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Crabby’s Corner: Fast Action Rods to Catch Smoker Kings

crabbys corner

Jay RiordanSpring is at our doorstep and with it will come a barrage of baitfish and the pelagic species that are looking to destroy them. Kingfish is one of our more available and sought after species that will show up just shortly after the baitfish. The truly big “smoker” kings will arrive first and their main source of food is their oily cousin,the Spanish mackerel. Wherever you find an abundance of mackerel you can be sure that a large King is in the area. Catching these lightning fast beasts with saw like teeth will take some modified tackle. Reels with a lot of line capacity (400+ yards) of 20 to 30lb test and a fast retrieve (minimum of 6 to 1) is a must. Your rod should be 7 to 7 ½ ft. in length and have a fast action.

Fast action means a rather light tip that quickly gains more strength around the first one to two feet (4th or 5th guide) from the tip. Ugly Stick makes a beautiful and inexpensive rod (USCC 2270 M) that’s sells for $64.99 at Madeira Beach Marina, and has a lifetime warranty. Your next piece of tackle is your wire stinger rig. They are for sale pre-made but they are not built bait specific. The trailing treble hook should come back at least ¾ of the baits total length. With larger baits like mackerel, a second stinger (treble hook) should be added to complete the rig. Your hooks must be 4X strong (X refers to the strength of the hook), the front hook (J hook) should be sized to the bait, 1/0 for smaller baits on up to a 4/0 for larger mackerel and ladyfish. Setting your drag is of utmost importance. Too little drag and the hooks may not set, too much drag and you will pull hooks or break the line.

Here are 4 key tips to setting the proper amount of drag:

  • Make sure line pulls off the reel smoothly. A jerky drag is no good and only causes frustrations.
  • Back drags off when storing your reel. This prevents jerky drag symptoms.
  • The friction created by the guides on the rod will create additional drag. Always set the drag off the tip of the rod not off the reel.
  • 2-3lbs of drag is plenty for Kingfish. Remember the more line a fish takes out, the drag pressure will increase. One reason is the weight and restriction of the line going through the water will create more resistance. The other reason, as line goes out and the spool gets smaller leverage is lost and it becomes harder to pull line off the spool.

Hopefully these tips will help you land a true “Smoker”. Large kingfish (over 30lbs) are tough, gamey and generally poor table fair. Take a picture and release them, Spanish mackerel are far better eating anyway. Have fun and watch out for all those hooks and teeth.

Thank you, Crabby

5 Responses to Crabby’s Corner: Fast Action Rods to Catch Smoker Kings

  1. Thanks. That is very clear, straight to the point and just what I needed. I appreciate the help.

    This will be my first full King Season in South Florida and I will be enjoying a lot of grilling thanks to your advice.

  2. when is stated – where is not – are you talking Atlantic or Gulf and whatever that is another where in areas and water temp can be helpful

    • Hi Dan,

      On the “where” question – we fish Gulf waters primarily, Boca Grande to Cedar Key, so that’s where our experience stems from. That said, there is no reason to believe the advice is not sound in Atlantic waters as well. The last part of your comment/question “whatever that is another where in areas and water temp can be helpful” is unclear. Please elaborate.

  3. Two follow up questions to the great insite.

    1. How do I know that I have set the drag off the tip correctly? Is there a visual I should see to tell me it is set correctly?

    2. How do I know how many pounds of drag I have set on a reel? Or how to I set for 2-3 pounds of drag?


  4. Troy,
    Use an accurate hand scale to set your drag. Tie a loop in your line, loop it on the hook to the scale and have someone hold it. Now all u do is pull like you’re fighting a fish a note when the drag starts to release. Hope this helps.

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