By Captain Nick Gonzalez
Kite fishing has been met by a number of innovations over the last 10 years. Electric kite reels have gotten faster, more reliable, and easier to use. To compliment these kite reels and increase efficiency, light, high-speed conventional reels with smooth drags and high gear ratios came into the market. A number of different rod manufacturers began making excellent rods with soft tips and moderate backbones that are ideal for kite fishing. In addition, circle hooks became mainstream and a number of different manufacturers make chemically sharpened circle hooks that are tournament legal and very affordable.
Kite fishing is such a specialized method of fishing that even the boats themselves have adapted to corner this niche market. Complex live well systems and rocket launchers are the standard for most boats in South Florida. In this day and age there are thousands of boats and crews that are more than capable of busting out a kite spread. You add all these different variables together and throw in kites designed for every wind speed and you have a system that is applicable to all conditions. Unfortunately, superior tackle won’t set you apart from the competition. It’s the status quo nowadays.
The equipment has become standard but kite fishing is an art that few have mastered. With a 15-knot wind and a 4-person crew, just about anybody can manage a 6-line spread. On the contrary, if you put yourself alone in the cockpit managing 6 kite baits, a mid rod, and a bottom rod while the wind fluctuates from 10-30 knots and squalls of rain push through, can you really keep up? For most mates, the answer is no. For most captains, the answer is no. Throw in a red-hot bite and you’ll see how quickly a perceivably “experienced” crew can be overwhelmed.
There are a handful of boats that seem to always be at the top of the leaderboard. What is the prevailing factor that puts them in that position with such consistency? Do they have some extra special bait? Did someone find a way to cross breed goggle eye with Spanish sardines? Do they use tinker mackerel on 10lb fluorocarbon? Do they practice Santeria? No! These crews just fish as hard as they possibly can and have logged thousands of days on the water. The x-factor that many teams look for boils down to that one thing: experience. The best teams have caught more fish and even more importantly, lost more fish than many of the other teams combined.
Experience isn’t something you can buy (with the exception of hiring a top notch crew). How do you consistently win sailfish tournaments? Go fish rain or shine 300 days a year. No matter how big, fast, or expensive your boat is, you will be the underdog if your team hasn’t logged THOUSANDS of days on the water. There are a number of different captains with a long list of tournament wins on their resumes. For even the best captains, the only thing longer than their list of wins is their list of losses. It sucks to lose but failure can be very insightful.
Building experience is a marathon, not a sprint. By the time I was 25 years old I had spent over 1,000 days on the water within five years. Why does this matter? In this timeframe, my crew has experienced some of the worst and some of the best fishing Miami has to offer. I have been blessed with the opportunity to fish with some of the best captains and mates out there. I have witnessed first hand how a crew with thousands of days of experience operates vs. a less experienced crew. There is no comparison. To kite fish properly, everything is a delicate balance. With the right crew, baits are deployed and retrieved faster. Doubles usually turn into triples. Triples often turn into quads.
For a good crew, bait management is the standard, not an advantage. Seasoned goggle eye, threadfin herring, and Spanish sardines are a must. When it comes to tackle, everything needs to be meticulously maintained. You also need a good platform to fish on that has both vantage and speed. Most importantly, your crew needs experience and chemistry. A successful team adapts quickly to changing conditions. They fish regularly so they have a network of reports and know where the fish will be. An experienced crew also has a very high hook up ratio on bites.
The best teams don’t just create opportunities; they capitalize on them. When it comes to communication, arguments should be kept to a minimum, instruction should be clear and concise, and criticism should always be constructive. When attention to detail and the bigger picture come together, the results can be tough to beat. There is no short cut to being the best. You just need to get out and fish.