Landbased Kingfish Downunder in NZ – Scott Hollis – Johns Part-2

Landbased Kingfish Downunder in NZ – by Scott Hollis – Johns Part-2

It has been reported to me that kingfish have been sighted off the Banks Peninsula during December, much earlier than I suggested. Small numbers have also been taken in set nets off New Brighton beach at this time of year. I still think your best chances will be in January / February but if water conditions are clear, then why not have a shot for landbased kingfish around Christmas?

It was also reported that big numbers of yellowtail kingfish have been sighted well up the Pelorus Sound. They are not usually found here in numbers until late summer.

As you can see seasonal variations in weather and bait distribution play havoc when trying to predict where fish will be and when. Finding the fish is the first job, then comes getting bait to them and trying to extract your quarry from the water.

Surface popper for kingfish.

Tackle for Landbased kingfish

You need good gear for kingfish. Of course, we have all heard the story of Joe Novice who chucked a whole pilli (pilchard) on the end of his pre-war pole with a sun-baked line, corroded reel and blunt hook cast out into the gob of huge kingfish which after an epic tug of war was killed and paraded around town on the roof of the Morrie van.

These stories are of course true! But only eventuate from a mountain of “big one that got away” tales. As I mentioned last month I have had the spool blow off a spinning reel on the first run of a kingfish and it was a small one of under 10kg. I know people who have had drags wrecked, gears stripped and shafts broken (and bent) while playing kingfish. Hooks can break and straighten, split rings open, rods break and more.

Scared yet? No, I am not trying to put you off, just telling a few horror stories, none of which need to occur if you are equipped with quality tackle right down to the hook point.

Rods for Landbased Kingfish

When tackling a new area or species it is a good idea to use gear that will handle the top end of the scale as far as fish size likely to be encountered goes. We can become line-class heroes later in our apprenticeship. The standard issue L.B.G. rod for live-baiting is a 7-9 foot one piece, fast taper suitable for a 15-24kg line.

A gimbal belt will enable you to better apply constant pressure to a powerful kingfish.

A gimbal fitting is a must as are sturdy guides. Most reputable rod manufacturers make such a rod in a variety of materials and prices range from $250 up. The extra length is invaluable in some situations and difficult in others. It is invaluable when fishing areas where you cannot get right to the water’s edge because of big swells or slippery weed-covered rocks or the ledge is high above the water. With a long rod, the bait can be easily lobbed out and the line kept clear of the rocks.

Length can be a problem when travelling and when hooked up to a big specimen for a long time when leverage can work against the angler and for the fish. In some locations, a short stand-up type rod could be used but a long rod covers the field.

For stray-lining and casting the deal is a jig rod, 7 foot medium to fast taper suitable for a 15kg line. With the explosion of jigging in the last five years, there are now hundreds of rods to choose from and many anglers will already own one.

To catch kingfish from the rocks you will need a bait rod. This is an important part of the fishing system as it is used to catch small fish on site which will become live baits, stray lines and burley.

The rod I use for this is a trout spinning rod. I like to take one more, a rod for popper and lure casting. If you do not want to carry four you could use the straylining rod for this purpose. However, I like to have separate units for this job as sometimes there is no time to untie the popper and tie on bait or vice versa and the fish is gone.

The primo rods for this work are the ones with a glass tip and a graphite butt section. These are great for casting light lures and poppers and still have plenty of go in the fish fighting department after the short tip folds away.

The name famous for this type of rod is Shakespeare’s “Ugly Stik” but now many rod makers utilise this design. Of course, to start from scratch and purchase all four rods would and do cost a lot of folding. Buy the best you can afford.

Some fishermen in the early days of L.B.G. started off using cut-down surf rods as live-baiting sticks or just a groper pole and took some big kingfish on this makeshift gear so do not let money of all things stop you from going fishing.

When fishing from a rock shelf kingfish can suddenly appear, and then just as suddenly, be gone again. It pays to have a second rod with a lure like one of these 100g jigs or a surface popper ready to cast.


For my money, free spool reels are the way to go. The basic design is a stronger more versatile set-up all around. The drag systems are more direct and therefore smoother and stronger and the spool can quickly be disengaged to allow a kingfish to run with the bait or as a fighting tactic to turn fish.

The best choice as a partner for your live bait rod is a lever drag reel. These cost a lot but the advantages are great. Controlling live baits is a breeze with an easily adjustable drag, without losing the strike setting, right there at your fingertips.

Shimano, Daiwa and Penn to name a few all make lever drags. The price starts at $350. Star drags will do and I used one for ages but if a strong wind or tide is affecting the bait it can require a lot of attention and quick fingers once a bait is taken and a stiff drag is needed to play the fish, whereas a lever drag is easily adjusted, set and left, ready to be pushed to strike.

Freespool reels are just as easy to cast as a fixed spool given a bit of practice. Many top distance casting competitors use only free spool reels. And besides distance is seldom an issue, especially with stray lines and even more especially with live baits. It is not uncommon to be eyeball to eyeball with the kingfish when he takes your bait.

There are some fixed spool reels that are in my opinion tough enough such as the Penn 85Oss, Shimano Baitrunner 6500 and TSS-4, or perhaps their more modern equivalents.

Many L.B.Gers swear by Alvey reels. I have never tried one but I imagine the 1-to-1 gearing would be murder while the fish is charging at you and great when you can only inch line on a stubborn kingfish hanging deep.

No huge line capacity is needed for kingfish, 200-350m would be plenty. If a fish takes more than 50m in a rocky area the game is normally up anyway.

I Like High-Speed 6 to 1 Freespool Reels for Boat and Landbased Kingfish

As far as reels for straylining go the choice for me is Shimano TSM 4 or Daiwa SL 30SHB both 6 to 1 retrieve. You do not need 6 to 1 from the rocks and lower gearings are fine but I like it as it doubles as a speed jigging reel when I go after kingfish from a boat. Two for the price of one. If you like fixed spools of course the Baitrunner system is the way to go. There are dozens to choose from. Daiwa SL50 SHB.

Tackle dealers love to show you the best ones at the “best” prices. Your trout rod for bait catching is naturally fitted with a trout spinning reel to match. The popper/ lure rod is something I have contemplated much when looking for a reel. I used a free spool reel for popper casting up until a year ago. It was great most of the time and the six-to-one really made it easy to get the lure up and working. But one too many times I messed up a cast and ended up with a mess up – the infamous overrun or bird’s nest. This happened when kingfish were all around crashing bait on the surface.

Although now long-in-the-tooth, this Shimano Speedmaster TSS-4 has taken many fish over the years. Its 6:1 gear ratio retrieves poppers and jigs fast enough to really excite kingfish. It features super heavy-duty gears and still performs perfectly.

For Landbased Kingfish Eggbeater Reels Mean No Bird’s Nests

My companion fished on with their spinning reels to hook and land some good fish while I desperately tried to untangle the tangle. This can be a major problem when casting into a headwind. So I made the change and brought a Penn 850ss. Never had a tangle since but man my arms are killing me and I miss that high-speed retrieve. The only spinning reel I know of with 6 to 1 is the Shimano TSS-4. Maybe I should have bought one of them? Maybe I should open a tackle store so I can test drive them all. Or am I just a wimp who needs to build up my arms?

The choice is yours but I suggest a strong drag system be a deciding factor when making your choice. It is clearly false economy to tie on a $25 popper when the reel will not cut the mustard. You lose the lure and leave the kingfish with a potentially fatal piece of jewellery attached.


For the beginner, 15kg is a minimum with 24kg being a good idea. But be careful fishing 24kg. I have been pulled off my feet several times and was lucky to escape injury. If you have not used the gear it is a good idea to get the feel of it at home on a nice safe lawn. Of course, you could get your drag lower but this really defeats the purpose. I always use I.G.F.A. class line but if you are not interested in claiming for line class records then any line will do. Nowadays, of course, braid is the go.

When choosing a line go for one with good abrasion resistance to survive being near rocks all the time. This is important and checking for nicks or abrasions on your line while out fishing will become part of your fishing ritual if you are to be successful. Do not end up like I have, saying “oh no! There must have been a nick in the line and it broke.”

Knots and Rigs

There are a lot of very fancy ways to rig your gear. My philosophy is to keep things as simple as possible. If you have been busted off or snagged and your burley trail is full of hungry kingfish the last thing you want to do is tie difficult knots. I do not use a double as you do not need them and the more knots you have between you and the fish the weaker the connection. The three knots that have survived the “lock-up and hold them” test are the uni knot, improved clinch and no-name. These cover the field. The first two are stock standard to most fishing. The no-name may have other names. This knot is used for tying your mainline directly to a leader of a much larger diameter. A good connection can be made between line and leaders up to four times the breaking strain of the mainline.

Knots for landbased kingfish.

Step one: Make a double overhand knot loosely in the leader but do not pull tight.

Step two: Double the mainline back on itself for about 50cm, starting at the tag end of the leader pass the doubled mainline through the overhand knot following the lay of the line.

Step three: Pull enough of the doubled line through to make a clinch knot.

Step four: Tie a clinch knot around the leader with the doubled mainline.

Step five: Pull tight. This is the tricky bit. Wet the line and tighten the double overhand first by pulling on the tag end of the leader and doubled mainline in one hand and only leader in the other.

Tighten only firmly at first. Holding only leader on one side and doubled mainline on the other, slide clinch knot up close to double overhand. Now grab all ends and pull up tight. Make sure the clinch knot does not become involved with double overhand but butts up against it. Some final tweaking may be needed to tidy the clinch. It sounds really hard to tie but is easy and quick and very strong once you crack it.

This Penn Power Stick 850SS rod measuring 2.15m (7 feet) and Shimano Triton Speedmaster TSS-4 graphite reel were all the rage for casting to kingfish from the rocks back in the day.

For Landbased Kingfish Strong Tackle is Essential

I use the no-name whenever I want to connect a leader to my line. The live bait balloon rig has a swivel as a fixing point for line and leader. These should be ball-bearing only; they cost a few dollars each but are well worth it. Live baits will often swim around in circles under the balloon trying to create a tangled mess.

Ordinary swivels cannot cope at times and no kingfish is going to bother with a bait that is tangled in a ball of nylon and if one does the line will knot and break. Chemically sharpened hooks are the way to go and these have taken over the market of late. It is all I use except for the occasional mustard offset game hook in the larger sizes for really big kahawai baits.

Obviously, one hook will not suit all baits. Piper for example are small delicate fish and need hooks as small as 4/0; while you could put a 10/0 in a piper it would die very quickly.

Gamakatsu are on to it and their range of live bait hooks feature short shanks to reduce weight on the bait and visibility even the small sizes are of heavy gauge wire so if you hook that 80kg monster on a 4/0 it will hold on. I like plenty of barb showing in a stray line and the size to go for is 10/0.

Landbased kingfish Rigs.

The Balloon Rig is the Go-To Rig for Landbased Kingfish

This is the most common and simplest way to fish live bait. The important points are to keep a “lively” bait under your balloon; the more they struggle the better and to use sufficient cotton/gauge of the rubber band to hold the balloon on but not so much as it will not break off on the strike. If it will not break off, a shy kingfish might drop it.

Another cause of missed hookups is the hook going into the bait and not the kingfish when you strike. Kingfish always swallow the bait head first. Make sure the barb of the hook points up when the shank is laid back towards the tail of the bait. Some live bait hooks are not offset and when fishing these place them so the hook point is forward slightly from the shank.

There are several places you can put the hook depending on what you want the bait to do. Placing the hook just forward of the dorsal fin on top of the bait’s back just where the skull ends and flesh starts will make the bait swim down against the balloon. This is the most common method.

Alternative places are under the fish just in front of the tail – the bait will swim close to or on the surface. Or a good way if no balloon is used and a free-swimming bait is cast and retrieved you can hook it through the top or bottom lip.

For stray lines, I use the same method for all baits. Put the point of the hook in the mouth of the bait and push it up through the top of the skull. You should use a leader that is as long as you can handle when fishing for landbased kingfish. The no-name knot described can be wound onto some rods and reels and not others. If you can wind a heavy leader onto your stray-line reel go for it, if not you, like me, will have to put up with one or two metres until we discover a new knot or buy a different rod and reel.

LandbasedKingfish Downunder in NZ Part I

This post was last modified on 14/03/2024 2:10 pm

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