Kingfish are arguably the toughest and dirtiest fighting inshore pelagic fish that Australia has to offer. The best way to experience this relentless power is through jigging. Most people are of the opinion that catching fish on light gear provides the best sport, however I think holding on to a big fish with heavy drag pressure allows you to feel the full force of that fish, and that is the most gruelling battle to win.
Many fishos will kick and scream when called upon to go jigging, why would you bother with that? Not only does it require stamina, skill and technique it is also a great way of getting a bite.
WHEN AND WHERE
Depending on where you are located in Australia will determine when the kingfish bite is at its peak. Generally speaking, along the east coast of NSW they are usually an option year round if you put the time in. Starting from November through till the warmer summer months there are a lot more Kings about, this is usually the best time to go jigging. The currents are not as strong which makes the process of linking up with them more accessible. The big winter kings are renowned for hunting solo which is not ideal for jigging. Down rigging along the cliffs and shoals will get better results.
It is always good to check the currents before heading out. Maybe someone fished a spot the day before and found it impossible or perhaps you have access to an accurate reading online. If the current is over 2 knots it becomes much more difficult. Ideally 0.5-1 knot of current is ideal. Why wouldn’t you want no current? The kingfish might not be on the chew as hard, as the saying goes “no run, no fun”.
Current makes it difficult to fish deeper locations because the boat drifts away from the spot at which the jig was dropped. Angle on the line for jigging makes it that much more difficult. Having a knowledgeable skipper can help by keeping the boat in gear to keep the line vertical. Increasing the size of the jigs will also help deal with the current to an extent, but be prepared to have some sore shoulders the following day. My fondest memories of this was using 600 gram jigs in 300m of water for several hours. Harder than a big day on the tools.
Jigging requires specific equipment to be able to do it properly. A reel with a high gear ratio will allow for a smoother and more consistent action. I use reels with a high drag capacity usually around the 30kg mark and a big spool. Big enough for 400m of 80lb braid. Braids such as Unitika Jigging Deluxe change colour every 10m. This is ideal, especially when you have found a school of fish mid water, the angler can use the colour changes to have a better idea of much line is out. I use 100lb fluorocarbon leader and about 3m of it. The reason for such a long leader is that you need as big as a shock absorber as possible. Think about it, you are jigging one way as fast as possible and potentially big kingfish hits your lure and wants to go the opposite. There is a lot of initial impact on the set up. A PR or FG is essential because they are 100% knots that work like a Chinese finger trap and cinch to the line, going through the guides with ease.
Selecting the right rod is fundamental for success. All of the action in the lure comes from the bend in the rod as the angler pumps and winds in a coordinated fashion. Each lift of the rod will allow it to flew based on the pressure from the weight of the jig. This is also why it is important to match the jig weight with the rod. If the rod doesn’t bend it is effectively a broom stick. Which means you are going to just be dragging the lure through the water without providing much action to the lure. A parabolic flex in the rod will assist in both action placed on the jig and in fighting the fish. The Samurai X-Tracta range is outstanding for these reasons. The 80lb X-tracta is ideal for 250 gram plus jigs whereas the X-Tracta light jigging rods has a lighter spectrum of jig sizes that allow the rod to perform to its optimum.
My favourite jigs for kingfish are knife jigs as they work best for a fast retrieve and sink vertically which is ideal for deep water fishing. In shallow waters I tend to use slow pitch jigs and leaf jigs that provide action when sinking, helping to stay in the strike zone for longer, when the objective might not be to cover distance in the water column. The jigs that I have turned to are the MajorCraft Jigpara, there is a great range of colours that suit different environments. For example the glow in the dark model is ideal for deep water that allows the fish to see. I then fit the jig with Gamakatsu hyper split rings rated to 116kg breaking strain and solid rings rated to 331kg. The Gamakatsu tuned assist hooks are rigged and have proved the strongest. Other brands have not cut it when faced with big fish.
When watching a first timer having a crack at jigging it is sometimes difficult not to laugh. Once you understand the basic coordination of the movement it becomes a lot easier on the eye, and arms. The basic idea is lift the rod tip about half of a meter in distance from a point slightly directed at the water to slightly above parallel. For each rise of the rod tip the angler should do 1 complete wind of the rod. With a have gear ratio on the reel this should be a great starting point before mixing up techniques. The rod tip is then lowered and the process is repeated. Speed can be increased once the action is smooth. So many people try to constantly wind which restricts what the lure does under the surface.
1 pump and wind. Using the shoulders and back muscles and having a solid stance with the legs to help absorb the shock of a bite. Don’t forget to breathe in between jigs, this will prolong fatigue.
Sometimes I like to start a drop with 2-3 big lifts of the rod especially if fishing the bottom, a snapper might jump on as bycatch. Once the jig is off the bottom it is important to get into the rhythm as soon as possible. Sometimes moving the jig with correct technique fast will excite the fish and entice a bite.
If using a slow pitched flutter jig then usually the rod it lifted as much as possible and the lure allowed to sink. The winding of the reel can be slower as the fall of the lure is designed to catch the attention of the fish as opposed to sheer pace.
To find the fish do a bit of research before heading out. Where do people go jigging in the area or are there any deeper reefs that could hold fish. Pinnacles and ship wrecks are ideal spots. Once you are out there the sounder becomes your best friend. Finding bait with arches around it usually means that you have found some feeding king fish. The best way is to drop directly onto their heads are try to keep the boat positioned so that the line remains vertical. This will improve the action of the lure and ensure that it passes the schooled up fish. Point the nose of the boat into the current and make slight adjustments when needed. It is important that the jig gets as close to the Kings as possible to make sure that you give them a sniff.
Good luck and hold on.