St. Petersburg Times

Anglers up and down the west coast of Florida have been waiting all winter for kingfish to return. The wait is over. Kingfish are swarming around the gulf coast, and anglers are finally getting their chance to go head-to-head with this great fighter.


Where to look
Anglers use depth recorders to mark patches of “hard bottom,” large limestone outcroppings that tend to attract bait.
One way to find kings without electronics is to look for diving sea birds. Birds mean bait, and bait means kings.
  • Use a GPS to get the exact locations of bites.
  • Keep a log to record bite locations.
  • Keep a VHF and cell phone nearby to keep in touch with other anglers.

The battle plan
Most anglers prefer trolling live or artificial bait, but some like to anchor and get a chum slick going to attract the kings.

When trolling live bait, keep your speed at 1 to 11/2 knots. Too much speed will cause the bait to “drag.” Instead, you want it to swim naturally.

If you’re moving too fast, drop a few 5-gallon buckets behind the boat and let them drag. Many big kings have been caught when boats were idling.

The crew: A driver, two anglers, a gaff man, and two castnetters.

Serious anglers carry 10 rods, including two spares. Here's a list of recommended tackle:
  • Two downriggers, two outrodders.
  • 8 rods with 20-pound test and 2 reserve rods with 16-pound test. Change the lines every spring and fall.
  • 500 yards on a Shimano TLD 20/40.
  • 300 yards on a Shimano TLD 15.30 for reserve reels.
  • 12-foot length of fluorocarbon leader, attached to standard mono for stinger rigs.
  • Two 12-foot, 1-inch mesh nets.
  • One 12-foot, 3/8-inch mesh net.
  • 20 Gold hook Sabiki rigs for bait.
  • 100 stinger rigs (per tournament).
  • 12-foot gaff, 8-foot backup gaff.
  • Chum bucket and chum bag, with several blocks of chum.
Chum bucket
Keep a 5-gallon bucket of fresh dead shad for the Clearwater hard bottom, with a bag of balloons. Bait that hits the floor instead of the live well should go into the chum bucket.