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July 27, 2013

Mack Machines

10 ways kingfish-tournament pros prep their boats for success

6. Go for Side-Access Consoles

It seems counterintuitive, but more kingfish pros are opting for side-access consoles, according to Les Stewart Jr., marketing director for Contender Boats. While front opening consoles allow easier access for items such as helium tanks, big balloons and assembled kites, the front-hatch system also eliminates the cooler on the front of the console, which many teams find essential for food and drinks to keep the crew fed, hydrated, and happy during a long day of fishing.

7. Don’t Skimp on Rod Holders

Kingfish boats sport numerous gunwale rod holders, and the reason is simple: “Our boat has rod holders all the way around the boat, from stern to bow,” Smith explains. “This way we can choose where we want to place our rods depending on how we are targeting kings, be it slow-trolling, kite-fishing or drifting.” Also standard on kingfish boats are rod holders angled at 45 degrees on each side of the T-top or hardtop frame for slow-trolling an elevated line farther aft than the others. Team Intense’s new Contender also has a vertical three-tier rod rack integrated into the hardtop frame aft of the helm seat, which stows 15 sticks.

8. Add Quality Electronics

Kingfish pros often run a pair of big multifunction displays from marine-electronics brands such as Furuno, Garmin, Raymarine or Simrad to constantly monitor the fish finders for schools of bait, sea-surface temperature for temperature breaks, a chart plotter to help establish patterns, and powerful open-array radar for spotting flocks of birds over bait schools.

9. Be Downrigger Ready

King mackerel sometimes feed far below the surface, and having downriggers allows you to reach them better than any other deep-trolling method. If you are not fishing with the downriggers, however, dismount and stow them so they don’t create snag points. In rigging the downriggers, many pros replace the wire cable with 200-pound-test monofilament line, as they believe the “hum” of the wire while deep-trolling spooks kingfish. Mono trolls silently.

10. Ice, Ice Baby

Having plenty of insulated ice capacity proves critical for three reasons. One is to keep frozen bait, an important backup in case you cannot catch or obtain live bait. Second, you need to keep your chum iced down so it too remains frozen until it’s time to lay down a chum line. Finally, once you land a big king, you want to get it buried in ice as soon as possible to stay fresh and retain its original weight, particularly if you’re competing in a tournament. “Once we land a big girl, it goes straight into the ice,” says Foster, whose boat has two 85-gallon insulated fish lockers in the stern deck, and two insulated lockers in the foredeck that hold 115 and 208 gallons. “Every ounce counts,” he adds.

Foster should know. Team Intense is one of the most successful teams on the kingfish tournament circuit, and its boat is a perfect example of the ultimate king-mackerel machine. 

For more kingfish tips from tournament pros, check out 12 Steps to Catching Trophy King Mackerel.