This time of year it’s possible to catch kingfish top-water while they are feeding on corralled baitfish, and their added aggro during spawning means they are keen to bite. Fishing with a live-bait and balloon is traditionally effective, with the right size bait and rig. Stick-bait and popper fishing, however, is another method that has been widely adopted in the past few years. Imagine casting a straight banana, or a classic coke bottle, with treble hooks attached, and you’ll get the idea.
Poppers are coke-bottle shaped, fished from the fat end. Poppers – cast and retrieved from a stationary boat – push surface water, mimicking a fleeing baitfish, with the angler using a pulsing-pumping action while retrieving. Stick-baits (the straight banana) come in floating and sinking variations: floating for calm days with less wind, sinking for rougher, windy days. When retrieved fast they look like a drunken lizard running across surface. Stick-baits are generally more productive than poppers but poppers are often better at raising fish. They both come in plastic or wood. Plastic is more durable and can be tuned with factory tricks including cast weights and internal rattles. Wood can get bruised and waterlogged, but wooden poppers can have good harmonics that seem to draw the fish. Some wooden models fetch huge dollars but that’s mostly a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The average $50 stick-bait or popper is sweet enough candy for kingfish.
Two anglers fishing in combination, one raising the fish with popper and the other with the “Trojan” stick-bait is a effective tactic. Cast around headlands with current, and buoys, structure, or wharves. Lures can weigh 15-180g, and measure from 50-230mm. A safety tip, squash the treble hook barbs flat – the fish won’t fall off.