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The Southern Kingfish Association Presents






by Terry Lacoss




Author | Terry Lacoss Copy Editors | Loreen Berlin, Christine Rodenbaugh Art Director | Christine Rodenbaugh Illustrations | Alan Woolford, Christine Rodenbaugh Photography | Terry Lacoss, Jack Holmes, Christine Rodenbaugh, Daniel R. Finley, and Southern Kingfish Association Staff Cover | Alan Woolford - Kingfish Art Terry Lacoss - Photography

Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

First Printing Copyright Š2009 by Holmes Communications All Rights Reserved ISBN: 978-0-615-29669-2 2


COLOPHON: Printed at Raintree Graphics, Jacksonville, Florida Cover: #130 Silk cover, printed 4-color process on a Komori 28P plus off-line UV gloss coating Interior: #80 silk text, printed 4/4 process on a Komori 28P Prepress: Nexus RIP, Esko-Artwork Systems | 200 line Paragon screening Titles: Trajan Pro Body copy: Adobe Caslon Pro Captions and callouts: Myriad Pro and Handwriting - Dakota Layout and design: Apple Mac Pro, Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor, 4 GB RAM using Adobe Creative Suite 3.

The Southern Kingfish Association Presents











Table of Contents CHAPTER 1

The Ultimate Saltwater Game Fish . . 9 CHAPTER 2

Where King Fishing Became Popular . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 CHAPTER 3

Kingfish Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 CHAPTER 4

Kingfish Tackle & Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 CHAPTER 5

Keep Live Baits Alive and Supercharged. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 CHAPTER 6

Kingfish Boat Evolution . . . . . . . . . . 57 CHAPTER 7

Electronics, T-tops, Leaning Posts, Downriggers, Outriggers & Anchors . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 CHAPTER 8

Kingfish Structures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 CHAPTER 9

Water Temperature & Clarity, Moon Phases, Tides, Charts & Satellites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 CHAPTER 10

Trolling Techniques for Kingfish . . 93




Kingfish Baits, Cast Netting & Jigging Baits . . . .



Kingfish Leaders & Knots . . . . . . .



Kingfish Lures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Chumming for King Mackerel . .



Angling & Gaffing Techniques . .



Favorite Kingfish Destinations . .



Favorite Recipes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Sponsorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Tournament Etiquette . . . . . . . . .



Conservation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Competitive King Fishing! The History of the SKA . . . . . . . . .



Glossary of Terms, Image Credits & Index . . . . . . . . . .


Please note: Most terms in italics are in the glossary on page 203. 1 | THE ULTIMATE SALT WATER GAME FISH


About the Author


first encounter with king mackerel came while targeting summer tarpon at Northeast Florida’s, St. Mary’s shipping channel. I had spotted a smoker king feeding under a school of threadfin shad, just off the transom of my charter boat, the Amelia Angler. At that same moment, a charter client landed a four-pound bluefish, which I hurriedly barbed and free-spooled smack into the school of terrorized baitfish.

Seconds later a 50-pound plus king mackerel chased the live bluefish five to six feet into the air, catching its early morning meal in mid flight. The king chopped the large blue into bloody chunks and, finally, the sharp treble hook found its grip. The bullet-like run of the wide shouldered kingfish that followed quickly emptied the Penn International 4/0 fishing reel and, at the same moment, the hook lost its grip. Till this day, I have never lost the memory of my first experience with a saltwater game fish called the King. Since that memorable day, I often relive this story with fishing friends. Which just goes to show, big fish that are lost often make the best catches!

©2009 Alan Woolford



It was the summer of 1978. During the following fishing seasons I began guiding exclusively for kingfish from our Amelia Angler gift store and charter office located at Amelia Island Plantation. Sometime during the early 1980s, Jack Holmes called and asked me to write for the Southern Star boating and fishing magazine. Later, my kingfish articles have appeared in the SKA Angler magazine, Amelia Now, Florida Sportsman and the News Leader. In July of 1982, Billy Burbank and I competed in our first kingfish tournament, the 3rd Annual Golden Isles Kingfish Tournament, and won the event. We weighed nine kingfish ranging from 30 to 40 pounds and not only won 1st place honors, but captured nine of the top ten places. In those early days of king mackerel tournaments, only a handful of fishermen

knew how to chum and fish with live baits for kingfish. It was too easy to run offshore and troll spoons and ballyhoo! Since those early tournaments, kingfish techniques, tackle, boats and motors have become very high-tech. In fact the entire saltwater fishing industry has been strongly driven by the growing interests in king mackerel fishing. A strong motivation for today’s popularity for king fishing comes from Jack Holmes and members of the Southern Kingfish Association. In the upcoming chapters of the Mastering King Mackerel, you will read how king fishing became so popular, proven techniques, essential equipment, the lure of kingfish tournaments and how key king mackerel fishermen have contributed so much to saltwater’s most popular fishery, king fishing. —Terry Lacoss Author






The Ultimate Saltwater Game Fish


ing mackerel have many similarities to a prizefighter. Prizefighters begin their career at the very bottom of the ranks, then work their way to the top. Prior to the 1980s, king mackerel also started at the very bottom of the game fish chain, then rapidly worked their way up the ladder, much like a prizefighter. Today, king mackerel are not only a crowned champion, but are finally regarded as the most popular saltwater game fish by recreational fishermen in both Atlantic and Gulf coast states. It’s hard to believe that saltwater fishermen took so long to discover how great a fighter the king mackerel really is. When targeted with light- to medium-weight fishing tackle, the mighty king mackerel

offers a knockout fight that often produces endless fishing stories back on land. King mackerel fishing gained rapidly in popularity beginning in the early 1980s, at the same time when competitive king mackerel fishing also became popular. Skilled saltwater fishermen soon learned that to catch tournament-winning king mackerel, they would need to back off their fishing reel drag settings, while downsizing their fishing tackle. Fishing with lighter drag settings, paired with lighter terminal saltwater fishing tackle, allowed kingfish to make multiple runs, often originating with a skyrocketing leap. “The strike of a kingfish is a major reason why king fishing is so popular today,”



Joe McDonald comes to the scale at John’s Pass during a 1991 SKA tournament.



t Southport t Myrtle Beach







t Galveston

t Savannah t St. Simons


Island t Jacksonville

t Pensacola




popular in the fertile fishing waters surrounding St. Petersburg, John’s Pass and Clearwater, Florida. Here these major fishing ports attract king mackerel fishermen year round, with some of the best kingfish coming during the spring and fall fishing seasons. Teamed with what many avid saltwater fishermen believe holds some of the best king mackerel fishing waters in the southeast, it was only fitting that the sport of king mackerel angling originated in the baitfish rich waters of Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay. King mackerel fishing legend, Gene Turner, sparked the popularity of king mackerel fishing, which soon became widespread throughout the southeast for both recreational and competitive saltwater fishermen. Today there is a multitude of popular kingfish destinations where king mackerel fishing has become the number one targeted saltwater game fish. Arguably, Jacksonville, Florida today ranks right at the top as one of the South22

t Charleston




t Mo

Clearwater t

t Canaveral

east’s t Ft. Pierce more Sarasota t popular t N. Palm Beach kingfish ports. Ft. Myers t Naples t t Miami The Greater Jacksonville KingKey West t fish Tournament & Festival annually runs the largest king mackerel fishing tournament in the world. And on several occasions, has filled its maximum field of 1,000 boats! The Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament first began in 1980 where literally hundreds of kingfish boats would check out from the St. John’s inlet where tournament king mackerel could be found holding just off from the jetty rocks and along the beaches of the First Coast. Probably the key to its success, includes that small boats can enter the event where trophy king fishing is available so close to the checkout. Other popular Florida kingfish ports include Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, Fort Pierce, Miami, Key West, Marco Island,


King Mackerel Range in the Americas



our live baits stayed alive all day. Our supercharged baits attracted a wide variety of strikes from deep water game fish, without the worry of our live baits dying!” I first became aware of adding chemicals to keep both baitfish and game fish alive in live wells and bait wells a few fishing seasons ago when fishing a redfish tournament out of Venice, Louisiana. Both my son Terry David and I were waiting in a long line of backwater boats to weigh in our fish when I noticed the boat in front of ours was not rigged with a live well. Instead, the two fishermen had rigged a 110-quart insulated cooler with an oxygen pump. A similar baitfish chemical called Rejuvenate, had also been added to the saltwater in the cooler. When it was their turn to weigh in their two redfish, they actually had a hard time catching the frisky reds from the small cooler. Eventually they dumped all of the water from the cooler along with the two super charged redfish onto the floor of their bay boat in order to weigh the frisky redfish! Obviously there are numerous saltwater fishing boats that are equipped with small live bait wells giving fishermen a difficult time keeping their live baits alive for a full day of offshore fishing. Adding chemicals to rejuvenate baitfish and to keep them shiny and frisky for a full day of fishing is definitely a huge factor. 54

More importantly, with either an oxygen or re-circulator pump rigged to a live well, fishermen won’t have to worry about their high speed pick up becoming clogged or, worse yet, developing an air lock. However, there is one factor that often doesn’t come to mind for many saltwater fishermen. Baitfish often school on the surface during the early morning hours and then migrate deeper where the water temperature may be a degree or two cooler. By pumping warm surface water into your livewell all day, you are actually slowly killing your baitfish! It is important to make sure that your live bait well is insulated and, if it isn’t, add aftermarket insulation wherever possible. The next step is to fill your bait well early


If you choose to target kings with live baits, learn how to maximize the vitality of those baits to attract a toothy smoker like this one.

in the morning with clean saltwater just before you are going to catch your baitfish. Once the baitfish has been placed into the live bait well, turn on the oxygen or recirculator pump. You must note that some live bait fishermen use both an oxygen pump and a re-circulator pump at the same time. There are re-circulator pumps on the market today that not only re-circulate the water in the live bait well, but they also pump in oxygen as well. After the baitfish have been in the bait well for 15 minutes, pump out the old water and then pump in fresh salt-

water. Baitfish will often regurgitate when placed in confined quarters and also take a rest stop, which completely pollutes the water where nothing could live! Once the bait well is filled with clean water, place the recommended amount of chemicals in the water and add a pound or two of ice. Turn on both the oxygen system and recirculating pump and you can spend the day fishing instead of worrying about your live baits dying. Captain Joe Bruce employs yet another successful technique when keeping kingfish baits in a small livewell. “Once the raw water saltwater pump has been turned on, I will set the timer to cut on and off every 15 minutes,” Joe Bruce said. “Next, I will turn on the oxygen system. By using a timer on my raw water saltwater pump, the saltwater in the livewell is changed every 15 minutes, while my oxygen system ensures that my livewell water has a fresh supply of oxygen.” Finally, some livewell pumps have cartridges that can be replaced quickly on the water when a livewell pump fails. However, I would also recommend when you purchase a new or even used kingfish boat, to have two high speed pickups installed in the bottom of your kingfish boat. Each livewell pump is plumbed separately to your livewell and fitted with separate switches. This is an excellent insurance policy when one livewell pump stops working. While the better you and your kingfish team becomes aware of how a successful livewell system works, the better your odds of catching the southeast’s favorite game fish, the speedy king mackerel!



money. Once a big king has found a big ledge, or particular hard bottom, the deep bottom structure soon becomes its permanent home.” Marcus Kennedy and his Kwazar fishing team are recognized as one of the top kingfish teams in the country with over 50 kingfish tournament wins. Kennedy captains his tournament kingfish boat, Kwazar, a 36-foot Yellowfin center console fishing boat powered by triple Yamaha four stroke 250 hp outboards. His fishing team also includes his wife Rene and son Tyler, who is an SKA four-time Junior Angler champion. “During the last SKA kingfish tournament, we ran some 180 miles Mobile, to reach a red snapper ledge,” Alabama’s Kennedy said. “Our Yamaha Marcus Kennedy has a wealth of knowledge when powered Yellowfin is very fast it comes time for using his and also extremely dependable boat’s electronics to catch runo color machine becomes as well, this is crucial when big king mackerel like my eyes under the water. I making these long, offshore this one. first realized the benefits of a runs.” good color machine while targeting “Although some king Elecbottom species including grouper and red mackerel fishermen use the tronic equipment is a must snapper.” to find good “Today, I give a lot of my king mackerel fish! fishing success to the many fishing seasons that I have fished for red snapper. While many of the king mackerel fishermen are targeting the obvious structures, such as oil rigs, I have used my knowledge of red snapper fishing to catch tournament winning king mackerel. Red snapper typically are found on hard bottoms and holding close to and right on rock ledges. I have learned that big tournament size kings will also hold on these rock ledges and hard bottoms as well. These bottom structures are actually more dependable king mackerel structures than oil rigs when it comes to king mackerel that will put you in the 70


Menhaden are a prime kingfish bait throughout the king mackerel’s range. 106




HAYWIRE TWIST Illustration 3 The final step in the haywire includes breaking off the tag end of the wire as close to the haywire as possible. Continue to hold the hook with your thumb and first finger of your left hand. Take the tag end of the wire between your thumb and first finger of your left hand and bend the wire into a 90-degree angle. Make sure that the 90-degree angle is at least an inch from the leader wire.



Illustration 4 Finally, by holding the tag end of the wire with your thumb and first finger of your right hand, push down on the wire towards the leader wire and bend first one way, then the next until the tag end wire breaks off close to the leader wire. You have just made a successful haywire connection.

5 Illustration 5 Finished haywire connection. The DUBRO E/Z Twist Pro, below, allows anyone to create custom wire leaders like a pro. Make multiple haywire twist or barrel wrap leaders in a short amount of time. More info:



As co-founder and Managing Partner of the Southern Kingfish Association for the past 19 years, I have seen the King Mackerel become the bass of the ocean. Terry Lacoss covers this great sport fish for both novice and advanced anglers with fun to read text and easy to understand diagrams. If you love saltwater fishing, this is a must-have reference book! —Jack Holmes

ANOTHER GREAT BOOK FROM THE MASTER OF SALTWATER FISHING... TERRY LACOSS! “I have known Terry Lacoss for 30-years and I have come to the conclusion that he can catch anything that swims. Great person and a true ambassador to the sport of kingfishing.” —Dave Workman, Jr. Three-time SKA Angler of the Year

“When I made the transition from freshwater to saltwater fishing, Terry Lacoss was a big help in getting me started. Terry is one of the few fishermen who has mastered a wide variety of both salt and freshwater fishing game fish species. Terry is also very helpful in giving you the right fishing information.” —Roland Martin Fishing with Roland Martin TV Show, Nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year

“Terry Lacoss has been our Director of Fishing at Amelia Island Plantation since 1978. Terry’s fishing articles and knowledge on just about every type of fishing has been a huge asset in attracting both social and group business to our resort.” —Jack Healan President Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, Florida Past Chairman: Florida Hotel & Motel Association

“I have fished with a lot of guides on four continents, but you won’t find a nicer person, better fishing guide, or writer than Terry Lacoss.” —Harold Ensley Host Sportsman’s Friend TV Show, Member: National Fishing Hall of Fame

Mastering King Mackerel