Clear For Takeoff

Proper kite selection is key for successful days on the edge.

Capt. Steve Dougherty September 26, 2012

As summer turns to fall and prevailing sea breezes veer from southeast to northeast, an influx of southbound game fish seeking warmer water will inundate area waters. The change of seasons offers a gamut of available near-shore species, with more consistent wind patterns making for optimal conditions to dangle baits from the sky. For those unfamiliar with the ancient practice, kite fishing is the ideal way to present live baits on the surface. However, it’s not the end all answer to more successful fishing, as your lack of mobility means that unless you are in the presence of feeding game fish you will have a lackluster day. But by accomplishing well-planned drifts over promising waters and presenting distressed baitfish in the strike zone you can tempt any predator in the area.

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The number one way to tempt sailfish with live bait, kite fishing is a routine practice among top tournament teams. Photo: doughertyphotos.com

Originating in the South Pacific and perfected in South Florida, kite fishing may appear chaotic to novice anglers, yet it is rather simple once you have a firm grasp of the technique. Specialized tackle and insight by experienced anglers, not to mention the presence of wind, will help novices overcome a short learning curve.

While all-around kites will fly in a range of wind speeds, for the best performance you’ll want to select the appropriate kite for the prevalent conditions.

Not much is more exciting than witnessing a supercharged game fish clear the water as it attempts to kill your frisky live bait. While a high-flying kite pulls your bait toward the surface, the combination of the lack of visible terminal tackle and a struggling offering will attract predators lingering below. In addition, the deployment of fishing kites also enables anglers to cover large swaths of water that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to fish effectively.

Before you can excel at kite fishing you must first acquire the right kite, which will have a large influence on your ability to properly present live baits on the surface. Several manufacturers produce fishing kites of various materials and designs for varying wind conditions and it’s important you are properly outfitted for the task at hand. Kites aren’t cheap and some cost over $100, so you want to make sure to fish the appropriate kite for the demanding conditions or you may loose your investment. Fish a light wind kite in gusty conditions and you’ll risk snapping the fragile spars and watching your kite plummet from the sky. Fish a heavy wind kite with a lackluster breeze and it will be tough to keep it aloft.

Because of their experience and knowledge, tournament professionals understand the importance of having specialized kites and backups of each for varying conditions. And with top tier crews capable of deploying two or three kites simultaneously, it’s easy to see why there’s a need for a multitude of kites.

There are a handful of manufacturers that produce quality kites for varying wind conditions. While all-around kites will fly in a range of wind speeds, for the best performance you’ll want to select the appropriate kite for the prevalent conditions. Available for calm, breezy and gale force conditions, kites vary in the way they handle the wind and can stay sky high in winds as little as 5 mph up to gusts over 30 mph. Some utilize varying cloth material or interchangeable spars of varying thickness, while others sport innovative bridle systems that can help dump or catch the wind.

All fishing kites feature a square design for a consistent flight pattern, with four spars forming an X to keep the kite material stretched. Light wind kites are often outfitted with carbon fiber or composite/graphite spars, which are lightweight yet stiff. The stiffness helps grab whatever wind is present. Light wind kites are designed to stay aloft under the most lackluster wind conditions, but sometimes they fall from the sky with variable conditions. Unfortunately, wet kites don’t fly well no matter what the manufacturer states, and if your kite falls from the sky chances are it will sink like a rock. With fragile spars and your boat drifting in the opposite direction it’s likely you won’t retrieve your kite in one piece. Once you’ve broken a spar you’ll need to replace all four spars since they are designed as sets with specific weights, lengths and action. These aren’t kids kites that fly with ease, rather specialized pieces of equipment that can at times prove tricky to keep in the air. To keep your kite from sinking like a rock you can place a small balloon on the cross bar to keep them on the surface in the event of a kamikaze kite. Some kites also come standard with small floats on the spars to keep it from sinking. Kites designed for higher wind speeds often feature spars manufactured of fiberglass because they are strong and flexible. High wind kites also generally feature holes in the kite material to keep them from catching too much wind.

If you are new to kite fishing and not looking to break the bank, you should select an all-around kite that offers versatility in varying conditions. If you’re serious about kite fishing you should have at least two different types of kites, with backups for each. One for light to mid range winds and another for heavier breezes. Die-hard tournament anglers often have at least four different types of kites in their arsenal, with backups for each.

AFTCO produces a fishing kite that features non-permeable material that sheds water in the event your kite goes for a swim. While other manufacturers offer multiple kites for various wind speeds, AFTCOs kite features two sets of interchangeable spars, one made of graphite and the other fiberglass, which offer various degrees of flex to compensate for a variety of wind speeds.

Bob Lewis fishing kites are available in several designs that compensate for winds from 4 to over 30 mph. These kites are the only ones available with integrated floats to keep your kite on the surface in the event it falls from the sky.

Sport Fishing Enterprises produces what are arguably the finest and most relied upon kites in the industry. For light wind conditions many anglers rely on SFE kites since they are larger and grab more wind than all others. While known for their reliable outrigger components, TIGRESS fishing kites aren’t to be overlooked either. Frenzy kites are the most affordable.

While SFE, Tigress, Bob Lewis, AFTCO and Frenzy all make kites worthy of deploying, your choice should be one based on personal preference and available funds. No matter what kite you choose, if cared for properly it will last for many years. Kites can be easily damaged and are super fragile. At the end of each day you’ll want to rinse your kites with freshwater while they are still stretched out on the spars. Kites accumulate salt from the elements and this unwanted buildup can make your kite fly improperly or not at all. Once your kite is completely dry you can break it down and store it in the provided airtight tube if you choose. I prefer to keep my kites rigged and ready to go. Because they are built individually and components are specialized for each kite, some kites have a mind of their own and can be difficult to fine tune. Kites all fly a little different, so once you get a kite fine tuned to fly to the left or right, leave it alone.

Fine Tuning

Don’t think your kite will fly perfectly on its maiden launch. In fact, you’ll need to adjust the kite bridle to accommodate varying conditions and make adjustments periodically throughout the day. If you move the kite bridle away from the kite it will dump wind and force the kite to fly higher in the sky. During gusty conditions you’ll want to dump some wind for a more stable flight path. Conversely, if you push the bridle towards the kite it will catch more wind and force the kite to fly lower. When there’s hardly enough wind to keep your kite aloft this will help catch whatever wind is present. Some kite manufacturers use splined spars that have the same directional attributes of rods blanks. If your spars are splined, like those on SFE kites, make certain the marks line up, as the spars must be aligned to flex and fly properly.

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