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High Speed King Fishing

Terry Lacoss

By stepping up your trolling speed and adjusting your kingfish tackle and baits, expect to catch the eye of fast striking king mackerel.


It's common knowledge that the faster you troll baits and lures, the more water you will cover and the size of game fish will be considerably larger. However a faster trolling speed doesn't always pay off when kingfish are holding tight to a ledge, tide line, or simply schooling tight on a sand bottom. Here king fishermen would be better off slow trolling live baits, drifting and even live baiting from an anchored kingfish boat. This style of king fishing obviously keeps kingfish baits in the strike zone for a longer period of time, resulting in more kingfish strikes.

However there are times when kingfish are scattered along the beaches and offshore live bottoms, and bumping up your trolling speed will result in more kingfish strikes. In many cases, a fast swimming live bait or lure will attract high-speed strikes from nearby king mackerel. Keep in mind, to get a monster kingfish to strike it often takes a big lure or bait to capture a "Smoker's" feeding interests.

"For years now we have been taking a regular ice pick, placing a ?- to 1-ounce bullet weight on it and sticking it in the mouth of a ribbonfish," past SKA Angler of the Year Joe Bruce said. "The reason we use an ice pick is simple, you avoid those razor sharp teeth of the ribbonfish! Once you have placed the bullet weight in the ribbonfish's mouth, you hold the mouth shut. Next, run a ?-ounce jig hook from the bottom of the mouth, right out through the top of the head. This keeps the weight in the ribbonfish's mouth." "The only downsize of this rigging technique, is the kingfish may swallow the bullet weight! The metal would then be detected by the weighmaster and the fish completely disqualified."

Bruce also uses Mylar lures to aid kingfish live baits in running straight and natural. The lure weight ranges from ?-ounce to one-ounce, which is actually a skirted lure with a weighted head. The lure can be fished right in front of the live bait, or ahead of the live bait by pegging it to the wire leader. "I like to troll these weighted kingfish baits just a tad faster than normal kingfish baits," Joe Bruce explains. "Here we troll just under two knots. And the good thing about weighted baits, they take a nose dive during a wide turn, which attracts the attention of big kingfish."

For fishing tackle, Joe Bruce uses "Dave Workman" custom kingfish rods, paired with Penn 545 live bait trolling reels. Joe spools 17-pound red "Cajun Lightning" fishing line on all of his kingfish reels and a 12-foot section of 20-pound fluorocarbon shock leader is also used. When rigging ribbonfish, Bruce uses #6 malin wire and #4 - 4X silver treble hooks for stinger hooks. Jacksonville Florida's, Butch Garvin has developed a deadly trolling tactic for northeast Florida kingfish. Here along the beaches, giant kingfish are often found scattered, which requires covering a lot of water to become a successful king mackerel fisherman.

"Look for big kings to begin showing up during late May and by mid-July, there is a major run of kingfish taking place from Daytona Beach right up to the Fernandina Beach Inlet," Butch Garvin said. "I look for the obvious signs along the beaches including diving birds, baitfish pods and believe or not, working shrimp boats are the best clue for finding smoker kings along the beaches." "I will have to admit though, a deep slough just north of Nassau Sound always produces beach kings when the weather and fishing is red hot during the summer."

Garvin's Slough is located only a few hundred yards off from Amelia Island Plantation and is actually a depression, which was created during recent beach nourishment projects. Dredging took place here where sand was pumped from the ocean onto the beach, leaving a deep trough in the bottom. Here fishermen will find a water depth of twenty-eight feet, with the adjoining water depth running from twenty-three to twenty-five feet of water. Garvin also has a deadly beach fishing tactic, which includes trolling a bit faster than most kingfish boats.

"I like to bump my trolling speed up to two knots or faster," Butch said. "Here I will troll two ribbonfish down deep with downriggers. The first bait is fished just off from the bottom and the second one fished from 10 to 15 feet under the surface. We normally use a drop back distance of 30 to 40 feet." Garvin rigs his ribbonfish beginning with a #4-2X treble as a nose hook, which is followed with two #4-2X, treble hooks rigged in stinger fashion and barbed some two inches apart in the mid section of the ribbonfish. Garvin uses 20-pound terminal fishing line, with a five-foot section of 20-pound fluorocarbon shock leader. A three-foot section of #3 coffee colored, single strand wire is then attached to the mono shock leader with a 40-pound black barrel swivel. The nose hook is then haywire wrapped to the tag end of the wire shock leader. Finally, #4 wire is used to rig the stinger hooks alongside the ribbonfish, making sure that both stinger hooks are set in the middle of the ribbonfish and two inches apart.

Garvin also prefers to troll with large baits on the surface including blue runners and what many king mackerel fishermen relate to as "Turbo" menhaden. Alias: "Pogies". Larger baits always troll faster than smaller ones, which normally spin when they begin to tire. The first live bait is placed in the middle transom rod holder and trolled some five yards behind the wheel-wash. Two more live baits are trolled from t-top rod holders and fished at a drop back distance of thirty and fifty feet.

Reel drag settings are normally set just tight enough so the spool does not backlash during the speedy run of the king mackerel and the hook is never set during the strike. As the kingfish begins to tire, king mackerel fishermen will trap the fishing line between their thumb and the rod's fore grip to add pressure to the tiring mackerel. When the king makes a run, the thumb releases the line and the king runs on a light drag, insuring that the small treble hooks keep their bite in the thin skin of the mouth and the side of the kingfish, when they become foul hooked. Another deadly fishing tactic for speeding up your kingfish baits includes using a ?- to one-ounce led head jig. One of the more productive led head jigs for this style of king fishing is the "Hook-Um-Up" jig, which is actually shaped like a boxing glove. This unique led head jig actually aids both live and dead baits swim in a straight track.

There area also several variables to consider when stepping up your trolling speed for kingfish baits. Keep in mind that increasing your trolling speed from a quarter to a half-knot may make all the difference in the world in your king fishing success. The direction of the current is a major factor. Currents are frequently caused by tides, or wind directions and when running in the same direction king fishermen will need to increase their trolling speed.

Avoid trolling kingfish baits directly into the current, instead troll down current and at an angle when trolling into the current. Look for some of the stronger live baits to troll better when increasing your kingfish trolling speed. Blue runners, goggle eyes, mullet, ribbonfish, Spanish sardines and Spanish mackerel are all select live baits when increasing your trolling speed. Menhaden and threadfin are both poor live baits when increasing your trolling speed. Both will begin to spin when the suddenly become weak and tired.

By rigging your live and dead kingfish baits properly, you can increase your trolling speed from a half to one knot, which will also increase your king fishing success!
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