Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rigging for King Mackerels : Part One

If you ever spend much time on an Outer Banks fishing pier ,  you're likely to see a bunch of questionable looking guys standing at the very end of the pier. This group of misfits will be surrounded by extra large fishing poles , coolers , carts and buckets. They are likely to be drinking beer , talking loudly and getting sunburned. They almost look like they're just pretending to fish.

Then it happens. One of the big reels starts screaming as a large fish takes the bait and heads out to sea. The fishermen spring into action , pulling up rods and rigs. Somebody gets out a rope gaff. The lucky angler concentrates on reeling in his catch and is rewarded with a 40 pound class King Mackerel. It happens more often than you might think and I swear we're not riff-raff.

In the summer months it's possible to catch Kings and Cobia from the piers on the OBX . Most people think of kings as an inshore species , and indeed there are a lot more caught from boats than from the piers , but with the right gear it is possible to catch them from the end of a pier. All of the Outer Banks piers reserve the very end for just this purpose in the summer.

It takes a lot of gear to fish from a pier for kings. I mean a lot. For starters , you're going to need two rods for the king rig itself and a third to catch bait with. The two for the rig need to be big surf rods , capable of holding 300+ yards of line. You can just use a bass rod to catch bait. We'll get into specifics about bait buckets , carts and gaffs over the next few weeks. For today , let's focus on the basics of the two-rod rig.

At the heart of the " Pin Rig " for kings is the anchor rod. The anchor rod is just what it sounds like - it's a rod with an anchor on it. You use a nail or grapnel sinker tied to a shock leader and tie it on your farthest casting rod.

The purpose of this sinker is to hold your anchor line in place. Once it's holding well and as far away from the pier as you can get it , you attach a release to the anchor line that will hold the swivel at the top of your king rig.

The releases shown are made from spring wire. These are made by bending a piece of spring wire in half , putting a snap swivel in the bend and adding beads and weight. Once this is done you bend the wire at right angles to the sinker to make a release. There are several variations available that have lighter wire and heavier sinkers , and those are normally a personal preference.

The king rigs are actually pretty simple. They are basically a 2-4 ft. piece of bronzed wire leader with a combination of hooks on it. Some people like 2 single hooks , some like a single and a treble and some like a single , a treble and a treble " stinger ". This big mess of hooks is for hooking large baitfish , one hook behind the head and one in the tail. This is usually attached to a couple of feet of 80 lb. mono , and then to a swivel which attaches to the leader on your main line.

The swivel goes onto the release , a piece of bait is hooked up and the rig is sent to the top of the water. Different people like to fish at different depths , but 4-5 feet is a good depth to start at. Once a king has taken the bait , the rig pops off of the release and the fight is on!

I'll get into more specifics next time. Have a great weekend and Happy New Year!


  1. JM, not sure I totally understand the rig, but it sounds similar to how guys target sharks and rays here on So Cal piers (and like over there, they own the end of the pier). Would be great to see some video of how you go about doing it. I've caught a couple rays doing this style of fishing.

  2. This rig will catch sharks , but I've yet to catch a ray on it. Most of my rays come from bottom rigs or drum rigs. In the next article I'm going to try to get some pictures of how this rig is used. In principle it is very similar to the way boaters use outriggers and downriggers.


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