament weigh scales!"
Dave Workman and Jeff Dry often find water temperature breaks when locating offshore kingfish. Workman and Dry are considered to be one of the best kingfish teams in the country and navigate the Donzi team boat, "C & H Lures".
"Jeff and I will often search for offshore live bottom truclures that offer temperature breaks which holds both good numbers of big kingfish and bait-fish schools as well," instructs Workman. "in many cases the water temperature break may be from one half to one degree."
Some water temperature companies offer a CD that can be down loaded into your computer. Marine Data offers offshore water temperatures from your computer with their "Sea Temp" version. There, water temperature breaks from one degree can be determined in distances of 1200 yards, or 1.1 kilometers. For more information, call (910)350-0352.
Finally, one of my favorite live bottom kingfish tricks, is fishing with a double live cigar minnow setup. Capture a pair of big cigar minnows from your live well and send them down deep with a downrigger. One of our largest offshore kingfish, a 43 pound kingfish which took first place in the SKA First Coast King Mackerel Tournament, was taken with a double cigar minnow rig.
Rigging includes a fourteen inch section of #3 wire, haywire wrapped to the eye of a live sit hook. A second, ten-inch section of #3 wire is then haywire wrapped to the same eye of the live bait hook. Haywire wrap a second #2 live bait hook to the tag end of the second leader wire. Use a short section of #4 wire and wrap it to the eye of the-last #2 live bait hook and the tag end to the eye of a #6-4x, treble hook. Adjust the length of the stinger wire so that the stinger hook lies right alongside the tail of the live cigar minnow. Finally, haywire wrap a #10 barrel swivel to the leader wire. Rig both live cigar minnows by barbing the live bait hooks right through both nostrils. When rigged properly, this double cigar minnow setup will resemble a school of minnows and has double the attraction!
If you are frustrated with the number of tournament boats that are fishing in close to the beaches and inlets, escape to these offshore live bottom hot spots and catch your big kingfish without the crowds!