How To Catch The Big Kingfish

Captain Gregg's 12 Steps to Catching The Big Kingfish

1. Chose The Right Captain and Boat

You can catch king mackerel from just about any boat but your best chance is with an experienced captain, good boat and knowledge of the coastal waters your fishing in. Make sure your captain is qualified to give you the most out of your charter by asking him a few questions about the time and season, the best lures and bait and sightings of kings in his last few trips. This way you'll get a better understanding of how the captain fishes and if he has found spots that he has already been too that produced kings. Captain Gregg will give you the breakdown and insights on all of this and more.

2. Rig for Success

Proper boat rigging ranks as a high priority among serious kingfish anglers. Rigging must accommodate a wide range of techniques, including ­downrigger-trolling, kite-fishing, slow-trolling, drifting or even anchoring, any of which might be needed, depending on the time of year or coastal region. Catching live bait can also play a critical role, so the boat’s deck needs to be snag-free for cast-netting. Voluminous livewell capacity helps ensure the boat has enough healthy live bait to fish all day. Finding king mackerel means having an arsenal of marine ­electronics to locate key structure spots such as wrecks and reef edges, as well as schools of bait. A top-quality GPS/chart plotter and fish finder are critical in this pursuit, according to Captain Gregg. In addition, my charters are successful charters having my boat fully stocked with all the lures, rigs, leader material and terminal tackle (like live-bait hooks) they might possibly need.

3. Do Your Homework

Captain Gregg says, keep an eye on sea-surface temperature and chlorophyll patterns on sites such as” The idea is to find temperature breaks and the right color of water (known as “king green”) that might be holding schools of bait. Find the bait and you’ll often find the kings. Talking to local anglers is also an important part of doing your homework, but you can’t always take them at their word, according to Captain Gregg. “The only way to confirm things is to pre-fish,” Captain Gregg advises. “Take the information you have, and fish the spots to make sure what other anglers are telling you is true.”

4. Baited Question

Silvery live baits such pilchards, threadfin herring, menhaden, mullet and blue runners are preferable to dead baits, according to Captain Gregg. However, live bait is not always easily obtained, so I bring bring frozen baits such as cigar minnows and ribbonfish. While opinions vary about the best bait species, there is consensus about the size of the bait for trophy kings. So, “Big baits equal big fish,” Captain Gregg says. Captain Gregg also has a trick for making natural baits appear even larger: He adds some “flash” to an otherwise conventional wire-leader, twin-treble bait rig. The captain uses Bomber Lures or giant spoons. The reflective material not only amplifies the size of the bait, but the shimmer —when combined with the bait’s frantic vibrations — helps attract a king’s attention at a distance.

5. Fish a Spread

Fishing as many baits as possible helps multiply the opportunities for hookups — and the more fish you hook, the better your chances of hooking a trophy. “I try to fish as many baits as possible,” says Smith. “We fish as many as three lines at a time, including 1 down and 2 up.
Another way to expand the spread is to fly a kite — a ­technique employed by many successful tournament anglers. Kites let you present baits a good distance from the boat, and this can help you entice line-shy kings to bite. You can’t set and forget when fishing a spread. Captain Gregg says, check your baits frequently, as kings are known for nipping at baits without getting hooked. Checking the baits often helps ensure they are free of slash marks and swimming well.

6. S-L-O-W Troll

Trolling too fast represents one of the biggest mistakes anglers make when targeting trophy kings, according to Captain Gregg. “Dead idle is all that’s needed when trolling live bait,” says Captain Gregg, “and sometimes that’s too fast.” “I like to drift around ledges for monster kings with live baits such as blue runners and large pelchers.,” Also, I like to down rig with a planner, 80lb test line of leader with about 30-40 yards in front of it with a nice shiny spoon. That gets them every time says, Captain Gregg.

7. Run Silent, Run Deep

Downriggers prove ­indispensable in the pursuit of trophy kings, yet these devices also require special rigging and a fish finder to maximize results. One of the rigging secrets is to replace the downrigger’s wire cable with 200-pound monofilament line, a leading team captain revealed. “Using heavy mono eliminates the hum in the water that wire cable generates,” says Captain Gregg, who believes that the twangy noise of the taut wire cable is off‑putting to big kings. Captain Gregg also fishes two baits per downrigger, clipping one line at the weight and another line from a second rod halfway down the line using a long-line clip. Typically, he will start out trolling one downrigger weight 60 feet down and the other weight 40 feet down, until he finds a feeding pattern. Keeping a close eye on the fish finder helps pinpoint schools of bait, which then guides the placement of the downrigger depths.

8. Leave Fish to Find Fish

This advice runs against the grain for many anglers, but it makes sense when targeting trophy kings. “If you find yourself catching 15-pound kings, you probably won’t catch anything bigger in that area,” says Captain Gregg. “Big kings don’t hang around with the small ones.” Captain Gregg suggests not just changing locations, but moving to a different water depth as well. “Sometimes a move ­shallower or deeper is the key to finding bigger fish."

9. Light Leaders

Top tournament anglers use the lightest bronze-colored wire possible, most rigging with nothing heavier than 60-pound-test Seven Strand wire or 44-pound-test single-strand “piano” wire. Wire-leader lengths range from two to five feet, and most anglers connect this with a black barrel swivel to a 20- to 30-foot top shot of 30- to 50-pound-test fluorocarbon. The main line is usually 20- to 30-pound monofilament.

10. Good Chum

Sometimes you have to put the big kings in the mood to bite, and the secret here is chum, according Captain Gregg. The dispersal of chum is also critical. “We ladle out one scoop of chunks at a time,” Captain Gregg reveals, “waiting until those disappear from sight before tossing out the next scoop. It’s important to keep this going, even if you have a fish hooked, as it keeps other kings in the area.”

11. Drag Settings

Every top kingfish competitor ­emphasizes the importance of light drag settings for landing the smokers. Most anglers use two to three pounds of drag pressure, confirmed with a scale prior to fishing. “Once a king is hooked, it makes a remarkably fast first run,” Captain Gregg explains. “A tight drag will either break the line or pull the hook.” Tournament anglers use a variety of reel brands and models, ranging from the Accurate Boss Extreme BX-600 to the Penn Torque TRQ30. The common denominators here include super-smooth drag systems, high-speed retrieves and plenty of line capacity. To keep as much line on the reel as possible, most ­tournament anglers get aggressive with boat handling and chase down a big king, putting the angler on the bow as the captain motors toward the hooked fish. Rods are usually custom 7-foot sticks rated for 15- to 30-pound-test line. Light tips help keep from tearing the hooks loose once you hook a big king. Keeping the rod tip high prevents the line from being tail-whipped by the big kings. Once the fight is up and down, the key is to maintain constant but light pressure while gently pumping the king to the surface. “It’s an inch game at this point,” says Captain Gregg. “A lot of ­tournament-winning kings have had the hooks pulled on them at this point.”

12. Major Gaff

Most anglers use a 12-foot fishing gaff with a dark nonshiny handle and a 3-inch hook, kept extremely sharp. In a typical scenario, the designated gaffer stands by the angler in the bow as the boat pursues the fish. The extraordinary length of the gaff handle allows you to reach out and gaff the king if it surfaces suddenly during the chase. The dark, nonglare finish of the handle prevents spooking the fish. “Keep the gaff out of the water until it’s time to gaff the fish,” says Captain Gregg. “This will keep the line from getting fouled in the gaff. When it’s time, reach out and come across the back of the king to gaff him".

Pro Tip: Don’t Waste Time

When the king mackerel are biting offshore, many top anglers forget the traditional technique of cast-netting for bait inshore. Instead, they try to find bait closer to the kings. Go ahead and run offshore to where you want to fish, but make sure you take some frozen bait such as cigar minnows, Boston mackerel or Spanish mackerel.  Start out fishing dead bait, but be on the lookout for schools of bait, and then use a Sabiki rig to jig up the live stuff once you find them.
Have Fun says, Captain Gregg and be sure to be safe! Catch em up !!!  
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