King Fishing Preparation

The way an angling team prepares their equipment has a lot to do with their success in any angling
 tournament.  The Bass Masters are known to spend a lot of time and energy fine tuning their jigs,
buzz baits and spinner baits to assure top performance from them.  We have seen big game marlin
tournament anglers fly in tackle and engine specialists to remote locales like Walker’s Cay to assure
top performance of their equipment. So if you are serious about King Mackerel angling and want to
 compete with the top anglers in this very competitive series you need to prepare well in advance of
any tournament you are planning to compete in.

Bait, location and technique are critical to angling success but we believe if everything else was
equal - that is we all have good baits, knew where the fish were and were fishing with the proper
techniques - preparation and great rigging WILL make a large difference in our placement on the
leader board.  There is general consensus between tournament anglers on the on the basic rigging
and presentations for king mackerel fishing, however beyond the basics there is a great body of
discourse to confuse even the most ardent anglers.  What size trebles, pound test for the line, treble
or single hooks in the 'nose hook, length of wire leader, wire versus fluorocarbon leader and on and
on and on.  We want to provide you the basic rigs for successful king fishing and offer you a few
'professional' opinions from seasoned tournament anglers.  So sit back and read on - you are sure to
pick up something from this section.  For a super PRIMER on this type of angling - we would
recommend the C&H lures video tape King Fishing Secrets.  Dave Workman - 3 time Southern Kingfish
Association (SKA) angler of the year - details ALL of the basics of the sport and provides a great
instructional video on everything from rigging to deployment of downriggers and everything in between.
This video can be ordered at for around $25. 


The rigs we use to attract and catch fish must be based upon the feeding habits of the fish we are
seeking.  The King Mackerel are slash feeders, many times biting the tails off their prey and coming
back a few minutes later to finish off the injured baitfish.  This is why Kings are known as notorious
short strikers.  Not to be outwitted by a wary predator, anglers have created a solution to this feeding
dilemma.  The Ha-Ha (as its called in the Florida Keys) or stinger rig allows the angler to better
 present bait in a fashion which assures a much higher hook-up ratio than a standard trolling rig.
The rig in the foreground of the picture below shows the basic 'single' bait stinger rig the FishDancer
angling team deploys when  slow trolling for kings (the single stinger rig pictured has a shorter length
 of wire than the 18 inches described in the basic instructions below). 

The coin in the center is a quarter and is there for comparison purposes.  From foreground to background of the
picture is a single pogy no color, a double pogy with a blue and white C&H KingBuster skirt and a ribbonfish rig
with a pink jig head)

This rig is effective on many species of fish and especially effective when slow trolling for kings.
Start with a 40 pound barrel swivel, add 18 inches of #4 wire (darkest color you can find).  All
connections made with the wire will be done with a haywire twist - a critical knot to learn for
making these rigs.  Twist a #1 live bait hook (or #4 XS treble hook if you prefer) to the tag end
of the wire.  Haywire twist a stinger treble hook of your chosen size to the nose hook with
about 4-7 inches of wire (depending upon bait size and type) and you are ready to go. The picture
above illustrates the rig with a King Buster Skirt of pink and white.  There are as many variations
to this rig as there are anglers so get the basics down and try out your favorite variation.  Some
 use shorter wire leaders, some use heavier mono rather than wire, some use no skirts and some
even downsize the wire and hook sizes.  Some anglers eliminate the swivel and utilize an Albright
knot to connect the wire directly to the leader or fishing line.  In any case this basic rig can serve
you well in you attempt to catch a smoker.

The simple concept of this rig is to hook the live bait (pogy, cigar minnow or other favorite) through
the nose with the live bait hook and have the ‘stinger’ (Ha-Ha) treble hook insure all short strikes
are converted into hookups.  With fish like Kings, stealth is important, The FishDancer team seeks
the darkest wire, and of smallest diameter with the smallest hooks we dare to fish.  In last years
TFC tournament out of Jacksonville we caught a large King approaching 30 pounds with a size
6 XS VMC treble hook and only 1 barb of the hook was imbedded and in the fish’s tail to boot. 
Apparently as the fish slashed at the bait it initially missed the stinger and when it turned quickly
to get away the hook imbedded in its tail.  As Nancy brought the fish up after a lengthy battle it
came up exhausted and tail first – nothing to gaff…but we prevailed and the fished weighed a
respectable 27.86 pounds


Many anglers utilize a variation of the single bait stinger rig and tie a double bait stinger rig.  The
setup is the same for both. 40 pound swivel and 18 inches of #4 wire tied to the nose hook
(which ever you choose).  Now in between the 4-7 inch stinger wire and the nose hook, add about
11 inches of wire and an additional treble hook.  The 11 inches are important as too small of a
separation between baits will allow for the baits to tangle and too large will appear unnatural to
the wily king mackerel.  These double bait rigs can also be adorned with color or fished au natural.
These rigs are highly effective in properly presenting the bait and score many large kings on the
tournament trail. This rig can also be used to slow troll larger baits like small bluefish, trout and
Spanish mackerel.  It is critical to prepare enough rigs well in advance of heading out to fish as
tying rigs on a rolling ocean is not recommended.  The FishDancer team carries a minimum of 50
rigs for each tournament day, pre-rigging hundreds of these rigs during the winter.


Once the angler masters the basic rigging techniques, one can move to more advanced rigs. The
Atlantic Cutlassfish (aka Ribbonfish or silver eel) is a great bait for large king mackerel. 
However it requires special rigging due to the size and shape of the bait itself.  Utilizing the basics
we have just learned, anyone can tie an effective Ribbonfish rig.  Choose your swivel and wire
(silver wire is preferred to match the baits natural color and camouflage the wire) leader length
and then haywire twist the nose hook onto the wire.  Many anglers use a jig head for the nose hook.  This offer the advantage of keeping the rigged silver eel running true when trolling.  Next you need to haywire
treble hooks (these should be silver as well) every 4-6 inches to the length of the ribbonfish.
Since bait sizes are highly variable on ribbonfish (we have had them as small as 12 inches and as
large as 30 inches) you need to rig as many hooks as possible to fully cover the side of the
ribbonfish.  Two of the three treble hooks should be imbedded in the side of the ribbonfish. 
The nose hooks can vary from a larger live bait hook to a jig head depending upon your preference.  On 'secret' we have designed for our ribbonfish rigs is to reduce the size of the treble hooks as the rig is
made - so sometimes we use 6XS, 4XS, and 2XS trebles with a GREAT hook in the tail.  By great
we mean SUPER SHARP and extra strong.  This hook will see a lot of action and must be able to
stand up to the strike of the king.  You can add color to these rigs if you like and can fish these
rigs deep or on the surface.  These rigs are best utilized on downriggers but can also be used as
a flat line – long or short.  One interesting variation of this rig is the ‘voodoo rig’ that is a
combination of the single pogy stinger and the ribbonfish rig.  The main issue with either of these
rigs is that they run true…. a spinning ribbon is a wasted line and will see NO action, so test out
your rig BEFORE you deploy it, if it swims naturally you are set – if not try again.


Once an angler masters the 'art' of rig tying you are ready to deploy the baits in a bait spread. 
In our experience this deployment is the single most critical factor in your angling success and will
determine whether or not you fill your fish box.  We have always tried to create the illusion of an
active food chain coupled with fleeing bait fish in our spread.  We fish six lines and the placement
and utilization of each is important.  We ALWAYS fish 2 downrigger lines.  At the start, one will
have a ribbonfish and the other will be a double bait stinger rig. We stagger the depths and baits
on these two lines to fully probe the water column for bites.  If the ribbonfish gets bit, we will
add another and vice versa.  The long line will also have a double bait stinger rig and it is fished
well behind the boat.  Be considerate in a crowd and shorten you long line to avoid tangling other
anglers.  The 2 flat lines we fish from 90 degree rod riggers and one will have a single and the
other a double bait stinger rig. These are staggered in terms of feet behind the boat to find the
spots where the kings are biting.  Some days its short others its farther back.  Be flexible and keep
adjusting your spread and baits until you find a productive pattern.  Finally we have one line in the
prop wash and will deploy a variety of baits and rigs in this spot.  Our experience indicates that
bait condition is also important.  Don't keep dragging near dead baits -  or red nosed pogies.
Constantly freshen them up and move the lines.  We have gotten many strikes while dropping back
or pulling in our lines.  Perhaps the additional movement catches the eye of a wary Kingfish trailing
your bait?  Follow these tips and you just may find your King fishing adventures more productive. 
Good luck and tight lines.


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