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Meal time

There's a reason kingfish do not carry Blackberries — their schedules are not very complex and daily task lists are usually brief.

For most members of the Scomberomorus cavalla clan, a single Post-it note will do. The reminder message: "Eat lots of food."

That said, kingfish anglers have a fundamentally simple objective: make food available.

Topping this list are live baitfish such as blue runners, cigar minnows, Spanish sardines, threadfin herring ("greenbacks") and scaled sardines ("whitebait"). Put one of these in front of a kingfish and it's usually an easy sell.

Presentation with purpose

The challenge, sometimes, is getting kingfish to locate your offering.

Unlike a largemouth bass, which often sits under the same dock or next to the same stump for hours at a time, kingfish never — repeat, never — stand still. Therefore, repeatedly casting to a single spot in hopes of irritating your quarry into biting won't work.

Slow trolling live baits over reefs, wrecks or rocks is a good start, as kingfish often patrol such areas in search of the forage hovering around the structure.

Predators instinctively attack the weakest first, so trolling a spread of livies creates the appearance of several vulnerable stragglers.

Offering an easy meal usually triggers immediate aggression from any kingfish within eyesight. However, bringing kings into eyesight may take a little more effort.

Dress up

Savvy kingfish anglers often accessorize their live baits with attractor skirts called "dusters." Typically comprising a small metal collar fitted with colored fibers — sometimes accented with shiny Mylar — the duster slips onto the wire leader and adds visual enticement as it pulses in the water.

Rigging tip: When affixing a wire leader to the lead hook of a kingfish stinger rig, leave the leader's tag end intact until you have slid a duster over the main leader (standing end) and the shorter tag end. Bend the latter downward and over the duster to pin it in place.

Other visual attractors include spinner blades, bead chains and a vibration chamber called the Turbo Rattler, which spins and rattles while trolled.

Colored hooks also catch a king's eye. Bright red is most popular, as this simulates wounded prey.

The smell of success

The idea here is to tempt local kingfish and attract others from afar by putting scents and samples into the water. Common tactics include grinding fresh baitfish, snipping baits into tiny chunks, and dripping menhaden oil onto the surface.

All contribute to the kingfish effort, but the simplest and most effective option is the frozen chum block. Wrapped in mesh bags and hung from gunwale cleats, chum blocks melt in the waves and disperse oily slicks with tiny bits of ground baitfish, an easy trail for kings to follow.

Based in St. Petersburg, Capt. Bob Aylesworth's Team Baitmasters won the Gulf Division title in last year's FLW Kingfish Series. An expert in chum production, he said you can never have too much scent in the water.

In tournaments, or any serious kingfish outing, Aylesworth carries at least 100 pounds of chum ranging from herring blends to ultra-oily menhaden chum.

You'll do best with chums made from baitfish species common to the area you're fishing, but Aylesworth said any chum blend should be held to high quality standards.

"The most important thing about a chum is a high blood content," he said. "When you buy chum, make sure it's a deep red color because, after all, kingfish are carnivorous animals."

Consistency matters too, Aylesworth adds.

"You also want a finely ground chum so it disperses very lightly," he said. "You don't want to feed the fish, so you don't want big chunks going out."

When the plan works and hungry kingfish find your baits, expect fierce strikes, long, furious runs and lots of tricky tactics at boatside. Remaining calm is easier said than done when a hot king is blistering your drag, but just let the fish get all that aggression out of its system and fatigue will become your ally.

Hold the rod tip high, reel only when the fish stops running and keep your actions measured. If overzealous rod work pulls a hook or breaks a leader, all the work you did to tempt the fish will vaporize.

Play the game correctly, though, and you'll bring one of the sea's most ferocious feeders to the gaff.

Meal time 04/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:54am]
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