How to Catch Kingfish With Capt. Colton Hester

King Mackerel (also known as Kingfish) is a prized gem in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. They are highly sought after by avid deep sea anglers and commercial fishing companies. If you want to know how to hook one, then you’ve come to the right place. Salt Life’s very own Captain Colton Hester has graciously shared his deep knowledge of how and where to catch Kingfish with us and the information was too good to keep to ourselves. 


This article will detail everything you need to know to hook a Kingfish. Colton digs into the right equipment and bait to use, where to look for them, and even pro strategy to make sure the Kingfish you hook lands in your boat.


Let’s go fishing!

The Right Equipment

Before you can get out there and catch a trophy Kingfish, you have to make sure your rig and tackle are set up to land these massive fish which can weigh more than 40 lbs. Here are the rods, reels, bait, and tackle that Captain Hester recommends to catch Kingfish. He uses these setups himself so you can be confident that they will work for you.


The rods that Captain Hester uses are a Crowder 7-foot 12-25 lb and a Crowder 7-foot 20-40 lb. When fishing in an area that does not have a problem with the overpopulation of sharks such as Fort Pierce, Florida or Sebastian, Florida, Captain Hester recommends using a lighter rod. This allows you to take your time with the fish so you don’t rip out your hook during the fight. When you are fishing somewhere where sharks are much more prevalent, like Jupiter, Florida, Captain Hester recommends using a stronger 20-40 lb rod so you can land the fish quickly and keep your catch from getting eaten by the sharks.


There are three reels that Captain Hester recommends when Kingfishing. The most reasonable reels are a Shimano TLD 20 2-speed or a Shimano Speedmaster II size 16. The higher end option that Captain Hester uses for tournament fishing is a Shimano Talica size 16. All of these reels are excellent options for targeting big Kingfish as their drags are accurate and smooth, which is a must as these fish run and pull hard. When fishing with smaller rods, Captain Hester recommends a 3-4 lb drag. When fishing with larger rods, he recommends a 3-4 lb drag at strike, and then 6-7 lb of drag once you hook the Kingfish.

Bait and Tackle

For 12-25 lb rods Captain Hester suggests using 20 lb. Momoi Monofilament. For 20-40 lb rods, he suggests 30 lb. Momoi monofilament with a 50 lb. Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader. Make your leader about 15 feet long. This allows you to put more pressure on the fish when sharks are nearby and also keeps the Kingfish’s tail, or a Shark, from breaking the line. 


When it comes to setting up your rig, Captain Hester is partial to a #6 size straight wire with a very small SPRO #8 size swivel. Tie this setup with a haywire twist to a 24-inch piece of wire. This is the leader of the rig. 


From there, Captain Hester rigs up a 2/0 or a 3/0 Mustad O'Shaughnessy Bait Hook that is also connected by a haywire twist. He then takes a 12-inch piece of #6 wire and attaches it to the lead 2/0 or 3/0 hook with a haywire twist. 


For smaller bait such as sardines, cigar minnows, threadfins, and pilchards, Captain Hester recommends tying a #4 treble hook at the back of the rig. For the larger baits, he uses the combination of the 3/0 lead hook and a #2 treble hook. This works well for the larger baits such as goggle eyes and blue runners. For very large blue runners, he will add another 8-inch piece of wire and another #2 treble hook so that the Kingfish will not miss the hooks.

Where to Find Kingfish

Large Kingfish tend to stay near structures like wrecks, reefs, or even an artificial reef (a man-made ocean structure built and placed to benefit marine life). So if you want to hook a monster Kingfish you need to look around for these structures, usually in 40-120 feet of water where blue runners or threadfins are swimming. You want to slow troll in a circle around these areas at just 1-2 MPH. 


Captain Hester recommends using a Cannon downrigger to get your bait down to these deeper water columns.

Getting Them in the Boat

Big Kingfish will come to the surface but will stay out away from the boat. In order to keep from losing your catch, you need to be sure to have a long enough gaff to reach those monster Kingfish and get them out of the water and into your boat. You need to have at least an 8-foot gaff on board. A 10-foot gaff is more preferable.

Ready to Go Kingfishing?

Now that you know what to use, where to look, and how to fight Kingfish, all that’s left is for you to get out on the water and put these pro tips to the test. But to get there, you will need the expert guidance of a professional Charter Captain. Luckily, Salt Life’s Charter Captains Directory makes it easy for you to find the perfect guide for your next Kingfishing adventure. Tight lines!


1 (844) 609-6592 ©2019 SALT LIFE. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by EYStudios.