fish along the Gulfís green water zone can match the fight and
tenacity of a king mackerel. Perhaps for this reason kings top the
list when it comes to competitiveness and big-money tournaments.
Here in Louisiana, most of the hype surrounding king mackerel
competition originated along the East Coast where tournaments run
rampant. Thanks to such influence, many king mackerel anglers have
refined their techniques to a science.
Thereís no question about it, if you give an angler a choice
between catching big fish or small fish, you donít have to guess
which ones heíll choose. This is more so with tournament circuit
king anglers. They hunt for whatís called "smokers."
These are fish no less than 30 lbs. and, as their nickname might
imply, can literally smoke line from a reel upon hookup.
Among tournament king anglers it is customary to avoid catching
the smaller kings under 15 lbs., categorically referred to as
"snakes." These are kings that predominately make up the
catch for the charter boat and commercial fishery. Consequently,
snakes are more often caught by meat seekers and the less informed
who resort to faster trolling methods that employ Drone spoons,
Japanese feathers or strip baits.
In contrast, smokers seldom take fast-moving or free-lined baits.
Trying to free-line a big, live bait to them frustratingly produces
an amberjack, shark or some other unwanted species. The trick is
figuring out how to get the bait to the smokers, while keeping it
away from the undesirables.
The science of accomplishing this is all too familiar to
tournament-circuit goers and those who have successfully
experimented with the tactic for any length of time. Theyíve
discovered that there are basically several kingfish rules one has
to know: what to do, how to get it, how to keep it and how to rig
RULE 1: THE
One of the main secrets to successfully catching smokers lies in
the right choice of bait. While kings differ in bait
preferences--depending on the waters theyíre in--most tournament
anglers use 10-inch, live porgies (menhaden). But, as many anglers
are well aware, porgies are difficult to catch and just as arduous
to keep alive for any length of time.
To catch these prized bait fish, a wide-mesh, 10- to 12-ft. mono
cast net is needed. Considering the fact that large porgies are
quick to escape from conventional nets that sink too slowly and have
relatively narrow spreads, itís imperative that the lead line
weigh at least 15 lbs. so that net drops quickly upon contact with
Because of its size and awkwardness, a net casting dish can make
the throwing job much easier, especially when thrown from a boat.
Pros usually have these nets custom made, since theyíre difficult
to find in most sporting goods stores.
RULE 2: FINDING
Freshly caught porgies incite more strikes. Hence, it is best
to catch porgies early in the morning, immediately prior to use, as
they seem to lose their scented slim coating after a few hours in an
aerator. Evidence of this shows up in the form of a foamy,
meringuelike toping--more often noticed on the waterís surface of
closed system bait wells.
Aside from the open Gulf, porgies are likely found in backwaters
and intersections of deep canals, near marinas or harbors, close to
beaches, behind jetties or near piers. Be alert to their telltale
presents by observing the waterís surface for blips, spurts and
splashes. The presents of diving pelicans are also a dead giveaway,
but donít pay attention to sea gulls; they donít eat 10-inch
KEEPING THE BAIT ALIVE
However, catching porgies is one thing; keeping them alive is
another. Bait-saving containers with corners must be avoided or
porgies will fatally damage themselves, as they have a tendency to
gang up and inflict bloody wounds to their noses. For this reason,
uses a round container of at least 50-gallon capacity to give the
porgies plenty room to swim.
Porgies also need a lot of oxygen to live. For aeration, a
circulation system that pumps outside water works best. Such systems
constantly move and replace water by means of an overflow tube
located in the tankís upper level. This type system accomplishes
three vital things: removes toxins produced by the porgiesí waste,
naturally aerates the water through swirl jetting, and keeps the
porgies swimming in an unobstructed circle.
RULE 4: RIGGING
Careful consideration to rigging of leaders and
baits is most essential for an effective presentation and extended
life. The leader outlined herein consists of two sections: header
leader and tail leader. The tail leader has two treble hooks (Eagle
Claw 4X-extra strong), one of which is hooked through the porgyís
nose, and the other in the back near top center. Placing the hooks
anywhere else may kill the porgy or significantly shorten its life.
For leader material, use single strand stainless wire (bronze
camouflage), rather than braided types that are bulkier and produce
more water drag. Consideration to this is critical, since the
porgies must swim naturally, with the least line resistance.
Moreover, leaders of the aforesaid wire gauge and color are more apt
to prevent kings from becoming line wary, particularly when water
clarity is high.
The header leader (main leader) should be 44 lb. test and 6 ft.
long. The tail leader (final section) should 58 lb. test and 7
inches long for rigging the two treble hooks on each end.
One end the header leader is attached to the tail leader at one
of the treble hook eyelets.
The mono fishing line to header leader connection is made via a
#10, 50 lb. test ball bearing swivel (note: a 2 oz. egg sinker is
needed on the flat line--non-downrigger--ahead of the swivel). On
one end of the swivel eyelet the mono fishing line is attached by
means of a double improved clinch knot. On the other end of the
swivel the remaining end of the header leader is attached.
All wire connections are made by passing 3 inches of wire through
an eyelet, doubling back, and twisting it into several tightly
wrapped turns. After making the wraps, a multipurpose terminal
tackle pliers should be used to break off the tag end of the wire by
bending it back and forth several times. Donít cut it with wire
cutters; it will leave a razor-sharp snag.
RULE 5: STAGGERING
Troll at least two lines; one on a downrigger and one flat line.
On the downrigger line, set it astern about 20 ft., and lower it
15-20 ft. in depth. On the flat line, set it astern about 30 ft.
More downriggers and flat lines can be used but they must be
staggered in depths and set astern in 10 ft. differentials. Troll no
more lines than can be reasonably handled among each crew
member--one per person on the average.
RULE 6: DRAG
Careful attention to drag setting and line choice can be
critical. Recommended mono test in the big game class should be
between 15-25 lb. test. Heavier lines bring in factors of resistance
and visibility, as previously mentioned under rule 4. Drags should
be set to 1/3 the line test rating. Thereafter drags may be
tightened, but only after the king has shown unmistakable evidence
RULE 7: TROLLING
Trolling too fast is one of the main mistakes king anglers make.
Idle speed is all thatís needed to troll live porgies, and in some
instances this may be too fast--depending on the type of engine and
whether it is twin screws. In the latter, both engines may be
running, but only with one engine drive engaged for the troll.
If the porgies seem to be flipping around and swimming in an
unnatural-looking way, this indicates too fast of a trolling speed.
To slow the troll down, one of two things can be done; either use a
vertical board mounted on the lower unit, or pull a bucket as a sea
The use of a fish finder is indispensable. While trolling itís
a good idea to keep a constant watch for bait clusters and their
depths. Doing so will make it easier to determine whether
downriggers need to be adjusted.
Itís customary and effective to allow the porgies to
occasionally free swim in selected bait clusters. Once an unusually
thick bait cluster shows on the fish finder, immediately place the
engine drive in neutral to allow the baits to drift into position
To make this tactic most productive, always keep a frisky porgy
on each line. Accordingly, make it a practice to periodically check
the baits for liveliness, and replace those not up to par.
DETERMINE FEEDING PATTERN
Migratory species attain a feeding pattern that may change from
day to day, depending on tide and conditions. While trolling,
observe the place where strikes occur, and repeat this trolling
pattern. Frequently, for example, if strikes occur down current from
an oil platform, most likely the kings will occupy the same position
in relation to every other rig or structure in the area. Once the
pattern is established, odds of catching more kings the same way
LOUISIANA KINGS UNMATCHED
While other areas along the Gulf and East Coast produce kings
of longer length, itís
an established fact that those caught off the coast of Louisiana
have larger girths. According to marine biologists, it is this very
fact that makes Louisiana kings naturally heavier and stronger than
those found along other parts of the Gulf and East Coast. So itís
no wonder why king anglers who have caught kings elsewhere have
experienced firsthand the distinct contrast--harder fights, more
aggressiveness and reel-burning runs.