Author Topic: Plugging for Kingfish  (Read 7452 times)

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Offline Tommo

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Plugging for Kingfish
« on: March 29, 2011, 09:23:55 PM »
BY Craig Thomassen April 2004

One of the hardest fighting game fish fishermen tangle with on the East coast of Africa is the Giant kingfish (Caranx ignoblis). These brawlers of the ocean are often hooked while trolling over reef, or along reef edges. One of the signature trademarks of a giant kingfish is a brief, hard tussle then sudden slack line with a rough, abraided end. These tough fish are dirty fighters that are not above diving into caves, swimming over ledges, round pinnacles, anything to cut the line off. Most big kingfish hooked close to reef are lost this way.

Kingfish live on reefs that are not too far offshore. They come into very shallow water at times to feed on the baitfish living there. Their forays into the shallows generally coincide with high spring tides, when there is a lot of water movement and white foamy water in the bays. They are also crepuscular feeders to a fairly large extent, doing most of their feeding at dawn or dusk. The reasons for this are firstly that the low light gives the kingfish cover, making it less exposed in the shallow water. Secondly Predatory fish’s eyes adjust to low light quicker and more efficiently than do the eyes of baitfish, giving the predator the advantage over its prey.

Giant kingfish are very aggressive predators that will hit any injured or panicked baitfish that they come across. They chase their prey with spectacular vigor, creating huge splashes and swirls behind the jumping baitfish. They stay focused on their prey until it tires and its jumps become shorter and less energetic, then there is usually one last swirl and the action is over.

Because their prey so often takes to the air in a futile bid to escape, kingfish are very tuned in to any surface movement. Any splash immediately draws a reaction from any kingfish in the area, as it triggers an aggressive response.

Taking all of the above into account it therefore makes sense that if one was to target giant kingfish specifically, then ideally one would use a surface plug and work it hardest either at first light or at last light. Over periods of high spring tides, especially the three days after springs, when the high tide coincides with dawn and dusk then it is worth trying for these fish in the shallows.

I recall years ago seeing a ski boat angler who used to “park” his boat between the shore break and the backline at Sodwana, near the rock known as ‘the pulpit’ just inside of the reef. He would keep the boat’s nose into the waves and keep the motors running, manning the controls, as one of his crew would cast a surface plug over the reef and pull it through the white foamy water flowing over the reef and gathering in the bay on the pushing spring tide. Using this technique these guys hooked and landed some impressive kingfish.
Using this technique produced better results than casting from the beach as they had a better angle to pull the fish away from the reef. A shore based angler would basically have to pull the fish over the reef and many fish were lost this way.

The tackle for this sort of fishing is pretty specific. You could either go with a spinning rig or a multiplier on a casting rod. Whichever you choose to use the reels must be big enough to load with more than 150m of 40lb line and the retrieve ratio needs to be quick enough to give a surface plug decent action. On multiplier reels this would be 6:1 or faster.
For a fixed spool reel a rod of anywhere between seven and nine foot would be fine as long as it has a very strong butt section so that you can put serious pressure on a big fish. The rod to use with a multiplier would ideally be between nine and twelve foot in length and also be very strong.
Load your spool with forty pound breaking strain monofilament of the high abrasion variety, or a braided line of at least eighty pound. On the end of your main line tie on a wind on casting leader of at least eighty pound monofilament and to the end of this attach your lure (Using a non slip loop).
For casting with multipliers the best surface plugs to use are the chisel nose type. The very fat Aubrey Da Gama plugs are excellent when the wind is behind you, or there is no wind. They are too bulky and light to cast into the wind properly, but make a very large and attractive splash. If you need to cast into the wind then the Predator plastic plugs are best, they have a higher weight to bulk ratio and cast well. For casting with a fixed spool set up then chugger type plugs such as Creek Chub striper strikes seem to be best.

It is always a good idea to change hooks and split rings on plugs to be used for big kingfish. Buy some heavy duty stainless spring steel split rings with a test rating of at least fifty kilograms (Dr Hook makes excellent ones) and get some extra strong treble hooks of at least 4/0 in size, VMC make brilliant hooks for this. These can be rigged onto plugs quickly and easily using a pair of split ring pliers.

Before you go fishing test all your knots, hook strength, split rings etc by hooking the lure onto a log or something, walking about thirty or forty metres of line out and then tightening up the drag and pulling as hard as you can. I really mean as hard as you can, it is impossible to break forty pound line with the rod tip up. If anything gives it would have gone with a fish on the end anyway. If nothing gives then you can go fishing for kings with the confidence that you at least have a chance of landing one.

On a recent trip to Mozambique we were plugging for Giant Kingfish from the beach. The conditions were very calm, with not much surf action and no white foamy water, even at high tide. Not ideal kingfish water. We worked our plugs hard for a couple of days, caught a couple of nice fish, but weren’t getting the results we really wanted. It was while we were out on the ski-boat looking for baitfish in amongst the shallow sandbanks and deep channels that things turned around. We saw birds working a point of one of the sandbanks and moved closer, in order to try and catch some bait. When we arrived at the spot the water looked like perfect kingfish water, milky, churned and best of all with strong current and a shallow bank. I grabbed my nine ad a half foot graphcast plugging stick and had a speculative throw, pulling the pink Predator chisel nose plug along the edge of the white water, my eyes scanning the area behind my plug in anticipation. The water suddenly exploded right on my plug and a big king showed his profile as he swiped at and missed the lure. I kept retrieving at the same pace and sure enough he had another go, this time I felt him hit the plug, but the hooks didn’t find purchase in his mouth.
Next cast produced a King of about 13kg, which fought valiantly, but was no match for the strong tackle I was using, especially as there was no reef in sight. After landing my fish I passed the rod to one of the other guys on the boat and first cast produced a king of about 17kg. The following morning we went out to the same area and repeated our success. We then moved on to some other banks, looking for the same type of water. We soon found some and pulled a few more nice kings out. The best thing about it was that we were fishing an area that had no rocks or reef at all, so the fish were holding to sand structure and had nowhere to cut us off. It was a real pleasure to be able to relax for once and enjoy the battle without waiting for that inevitable feel of nylon rubbing on rock.

The fishing was spectacular, we enjoyed watching the big kings charging after the plugs and smashing at them viciously time and again. The visual impact of this kind of fishing really makes it some of the most exciting fishing ever. The other real deep enjoyment that we experienced was watching the fish swim off again after a quick photo and a release, knowing that some day we may meet again and do battle off some other beach or reef on this beautiful coast.

It is well worth keeping a casting rod on board your boat, rigged with a plug, ready for the occasion that you find a patch of milky, churned up water off a sandbank or reef which is close to a deep channel. These spots are prime ambush sites for giant kingfish and are sure to be holding at least one of these magnificent fish when the tide is pushing and the baitfish shoals are being pushed around by the currents.


Fishing is life. The rest is details....

Online WalkersKiller

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2011, 08:34:59 AM »
Tommo top article bud cred to you  (clap)

Offline Prego

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 08:43:37 AM »
Thanks for sharing Tommo, on this weeks show you guys got some real buses at Kilwa. Amazing place, pity the Dog tooth were missing in action.


Offline Angler 1

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2011, 11:52:28 AM »

Offline Kumz

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2011, 01:22:23 PM »
 :shre:  + Cred

Offline deezynking

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2011, 04:17:08 PM »
 :shre:   great read tommo  :tkx:

Offline dirkm

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2014, 08:56:08 AM »
Will adding a small piece of single stranded steel wire to the plug, in case a couta takes it,  deter kingfish from taking the plug?


Offline L Hooker

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2014, 09:07:21 AM »
Very nice article thanks for sharing Tommo

Offline peterblace

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2014, 04:48:39 PM »
Will adding a small piece of single stranded steel wire to the plug, in case a couta takes it,  deter kingfish from taking the plug?

rather then adding the wire add a proper kevlar assist cord or try the split ring/power swivel/split ring version

Offline Fishaholic

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Re: Plugging for Kingfish
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2014, 05:08:52 PM »
Also thought Kevlar is couta proof, but no, they chomp through kevlar cord no problem.