Kingfish are one of the more high thrills, high octane sportfish in the country, and it seems fitting that the leading method to catch them offshore is to raise a serious sweat and use jigs.
Kings are a hyperactive, never-sit-still type of predator that will actively chase down prey. Their highly inquisitive nature, combined with a ruthless hunting instinct, and the fact they're often in schools and feeding competitively, makes them susceptible to jigging methods. Mechanical jigging with knife jigs is the primary approach, while they can also be fooled with slower, more high action flutter type jigs like the Sardine Waver and Coltsniper Wonderfall as well. As will be looked at there's a whole lot of fun to be tapped into if you can iron out your gear and technique and get jiggy for kings.
As mentioned in an offshore setting kings are responsive to flat-out mechanical jigging techniques, with long, thin profiled knife-style jigs the pick of the bunch. Often these jigs are rear weighted making them highly efficient at getting down deep and amongst the kingfish you've sounded up.
When conditions are mild, or there's minimal drift or current, you can introduce jigs with more action to them, with centre or off-centre weighted jigs like the new Ocea Pebble Stick providing ample action to trigger a king attack. Even higher action leaf or flutter type jigs are also gaining in popularity, and their ability to get eaten during an otherwise hard bite is becoming well documented. Their one notable drawback is they are slower sinking than more streamline jig designs, which can limit their use in overly deep water/raging current. But there are some great rear weighted flutter models out there like the Shimano Ocea Wing which can get in the strike zone quick even in less than ideal conditions.
Jig weight can vary between 80g right up to 500g plus in deeper areas. There's a common belief that larger jigs and their increased profile will often tempt bigger kings. In locations like SA and New Zealand for example where 50lb plus fish are relatively common on the jig, stepping up the profile size of your jig can pay off. When you're mostly catching smaller to medium sized fish however there's no need to 'set your arms and back on fire' jigging these heavy weights, and any jig that gets down to the fish in a timely manner will work.
Be sure to rig your jigs with quality components, with no shortcuts taken or expense spared. A squid skirt can also be added to your assist hook for additional appeal, while hooks and assist cord should be beefed up as you'll be fishing heavy drag settings for this fishing to stop a reef-bound hoodlum!
Mechanical kingfish jigging is more about having a methodical, rhythmic approach to your jigging, and less about looking like you're at the front row of a Metallica concert with arms and body going in all directions. The basics are to pump the jig up and wind down and repeat this process basically as quick as you can when working knife jigs. Kings love a chase and your quickest jigging action will still be an easy meal for a red-hot yellowtail. An essential piece of kit is a quality set of jigging gloves like the Ocea Jigging Gloves, which will save blistered hands and braid cuts - both are common for this fishing.
Also be at the ready for your jig to be eaten when you've stopped it at the top of your retrieve, as kings will often nail you when you least expect it.
To save your arms and a lot of unnecessary jigging, only work your jig through the fish and say halfway back to the surface before lowering it down again. Power Pro Depth-Hunter braid or the Kairiki 8 Multicolour is a godsend for this fishing, as the skipper can tell you the depth the fish are holding and you can count the colour coded segments on your braid as your jig descends, ensuring you're in the correct area and not overshooting the mark, or dropping your jig straight into heavy reef.
Kingfish jigging outfits often consist of dedicated jigging gear, which is aimed to make your life easier and reduce the pain factor of long spells of mechanically working knife jigs. It's also there to put some serious hurt on a hooked king. Shimano have both overhead and threadline options to pick from suited to smaller kingfish, right through to the meanest beast-sized hoodlums swimming.
At the lighter end of jigging you could be using an Ocea Jigger overhead matched to a Game Type J rod for example, or a 5000 sized threadline on an Ocea Offshore Jig PE 3-5. In genuine big king waters you could step this up to something like a Stella 18000 or 20000, or Saragosa 20000, matched with an Ocea Offshore Jig PE8 rod.
You ideally want at least 300m of line for this fishing, with mainline breaking strains anywhere from 30lb up to 150lb used by jiggers, depending on the terrain and size of the fish targeted. For kings fishing heavy is the smarter move as they will put you to the test!
Not much compares to these fish, or the rush of getting your jig slammed mid-water by a rampaging yellowtail before it screams back to the bottom. It's adrenalin pumping, tackle testing fishing at its addictive best!