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Go Deep King Mackerel Fishermen

Terry Lacoss

When king fishing is red hot along the beaches and inlets, deep-water king fishing can be on fire!

When the Southern Kingfish Association tournament season gets underway, competitive teams begin their search for big, tournament-winning king mackerel. When the warm waters of spring attract good numbers of kingfish to beaches and inlet mouths, it doesn't take long for the news to spread.

Certainly making that short run from the SKA tournament checkout to a nearby inlet or beach is more attractive than making long, gas burning offshore runs. Particularly when bad weather is forecasted, you and your fishing team will be able to reach a safe harbor in much less time.

However look at the results from the last few seasons of Southern Kingfish Association king mackerel tournaments, many of the winning king mackerel have been coming from offshore live bottoms, ledges, artificial reefs, towers, oil rigs and wrecks where baitfish stack up on a more regular basis. Clear water conditions are more prevalent here than close to shore kingfish waters where winds and heavy rainfalls can discolor the water in a very short period of time.

Simply said, king mackerel fishermen are finding that deep-water king mackerel fishing is much more consistent than beach and inlet fishing.

However, here is the deal. Little king or big king! Do you go for the deal, deal or no deal, or do you go for the big jackpot kingfish!

Whether you are fishing in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, there are specific fishing techniques that will produce "Big Deal" king mackerel.

Certainly a major factor that attracts quality game fish of every species is the availability of baitfish. Once you have found where good concentrations of quality size baitfish are holding in deep water, you and your SKA fishing team will certainly be much closer to finding winning size kingfish.

Yulee, Florida's Kenny Crawford has certainly unlocked the secrets for catching Southern Kingfish Association winning king mackerel. Crawford and his "Bellsouth Yellow Pages Kingfish Team" not only won the 2004 Bellsouth VIP kingfish Tournament, they also won the 2005 Bellsouth VIP Kingfish Tournament! That's back-to-back wins competing against a field of some of the very best king mackerel teams in the country. Also fishing aboard Crawford's 31-foot Contender kingfish boat are Doreen Fletcher, Bill Walsh, Bill Bazemore and John Giese. Other SKA tournament wins include the 1999 Golden Isles and the 2003 Biloxi King Masters.

During the 2004 and 2005 Bellsouth Greater Jacksonville VIP tournaments, Crawford's winning kingfish were caught in deep water. When most of the competitive teams were running down to Cape Canaveral, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine Beach, Nassau Sound and the St. Johns and St. Mary's inlets, Kenny Crawford pointed the bow of his Yamaha powered Contender kingfish boat in an easterly direction and ran out to deep kingfish waters.

"I look for small live bottoms and ledges to hold quality baits," Kenny Crawford said.

"This takes a lot of time scouting offshore structures to find which ones are consistently holding quality size baitfish. Once we have found these productive bottoms, we fish them hard!"
Many species of offshore baitfish include blue runners, Spanish sardines, glass minnows, greenies and cigar minnows. However it's the big blue runners that normally get Kenny Crawford's fishing team into the winners circle.

"On a more recent note, we were fishing off from Fernandina Beach Florida in 120 feet of water when we found a huge school of blue runners weighing to two pounds," Kenny said. "After jigging up a dozen baits, we began slow trolling over the same offshore live bottom and immediately began catching kingfish in the 25-pound and larger class. That school of blue runners is still there and for whatever reason, they decided to make their home there and haven't moved yet. The kingfish are still there too!"

"We use pretty heavy tackle according to some kingfish teams. I recently watched a fleet of commercial king mackerel boats catching 30- to 50-pound kingfish with ropes and spoons! With this in mind we use 20-pound Stren clear monofilament fishing line, number four wire for our leaders and number five wire for our stinger wires. We also quit purchasing those small number six treble hooks and now use number two, 4X treble hooks for our stinger hooks, particularly when slow trolling large blue runners."

Crawford's complete kingfish rig begins with a 15-foot section of fluorocarbon shock leader attached to a 20-pound black barrel swivel and the tag end of his 20-pound fishing line.

Next a three-foot section of number four wire is haywire wrapped to the barrel swivel and the tag end of the wire leader is then haywire wrapped to the eye of a number two live bait hook. Finally a short section of number five wire is also haywire wrapped to the eye of the live bait hook and a number two 2X treble hook is then haywire wrapped to the tag end of the stinger wire. The length of the stinger wire is adjusted so that the stinger hook rides just ahead of the tail of the live bait.

"It's my personal job to handle all of the live baits," Kenny explains. "To start off with, my boat has three large live wells. Here we keep all of our live baits separated. In one well we will keep 18 menhaden and in another live well we might keep a dozen blue runners. We never crowd our live baits. I also take the time to net each live bait individually. Jamming a net into the live well and scooping out a net-full of big baits will often shorten their lives in a hurry!"

Kenny personally sets live baits out individually in the boat's live bait trolling pattern.

"It's really important to have each live bait set out at the proper set back distances," Kenny said. "This is normally 50 to 80 feet back on the T-top rod holders, which are also called our 'Flat Lines'. I then set out a big live bait, some ten feet behind the Yamaha outboards. This is called our 'Wheel-Wash' bait and often produces some pretty impressive kingfish strikes!"

For downrigger live baits, Kenny goes real deep!

"We normally begin with one downrigger live bait set at 75 feet and the second one at 35 feet," Kenny instructs. "If the action is deep, we will set both live baits down deep and even drop down to 85 to 95 feet of water!"

Kenny Crawford also chums with both ground and chunks of menhaden by attaching mesh filled chum bags to gunnel cleats.

Crawford's kingfish theory, "Find where big offshore live baits call their home and you'll find their guests, kingfish!"

"New Fishing Chair"

In closing there is a great new product for those of us that have bad backs, knees, legs shoulders and other portions of our bodies that can't stand a lot of motion. Particularly the motion and pounding that long boat rides produce.

It's called the "Loung Air". This neat new product has three separate compartments that are quickly inflated with air from a small portable rechargeable air pump. The "Loung Air" can be used as a bed, chair or even a combination of the two. However for the fishermen, it takes up the same room that a beanbag takes, but is much more comfortable with a soft air ride and has more back support than a beanbag.

My daughter, Lisa Mills, had a disc fusion a couple of fishing seasons ago and really finds comfort on the boat from her new "Loung Air". It gives her the back support that captain chairs or bench seats in boats lacked.

The "Loung Air" can also be deflated and stored in a small bag, where it can be stored easily in the boat. The "Loung Air" sells for less than $100.00. For more information, visit

A variety of beanbags can be purchased in many local tackle shops and come in many different shapes and sizes to fit the fisherman's needs as well.
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