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How to Catch Kingfish (Beginners Guide)

As with many species that you may aim to target it is important to understand a few of the key characteristics, or behavioural traits prior to setting out in pursuit of them with rod and reel. In the article below we’ll aim to provide you with some insight into the Yellowtail Kingfish and what makes them tick with the hope that you’ll be able to come across them more consistently whilst embarking on your fishing adventures.

Kingfish are readily targetable using many different methods; Live baiting, well presented dead baits, cut baits, jigging and topwater methods will all account for their share of Kings, though each require their own approach which we will expand on shortly.

The Fight & Your Equipment

The Yellowtail Kingfish is arguably the toughest opponent that can be encountered by Anglers in Australia, only rivalled by the Giant Trevally and the Dogtooth Tuna, neither of which are readily accessible to anglers South of Byron Bay in the East and Geraldton in the West.

The Yellowtail King fights dirty, any piece of structure, natural or manmade, is fair game when a King is attempting to win their freedom by way of burying themselves amongst sharp objects to severe your leader. Hooks, leaders, mainlines and your terminal tackle must be perfect, any short comings or faults will be found and exposed by the King.

It’s the intensity of and the brutality of the fight that requires anglers to consider the selection of their equipment very carefully when targeting large Kings (Kings in excess of 130cm and 20 kilograms). High end equipment with drag capabilities suitable to stopping large Kings is essential. A can-do attitude to go with your equipment is also strongly recommended as anything less will only end in disappointment.

Live Baiting

When starting out chasing Yellowtail Kings live baiting is your most likely avenue for success as Kings will very readily inhale a well presented livie. Squid, Slimie Mackerel and Yellowtail Scad (Yakkas) would be your most likely and readily available baits, though a live Bonito or Mac Tuna should not be overlooked.

Where possible match the hatch! Catch the baits that the Kings are likely to feed on and present them as naturally as you can.

Slow trolling is an extremely effective method, you’re able to cover ground and find fish, though driving the boat around using your electronics to locate fish then bombing them with a live bait is equally as effective. (Bombing – dropping a live bait on the Kingfish’s head using a paternoster or alternate bottom style rig).

Once you’ve convinced a King to take your live bait be sure to allow them time to adequately consume your offering (a good 5 to 10 seconds), set the hook (ease into it if you’re fishing circle hooks, no strike needed) and hang on! 


Requires a different type of effort to live baiting where your main focus is fresh live bait and presentation, jigging requires physical effort and a fair amount of it!

Short rods with an aggressive taper are par for the course when plummeting jigs from 60 grams to 250 grams towards Kings and their chosen haunts. Match your assist hooks to both the size of your jig and the size of the fish you intend to catch.

Work the jig with a mixture of retrieves, short sharp, long and slow, even throw in the odd pause.

Jigging will really test your shoulders and back out… prior to you even coming up tight on a King, so use your electronics to your advantage and time your drops effectively, otherwise it could be along (or very short) day.


Topwatering in the salt is very demanding… very demanding! On you both physically and mentally, and on your equipment (and your wallet). Though when you’re able to convince a large Yellowtail King to eat off the top all of that pain is very quickly forgotten.

Cast large stickbaits and modestly sized poppers as far as you physically can and retrieve your lure accordingly, varying your retrieve as much has you can from cast to cast.

You’ll find days where the Kings will demolish anything you throw at them, producing spectacular surface explosions on impact with your lure and other days when they will follow your lure back to the boat or rocks showing not much more than a faint interest in anything you sweep past them, this is the frustrating part!

The technical aspect associated with topwatering is to me one of the most exciting aspects of our sport, by technical I mean lure selection to match the water conditions and further adjusting split rings and hook sizes to manipulate the way your lure swims, to again match the surface conditions is an art form that may take a lifetime to master.

Stand and deliver, when you’re sending large topwater lures toward the horizon don’t be afraid to let allow the cost of that lure and the upgraded hooks/split rings to entice you to wind that drag up a little further… When that proper King does come along, grit your teeth and have a dig, you’ll be surprised what a bit of adrenaline can do!

Off The Stones (Rocks)

Most of the content above is specific to boat fisho’s, though it’s more that reasonable and achievable to target large Kings from the stones.

For the most part the techniques remain the same in principle, there will just be minor tweaks such as rod length, reel size, line size and presentation of live baits under flotation that will require your consideration.

Oh and someone to hang onto you when a 145cm beast is hoovering your live Bonnie and its tail is bashing against your bobby cork!

Equipment of Choice

Live Baiting:

15-24kg Overhead Rod in the 7ft range, Saltiga LD 40 to 50 loaded with 80lb J Braid and 150lb leader. You can downsize to 65lb braid and 80/100lb leader if you’re likely to encounter fish less than 115cm, anything over that and you’ll need some luck.


Spartan S55 pe4/6 and a Saltiga 10,000 spin reel loaded with 65lb J Braid and 80/100lb leader. If you’re fishing gnarly country or you’re likely to encounter big fish I’ll fish the 14,000 Saltiga loaded with 80lb J Braid and 120 to 150lb leader over a Trophy Hunter Kingfish Jigging stick.


Stickbaiting - Spartan S85 paired with a Saltiga 14,000 loaded with 80lb J Braid and 150/200lb leader. You can downsize your leader to 120lb or even 100lb if you’re fishing heavily fished areas.

Popping: the Spartan S80 paired with the Saltiga 14,000 loaded with 80lb J Braid and 150/200lb leader. Again you can downsize your leader to 120lb or even 100lb if you’re fishing heavily fished areas.


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