The beautiful kingfish populates New Zealand waters from the Kermadec Islands to Banks Peninsula. A mighty catch, well-deserving of its name, any fisher hoping to land one better be ready for a fight.
Stickbaits have proven to be one of the most effective and entertaining ways of catching kingfish. That moment when calm water turns to white wash, with acres of kings chasing a tiny piece of wood, has to be seen to be believed. But to land one you need high end tackle, and you need to know how to use it. Here’s our guide...
Knots & rigging
The required knots are complex but with a bit of practice can be mastered. Attaching the braid to leader is always a hugely debated topic but we will only worry about the two main knots, the FG Knot &
Purists say the FG is strictly for casting and the PR for jigging, but you can use both knots for both disciplines with little variation. We would just recommend when completing the PR knot, you wrap the bobbin thread around the leader for a maximum of 15mm, not 100mm as some guides suggest.
When it comes to connecting lures to the leader there are a few different approaches. If you’re fishing a new area, connect the leader to a swivel using a four-turn uni knot. Then the swivel will connect to a split ring which is then connected to the lure. This will allow you to change lures out fast if a certain style or colour isn’t working.
To get the most action from stickbaits, downsize leader to 80lb from 130lb. Connect to the lure using a lefties loop (note this knot needs to be checked from time to time). This allows the lure to move around as much as possible with minimum restriction on the nose to slow movement down. Depending on how the action unfolds, you might need to rig quickly – connect the lure with a simple 4-turn uni knot straight to the nose of the stickbait. This can slow lure movement down fractionally but it’s a technique definitely not to be overlooked.
Trebles v Singles v Assist
There’s plenty of debate around rigging lures. The basic rule is that trebles get the best action out of lures but the negative to this is they can cause significant damage to fish - and fisherman.
Many charter operators are now excluding trebles from their vessels. Only allowing inline hooks; single hooks with the eye running directionally in line with the hook or assist rigged stickbaits, which is basically running jigging assist rigs off the belly and tail of baits. The biggest issue with this is that baits lose a lot of movement through the water and can come off balance, thus not working as well as they should.
You need to make your own decision on what best suits you and your crew, but if you decide to run trebles try crushing or sanding the barbs back. This will allow for easier removal from a fish … or yourself!
When it comes to removing hooks from fish no matter whether running singles or trebles there are some valid procedures to follow.
Bigger fish will come up pretty tired after a solid fight so hook removal can be easy, but still take as much care as possible. Get a good hold of the tail, hang the fish over the side of the boat and use pliers to remove the hook. If you bring the fish aboard make sure you have a wet towel to throw over it just in case it decides to throw a tantrum. It’s not pretty seeing a king thrash around with trebles flying all over the show.
As for the little guys that tend to winch in without a fight, they often come to the side of the boat full of beans. These are the fellas you have to be most careful with. Use a wet towel over the head to calm fish down. Either get fish onto the gunnel and remove hooks there or complete the hook removal over the side of the boat. Whatever you do, try not to control the fish with the leader as this really does nothing. Also, try not to grab the stick bait as often one treble is hooked and the other is swinging freely.
Nasty weather can make it hard to get out and target kings on sticks, but don’t be too deterred when the weather is not 100 percent.
If the conditions can be handled safely then the chances of catching are still good. After all, fish aren’t worried about the weather. You will also find a lot of fisherman will not go out unless the weather is mint, and this can work in your favour when it comes to top water fishing as too many boats on the water will force the kingfish deeper.
Fishing these kinds of conditions requires a bit more thought when setting up the boat drift and how wind and tide are affecting the conditions. One of the biggest components here is getting your stickbait to work. The longer the lure is in the water and working properly the better the chances of securing fish. Having a few sinking lures on those 15-knot plus days will help get that lure under the chop. You may not witness the explosive strikes on the surface but these will give you a greater chance of catching.
Another trick for choppy days is to “over rig” the bait. That is, go up a size on the hooks and splits rings and also try to attach a swivel to the nose. I would suggest something like the Jig Star swivel and grommet. These are great for tying the leader on to the bait, and allow for quick lure changing also.
With the increased wind factor you are going to need to cast with the wind. Remember, the boat is going to drift faster meaning you will have to wind faster to re-gather line. If you can, have a friend occasionally engage the engine into reverse to slow the drift down, or if you’re alone you can flick out a sea anchor.
Stickbaiting is becoming a very popular way to catch kingfish in New Zealand, making it a little harder to get fish. There aren’t more people fishing, but more boats targeting the common stickbaiting areas. With so much noise and movement in the water created from the engines it becomes hard to raise fish or find kings doing their thing on top.
If you can wait, then being the last boat on the water can be profitable. Kingfish like to feed in the evening and will wait until the water is calm up top.
Sometimes your favourite spot is just too crowded, so take this opportunity to go further a field in search of other areas which are not so populated. It’s better to have a bag full of spots than one lucky charm.
While hunting out new grounds simply trolling stickbaits can be a very effective way to find kings on the surface. As soon as you hook up, cast lures near the hooked up bait and you will be surprised at what you find.
Try trolling lures around any structure or drop off that looks likely to hold good fish and bait. Also, try to stay away from high traffic areas or where other boats are motoring to give yourself the best chance of raising fish. Then, as the day progresses head back to the areas that are known to be good to check for any surface activity. This may mean a late day fishing but it’s all worth it if you strike it right.