Catch Kingfish: Deep drop fishing technique

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Targeting kingfish deep dropping live bait

Deep dropping live baits to target kingfish is a one of the most popular and effective way to catch the mighty kings. Presenting kingfish with their own food source is really productive and blimmin exciting!

You would use this technique to target deeper schooling fish, in workups or when you come across reefs or pins (pinnacles - steep, mountain shaped rise comes up off the bottom) where you can see bait fish and kingfish on the sounder. Generally you would use this technique deep dropping live baits down to depths of 50 – 200+ metres

How to catch kingfish - rig a live bait

How to rig a live bait

Getting set up

By the time the skipper is setting up to drift over the spot you’ve marked (with good bait and kingi sign), you should already have your gear set up and ready to roll. A strong rod and reel, deep dropper rig on, a lively looking livey hooked through the nose.

Take your spot on the boat. If fishing up to four people use both back corners (which I reckon are the best spots by the way) or just behind the cabin. You want to avoid line tangles so as your lines are going down point your rod tips away from each other and keep those lines apart (tangles waste time guys, which is especially agonising when the fish are biting hard out).


Mustad - Fishing Advisor


Before you drop your live bait, check the drag setting on your reel.

When the live bait is at the target depth your drag will be on super light. Enough so that the live bait doesn’t take line, but the line can easily be pulled away by a kingfish. The least resistance the better, remember to keep it as natural as possible.

Once your line is running out you’ll adjust your drag to hook up (we’ll cover that soon).

Wait for the skipper to call “drop drop drop”

Drop Drop Drop

When the skipper calls for you to drop your baits down, don’t dilly dally. It takes time to get your line down to where the fish are and you don’t want your to bait drift past nowhere near the fish (every metre counts!).

Your skipper should call out the target depth – say 70 metres and that’s how far you’ll drop your line down, counting each 10 metres of your coloured braid.


How to catch kingfish - rig a live bait


FA TIP – pay attention to putting your bait at the right on that depth. I used to be pretty casual about it, but discovered a major increase in my bite and hook up rate when I put it on target. Use the genius of modern sounder technology to your advantage fullas.

When your bait is in position put the butt of the rod under your arm. If you’re winding with your right hand, put the rod under your left arm (or vice versa). Point your rod tip in the same direction as your line and watch the rod tip.

You’re ready for action.

Nervous live bait

Kingfish don’t have teeth and eat a livebait head first (imagine those top fins going down your throat backwards!) so they chase the live bait to get it in position. Because you’re holding your rod you’ll feel the live bait start to get jiggly as the predatory fish come around. (This is one of the benefits of braid, you have a better feel for what’s going on at the end of your line.) Keep the tip of your rod pointing down at the fish.

Don’t move! Don’t lift your rod, don’t adjust your drag, just wait. Remember you always want to present your bait as naturally as possible, so just leave it.

You’ll start feeling thuds, what feels like a snapper nibble but amplified about five or 10 times times. Don’t move! Wait. The kingi is still chasing the bait.

Increase drag to set the hook

When your line starts running out consistently for about 3-5 seconds that’s the kingi is swimming away with your bait in it’s mouth. Take a breath.

Now, slowly and calmly increase your drag to mid way. Increasing the drag will stop the line running freely, as the fish swims away the hook will roll into the corner of the fish’s mouth.

DON’T lift your rod, DON’T strike (you’re using circle hooks remember) and DON’T wind. These actions will simply pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth and you’ve lost your shot. Just focus on calmly increasing your drag.

FA TIP: If the pressure disappears and you think the fish has let go of the bait, quickly put your drag on super light again. Often the kingfish will come back around for another go.

Fighting the fish

Once the tip of your rod starts to bend over, your rod is “loading up”, and you’re hooked up. When your rod tip is bent right down, lift your rod tip up to about 45 degrees and wind in line as you lower the rod. Just like snapper fishing this is the good ole lift and wind.

Don’t move the rod from under your arm to your hip just yet. Many fish are lost in this transition, so during the initial part of the fight just make sure you’re hooked up properly first.

About now the kingi will realise it’s hooked and it’s all on. This will be the first blistering run. Now, depending on how strong this run is, will determine how much you adjust your drag from here.

Think about how close you are to the bottom (if you’re close don’t think too long especially if the fish screams off). As you lift and wind are you getting any line back or is this fish taking more than you? If you hook the fish in mid water you have more time to get the fish under control, the key is not to panic, think through your next steps.

If you’re getting “smoked” (which means you’re not getting line back and this fish is out of here) then increase the drag past mid way, up to strike if you need and do short lift and winds, almost ‘pumping’ the rod and reel up and down. Your goal is to get some control by turning the fish’s head and disrupting their head down, outta here blistering run.

Kingfish are incredibly strong and smart. When hooked they head straight for the nearest structure they can find, rocks, reefs, buoys, whatever – so it’s a real tug of war and you gotta beat them before they ‘dust’ you off.

More tips

Once you’ve made it through the first few runs you should be sweet but here’s couple of other important tips to remember:

  • Always keep a slight bend on the end of your rod – loose line loses fish, it gives them the chance to shake the hook out
  • Don’t wind while your line is running out, try increasing the drag and lifting the fish’s head by lifting your rod.
  • To gain even just some line line quickly drop the rod and wind down quickly as you drop it.
  • Lots of fish are lost at the boat. When your kingi sees the boat they will dig in and run away again so be ready for it.
  • Don’t try to lift the fish out of the water with your rod, just bring them to the surface then get your net, gaff or grab the jaw of the fish (they don’t have teeth so no need to worry about getting bitten).

Handle with care

Once in the boat please treat your fish with care. These majestic kings of the sea deserve respect. If you’re releasing, take a quick snap and gently return. If taking home for dinner iki or kill quickly and bleed then put on salt ice to ensure the best eating quality.

Good luck out there!

Mustad - Fishing Advisor


How to catch kingfish - rig a live bait
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