Kingfish have a reputation for being jig-shy, but if you present the right lure in the correct way, your chances of a strike are good, says Troy Dando.
Jigging has been popular for years now, but many anglers will tell you that catching a kingfish with a jig is far from easy. But kingfish have to eat and there is not always an abundant supply of food around and big schools of kingfish move considerably. They potentially drop their guard and become jig targets when there are only a few morsels on offer.
The author with a kingfish on an ultra light jigging rod specced to 100gms. These fast action jigging rods produce a good lure action without losing any stopping power.
The main diet for kings are kahawai, pilchards, Jack mackerel, anchovies and squid; they will eat almost anything. I’ve seen them eat blue cod, leather jackets and even blue penguins. When there is little of their favourite food around they turn into garbage disposal units. The best areas to target kings on jigs is always near big schools of kingfish and smaller schools of baitfish. This does not mean you won't get them on jigs when there are only a few kings and a massive amount of bait fish but it does mean you better have your ‘A’ game on as to be successful you will have to present your lure in the best way possible.
Presenting your lure
To give yourself a fighting chance of scoring a fish you need to bear in mind three things:
Firstly, knowing where the drop off points are, the tides that affect the drift and your escape route. It is wise to do some dummy drifts in the area to build intelligence on currents. You must also consider the wind and how it affects the drift line. An exposed reef or pinnacle in the middle of the ocean is going to be affected by the wind in a different manner to a location close to land.
Secondly, you must have the proper gear and be set up correctly. You may get away with inferior gear once or twice, but eventually you will destroy your rods and reels, as kingfish test everything to the limit. It is not necessary to spend $1500 on a set, but you will not get a quality set for less than $500. For a beginner, I recommend a strong parabolic rod in the 200-300 gram range. When using a charter boat that drifts with the tide (meaning anglers fish from one side), a rod in the 350-450 gram range is ideal. The ability to use heavier jigs compensates for the faster draft of a multi-party boat versus a private boat where the captain manoeuvres the boat to keep the anglers on top of the lines.
A good quality braid with different colours every 5-10 metres is a must when targeting kingfish at certain depths in the water column. The thinner the line, the lower the drag is in the water. The jig must be presented in the best possible way and the lower water resistance, the better movement of the jig. I always use a good fluorocarbon leader, but others swear by normal monofilament leaders.
Plastic skirts for assist hooks can attract a kingfish but can also slow down the jig action making it less attractive.
Whatever you decide upon, make sure it is strong and resistant to abrasion. Go for the lightest leader possible; a heavy 60-pound leader is not needed even if there is a good chance of catching a 30kg fish in the area.
With reels, it is ideal to get a lever drag system rather than a star drag. When deciding on a hook, you should use a well-known brand name that you know is going to last. With jigs there are endless choices when it comes to shapes, weights, lengths and even colours. Try to "match the hatch" by choosing a colour representative of the local bait fish. For example: pink and white one to match squid when they are present. Having a range of shapes and sizes is key, with top, bottom and middle weighted ones to explore a range of movements.
Lastly, you need a boat with a good skipper and a crew. A skipper who doesn't understand how to manoeuvres to your advantage is no use at all. Again, for example: it is important the boat is placed strategically over the fish. Lining up the drift angle while using the motor to keep your jig straight up and down will produce more hook-ups. A good skipper will also get you away from danger areas once you hook-up and manoeuvre the boat to make fighting a fish easier for the angler.
Quality hooks, grommets, assist cord and equipment to tie PR knots is essential to hold on to those powerful kingfish attached to your rod.
Mix it up
The last part of the puzzle is all about you and putting the above into action. It is about making the correct choices. The right setup rigged with the right jig, paired with raw determination. Never give up! If you are not getting the hits, change your lure. Put one on upside down, change colours, change weight and shape. Basically, keep jigging and eventually you will get that hit.
Working the water column is another technique that helps the skipper understand what depth the fish are holding if you are targeting a school on the sounder. Use your colour marked braid to set your depth and drop an extra ten metres below the fish, and jig your way back up through them. Changing your jigging patterns often means you do not jig the same speed all the time.
One hungry kingfish the author caught that had a blue penguin in its belly along with three very large Jack mackerel.
I mix up my jigging style all the time; I may start slow and go faster, or start off fast then go slow then fast again. I also vary the length of the strokes with longer action get more free fall on the jig. I always concentrate on what is going on when jigging to the point where I can feel a kingfish ‘flyby’ the jig on my rod. If a kingfish has tried to hit the jig but completely missed it, the water disruption around the jig makes it go light and you can feel through the rod. If this happens I immediately increase my jigging action to entice the fish back. It works very well, and there is nothing like a worked up kingfish smashing your line when you are at full noise jigging hard.
The only other tip I suggest is using skirts on your hooks. This both increases and decreases the bite depending on how it is used. I almost always use small skirts on my hooks as they make the hook easier to inhale by the kingfish. The skirts do slow the action of the jig down somewhat so it’s really a personal choice to use them or not.
Even the best gear can take a beating as seen here with a top of the range jig bent at a 45-degree angle after being dealt to by a big kingfish.
Different rod weights, actions, line weight, leader weights, jig shapes and jig sizes all have a massive impact on the bite. It is not like live baiting where you drop the bait and wait for the scared baitfish on the end of your hook to do all the work for you. Jiggers have to work for their fish and develop a high skill level to consistently succeed at landing these awesome sportfish.
Next time you hear those words “you will never get a kingy on a jig here mate”, put your skills to the test. You might be surprised.