Fishing Tips


Posted 3/28/2013

Tackle Toothy Critters with These Top Kingfish Rigs

In the first segment of this two-part series on live bait rigs, Captain George Mitchell of Jupiter, Fla. covered three single-circle hook rigs for fishing small-to-medium live baitfish for sailfish, tuna and other non-toothy gamefish. This issue will address how to work with wire for kingfish. 

Captain Mitchell is a top competitor on the kingfish circuit, along with his son Eddy. Together they anchor Team Snake Dancer, which has an enviable record of first place and top-ten finishes. In 2009, an 11-year-old Eddy was inducted into the prestigious SKA® Sixty Pound Club after catching a 62.82-pound smoker during the West Palm Beach 440 Kingfish Tournament. 

The following rigs are made with AFW Tooth Proof wire, so the knots are all Haywire Twists. Mitchell varies the strength of the wire depending on where he is fishing, using lighter #5 or #6 for the Atlantic side of Fla. and north, and #7 or #8 in the Gulf of Mexico.

Y Rig for Kites

Mitchell is a big proponent of using kites for kings, even in competition. This double-hook rig is his favorite because it keeps the baitfish dancing across the surface, and the double hook configuration provides a good hookup ratio. 

Using #7 wire, start with 24-inch length and attach a mini-barrel swivel to each end using a haywire twist. Then cut the two legs for the hooks. Mitchell recommends 6 inch for goggle eyes, 8 inch for blue runners and 10 inch for bluefish. Twist a #2 treble hook to each leg then attach the opposite ends to the barrel swivel as shown below. 

Insert the front treble hook lightly through the baitfish’s back just behind the head, and the rear hook about half way between the dorsal and tail fins. When you hold the main leader, the fish should balance in a horizontal position so that it swims naturally when suspended from the kite line. This also keeps the wire leader completely out of the water. 

Double Hook Rig

This is the workhorse of kingfish rigs. Use it for slow trolling on flat lines and with downriggers. The position of the front hook allows the baitfish to swim naturally and still pass water through its mouth to breathe. 

Start with a 24-inch length of wire. Attach a mini-barrel swivel to the tag end and a 3/0 or 5/0 live bait hook at the other. Use a #2 or #4 treble hook for the stinger hook, attaching it to a short trace of wire. Then twist the opposite end onto the eye of the nose hook. 


The single hook goes through the nostrils and the stinger hook is lightly pinned to the back as shown. Leave a small amount of slack in the stinger hook leader so it doesn’t impede the fish’s ability to swim naturally. 

Big Bait Multi-Hook Rig

This is a versatile trolling rig for use with big blue runners or bluefish. Kingfish slice and dice big baits, frequently missing both the nose and tail hook. To get around that problem Mitchell strings a couple extra hooks on the leader to the stinger. 


Use an 18-inch length of #8 wire and attach a mini barrel swivel to one end. Twist the opposite end through the eye of a 5/0 live bait hook. Adjust the stinger wire length to the length of the baitfish and attach it to a #2 treble hook. Before you attach the other end to the eye of the front hook, slide two more trebles onto the wire. The front hook is inserted through the nostrils of the baitfish, the stinger goes near the tail, and the two floating hooks are placed in the side at regular intervals.

Add a Duster

Kingfish can be finicky critters. Sometime they respond well to live baitfish without any adornment, and other times you attract more strikes by adding color and flash. Any trolling rigs can be dressed with a duster, a special skirt with a light-weight head, during the construction process. Mitchell favors chartreuse/yellow or pink/white. 

Mitchell has a trick to keep the duster right on the baitfish’s nose. When he twists the leader wire to the front hook, he leaves a 1-inch tag. He slides the skirt into position so both the leader and tag go through its center. Then he bends the tag back toward the hook effectively locking the skirt in position. 

This blue running is rigged and ready to troll with the added flash of a colorful duster. Special thanks to Captain George Mitchell for sharing these effective rigging techniques and for all the time he dedicates to teaching fellow anglers how to catch more fish. Y

If you want more information or to book a charter you can email Captain Mitchell at