Big king mackerel, nicknamed smokers because they burn line off reels so quickly and are tasty smoked on the grill, are usually targeted using live or fresh dead baits like cigar minnows, menhaden or pilchards. Fakes will work though. Lures trolled or cast into the strike zone near feeding fish are seldom refused. Here’s a line-up of proven king killers,
Available in several lengths, the #22 diving plug is designed to track straight down to 25 feet. It’s a perfect imitation of a cigar minnow, a favorite mackerel morsel. The Silver Mackerel pattern produces, along with the classic Red Head. The Mann’s Stretch 25 and the MirrOlure 113MR are similar lures. Rig with a wire leader and run off a rod with light line (such as 40-pound braid) to maximize diving depth. Adjust trolling speeds to match tackle and sea conditions.
Ribbonfish are another staple in the king’s diet and this lifelike replica eliminates mess and the need for ice. The 18-inch long natural pattern is the most realistic, but other colors may pop better in cloudy water. Troll this one at 2 to 6 knots for the best action.
Want to mimic an injured sardine or pilchard? Tie on a Drone Spoon and Sea Striker planer combo. The flash and action of a #3.5 spoon trailing behind a weighted Sea Striker planer is too tempting to resist. The diving characteristics of the planer pulls the spoon into the prime strike zone without adding unnecessary tension on the rod. The quick-release trip mechanism also maximizes the fight after the fish is hooked.
The 3D Bunker, a 2-ounce lipped plug that’s the perfect likeness of a real pogy, is an excellent choice when kings are skyrocketing through bait balls. At nearly 7 inches long, it’ll cast a mile and dive quickly with a rapid retrieve. The rugged construction stands up to razor-sharp dentures too. Don’t forget the wire leader.
Trolled plain or in combination with a dead bait, this vinyl-and-feather lure adds a splash of color and increases visibility. The pink/white pattern has fooled many smokers when dragged over structure or along a color break.
For the best of both real and fake, slip one of these vinyl skirts on the leader ahead of a strip bait, cigar minnow or ballyhoo. The colors add flash and more profile while also preventing the bait from washing out. As an alternative, the C&H Sea Witch, available in different weights and color patterns, uses nylon strands for the same life-like action.