From offshore to inshore, kite fishing techniques can put bait away from the boat and closer to skittish prey.
Both casual anglers and toughened tournament types know that flying a kite can be an effective way to draw a strike. Kite fishing allows the bait to be further behind or out to the side of the boat, which cranks up the stealth factor in your bait presentation and can give anglers a real edge in catching wary fish. Sails, tuna and even redfish have long been taking baits under kites for those anglers who have these tricks in their tackle box.
Kite fishing is generally used for live baits, so the bait must be kept on the water’s surface or near the top of the water column. If it is out of the water too much, then, obviously, the live bait will die. The technique is similar to a trolley rig used when targeting kingfish from a pier. The rig positions the bait high, keeping it under the watchful eye of the angler. If a shark approaches, it’s easy to snatch the bait out of the water for a moment.
Of course, while trolling for sails or tuna, one might not be able to view their bait, but kite fishermen have that all figured out. They attach a weighted float to their fishing line above the water, using the same variety that is popular for inshore trout fishing. This is known as the float set, and offshore anglers will watch for its tell tale signs. If the float begins circling or bobbing up and down in the air, then it’s very likely that something is after the bait.
Bait rigging is important, too. A blue runner or goggle eye needs to be swimming true in order to draw a strike, so consider using a bridle rig on kite baits. This allows the fishing line to attach to the top of the bait, rather than in the mouth area.
Typically, attached to a 7-0’ circle hook is a leader of 60-lb. test that is 15 to 20 feet in length. That leader attaches to a swivel that connects to your fishing line. Above that swivel comes the kite rigging, which includes an egg sinker, the inverted float set and a ceramic ring. The kite fishing reel is generally spooled with 20-lb. mono line, which offers less wind resistance than thicker lines. A pro tip would be to run a double-line where the egg sinker slides. Braided line is stronger, but if it comes into contact with any mono lines that are being fished, there’s a danger that the braid will cut the mono.
One kite reel can fish up to three kites by rigging three different sized barrel swivels onto your spool about 50 yards apart. Rig three kite clips onto your fishing line and the magic happens when the smaller barrel swivels slide though the corresponding holes on the kite clips. Running your lines through these clips keeps your lines spaced apart evenly. To steer each airborne kite, simply attach weight to the side of the kite in the direction that you want it to fly.
A standard kite for the average angler is designed to fly in light winds from 5 to 15 mph. Think it can get too windy to kite fish? Nonsense. Specialty kites exist for gustier days, and they are designed to have lower line tensions and maintain position with few adjustments. These specialty kites have holes in them that let the wind pass through, and the number and size of the holes correspond with the heavy wind conditions.
What if there is no wind? Kite fishermen have devised a plan for flat, calm conditions, too, by employing a helium balloon to get their baits in position. In all kite fishing, the speed of the boat plays a role, and in many cases, the use of a sea anchor keeps the ultra slow pace that goes well with kite fishing. When using a chum slick and a sea anchor, a kite fishing rig allows one to position baits closer to the end of your scent trail where newly arriving fish are coming in hot and hungry for action.
Kite fishing for sailfish in Florida is very popular and occurs all year long. In the Carolinas, anglers treasure the kite for its ability to fish a bait way back so that wary tuna will be in their mixed bag. Some die-hard kite anglers have even figured out that a kite is the best way to reach redfish in winter that are otherwise holding tight in skinny and clear waters in order to warm up. Dangling bait from a kite can be both accurate and sneaky at the same time, which is the kind of tactic that helps smart anglers stay successful.
By Jeff Dennis