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Kite Fishing

Guide to Fishing Kites and Equipment

Bob Lewis kite for medium wind conditions.

Fishing Kites and Accessories

Kite fishing isn't as difficult as it may seem at first. With the right equipment, patience, and steady winds in the 10- to 15-knot range, a beginner should have little trouble getting a bait splashing attractively under a fishing kite. Experts can handle all sorts of wind and current conditions, and may fly two kites with as many as three baits under each one.

SFE kite, with adjustable bridle for varying conditions.


But like a lot of things, it's best to start simple.

The basic rig consists of a specially designed square kite that is connected to a line attached to a stubby rod and reel. Strung at intervals along the kite line are one or more release clips; these hold your fishing line but let go when a fish strikes.

There are many ways to customize the elements comprising the kite outfit, but novice anglers looking for a quick and proven system can find all that's needed in many tackle shops and catalogues around the state.


There are three main companies making fishing kites: Bob Lewis, Aftco and SFE. They differ primarily in how they compensate for various wind strengths. The Lewis kites come in various cloth weights; the Aftco uses interchangeable spars; and the SFE kite has a bridle adjustment feature.

Console collection of fishing kites, in water-proof plastic tubes. Also note helium tank for advanced technique of attaching helium balloon to kite on calm days.


Bob Lewis kites generally retail in the $60 range, depending on where you look. The Aftco, with complete spar kit, usually sells for a little over $70; the SFE for just over $100. If you choose a Lewis kite as your first, it's probably best to start with a Light or Medium model; one is rated for winds of 6 to 10 mph, the other 10 to 15 mph, but either will accommodate somewhat higher winds. The key is to keep the kite aloft; if it falls in the water, performance will suffer until the kite has fully dried.

Kite Reels

For a kite reel, which holds the line tethering the kite, a high-speed revolving spool reel—such as the Penn Senator 113H--is best, generally spooled up with 50-pound Dacron line or 80-pound braided Spectra, such as Power Pro. Some anglers use 50-pound mono. Levelwind reels, like the Penn 345 GTi and similar, are especially nice if you're using an electric reel—the line comes in pretty quick, and the levelwind ensures it doesn't get bunched up.

The ideal kite rod is short and stout, about 3 feet long. It does nothing but hold the kite reel, guide the line, and stay out of the road. You can make your own, but for $50 or so you can have a specialized kite rod, with a gimbal butt and single ring tip ring—a good buy. A complete kite-fishing kit, with rod, reel, kite line, kite, release clips and instructional video, sells for $269.95 in one catalogue. Also a good buy.

Remember, of course, the kite rod just holds the kite—you'll be using other fishing rods for your baits.

An electric reel may seem like a substantial investment when you're just getting started, but it can really simplify the whole process. You'll do quite a bit of reeling in of kites while learning and fishing new waters. Units such as these can be connected to a battery with alligator clips, or better yet, plugged into a marine receptacle hard-wired to your 12-volt system.

An electric power assist for your kite reel—such as these Elec-Tra-Mates with Penn Senators—makes kite fishing much more enjoyable.


Elec-Tra-Mate ( makes electric-assist devices compatible with various reels; a 400-series model with 4/0 size reel, such as the Penn 113 Senator, or 600-series models for 114 Senator, are popular combos--expect to pay a bit over $300 for the electric. Fish-Ng ( makes a Precision Auto Reel that works with many Penn reels, for about $390. Kristal ( makes a unitized electric reel—the XL601—that's often used by kite-fishers. We found one combo by a major catalog retailer with the XL601, a rod, plus kite line, for about $700. Dolphin Electric Reel ( makes power assist systems for lots of reels, with the bonus of a manual hand-crank override; for reference, the 6/0 series with Penn 114H Senator sells for around $510.


These are inexpensive. There are lots of release devices sold for outriggers and downriggers; the ones you want for kite fishing are the pin-style, such as the Black's Marine or Aftco Goldfinger. A pair of Black's clips for kite fishing, with pre-drilled holes, swivels and snap, sells for around $20; the Aftco set is about the same price. Both models are adjustable for tension. The nice thing about the kits is that you don't have to sort out which size swivel is needed for which clip. You just assemble the kite outfit and go fishing.

A recent twist among kite pros is the use of rigging floss half-hitches to build up appropriately sized release clip-stoppers on the kite line. This eliminates the need for swivels and knotted connections, making it less likely that you'll break off a kite down the road.

For general day-to-day work, though, the clip/swivel kit systems are fine.

Three-way rodholder in the transom corner serves as a functional kite-fishing station. Two fishing rods flank a kite rod for simplified line management.


Other Stuff

Ceramic rings or hooks, like the Aftco Kite Hook, help minimize chafing of the fishing line through the metal release clip. These sell for about 50 cents a pop. You thread one the fishing line first, then add a fluorescent marker float, generally positioned cup-side down, followed by a swivel, then your leader. The rings aren't really necessary, but they could add an edge if you're fishing lots of days.

Marker floats, weighted or unweighted, are also cheap, about a dollar each. These help you identify your line when it's way out there under a kite. Cigar-shaped and popping cork styles are available; if you use the latter, make sure to position it cup-side down for ease of retrieval. Some anglers dispense with the floats and use surveyors' tape tied above the leader instead. Your decision.

Three-way rodholder: You have to have rodholders to kite fish, and it's best to have them very close together. For kite-fishing with two fishing lines, nothing beats a triad of rodholders in the same area—you can put the kite rod in one, and the two fishing rods right next to it, simplifying adjustments and keeping the boat clear of overhead lines. The Tigress Trident (about $150) is a one such three-way rodholder; it has a gimbal mount, turning a single gunnel-mount rodholder into an effective kite-fishing station.

Sea anchor: It's generally easiest to fish kite lines with your beam to the drift—and drifting as slowly as possible. If your boat doesn't do this automatically with power off, a collapsible sea anchor tied to the bow or a mid-ship cleat can help. Lots of 36- and 48-inch sea anchors on the market for under $50. The Cadillac of sea anchors is the Para-Tech (, selling for a couple of hundred dollars, but adding a greater level of drift control.

These are Black's pin-release clips on a typical kite rod. The ring is for running the kite off an outrigger.


Where, When to Kite Fish

Kites have long been a tool-of-the-trade for sailfish anglers along the windy southeast Atlantic coast of Florida, particularly from October through April. But there are loads of other possibilities for this effective livebait fishing system.


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