Southern Kingfish Association
Professional Kingfish Tour Competitors
Kingfish College Series
Kingfish College Series
Rig preparation 101
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, buzzbaits and spinnerbaits 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 in which you are planning to compete.
Bait, location and technique are critical to angling success, but we believe if everything else is equal - that is, we all have good baits, know where the fish are and are 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 basic rigging and presentations for king mackerel fishing, however, beyond the basics there is a great body of discourse sufficient to confuse even the most ardent anglers. What size trebles, pound test rating for the line, treble or single hooks in the nose hook, length of wire leader, mono versus fluorocarbon leader and on and on and on. We want to provide you with 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.
SINGLE BAIT STINGER RIG
The rigs we use to attract and catch fish must be based on the feeding habits of the fish we are seeking. 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 that assures a much higher hook-up ratio than a standard trolling rig. Team FishDancer begins with quality terminal tackle with Yo-Zuri flurocarbon leader, American Fishing Wire single strand wire. Gamakatsu hooks and SPRO power swivels. We then match the size of the rig to the bait we are using while maintaining a 'stealth' philosophy in all of the rigs we twist.
This rig is effective on many species of fish and especially effective when slow trolling for kings. The King Mackerel has BIG EYES and therefore great vision so the overriding concept in our rigging is as small as we dare. A single bait stinger rig will consist of one 30# SPRO swivel haywire twisted to an 18" lenght of #5 American fishing wire brown wire. Next we twist a Gamakatsu #4 XS treble hook for the nose hook of the bait and run the stinger some 5-8 inches behind the hook with a short trace of #6 wire. We will downsize the application for tournaments and go as light as #3 wire and #6 trebles. 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 skirts and beads to dress the nose hooj and some even apply rattling devices to the wire. 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 your 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 uses the darkest, smallest diameter wire, with the smallest hooks we dare to fish. In last year’s TFC tournament out of Jacksonville we caught a king approaching 30 pounds with a size 6 XS VMC treble hook, and only one 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. 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.
DOUBLE BAIT STINGER RIG
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. Forty-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 on 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 bait’s natural color and camouflage the wire) leader length and then haywire twist the nose hook onto the wire. Many anglers use a jighead for the nose hook. This offers 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 to 6 inches to the length of the ribbonfish. Since bait sizes are highly variable in 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. One '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 you master 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 two 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.