Like so many fish species, King George whiting spend much of the earlier part of their lives inside bays and in inshore areas before venturing offshore as they mature. This lifecycle trait often means if you want to tangle with a better grade of KG there's a need to fish deeper and be exploring offshore reefs, islands and other lowly pressured areas.
Truly large KG whiting, those over 50cm or so, are quite impressive fish when they hit the deck of your boat, and if you're accustomed to run-of-the-mill bay fish your eyes will pop at sheer length and overall bulk of a jumbo whiting. These larger offshore fish tend to take on an appearance of their own, with pale flanks and a characteristic large black eye which makes them quite adept at feeding in a deepwater environment.
Generally offshore KGs are much more aggressive and opportunistic than bay fish, which you can imagine is required to thrive in a highly competitive environment such as a significant reef system. Often these fish will live side by side with snapper, gummy shark and a whole host of other southern reef species, and it's for this reason that so many offshore KG captures are by accident after having eaten a snapper lure or bait and they're regularly dismissed as a fluke. But they are targetable however, and with a dedicated approach you can really sample monster-class KG fishing at its best in these offshore zones.
When you're fishing shallow areas for whiting you can mostly see the bottom and therefore know where to cast by using your eyes to spot 'white holes' or 'broken bottom' from solid weed. Offshore however you'll rely on your electronics to sound out reefs, ledges, mud banks and other hot spots.
Many of our better offshore whiting locations aren't steep sided reef systems, but are lower lying formations and often there is sand nearby as well. There are some key fish species, which if you happen to catch them, can give away a good offshore whiting spot, with flathead, gummy shark, red mullet and snapper a few of them.
Whiting offshore will form tight schools and there's a need for somewhat precise anchoring to cash in on these fish, especially in water you can't berley. Often we'll try a spot for say 30 minutes then keep letting out more rope until we strike fish. A small shift can be all that's needed until you find where the fish are holding. Drifting also works well when conditions allow it and your drift speed isn't too quick. Once located you can then anchor up on fish if you wish.
Away from the depths, the edges of offshore islands are consistent producers of XOS whiting, and in fairly shallow water as well. Catching them in these locations is great fun as you can reduce your tackle with less risk of hooking something huge and unexpected compared to a deep reef.
So often when you're offshore you get a lot of bites on heavy gear that may feel like pickers, but they could actually be snorter KG whiting down there. This is where having a tailored approach works well on these fish rather than treating them as an occasional catch on your heavy snapper outfit.
My heavier offshore whiting outfit, which is an all-rounder type setup capable of catching many other reef fish as well, is a 7ft Terez with a Talica 10 and 50lb braid. A longer rod like this will actually relay even smaller bites well, and having some stopping power is beneficial when working the reefs which is always a game of 'fish lotto' as to what you'll hook next!
At the lighter end of things is my preferred deepwater setup for KGs, consisting of a 4000 sized Stella, 15lb braid and a 7ft Tcurve. You get great bite detection and some sizzling runs from these remarkably hard fighters with a setup like this.
In the terminal tackle department you want robust gear when fishing the reefs, and I think it's important not to forget the fact that you may hook a decent snapper or the like while you're after whiting, so be mindful of not going ultra light with traces, hooks etc. Most times it's not needed on deep water whiting which tend to be much less discerning than fish in the shallows.
Our whiting traces can be based on anything from 16 to 60lb fluorocarbon , with 20-40lb most commonly used on the reefs, and 12-20lb for working the fringes of offshore islands. Paternoster rigs are preferred with 1/0 to 3/0 circles or long shanks likely hook patterns. We try to use glow beads with our rigging also for added attraction. Flasher rigs work brilliantly well on whiting, which are highly visual feeders.
On these fish we'll use a range of baits, with a pipi and tenderised squid cocktail the most effective. This said, deep reef whiting will tackle a spread of cut baits and we've had success using oily/bloody fleshed species like slimy mackerel, pilchard and silver trevally on whiting.
Thumper reef whiting won't hold back eating a range of offshore lure types as well, and we've taken them on octopus and micro jigs and a range of other well weighted options that can be lowered into the depths. When the fish are schooled up and on the job they can be reckless feeders and it's ace fun swinging these monsters over the side one after another during a frenzied bite.
If catching smaller bay whiting isn't pushing your buttons any more, try fishing deeper and hooking into a whopper whiting down deep. It's an entirely contrasting experience watching a bone-white fish materialise out of the bluewater when you're a long way from land and one that keeps us coming back for more, especially when you take into account how brilliant these fish cook up!