Targeting Top Water Kingfish

By Aaron LevienNZ Fishing World
Targeting Top Water Kingfish

Jigging is an effective method for targeting kingfish but for sheer adrenaline value, targeting top water kingfish has that extra bit of visual excitement.

I must say that chasing kingfish is a serious passion for me and the excitement never falls short no matter which way we chase them.

There is something extraordinary about having that initial hit on the stroke of a jig but if I had to choose the best way to catch kingfish my response would be “TOP WATER” hands down.

You have to experience it first hand to grasp just how magnificent and powerful kingfish really are. 


Learning to work a lure is a critical element to the equation of catching yourself a hoodlum on top (kingfish are often affectionately known as the ‘hoodlums’ or ‘hoods’ of the reef).

Practice makes perfect, here I have put together a short video clip on the key aspects of working a lure: 


Casting is completed with your rod moving straight up, over and down towards the water.

Landing your fish can be another accident with treble hooks waiting to happen especially when Mr. Kingy is still quite green.

What I recommend is gaffing the king through the bottom jaw/lip and removing hooks on the gunwale. If this is too difficult the next step we suggest is to get the king on the deck and place a towel over the eyes which 9/10 times calms the fish instantly. This now allows you to get to work and safely remove hooks from harm’s way.


Seeing kingfish on the surface feeding is every topwater fisherman’s dream come true.

Your next best artillery are birds, for example gannets and shearwaters. 

After this you will need to look for “structure” and “current” as these two common factors equate to bait fish and hopefully a few roaming kings.

So pull out your charts and start assessing drop offs/break aways, pinnacles, reefs, channel markers etc.

Talking to a few of the local guys who dive the local reefs can help point you in the right direction.

Lastly, your FISH FINDER. If you come across kingfish sign sitting high in the water column you have a great chance here of raising the fish. You will be surprised at what depths you will catch kings on the surface.


Kings can be spooked and head deep the instant they smell trouble.

It’s important to keep calm and keep your composure, as we all know we can get caught up in the moment when the excitement starts to unfold.

Assess all the elements like wind, current, swell and so on.

Position your vessel up wind allowing yourself to drift downwind while casting your lure with the wind into the workup and working it back to the boat. This will give you the best odds of seeing just how exciting and explosive kingfish are on the surface.

See the details below on fishing gear and in a number of cases the shop you could find them in. 



Pro Hunter Stickbait rod 7ft 6in 15-24 kilo - Tas Tackle - $179

Fin Nor Troppo rod 8ft 15-24 kilo - Hunting and Fishing/Top Catch $199

Daiwa Opus Bull reel 5500 - $179 (online internet stores)

Penn Spinfisher SSV reel - $199 Gofish

Pro Hunter lure - $29.90

Shimano Ocea lure - $35


Daiwa Demon Blood 76Xh rod - $329 - Go Fish

Offshore stickbait 76h rod - $399

Okuma Salina 2 1600 high speed reel - $299

Shimano Saragosa 10k reel - $449

Angle Tackle 100 gram lure - $60

Star Walker lure - $45


Synit Van Demon rod - $899

Carpenter Blue Chaser rod - $1490

Shimano Stella 14k reel - $1,399

Daiwa Saltiga 5000h reel - $1,590

Carpenter GT Gamma 105gram lure - $220

Hitter Aurora 100gram lure - $120


Tow lures! Yes this does sound a bit bizarre but it works. It’s a good old trick we will use occasionally when our given spots are just not happening. We will tow a couple of stickbaits around until we hopefully hear those reels start screaming. 

Lures: Matching your lure colour, size and design to what’s performing the best for the given period of the year will maximize your chances.

Other Boats. Keep an eye out for other boats in your area as to what they are doing. If you see them throwing stickbaits keep an eye out as to what action is unfolding.  

Jig them up…  Those of you who have done a bit of jigging will know that sometimes kings will follow their buddy right to the surface and even wait around. This is a golden opportunity for you. So get that stickbait ready and throw it 20m out the back and watch the excitement unfold.

Safety is paramount when it comes to stickbaiting as a lot of lure companies advise that their lures run best with treble hooks. If you really want to run trebles I suggest either buying barbless trebles, crushing your barbs or what I sometimes do, flapper wheel or sand the barbs off.

Out of everything I can tell you, my best advice would be to “keep at it”. The more you cast, the more your lure is in the “STRIKE ZONE” and the greater the odds of experiencing just how unreal topwater fishing is.

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