topwater kingfish

Want To Catch A New Species? Here’s How To Tick That Box

Targeting a new species?  Chasing that trophy fish or even just learning a new way to target a fish is not at all easy unless you are blessed with some ridiculously good fishing and zero company ha-ha.

I set a goal recently to target big kingfish on topwater, I had only ever caught maybe less than 10 kings in my life and mostly all rats.

 My biggest king before this being maybe 8kg and I caught that fish by accident after it ate a tailor that I had on.

So, in 4 trips I went from not knowing anything about targeting kingfish to catching two over 130cm on poppers which was my goal.

I thought I would run through the ideas and thought process that I used to be able to tick that box.

These are similar ideas and concepts that I use to understand all species of fish that I target, in particular, new fish that I have absolutely no idea about where to even start.

The Goal

The main long-term objective needs to be set first. What did I want to achieve? My goal was a big kingfish on topwater.

I had a fair idea from social media and friends sending me texts that there were kingfish around.

Obviously, it’s important to do some research to know what your targeting is there and active that time of year. The same applies to any species.

You aren’t going to go Murray cod fishing in a lake that you haven’t already heard there are cod in.

You would also want to go when you hear it’s prime time to obviously increase your chances, fishing can be difficult enough without having the odds stacked against you.

It would be like trying to catch your first ever barramundi and going fishing in the midst of winter.

Understanding the species


Not knowing where to start or what to expect I like to cover all bases, so knowing that my long-term goal was to catch one on a topwater lure, I started there.

I packed all my popping gear etc ready to try it first and the last thing each day and at least get a feel for it.

Secondly, I thought jigging could be an option if I found some deep.

Thirdly, I decided I would bring tackle and equipment to catch and use live baits for them.

My theory with the live bait is it will help me understand the fish and most likely be the method that catches me my first big one.

Finally, I took tackle to target the smaller rat size kings, one to prevent the dreaded donut and two to also understand how they feed and times that they feed.

Small fish will tell you some amazing things that will help you tap into the bigger fish when it counts.

Studying Their Territory

underwater release shot of a kingfish

Let’s start from understanding your surroundings. I like to gather as much information as I can about an area, whether that be a lake or a specific reef that I am fishing.

Charts, maps, and then finally using your depth sounder to locate key things of importance. Waypoint them as well as build yourself a mental picture to understand where fish might position to rest and or feed.

Waypoints, waypoints, and more waypoints, I love them and rely on them to help build that picture.

There are so many different symbols you can use for waypoints as well so you don’t get too confused when you have them everywhere.

But once you have a few on the screen you will be amazed how much easier it is to understand an area.

I will waypoint anything from ledge rises to holes, spots I saw lots of bait holding, spots I saw fish holding.

The most important thing to me that I waypoint is fish captures, especially when doing a drift across a reef system.

You will be surprised how many fish get caught on almost the same waypoint even though to you the reef looks exactly the same the entire drift.

Ticking that box

kingfish 2

Back to the species in particular that I was chasing, on my first outing, I didn’t land anything massive but I did catch a whole bunch of rat kings that taught me a thing or two.

Lesson one, once I had their attention they stayed around and active in the water column.

Second lesson, when I had their attention, I still had to force them to commit, and often that was with speed and erratic movements of the lure.

These erratic movements are not something you want to do all day so it was good to know I could get their attention with a normal retrieve and then convert them to biting with some craziness added to the lure.

This small piece of information proved pivotal when it came to catching the big kings on my fourth trip out.

I noticed on this first trip some people were catching bigger kingfish on live bait and they were in a slightly deeper part of the reef to where I was catching the rats. 

By following some basic planning and paying attention to detail it is possible to work out any species you like and get that box ticked.

kingfish on lap

On trip two and three, we again started and ended each day with big topwater lures and stick baits across the reef with no luck.

After a quick hour of power, we would go catch live bait and set up systematic drifts across the reef trying to understand where they hold and when.

Live Baiting For Information

When drifting with live baits we often found the kings stacked tight in balls just outside a few shallower ledges. By paying attention to the depths the fish sat in we adjusted the baits accordingly and managed to catch a heap of fairly big kingfish on live baits.

Some key learnings from live baiting were the fish didn’t like pressure too much, catch one or two and they would shut down. But by moving less than 50m across the reef to a different patch you could catch them again and cycle between the spots.

 Another key learning was bite times, they did not like the change in tide regardless of what it was high or low.

They had a good little bite session in the middle of the day but for the best part were active mid-morning and then again late arvo to a crazy evening session.

We never did any good early in the morning but that may have been contributed to throwing topwaters and then getting the live bait.

Putting It All Together

popper in the mouth of a kingfish

So finally, when it came to my fourth trip, I knew a fair bit about kingfish in general.

Here’s what I put into play to get my biggest kingfish ever two drifts in a row and both on topwater:

I knew now with all my waypoints and mental pictures of the reef the basic line that seemed to hold the most and biggest fish.

I also knew that if I could get their attention that by changing my retrieve, I could get them to commit.

I knew the slack tide wouldn’t work and that if I was on that drift line, I needed my lure to be out the front of the boat and get their attention before they knew I was there.

kingfish on a popper

Last Cast

So, in less than four days I went from not knowing a thing about a species to being able to achieve my goal of a big kingfish on topwater.

I have no doubt that I can go back out there again and not catch a fish for several trips as there will be other factors that come into play that I have no idea about as yet.

If your trips are to be some time apart or you have a terrible memory just note a few things down in a diary at the end of each trip, then reread the last trip after you add the next and watch as the patterns start to emerge.

By following some basic planning and paying attention to detail it is possible to work out any species you like and get that box ticked.

If you want to see all the words above in action, check out my 3-part video series on YouTube or watch the videos below.

What’s your next target species? 

If you are looking for a true sport fishing company that offers you more than just a Vanuatu fishing adventure, look no further than Ocean Blue Fishing.

Call us now at (AU) 1300 564 616 or at (INTL) +61 436 020322 or you may also contact us through our website at

Check out Dean’s Instagram and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more fishing knowledge and to keep up to date with his fishing adventures in and around Australia. 

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Want To Catch A New Species? Here’s How To Tick That Box

Dean Silvester is a professional angler from Queensland Australia, with 14 plus years of competitive angling under his belt. His tournament career consists of 28 Wins, 4 Championship Titles and 4 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Titles. Apart from fishing all over Australia, Dean's travels the world to tick all the boxes of his never-ending fish hit-list. “My goal now is to take on the US BASS circuit and eventually qualify to compete in the BASSMASTER ELITE SERIES!”
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