Kite Fishing Part II: Setting Up Your Fishing Outfit
  |  First Published: March 2010

Last month we looked at why you may consider trying the kite fishing option and a little bit about how it works. This month we make a study of the finer details of setting up and baiting up your fishing outfit ready to clip it into the kite string.

To kick things off, please refer to Fig. 1 that shows the float, ring and beads. I’ll now go into some detail to explain their purpose.

Stainless Steel Ring

The stainless steel ring runs freely on the mainline and it is clipped to the release ‘pin’ on the Black’s clip. It can take a little bit of adjusting but the Black’s clip should have its release tension set so that the bite of a large predator fish on the live bait will trip the clip which releases the ring and thus release your mainline.

When the fishing outfit is deployed the stainless steel ring and the float are a long way apart. But when you store your outfits the ring and the float will be side by side.

The sinker helps control the line as it hangs down from the kite clip and the bead acts as a cushion/buffer to reduce knot damage.

The snap swivel (or snap) connects the mainline to the leader; the leader is close to the maximum allowable by IGFA (approximately 4.5m).

Fishing with the Float

The float and the associated bits and pieces that slide around the main line in conjunction with the float are the items that caused me to baulk at first. I expect that most readers will have the same trepidation.

The float runs freely on the mainline of your fishing outfit (which is often 10kg IGFA rated mono) but it stops at the top of the leader which is approximately 4.5m from the live bait. When the bait hangs straight down from the kite and is swimming around in the top few feet of the water’s surface the float will be 2-4m above the water’s surface.

In this position the float serves a number of purposes; it acts as a visual indicator as to the distance of your live bait from the boat, and by showing you the distance of the float from the water’s surface it will tell you what is happening with the bait. If the float sits on the water’s surface then you should reel in some line until the float pops up in the air a little. If the float is in mid air then free spool some line until the livie is back in the water with a metre or so to spare.

Scoring with the Float

In many big money light tackle billfish tournaments the fish is caught when the leader hits the rod tip. Some of these events require mandatory observers; the bright orange float has a dual purpose as everyone on board, including the observer, can see and declare immediatly when a fish is ‘caught’.

Rod and Reel

A lever drag game reel is a near absolute necessity as you have to free spool and then go back into gear countless times while monitoring your bait (and its float). I like a high speed gear ratio because it whips line in quickly. Quick retrieve speed is needed when a fish grabs your live bait and rushes at you. At this stage the line does not even pop from the clip until you use the reel’s speed to get the line tight again.

Quite often the float will also fall to the water’s surface as the kite dips. At this point you want to retrieve line quickly to get the float back up in the air a little, and you may have three outfits that you are monitoring so time becomes important and reel speed saves you time.

As far as rods go, longer rods around 2.1m in length are the ticket as you have to control the float when it swings around between you and the jumping billfish; this is especially relevant when fighting a billfish close to the boat. The connection to the 15’ leader cannot be wound through the guides, you will need the rod’s length to also control the leader. This is not a place for short or stroker type rods, particularly when you are light tackle fishing.

Threadline spin tackle is also not suitable because of the need to flip bail arms backwards and forwards and the risk of loose line dropping around the spool under the influence of gravity.

And as a bonus, a long rod is a smidgen closer to the float when it comes time to declare a capture. Tournaments have been won and lost by inches.

Rigging The Live Bait

Rigging a live bait through the dorsal area is generally considered the most practical approach as the bait is balanced when suspended from above by the kite. Typically, with the aid of an open eye needle, a rubber band is passed through the fish. Then the rubber band is separated from the open eye of the needle. The free ends of the rubber band are then looped over the hook. Sometimes you will need to twist the hook and rethread the hook a few times through the rubber band to take up any slack.

Circle hooks are commonly used for two reasons: The first is that tournament rules often mandate the use of circle hooks when using live bait; and, secondly, many anglers prefer the hook up security that they get once they have become comfortable with using the circle hooks.

It is old hat now but the secret to using circle hooks is to wind until the line comes tight rather than striking with the rod tip to set the hook.

The Strikes

It is action aplenty when a pod of sailfish rise up on your livies that are dangling from a kite. I’ve had three fishing lines up through the kite string and all three have gone off within moments of each other. On another occasion we had two kites out and pods of sails under both kites.

Each fish is different, but the most common situation sees the fish grab your bait to play the situation by logic. Generally you give the fish some time to play with the bait and hopefully wait for it to swim away with the bait. Then you slide the drag lever up. If it is a billfish that starts jumping, maybe even coming towards you, then start winding on the reel handle and keep winding till you come tight to the fish.

Flat lines

You’ll often find you’ll still fish a flat line and a lightly weighted line with two anglers off the bow (one line each). Plus each kite will have an angler on it and running two kites with up to three lines per kite is not out of the question (depending on local and tournament rules). So up to four anglers and 8 lines can be out at a time in this situation. Hence walkaround boats are very popular.

Controlling the Drift

With so many lines out, controlling the drift becomes very important. Sea anchors/drogues become invaluable.


The Float Rig: Ring, float, sinker, bead, snap. The Float and associated beads, sinker and stainless steel ring run on the mainline. The snap swivel, as shown, clips to the top of the 15' leader.

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