Catch kingfish: what rod, reel & mainline

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Catching kingfish – the right gear for the job

Learn the rigs, get the right gear, get out there and catch some yourself some kingfish.

There are a few simple techniques when targeting kingfish that once you've got hang of, will change your quest to beautiful fillets. Baked, smoked, pan fried - whatever your flavour, fresh kingfish is simply delicious (recipes for ya)

Compared to catching snapper with bait, targeting kingfish is pretty different. Firstly the power of these magnificent fish can implode your basic bait fishing set up, so you've gotta have the right gear if you're serious about landing one of these magnificent fish. With kingfish your gear has got be strong and robust to handle the power of these awesome fish. 

Tony Orton from Offshore Adventures shares a basic guide to the gear he uses, to help you get up and running and well armed. 

The rods & reels in this guide can be used for a number of kingfish techniques:

  1. Deep dropping live bait 
  2. Surface ballooning  live bait
  3. Slow trolling live bait
  4. Mechanical jigging.


FA Tip:  When you're looking at gear, try to save yourself some money and get a rod and reel setup that is versatile and can be used for multiple fishing techniques. Ask the team at your local tackle store. - Offshore Adventures

Multi purpose kingfish gear saves you money.

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

Rod basics

These are not your standard snapper rods guys and gals. They're shorter, more powerful and able to handle line that is stronger than a standard snapper set up. What this means for you is purpose build gear that (when you're starting out) will give you a better shot at landing a kingfish.

Your rod will have a 'rating' for line weight. This means it's built to handle line on your reel (mainline) that is between 30-80lb.

Reel – your mainline

Mainline's the line on your reel. To target these powerful fish you're gonna need some strong line on your reel.

Here's some ideas when choosing mainline for kingfish:


Braid – the benefits of braid:

The modern choice for line on your reel is braid. Here's why:

  • The line doesn't stretch like mono (mono stretches up to 30%).
  • Thinner in diameter, it cuts through the water better & faster
  • Less "drop back" in the line 
  • Increases the capacity of your reel, more line on your reel means you can use smaller reels
  • Feel more bites (because there's no stretch) so you know what's happening around your live bait
  • Some braid has depth indicators - the colour changes every 10 metres. So when you see that the fish are sitting at 50 metres on the sounder, you can drop your bait 5 colours and get it right to those fish. It's helps with accuracy, getting your bait right under their noses.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use mono, it just means you’ve got to do a bit more work to do!


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

Reel – Gotta have good drag

Your reels gotta have a nice, strong & smooth drag to handle these incredible fishing fish while you try to winch them off the bottom! They do have a tendency to go straight to the bottom.

Drag makes the fish tired. Turning up the drag knob or lever puts pressure on the reel's spool (that holds the line), creates friction and makes the line harder to pull off.

The type of reel you use all comes down to personal preference, but learning how to use your drag is an important part of chasing kingfish. Here's a few different types of reels and drag systems to consider.


Lever drag

It's like a dial really. Turn it up to turn more drag on, or turn it down to let the line run out faster.

The great thing about lever drag is that you know exactly how much drag you're putting on by turning the lever up (or down to release). Usually there are indicators on the reel that show the high and low pressure points.

How to catch kingfish: Lever drag reel

Spin Reel

A hearty spin reel will do the job as well! To 'set' your drag check how many winds of the dial (or half winds) you need to make to reach full drag. You can test this by starting on light drag (the drag setting you'll fish with), then turn the drag knob and pull line till you get to full drag. Remember how many turns it took. Easy, but does involve a touch of thinking 😉

How to catch kingfish: Spin reel drag


Star Drag

Another option for drag systems is the star drag. Again it just comes down to preference, but when it comes to setting the drag (as with the spin reel) learn how many turns or clicks you need to make to get from starting drag to full drag. Not too hard aye.

How to catch kingfish: Star drag reel drag

Having good quality gear that's up to the job is your first task learning how to target kingfish. We hope this guide is helpful and sets you off on the right foot.

Before you spend your hard earned dollars on your quest to catch kingfish it's a good idea to see what you need specification wise, then see what feels good. Ask the team at your local tackle store to double the rod over in the store for you. That way you'll see if it feels comfortable (and it's just fun)!


FA Tip for the ladies - Rods that have a shorter butt end are usually more comfortable and you'll get better control because you're not reaching as far out to the main grip while fighting the fish 😉

Happy hunting out there!

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


Click the pic for the next "How to Catch Kingfish" session. Part 2 is how to make a rig for deep dropping live bait.

About Tony

We're stoked to have the Tony Orton share his experience and knowledge with us all.


Thanks Tony!

We're stoked to have Tony on board to share his wealth of knowledge and experience. That's why we've teamed up to offer you the chance to come out with us and learn how to catch kingfish first hand at Kingi School.

To find out more about Tony click here or check out his charter operation Offshore Adventures.


How to catch kingfish - rig a live bait