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Kingfish Leaders

Terry Lacoss

Kingfish leaders protect your fishing line from the sharp teeth of the kingfish and when made up properly, promote more strikes.

With only a few minutes of fishing time left, before we needed to make that 100-mile journey back to St. Mary's, Georgia, we desperately needed to land a big kingfish to put us on top of the Southern Kingfish Association, Georgia division IV. It was the last Georgia divisional event of the 1993 kingfish season.

Our largest kingfish of the day, weighed right at 25 pounds, we needed a 30pounder to put us in first place. Dave Workman and Steve Proctor had already put 30 plus-pound kingfish into their kingfish bags early on during the day. Now it was just after high noon and the tide was running out of the famous, Daytona inlet. This was also prime time for catching a 30 plus-pound inlet king.

Dave Workman, on his team "C&H Lures" boat and Steve Proctor, on his team "Blue Magic" boat were chumming up a slough just north of the channel.

Moments after chumming the slough, both the "C&H" and the "Blue Magic" hooked up to fast running kingfish, that's when the phone rang!

"Terry, I know you all need a big fish, come on over here, we have some big ones chummed up for you", Steve Proctor said excitedly!

Within minutes, we were trolling two large ribbonfish on the downriggers and three big pogies on our flat lines through the chum slick. You could also smell the scent of fish oil and on that late August day, you might say the smell of kingfish was in the air!

Seconds after trolling through the slick, actually our ribbonfish with the long set back was still in the slick, a monster of a kingfish struck the deep ribbonfish and began to run straight at our fishing boat!

I grabbed the rod from the downrigger holder and desperately tried to catch up to the fast running kingfish with the high speed reel. Seconds later, the kingfish shot right by the port side of our fishing boat and headed out for sea. I can still remember the way the fishing line sizzled the water as the king made it's speedy run. This was definitely a kingfish of good proportions!

Now, with the kingfish running out to sea, I tried to loosen up the drag so that the hooks and wire leader would hold. But it was too late, a limp line indicated that my kingfish terminal tackle had given in to the mighty run of the kingfish, or it's razor sharp teeth.

Upon inspecting the leader, we soon found that the kingfish had bitten right through the stinger wire. With the parted wire and the lost kingfish, our hopes went right down the drain for winning the GerogiaDivision that year and actually we ended up losing the "Angler of the Year" award that same year by only a couple of pounds. The parted wire leader actually cost us two fully rigged boats, not to say the honor of winning the Georgia Division and the Angler of the Year.

However that lost kingfish taught us some new rigging tricks when trolling with ribbon fish. We started using #5 wire for our stinger hooks instead of the #4 wire, thus solving the problem of kingfish biting right through the stinger wire. And later on we upgraded our ribbon fish stinger wire with "Sevelon" braided wire, which ultimately gave our ribbonfish a better swimming action.

Kingfish leaders have come a long way since the early days of king mackerel fishing when fishermen trolled with 90-pound wire and 6/0 saltwater hooks.

"I can remember fishing with 60-pound wire and a 3/0 tuna hook for kingfish", says Amelia Island's captain Joe Bruce. "While fishing with Red Houston and Bert Wichens in the 1983, "Arthur Smith" Palm Beach fishing rodeo, we were trolling with live goggle eyes and landed a 46.9 lb. kingfish that took 4th spot in the event".

During the 1996 "Cajun Kingfish Classic" I landed the largest kingfish of the tournament with 12-pound ultra thin "Berkley" fishing line, 32 lb. leader wire, a 41 lb. stinger wire and #6 treble hooks. The big mack weighed 54 pounds"!

Yes, the modern day king mackerel fishermen has improved his kingfish leaders tremendously since the early days of live bait fishing. Back in the old days, tremendous schools of kingfish were often found feeding close to shore and at offshore fish havens. Back in those heydays of king mackerel fishing, the size of your leader wire, hooks or swivel really did not matter that much to a big school of hungry kingfish. But today conditions have changed, particularly in competitive an winning size king mackerel.

Not only have modern day king mackerel fishermen reduced the size of their wire ' but they have also reduced the size their hooks and swivels as well.

"There really aren't any secrets anymore when it comes time to kingfish rigs", says past Angler of the Year, Bruce. "Now It's up to fishermen to find winning kingfish, all of the secrets are out!"

One of Joe Bruce's favorite kingfish leaders, is a double pogy rig. This rig can also be used for a wide variety of bait fish including greenies, Spanish sardines, mullet and many more.

Bruce begins his kingfish leader by haywire wrapping a two foot section of #3, 32 lb. Malin, coffee stained wire, to a #10, thirty pound barrel swivel. The opposite end of the leader wire is haywire rapped to a #1 live bait hook. Now he uses a second piece of #3 wire and haywire wraps the tag end to the eye of the bait fish hook. The length of the wire is often a few inches longer than the live bait that Bruce may be using. Now a second, #1 bait fish hook, is haywire wrapped to the end of the #3 wire. Finally, Bruce takes a short section of #5, 41 lb. test wire and haywire wraps it to his stinger hook. His stinger hook is normally a #6 or #4, 4x treble hook, depending on the clarity of the water and the size of the bait fish that he is using.

The tag end is then haywire wrapped to the eye of the nose hook. The size of the stinger wire is also determined by the size of the bait fish. Bruce normally likes for his stinger hook to lay alongside the tail of his live bait.

Now it becomes time to fish the double kingfish rig. First, nose hook a bait fish to the first hook, then hook a second bait fish to the second and final baitfish hook on the leader. Always hook the larger and stronger bait fish to the first hook on the double bait fish rig. This keeps the stronger bait fish swimming in the front of the weaker and smaller sit fish, reducing the problem both bait fish tangling lines and hooks together. The double pogy rig is a very deadly kingfish leader and probably the favorite among king mackerel fishermen.

Bruce's second favorite kingfish leader, is a single live bait rig. This is simply made up of a two foot section of #3 wire as a leader wire, using once again a #10 barrel swivel and a #1 bait fish hook for a nose hook. Joe simply repeats the process for the stinger hook, by haywire wrapping a short section of #5 wire to the eye of the nose hook and the tag end of the stinger wire to the eye of a #4 or #6, 4x treble hook.

Finally in Bruce's arsenal for catching big winning kingfish, is his ribbonfish leader. Once again, Joe begins his leader with a #10 barrel swivel and a two foot section of #3 Wire. A 2/0 bait fish hook is then haywire wrapped to the tag end of the leader wire. Now, Joe uses 27-lb. "Trilon Seven" wire for his stinger hooks. Trilon is braided wire with a plastic coating, that ultimately helps give a dead ribbon fish a natural swimming action.

A 3-inch section of Trilon, 27-lb test is tied to the eye of a 4x #4 "Seaguard" treble hook with a surgeon's knot. The tag end of the stinger wire is tied to the eye of the nose hook with a surgeons knot as well. Joe then rigs two or three more stinger hooks in similar fashion in a series, depending on the size of the ribbonfish.

This completes Joe Bruce's deadly threesome of kingfish leader rigs.

"I often custom rig my kingfish leaders to fit the present fishing conditions," he said, I will often use C&H Kingbusters in front of my nose hooks to attract kingfish when the kings are really fired up, or when I am fishing in stained kingfishwaters."

With the increased competition in Southern Kingfish Association tournaments hooks, swivels and leader wires are, sure to improve as well.

'We are now marketing tubes of straight wire for the avid king mackerel fishermen", Says Malin's Joe Marshall. "The straight pieces of coffee stained Malin wire come in a variety of lengths including 12", 18", 24" and 36". The wire is also softer and less apt to kink, a main fear of king mackerel fishermen".

We also have come out with a new brand of braided wire called Trilon Seven, which has a clear coated plastic coating and also comes in brown or black".

To be successful, all kingfish hooks should be sharpened with a flat metal file. Store your kingfish leaders in Ziploc bags for easy access when it comes time for use. Mark the bags with a magic marker to indicate which kingfish leaders that you are storing. Be sure and rig up to twenty four of the single and double kingfish rigs for a full day of king mackerel fishing. Ten to fifteen ribbon fish leaders will often fill your needs.

Finally, Joe Bruce recommends that you discard your kingfish leader when you have just boated a kingfish. Replace your kingfish leader with a brand new one and you will be a winner like captain Joe Bruce!

Capt. Joe Bruce is pictured fishing on his team fountain boat, "Angling Pursuits". Bruce a expert when it comes to rigging kingfish leaders.

Proper leaders are a crucial element when the bite turns on.
Click these links for kingfishing articles by Terry Lacoss

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