Trolling For Kingfish: 7 best Expert’s Tips

Studying and understanding the behavioral traits of kingfish are the key rules before trolling for kingfish.  Kingfish will be readily available and easily targetable if you can follow the proper trolling method. For instance, topwater tactics, dead baits/ live, cut bait presentation, jigging techniques, etc. 

In this article, we’ll share all the awesome yet easily applied methods that will lessen your efforts to troll for this species. From bait settings to speed settings, lure color to leader length, every single factor we’ll guide you through.  

As always, you’ll get the 7 best strategies in our guide that will be the best techniques for both expert and new anglers. So, let’s begin!

Trolling For Kingfish: 7 Best Expert’s Tips

Kingfish are also called king mackerel or giant trevally. To troll for kingfish successfully, the following techniques can help you most.

1. Use the Live Baits

Using live bait is the most effective way to attract the kingfish. Present the live baits as naturally as you can, and the kingfish will be impressed quickly to feed. Remember to keep the trolling speed slow while using live bait. 

Slow trolling effectively allows you to cover the ground and find the school of fish to feed your live bait. Once you understand the kingfish are biting your bait, take 5 to 10 seconds to set the hook and hang it on. 

Tip: Squid, scad, kosher, trevally, piper, sprat, and slimy mackerel are popular live bait to catch kingfish. These are the proven live baits that attract the king mackerel rapidly. 

2. Use the Dead Bait

You can also use dead bait, the most effective method to target the kingfish. Before you decide on the dead bait, you must choose the right size trebles compared to the bait size you’re using. 

Now straighten the wire by tracing it down on the length of the dead bait. Ensure the bait won’t come off. Find out the barb and hook it into the flank of the dead bait. 

Tips: If your dead bait is too big, cut the head off to make it more manageable and attract the kingfish quickly. 

3. Apply Top Water Fishing

It’s a unique and successful trolling method while fishing for king mackerel. You’ll have to choose the top water lures in this fishing method. The topwater fishing technique is especially perfect for shallow water surfaces. 

Because lures in this method nicely mimic the shape of other food prey like small fish or insects, making your hunting exciting and successful afterward. 

4. Clear the Disruption of the Lines

Since it can take a long while to watch and monitor the fishing lines, you must not be absent. Especially to ensure your fishing lines aren’t disrupted by grass or other litter. If the lines come up the water surface and then again drop into the water, they must be stuck with a liter. So, clear them for a quick king mackerel fishing. 

5. Understand the Behavior 

The kingfish prefers clear and warm water. They can adapt to the pelagic lifestyle in terms of their swimming aptitudes. They swim with tiny movements of their head but make big movements of their tail. Sometimes they like to swim upstream in the freshwater in small groups and find suitable spots. 

At that time, they like being in the circle for hours and sometimes even days. So, if you can target that group, you’ll be able to catch more kingfish. 

6. Decide the Bait Types

Commonly kingfish are an inquisitive species which causes it difficult to grab their attention. However, considering their curiosity, a particular bait type can easily attract them. Select your bait with plenty of flashes and produce an internal rattle noise. It will take significantly less time to decide to bite. 

7. Notice the Water Movements

Trolling on the right water movement to troll for kingfish is important. Because kingfish like swimming in the high tide water movement. You’ll find them both in either clean water or dirty green water. But, in most cases, they like to be in clean water. Whatever the water condition is, you must follow the water movement.

Where to Catch Kingfish

The most common place to find kingfish is the Northern Island. They are also available in the water column of the Foveaux Strait and Kermadec Islands. Besides, you’ll find them in the water body of Texas, Carolines, and Florida. 

They prefer to inhabit temperate water and are usually found in the reef, rocky outcrops, pinnacles, and foul areas in the coastal water.  They like the tidal flow and high currents water conditions to swim and find food. 

Moreover, this species is available in Queensland South, Western Australia, and New Zealand.  The kingfish are likely to stick with the floating objects within the bays. And around 75% of kingfish are caught by recreational fishers. 

You will also find them in the terrain situated in the enclosed and shallow bays with the sandy open bottom. Since the king mackerel is the predator, they like to be in the school with more than 100 numbers.  

What Should I Troll For Kingfish?

You require almost everything you need to troll for other species; for example, leader, fishing lines, lures, live baits/dead baits, etc. 

Whether or not your trolling for kingfish will be successful depends on how perfect the fishing gears you choose are. And also, you need to make a good combination of applying proper techniques for this species. It often depends on your personal choice. 

How Fast Do You Troll For Kingfish?

Trolling for kingfish requires slow trolling compared to the other species. When you are used to following at least 6 knots, kingfish requires only 3 knots for the minimum speed. And the highest ideal speed for king mackerel is 5 or 6 knots. 

It’s because slow trolling is an effective method to troll for kingfish. This slow speed will help you cover a wide range of ground. But, it’s not a specific speed that; you have to follow on every water surface. 

Sometimes considering the lure condition, you can increase the speed to 8 knots and get a good result.  

How Long Should A Kingfish Leader Be?

When it’s about the length of your leader, it must be precise. Or else you’ll be in trouble for cut-off or break-off conditions. It’s widespread for the anglers to get stuck with the leader’s inaccurate length. All you need is to ensure the leader’s length is long enough to prevent the cut-off issue. In this case, 20-24″ can be the perfect length.

Drag breaks off the torque if it’s too tight. So, if the leader breaks frequently, the problem is with the drag. In this case, losing the drag will solve the problem. 

Tip: Never use any braided line while fishing the king mackerel. You can choose the monofilament fishing line or the Ande line (40 pounds). Both of them are highly recognized for kingfish trolling. A 20-pound monofilament fishing line can bring countless kingfish. 

What Size Hook Do You Use For Kingfish?

You must choose the hook size based on your bait size, whether large or small. If the bait is small, a hook with a 7/0 size will be perfect. On the other hand, for the large-size bait, the hook size should be 9/0

Tip: Use the circle-designed hook for king mackerel. It will enhance your fishing success. Besides, the circle hooks are perfect for other species, like striped bass.  

What Water Temperature Do Kingfish Like?

The best water temperature to catch the kingfish is 72 to 78 degrees. This water temperature is the most considered factor that leads to the kingfish’s activities. For instance, when the water starts getting hot, the bait fish begin moving in the north. And the school of kingfish also starts moving to the north following the bait fish movement. 

Again, they are also found in cool water temperatures. You can find them at a 16-degree C sometimes. 

What Is The Best Line Weight For Kingfish?

To ensure good fishing, you should not rely on one specific setup. In this case, taking two heavy and lightweight setups with you will be precise. If the light line comes between 10 to 16 lbs, you can match a 3000 reel for a perfect match. 

The heavy line, however, can vary from 20 to 30 lbs. You can use a 5000 or 6000 reel in this weight to get a good match. 

However, many anglers believe the heaviest weighted line, like 150 lbs, will bring them a good shot. But they’re wrong. This weight won’t allow you to hook the fish, and 99.9% time, you’ll miss your target king mackerel. 

What Is The Best Time To Catch Kingfish

You can catch kingfish throughout the day. Then the early morning and the late afternoon is considered the best time of the day. This time timing is their best time to feed. So, if you wonder what time of day do kingfish bite, the answer is the early morning and the late afternoon. 

And to find out the best time of the year, you have to focus on some popular inshore fishing places like Hauraki Gulf and Florida. From December to May, many kingfish are found in that places. Also, some anglers choose the summer time from December to March to catch kingfish. This timing benefitted them as the king mackerel is readily available year-round. 

Late winter and early spring are also noted as the best season of the year because of their spawning time. And the spawning time is much more significant to catch kingfish.

King Mackerel Trolling Rigs

Proper boat rigging is a must do requirement for kingfish. Professional anglers always focus on the proper rigging for king mackerel trolling

How do you rig a kingfish troll?

To rig perfectly, you need to take a heavy line that may come with 35 pounds. Take 6 inches of wire and tie a haywire twist onto the loop. But don’t tie it onto the eye of the hook. Keep making the haywire a couple of times.  

And, at last, three or more hooks will be connected. Ensure the hooks are placed into your lure securely. 

How to Rig Live Bait for Kingfish

You can rig the live bait in many ways. Here are the two best techniques-

  • Fishing from Inshore

The most clever technique to rig the live bait underneath a bobby cork. But you’ve to make sure the cast is well-directed. Placing the bobby cork and the bait beside the marker will take only a few moments to grab the kingfish. 

  • Fishing from Boat

You can anchor the live bait upstream and float it back to the marker on your fishing boat. Using a snicker rig with your live bait will help it rig down the bottom.  

What are the best lures for kingfish?

Lures are the most important factors to consider when fishing king mackerel. Choosing the best lures will make the way easier to catch kingfish and also the live bait for kingfish. Several lures are there that perform the best in catching kingfish. Here’re the 3 best kingfish lures that you can use for your fishing-

1. Rapala Countdown Magnum22 

This lure is designed with the slow sinking controlled trait. It’s also designed with the finest craftsmanship and materials that attract the kingfish easily. Rapala is available in several lengths the 22 diving plug. 

The Cigger minnow is one of the favorite baits for kingfish. And the Rapala is an excellent mimic of the minnow. It’s an incredibly lightweight design ready to adjust in a moment. And this lure has got strong metal lips for long time usage. 

The Rapala is the top lure for beginners because it’s great for slow speed. Its decent size brings it a natural look like a real fish. And it seems like a real fish while moving underwater.  So, using the Rapala Megnum22 will work fine to catch more kingfish. 

2. Williamson Live Ribbonfish 

Another staple food for kingfish is the Williamson live ribbonfish. Its natural shape with 18-inch length gives it the best real look. This lure works fine in cloudy water. You will get a good result if you can troll the Williamson at 2 to 6 knots. 

This lure is made with strong stainless steel, plastic, and alloy steel. It’s a strong but soft plastic body construction. The holographic 3D eyes will make this lure well visible in any water body.  The Williamson is the most irresistible lure for king mackerel, Yellowtail kingfish, and Barracuda,  Amberjack.

It is designed with snake-like swimming techniques to ensure catching all the salt predator species. So, you’ll also benefit from other species while using the Williamson kingfish lure. And it offers a 1-year warranty. 

3. Guides Bunka Boy 

The Bunka Boy is another perfect mimic of real pogy, and when the kings search for the live baits, the Bunka Boy becomes their top choice. When you troll in the calm water, this lure will come in handy with its wake bait action. 

It keeps its tip low and builds an enticing frequent wobble and wag. The Bunka Boy can dive several ft down due to moderate-fast retrieve techniques. The lure can dive fast with a rapid retrieve. The Guides Bunka Boy is the perfect lure to catch the king mackerel. 

This 3D lure is also a great choice for striped bass, dorado, redfish, trevally, roosterfish, snook, tarpon, tuna, bluefish, weakfish, and many other species.  

Although some of the lures are the best match for the kingfish, you should also focus on the lure colors if you don’t find these specific best lures. 

So, what color lure for kingfish should you use? Blue and white or only white color is called the best productive lure color to take the kingfish’s attention.  Besides yellow, green, and silver are also considered the best because of their reflection techniques. These color lures reflect light, attracting the kingfish to the lure quickly.

What is the best reel for kingfish?

You need a conventional reel for kingfish because this reel can deliver light drag through its high gear ratio.  In this case, the PENN Torque reels are the best choice. 

However, the spinning reels from medium to large size (4000-10000) are also suitable for king mackerel. Choose the 4000 reels while fishing inshore and 10000 reels while targeting the big-size kingfish. 


Where do kingfish hang out?

Kingfish like hanging out in the high tide area like headlands. 

What attracts kingfish?

They like to have their meal with live baits. So, you can use live bait like flying fish, squid, blue cod, etc.

Do kingfish like dirty water?

You‘ll find this species in both clear as well as dirty water. It depends on the availability of their baits. However, they like clear water more than dirty water. 

Am I supposed to bleed kingfish?

Yes, you do. Bleeding the kingfish will allow you to get the blood out of the fish’s body which makes the fish tastier. 

What is the depth of a kingfish?

Kingfish inhabitants the oceanic green water at 15 to 200m depth.

Final Thoughts

The king mackerel is the top sought-after game fish in saltwater angling. These species are well known for their royal fighting nature. Trolling for kingfish will be successful following the proper speed, lures, rigs, and other essential factors.

Consider the geographical condition of the area you want to fish for king mackerel. Also, you should know the rules to catch kingfish in that area. Your trolling for king mackerel will be enjoyable.

Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones

Anthony is an expert in fishing and trolling motor equipment, based in Austin. In his free time, he can often be found out on the water, perfecting his fishing techniques and testing out the latest gear.

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