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An all levels guide to kingfish

December 19, 2019
An all levels guide to kingfish

Aaron's top spots for kingfish, plus techniques to help you reel in the crown

Thanks to their stunning appearance and hard-fighting attitude, kingfish are often regarded as the Holy Grail of sport fish here in New Zealand. However, the mighty kingfish is not reserved for ‘expert anglers’ alone. With just a little bit of knowledge and the right gear and set-up, anyone can be heading home with this majestic trophy fish.

Beginners start here

If you’ve been fishing for a while you’ll know Lady Luck can only take things so far. Hooking in baitfish will only sustain a man for so long before you’re ready to step up the fishing level a notch. You have seen people catching kingfish, you've upgraded your setup, and now you’re desperate to have a crack on the open water. Some great and accessible places to start the hunt for kingfish are:

  • Shore Lines
  • Rocks breaking the surface
  • Marker bouys
  • Inshore structures/reefs
  • Work-ups

Techniques used to give you the best chance of nabbing a kingfish for these areas are livebaiting, jigging, stickbaiting and softbaiting. A little trick I suggest to get yourself started is to throw either a stickbait or soft bait out the back of the boat and slowly troll these around works ups, structures and shallow reefs. This is a great way to prospect and area and can be a very successful form of fishing in its own right.

Bigger than average

So your current personal best kingfish is just over legal length and it was probably by-catch while targeting other species. But you are keen to change that for something more respectable, and to head out into wider waters the locations below are well known producers of bigger kings, on  many days 20 kg fish will be the norm.

  • Mayor Island
  • Alderman Islands
  • Mercury Islands
  • Mokihinua Islands
  • Great Barrier Island

These spots are going to take some planning, not only to get to but to uncover the hot spots around them that produce good fish. A 20 kilo king will not present itself on a silver platter. You will need a plan in place which includes the technique and the best time of day.  Always ensure you have adequate quality gear - and enough of it – or you will probably go home empty handed.

Livebaits are essential for fishing these areas. I tend to look at livies as an insurance policy. Maybe you don’t want to use them but that two hours in the early morning grabbing a handfull can make the difference between nailing plenty of rat kings on jigs or scoring that competition winning fish.

Jigs are also critical element when having a shot at kings. If livebait is not the acquired taste on the day, the shiny metal jigs often hard for a kingfish to resist. Jigs are also easy to plan around, being no mess, no fuss and super-efficient at discovering if the bite is on or not.

Last, but in no means least important on the list are topwater lures. Topwater fishing is the most extreme and explosive way to target a fish by sight. You may find yourself surrounded by kings smashing bait on the surface. If this happens you have hit the jackpot; well, providing you have stickbaits onboard. Being setup and ready for tghe right moment is crucial. Having a rigged topwater rod sitting in the rocket launcher will help.

My biggest tip for these areas mentioned is to stick to the plan. If you want kingfish, persevere. Don’t venture off and change species. Stick it out for the whole day as kings can be a funny ol' thing. The sounder can be loaded but the action below seems dormant. Then, all of a sudden it’s like a light switch turns on and every rod is buckled.

Trophy hunter

Fancy a crack at a 30kg + kingfish? Well you are in luck. There are a few hot spots in New Zealand that can provide you with a great chance of catching one:

  • Ranfurly Banks (this sits out off the East Cape of New Zealand)
  • White Island (sitting 33nm out from Whakatane)
  • The Three Kings (which lies just north of New Zealand)

If you want the best shot possible for a king of a lifetime, I highly recommend jumping on a charter that hits these locations regularly. This will give you the best chance as from fishing such locations over many years top charter guys know these challenging areas like the back of their hands. From your hooks right through to gloves and gimbals, it is vital to buy the best gear possible. If you go in with a "she'll be right atittude" then your game plan is going to get shredded by these serious fish.

To be more specific with gear, a jigging outfit should be around the 300g mark and running 80lb braid with 130lb leader on a reputable jigging reel like Accurate, Jigging Master, Alutecnos and so on. Of course you can run less than 80lb braid but I know some skippers frown upon this as they want you to have the best chance of landing a lifetime fish and, to be fair, why handicap yourself?

Quality topwater outfits are a must for these locations as premium surface action opportunities can explode in front of  you at any time. Being armed and ready with high end gear is critical. Reels of choice should ideally be Daiwa with rods like Synit, Ripple Fisher, and Carpenter adding an essential ingredient to the equation.

Braid of 80lbs plus once again is a must with 130lb casting leader  a starting point. A great mixture of the upper end market lures is required for those tougher days and a few cheaper lures for when kings will take spanners if thrown at them. With topwater, some charters require that you only run single hooks and not trebles, so it pays to make sure you commuincate with the skipper and crew as to what can and cannot be used onboard.

The best gear proves its worth when battling big kingfish. It really doesn't pay to take a knife to this gun fight.


Even with all the technology available in the fishing space, livebaiting at these locations still proves to produce the best quality fish. It pays to brush up on your skills and rigging techniques of livies.

Being prepared with rigs will pay dividends when targeting kings as this allows for efficient change or techniques on your jig setups. Actually, having this frame of mind over all areas of NZ should be part of your tackle box. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to tie rigs on a rocking boat when your mates are getting railed by kings.

If you really want a shot at these areas from your own vessel I would recommend at least a 7.5 metre vessel. Solid homework, both in terms of navigation and fishing, is a must. Opening the curtains to see blue skies isn’t good enough. Safety is paramount as these places can go from 5 knots to 35 knots of horrible in the blink of an eye. Planning around the weather while being flexible on the days you can fish is going to be a huge advantage.

Aaron's Kingy Checklists


  • Good jig hooks
  • Terminal components (split rings, solid rings, grommets)
  • High quality leader
  • High quality braid suited to the area being jigged
  • PR bobbin
  • Quality jigging gloves
  • Gimbal belts
  • Jigging setup (reel & rod)
  • Split ring pliers (wide opening pliers)
  • Jigs (different colours, styles and sizes is key

Learning how to tie the braid to the leader by PR or FG knot is critical. If you can master these two, you will have no issue if you ever lose your bobbin. Next step is mastering how to jig and also adding various methods of jigging to your arsenal will increase your chances of landing that all time king.


  • Treble hooks and inline single hooks (crushed barbs are a must on both)
  • Quality stickbaits in various colours, sizes and styles
  • Split rings
  • Swivels (at least 150lb)
  • Casting leader
  • Casting braid
  • Gloves
  • Gimbal belt
  • Split ring pliers
  • Spinning reel and rod
  • Lip gaff to stop king thrashing around by boat

Learning to tie mainline to the leader is critical so practice tying the FG knot or a shortened PR knot. Uni knot to attach a leader to a lure is the next knot to perfect. Learning how to work and cast a stickbait to its best is a must. There is no use turning up to a hot spot and finding you cannot cast far enough to get the lure into the strike zone. Also, a lure that spends more time out of the water reduces the time kings can strike it. Get used to how each lure works and pay attention to every sweep ensuring you do your best to keep the lure in the water and not out of it.


  • 9/0 minimum circle hooks
  • Supple trace
  • Swivel to attach trace to leader
  • 8oz ball or egg sinkers
  • Gimbal belt

Once again joining the leader to the mainline is crucial so learning the PR or FG knot will be a life-saver. Why not learn both? They are similar. There are many variations on how to complete these knots so make it your own and master it!

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