Dave fishes mostly Long Range out of San Diego, California. Very fortunate to have become a product tester for many tackle companies, but he really enjoys helping others learn to enjoy this sport and improve their techniques.
We are in the middle of another banner big fish season. Currently the Royal Star and American Angler are having trips we all dream of, not wide open by any stertch of the imagination, but literally every time you put a bait out, it could be a Super Cow, or bigger.
One of our prime methods of catching these big fish, is kite fishing for Giant Yellowfin Tuna. Since the line is basically kept out of the water, we can use heavier leader than we employ for fly lining sardines, or even while using chunks.
If you don't own a kite rig, you can actually put a good rig together for a fairly low amount of money if you shop around. Pick up a used 50W or 80 sized reel, making darn sure it is a two speed model. Pick up a used rod, don't need the latest and greatest. Roller guides are fine in this application. Just make sure it's rated for around 130# line, 5&1/2 through 6&1/2 foot length. eBay or any of the fishing message boards buy/sell boards would be a good place to look for these items. Garage sales, tackle swap meets. I would stick with good name brands: Penn, Okuma, Accurate, Avet or Shimano on the reels, Calstar or Seeker on the rods. JMO.
Depending on what reel you purchase will dictate what size spectra you buy. If you found a 80W reel, and went to fill it with 130# spectra, you'd have to take out a 30 year mortgage to pay for it!
My reel of choice is a Okuma Makaira 50WII, I have it filled with about 800 yards of 130# Tufline Guide's Choice hollow spectra, and I make my kite leaders out of either 200# or 300# Seaguar fluorocarbon. My kite rod of choice is a Super Seeker 6463XXXXH or a Super Seeker 3X5.
Whether it's a ride down trip, or a fly down trip, you will have time to make your kite leaders. Each boat has their preference on how they want you to make them, or, you can buy them pre-made by the crew.
If you did not bring your own kite rig, using the boat kite rig or borrowing a buddy's rod & reel works too.
It's good to have a few leaders of each type made up: Squid, Flying Fish(Salami works on this too), and Double Trouble. Have them ready, and you don't get to pick the bait style. The captain or crew will do this, and many different situations affect this decision. How much squid do they have, how many flyers, etc. Just roll with whatever they give you.
Most important thing is to be aware of when you are up on the kite rotation. Don't be "That Guy" that rolls up an hour later demanding your turn. When your turn approaches, take a few minutes to rest, use the restroom, clean your glasses, get a drink or a snack. You could be on the kite for hours, or for only a few minutes. You see, when a school gets on the boat, sometimes it's BAM, BAM, BAM! The kite is going off. We want to hook as many as we can while they are on it. Make the crew's job easier and be ready. Let's make sure we take full advantage of these times when the bite is full speed.
If you want to catch a cow, DO NOT TURN DOWN A KITE TURN! It is such a great way to get a big one, the reels are bigger, hooks are generally larger, leader is heavier. All leading up to making the playing field more level, at least we have a chance while using kite gear.
Some boats have their anglers on the deck level, which can make it tough to watch your bait. Some boats have the angler come upstairs and fish from the upper deck. Pros and cons on each method, but just go with the flow. Don't try to change the boat's agenda, just fish the way they fish.
If you are fishing from lower deck level, try to position yourself in such a way that you don't interfere with the bait fishermen. Keep your rod tip high so they don't cast over your line, maybe move up the rail a bit more forward so they can underhand lob their baits. Or perhaps moving to the middle of the stern. A lot of variables, with boat swing, current and wind all making things interesting.
Fishing from the upper deck is nice, you get to sit, you can see better. But, when you get a bite, after the crew member or captain takes your rod, walk calmly and slowly down the stairs. They will hand the rod to you when they walk it to the rail. Last thing they want it you twisting an ankle on your way down.
They put our baits out where they see the most big fish boiling. Sometimes that means it's hard to see your bait or balloon. If things are busy, try your best, keep an eye on it as best you can. Ideally, we want our baits right up on the surface, splashing around making a lot of commotion if it's a double trouble rig or a salami.
If it's a squid, try and make it so the squid lays down flat in the water, like it's swimming right on the surface. Don't have the pointy end sticking up, give it enough slack that it lays down completely on the surface.
Flying fish are a bit different. Live flyers act like they are dead, but they will take off when a tuna approaches them. And dead flyers work well too, they have ways to make them more attractive to the tuna. A dead flyer, (or jerky, as we call them), is still a valid kite bait.
One of those memories etched in my mind forever, was watching my live flyer getting nervous, zigging left, zagging right. A huge boil! Then, my flyer comes completely out of the water, and so does a THREE HUNDRED POUND YELLOWFIN TUNA, a huge splash, and waiting for that kite clip to come down and Dharyl to yell: "Wind, wind, wind!" That was my first 300 pounder, and what a sight that was.
Upon Getting A Bite
Try and tune all of us out, and listen to the captain and crew. Typically, they like us to wait until the fish pulls the kite clip down vertically, not just strt winding when you see the boil. Have the reel in high gear, drag properly set (I like about 25# at the start of the fight)and just turn the handle, wind, wind, wind.
Sometimes it all comes tight, then goes slack. Perhaps the fish missed the hook. That does happen. But more than likely, the line came out of the kite clip. So, wind faster, don't quit winding until the crew tells you to, or you can't wind anymore because it got tight to the fish. Stay in high gear, no need for low gear this early in the battle. Keep the line tight so they don't throw the hook.
Make Your Kite Turn Productive
Why is it some anglers will be on the kite for hours, whereas others are bit within minutes?
A few things come to mind. Presenting the bait properly as I stated earlier. Another trick I use (if there is enough wind and current), is to gradually let some line out, letting the bait get out away from underneath the kite clip. Slowly, a little at a time. Make sure you don't get too close to the other person's kite baits.
Then, put the reel in gear, and wind fast. Keep winding, and this should make your bait skip and splash across the surface! Or, if it's a squid, it will appear the be swimming. It doesn't work every time, but I've had a lot of success doing that maneuver.
By all means, listen to the crew, as conditions and trends are different every day. But this little primer will get you somewhat ready for one of the most exciting visual methods of long range fishing.