All Hail the King

Ruben Villarreal
All Hail the King

It seems like only yesterday when I won the kingfish division of the CCA Texas Star Tournament with a nice 56.11 pound smoker. What comes to my mind is what it takes to get there. So, my plan here is to give you my insight on tackle, planning and preparation, areas to fish and methods to use to become a better kingfish angler.

The most valuable lesson I've learned in offshore fishing is to be observant and always remain open-minded. The day I stop learning is the day I should lay my offshore rods down and take up another sport.

Tackle talk: There are many variables to consider during reel selection and cost is obviously one of first. Next, on the functional side, we need to think about gear ratio, drag system, and line capacity. From the durability standpoint we will need to include materials used in construction of the frame, side plates and spool.

Models such as the Torium and Trinidad from Shimano make superb choices in the star drag style and the Shimano Torsa is a top choice when it comes to lever drag reels. The Daiwa Saltist is another great choice when it comes to star draggers and it boasts a 6.4 to 1 gear ratio! Accurate and Avet make various models of high ratio single-speed reels and also offer excellent two-speed lever drag reels.

Two-speed reels offer anglers the opportunity to gain line quickly in high ratio and also extra torque when needed in low ratio. Overall, nothing beats speed of line retrieve to insure line tension on charging kingfish and a smooth drag when they decide to run. Maintaining precise drag settings throughout the fight insures that hooks remain buried in their jaw. All-aluminum construction offers a rock solid platform with exceptional strength to weight ratio and excellent heat dissipating properties. All-aluminum frame and spool combine to offer greater line capacity than other styles which is another key attribute to consider.

In my opinion, a good kingfish rod should be between 6-1/2 and 7 feet length, light to medium action, with a soft to moderately soft tip. The foremost job of the kingfish rod is to serve as a shock absorber to prevent hooks from being accidentally pulled which happens often when the tip is too stiff. The length and action are also important when downriggers are used and also to improve maneuverability around outboard motors or bow of the boat.

Line selection should match the recommendation of the manufacturer, generally within the 15 to 50# monofilament class. Braided super lines are gaining more popularity. When used, I would suggest placing them as backing with monofilament as a top shot for shock absorption.

Kingfish have bony jaws. Due to the rod being light to medium action with a soft tip, razor sharp hooks in various types and rigged in various combinations help to achieve the primary goal of hooking the fish well. The leaders used with these hook combinations are made with single strand coffee-colored piano wire. Size #7, #8 and #9 multi-stranded wires can also be used with good results. Barrel swivels are used to connect your mainline to your leader. Good choices that add stealth to your setup are the 75# or 90# black Rosco brand barrel swivels and also the 80# black Spro barrel swivel.

Planning and Preparation: Now that you have selected the right tackle, do not leave bait collection and preparation in the hands of others, take control. I like to catch my own live bait and I prefer have some variety; piggy perch, blue runners, small rainbow runners, large mullet, large croaker and big sand trout are all excellent choices. My dead baits of choice are Spanish sardines, Boston mackerel and ribbonfish.

Areas to Fish: The areas to catch the pelagic kingfish vary greatly in distance from port of departure and depth of water. If you are fishing out of Galveston and it is a slick calm day you can take a bay boat out to the end of the jetties or to some oil rigs in sight of land and have successes. In fact the guys that are close in can end up hooking and landing a very nice by-catch species, namely sailfish! The areas of choice out of Galveston include rigs and pipe stands, rocks such as Heald bank rocks, the barges and wrecks. When you are fishing at a rig or pipe-stand, make sure to have a pitch rod ready for a ling. These highly desirable fish sometimes offer only a few seconds before they disappear. If you're going out of Freeport, rigs and pipe stands and rocks such as the 21's, Tall Rock, Middle Bank, and Tony's Rock are all good places to try your luck.

Methods of Attack: Kingfish are caught many different ways but the most popular methods include trolling or bump trolling or drifting. Slow trolling live baits such as blue runners or mullet gives the angler opportunity to cover more water to locate fish. This is another place when that unexpected sailfish can pop up. Bump trolling (bumping the engine in and out of gear) allows the angler to spend more time to fish a specific area more thoroughly. Drifting with your motors off gives the angler opportunity to present baits in a stealthier mode through noise reduction.

Outriggers are not a "must have" for kings but they do give the angler a chance to spread out the presentation which is very helpful when using large, frisky baits. Downriggers are worth their weight in gold. Working deeper in the water column can be a definite plus when the surface temp is really high during the heat of the day!

Therefore when fishing for kingfish, have good high speed reels and rods of adequate length. Bait is one of the keys in catching the bigger kingfish and having a downrigger really helps. Read and study up-to-date reports of water conditions and currents. Hilton's Offshore Atlas is an excellent source of information that can help you locate many great fishing spots in the nearshore Gulf of Mexico. Last but not least, have that pitch rod ready. You never know when that trophy ling will swim by.

Terminal Tackle List
Spro black 80# barrel swivels
Rosco black 75# or 90# barrel swivels (225# for the balloon rig)
Gamakatsu 4X strong size-4 black treble hooks
VMC 4X strong size-4 gray treble hooks (ribbon fish leaders)
Mustad 8/0 O'Shaughnessy stainless steel hook (large live bait drift leader)

Kingfish Reel List
Shimano Torsa 20 or 30 lever drag
Shimano Torium or Trinidad star drag in either 20 or 30 sizes
Daiwa Saltist 40 or 50 star drag
Avet LX 6/3 or 6.0 lever drag
Accurate Boss 870 or 870 2-speed lever drag
Accurate Boss 665 or 665 2-speed lever drag

Kingfish Rod List
Shimano Tallus: 6-1/2 to 7 feet rated any where from 14# to 50# line
Daiwa Saltiga: 6-1/2 to 7 feet rated 15# to 30 # line

Fishing Tackle Unlimited Black Magic: 6-1/2 to 7 feet