How to catch kingfish with live bait : make a deep dropper rig

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Catch kingfish – deep dropper live bait rig

Deep dropping a live bait and feeling the tremendous thud of kingfish “nibbles” is just awesome! So if you’re keen to catch kingfish with live bait you've come to the right place, welcome to Kingi School Online.

In this tutorial show you how to make the Kingfish live baiting rig that Tony Orton from Offshore Adventures uses when deep dropping live baits to catch kingfish. It includes the tackle (hooks, line, swivel, sinker), how to set it up and when to use it. This is a really popular and most importantly productive way to catch kingfish in deep water.

If you’ve done a little bit of snapper fishing, especially straylining, where the live bait rig is concerned there’s only a couple of tweaks to make to the one hook strayline rig, so no big deal. Before you know it, your line will be peeling, you’ll be screaming and your rod will be doubled over the side of the boat! So hold on…

Mustad - Fishing Advisor

Gear & Setup

At this point you'll already have your rod, reel and mainline ready with a mono (monofilament) leader attached to your braid mainline. We call this your "wind on leader", it's a leader you can wind on to your mainline. The knot we use for this is the PR knot.

The deep dropper live bait rig will attach directly to your wind on leader. Here’s a list of tackle you’ll need:

Make the rig

Your rig will end up in the same configuration as the one hook strayline rig with one big change - the sinker position. With this rig the sinker will run along the “wind on leader” ABOVE the swivel and NOT below with swivel on the rig leader or trace line between the hook and swivel.

Step 1:

Attach your hook to your 2 metre leader with a lefty's loop or rapala knot. Tony likes to have the hook free swinging so the bait looks more natural and lasts longer. Trim the extra bits hanging out to tidy it up (tag ends).

Step 2:

Your sinker will sit above the swivel, so thread your sinker through the wind on leader (attached to your mainline), then tie your wind on leader to the swivel with a uni knot and trim the tag end.



Step 3:

Now tie your leader with the hook attached to the swivel.

So your mainline leader (wind on leader) has the sinker on it, then the swivel, then the rig leader, then the hook.

Boom that’s it, easy as aye.

Kingi School, BaitMates - Hunt for a Kingi Legend, Hirepool

When to use

We use this rig to catch kingfish when the boat is on the drift. The sinker helps drop your bait down quick smart to the depth you've marked fish on your sounder. 

You'd generally use this technique in 40 metres to 200+ metres of water.

Hook size & type

Hook & bait size

Match the size of the hook to the size of your live bait. If the hook’s too big it’ll restrict the live bait from swimming around. If it’s too small the bait will hinder the setting of the hook.

  • Non-offset circle hook - size 6/0 - 8/0 for a small jack mackerel (yellow tail)
  • Non-offset circle hook - size 8/0 - 10/0 for a medium to large jack mackerel
  • Non-offset circle hook - size 10/0 - 12/0 for a large kahawai



Hook size should match the size of your live bait

Just make up several rigs with different size hooks so you’re ready to go out on the water. You don't want to miss a hot bite while you're mucking around rigging up.

Hook type

When choosing a hook to catch kingfish Tony uses and highly recommends non-offset circle hooks when live baiting for several reasons.

  1. It aids with an effective hook up. While the kingfish eats and swims away with the livebait, the circle hook is rolling into it’s mouth for a clean hook up.
  2. Offshore Adventures practices a lot of catch and release. When releasing fish many won’t survive if they’re gut hooked. Circle hooks are designed catch the fish in the corner of the mouth so when they’re released they’re most likely to survive.
  3. Tony’s passionate about conservation of our oceans so takes great care with the fish caught (and released). Yes Tony! Love it.


Left - offset hook, right non-offset hook

Non-offset, non-recurve and “in line” hooks are essentially the same thing. What non-offset means is that the bottom bend and the barb of the hook is in line with the shank as opposed to being skewed slightly to the side. This “in line” format coupled with a true circle hook (where the point of the hook is at a 90-degree angle or less to the shank of the hook) is designed to roll into the corner of the mouth. You’ll see the difference in the photos.

Middle hook - true circle hook, the point of the barb points towards the shank of the hook. The other two hooks are J hooks.

Leader length & size

Leader length

The length of the leader line is 1.8 – 2.5 metres on this rig. This gives the live bait a chance to swim freely. A more natural movement will not raise alarm bells with fish that are shy (or smart) and put them off the bite. For the same reason the sinker is far enough away that it doesn’t raise suspicion.

We wouldn’t recommend a longer leader however because then your line can get tangled when you’re dropping your bait down.


sliding ball sinker rig


Leader size (weight/strength)

Generally you'll use an 80 - 130 pound leader (mono or fluoro). The size of your leader will depend on the conditions of the ocean and the terrain you’re fishing in. You may need a heavier leader if you’re fishing with rocks & reefs, pinnacles and foul area beneath, or a lighter leader if there’s not as many sharp things.

The rule of thumb is to go as light as you can for leader weight for the conditions you're fishing in. Start with 100 pound and if you're constantly getting busted off go heavier or the opposite if you can see the fish are there but just not biting. If the terrain is pretty smooth go lighter, say 80 pounds.



Mustad - Fishing Advisor

Sinker size

Have a couple of options with you as conditions can change. Tony uses 6 - 10 ounce heavy duty ball sinkers.

If fishing deeper or in stronger currents use a heavier sinker. If the current is slack or slow you may need a lighter sinker. You want your line pretty much straight up and down, not lagging far behind the boat. You don't want it to bomb down like an anchor though.

ball sinker heavy duty

There you go, now off you go and rig up for your adventure to catch kingfish.


How to catch kingfish - rig a live bait