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Posted 17th May 2023

How to Catch Kingfish on Livebaits

How to Catch Kingfish on Livebaits
How to Catch Kingfish on Livebaits

By Mark Gercovich

With smaller numbers of fish, but of a bigger size, this kingfish season has been a little “old school” requiring a shift back to some live baiting techniques that hadn't been prominent in our arsenal for a few years. Hence the focus has been more on stealth, rather than covering ground quickly as has been the modus operandi for the past couple of seasons. In this case sneaking around slowly looking for schools on the surface to cast at can be supplemented by having a live bait out the back. Conditions for easily spotting fish on the surface can be small windows in a session, so the spread of live baits out the back can keep you in the game whilst you wait for the glass outs.

Time to Troll

Slow trolling live baits is a bit of a compromise between the normal trolling at speed and anchor/bait fishing techniques that are more commonly practiced. You do cover more ground than being anchored but are still fairly location specific, as you can’t cover the ground a boat trolling lures at speed will cover. The benefits are that you can present baits such as live fish and squid in a very natural manner, as well as being able to cast lures around the boat. One option is to use lighter tackle outfits aimed at adding more table fish to the bag or assist in keeping up the live bait supply. Pulling up a constant stream of struggling fish into the boat on light gear can also have the secondary effect of attracting any large yellow-tailed predators that may be in the area. Just like a live burley trail. 

The other option is to throw larger lures on heavier tackle aimed at the kingfish themselves. There can be many casts between fish, but if you ever get a 10kg plus king smash a surface lure blind casting it's all worthwhile. Another benefit of this method is if you keep your eyes peeled as you creep quietly along, you can come across a school of fish that you otherwise may not have seen and spooked before you even knew they were there. Having a variety of rods rigged up to cover any situation is handy if this happens as you can quickly lob a lure or live bait amongst the school.

Packing the Baits

Life is easy when you can catch a live bait and put it straight back over the side in the hope of catching a big fish. In reality though, this is rarely the case. Live baits can be often very scarce if big fish are around. However, having permanent storage facilities for live baits at home can be a tremendous benefit. Large old fish tanks make for great live bait storage. It allows you to have readily accessible live baits whenever the need arises. If the weather comes good or the fish are suddenly “on” no time is wasted in getting your hands on some livies. You can be straight into the fish whilst others are still trying to catch their live bait.

Small salmon can often be an annoying bycatch for anglers targeting traditional estuary species, that is unless you happen to be going yellowtail fishing in the near future. They are a great hardy live bait for kings. I’m sure onlookers have wondered what in the world we are doing when a small salmon gets carefully netted and placed in the live well whereas a nice bream gets lifted quickly on board and returned to the water. It’s nice to be able to multitask and have a single session to produce your bream and perch fun, as well as stocking up the live bait supply. Likewise, a trip down to the local wharves at night, can produce a few good yellowtail scad that can be kept fit and healthy in the fish tank for a day or two, ready for the next session on the kings. Squid are the other awesome kingfish live bait, but these are far more difficult to keep alive than the afore mentioned fish species. Squid really require using on the day of capture as they won’t keep long in a tank.

The Rig

Rigs can be as simple as attaching the live bait to a single hook and feeding it out the back. In shallower waters the addition of a glitter float or two can help keep a live bait out of the bottom and adds as an attractant. We often first realize a king is in the vicinity when they start playing with the floats first. In deeper water a downrigger is a very handy tool for accurately placing your baits where you want them, but if you don't have one a decent sinker above the bait will suffice. Bridle rigging fish baits has two distinct advantages. It helps keep your livies in good condition for longer and helps in getting a good hook up on strike. However, if your presentation requires some speed, like in a quick pitch bait to a sudden school popping up around the boat, simply pinning the bait through the nose, or the shoulders, of the bait will do just fine.

Tackle Ready

Targeting kings on live baits mean you are generally tangling with fish at the upper end of the kingfish size scale. We all know what these fish can do when it comes to speed and power, so it always pays to use the best quality gear you can lay your hands on. Shorter stiffer rods are best for live baiting, whilst longer rods are important for casting lures or pitching live baits. Our casting gear comprises of a 20 Saltiga 14000 matched to a Spartan S-85 6-8 rod, and a Saltiga 8000 on a Saltist Hyper S-792 Stickbaiter rod for the heaviest situations, and a Demon Blood S-83 2/4 on a 8000 Certate SW for something slightly lighter. Our live bait trollers are some older model Saltigas that do the job perfectly. Which just reminds you that purchasing quality reels like Saltigas means you have a quality reel that lasts and can be used with confidence for a long time. The 20 Demon Blood S-56 6-8 and for a bit lighter the Saltist Hyper S702 are the rods matched to these reels and are great live bait rods in the Daiwa.



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