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It’s all in the presentation

Learn how to present the bait to the shy winter kingfish and get the reward!

I always curse winter when it throughs itself upon us, but I also know that it’s the time when the big resident kingfish in the Coromandel move into the shallows to feed on the massive amounts of bait fish that also make it their home. It’s one of the most amazing fisheries in the world. It’s a place where the heavy weight kingfish surface feed on mullet and kahawai schools that cruise the weedlines and mangrove fringes in less than a couple of meters of water.

During the mornings, the surface of the harbours are just a reflective sheet and the kingfish use these still mornings to slowly cruise the shallow weedlines watching for the silhouette of passing baitfish. Suddenly they drive forward with all their might to catch their prey off guard. The mullets propel themselves clear of the water with a raging kingfish in hot pursuit turning the once flat surface into walls of white water. Flashes of yellow tails appear through the white as the kingfish make their way with the mullet only centimetres away. 10 seconds later it’s all over, and the water slowly makes its way back to the glassy sheet it once was.

Prepping up for a trophy fish

There are a lot of things that make for a successful day on the water when chasing kingfish in the shallows. Checking the weather and tides, as you want to fish the still mornings. Looking at spots that hold bait. Preparing your gear so you know it can take the pressure when required. Making sure that when the kingfish do turn up, your baits are presented in the best way possible with fluorocarbon traces and big baits. There are no small fish, only trophies and they are big and hungry!

In the shallow winter waters, the kingfish takes amazing surface strikes, huge powerful runs and fight very hard. You will need to put the time in to work out their movements but when you do, it will be the most rewarding fishing you will do in a long time.
Make sure you run fluorocarbon trace in the shallow water, as this will make all the difference. When a fish strikes, get the release-clip off, free spool the fish as fast as possible because any resistance will make them drop the bait.
If your using spin reels, Topcatch has a wicked release clip that clamps onto the blank and holds the line until a strike, its fantastic for live baiting and works extremely well.


When fishing the shallows, any livebait can be a good one. The big kingfish need to feed, so even a spotty or parore can save their day. This means that if you can’t catch the livebait you hoped for, use whatever you have.
I prefer to use the biggest baits I can find, rigged up with J-hooks through the back or bridle rigged. Nathan prefers smaller baits with circle hooks. Really it’s a matter of rigging whichever way works for you and the available bait. Different spots may require different livebaits, so try not to get too fixated on one style of baitfish. I’ve seen myself get stuck in a habit a few times, forgetting to test a variety of baits to get back on track.

If you’re running balloons, I have found that hooking the livebaits in the back works the best. Make sure to hook your livebait, so the hook goes in on a 45degree angle pointing forward. If you put it though at 90 degrees to the fish, when you strike, you will pull the hook back into the livebait and not the kingfish.
When free-swimming your livebait without balloons, bridle rigging your bait seems to make them last a lot longer and gives great presentation when retrieving the bait back to the boat.

Milan Radonich

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