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Best Lures for Kahawai: Our Top 5

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Kahawai are found throughout New Zealand, and lures are an excellent addition to your setup for this species. Whether you troll, jig, or cast and retrieve, here are the best lures for Kahawai. Why lures? While baitfish work for kahawai as well, lures are less messy and much more convenient. 

You can also get away with using light tackle when using lures. Many experienced anglers suggest it since light tackle lets you see just how incredible the kahawai really is. 

And the best part? Kahawai aren’t too fussy, especially if the water visibility is not that great. The lures that yield consistent positive results are smaller lures that look like small, shiny fish. Small, simple, and flashy- stick to these qualities when looking for a lure for kahawai. You can also eat Kahawai if you catch a big enough one!

Our Top 5 Best Lures for Kahawai

1. Soft Plastic Lures

These soft plastic lures are great for kahawai. But remember to include a swivel with a small ball bearing. You’ll see they come in a variety of colors, but remember to use lures that are as close to their natural predator color as possible. We also love using these when trying to catch Tripletail.

2. Small Metal Spoon

This crocodile spoon is a versatile addition that can be a great addition to your tackle box when you’re targeting kahawai. It is chrome plated with an incredibly attractive silver design that is sure to get plenty of hits. 

3. Rapala Lures

Get a bibbed lure to make sure you bag a kahawai. They are designed for success and will be well suited for almost any game fish, including barracuda and jack crevalle. There are many Rapala lures to choose from. Just make sure they are natural in color to their food source. Bibbed lures with a Silver and blue sheen is the perfect option. 

One of the most popular Rapala lures is the Rapala X-Rap Magnum fishing lure. However, this is a fast-running lure that can sink quite deep. You won’t need a deep sinking lure for kahawai, and your speed will be slower than normal. The Blue Mackerel Rapala X-Rap is also an attractive lure to use. 

4. Inchiku Jigs

These are some of the best jigs to use for kahawai. They are made with 9T lead material and heavy-duty BKK hooks. The head glows in dark water, so they are great to use in murky or dawn/dusk conditions. 

5. Slow Metal Jigs

This slow metal jig is a great option. It is designed to be attractive, and this is precisely what you need when targeting kahawai. They are fast hunters with quick actions. So, they are excited by the silver/blue flash and the realistic eyes. 

When it comes to hooks, use in-line singles or saltwater trebles if you want a stronger hook. 

Kahawai Fishing Tips

Fishing tackle and bait

The most important thing is that you use a small lure. If you know there is plenty of kahawai action, but nothing is biting your lure, then try a smaller lure. This is because the kahawai typically feed off of smaller baitfish. Here are some general tips when selecting a lure for your next kahawai fishing trip:

  • Aim for less than 20g
  • Small trolling spoons
  • Flies shaped like small fish
  • silver/blue sheen

Trolling for Kahawai

Trolling for kahawai often leads to success, especially when kahawai are traveling in schools and surface feeding. But, if you can’t see them surface feeding, then don’t worry. You’ll still have some success. The best times to troll are when they are surface feeding in schools and white water close to the shore. 

There are many different lures on the market to choose from. So, how do you choose the right one? 

Some lures are perfect for trolling but will be a terrible choice for surfcasting and trolling. Metal jigs, slices, and spinners are brilliant for casting and retrieving but are awful for trolling unless you use a small swivel. 

Trolling Tips

Aim for a trolling speed that ranges from three to five knots. 

You might be tempted to troll at high speed, but the slower you troll, the better. The exact speed will depend on the specific conditions. If you do not have luck at a slow speed, try it a little bit faster. The speed will also have to adjust according to the lure you select. 

Author Note: You can troll Rapala lures at higher speeds but no higher than five knots. Troll the smaller Rapala lures a little slower. Troll skirted lures and saltwater flies at a faster speed with consistent small jerks. 

Letting the lure troll just beneath the surface can entice a curious kahawai. Both the bib-less and the bibbed lures can come in designs that will run just under the surface. 

Let the lures troll at a considerable distance from the boat or kayak. Many anglers say that a minimum of 20 meters is suitable. Some fish, including the kahawai, can get put off by the vessel, especially if you’re on a large boat. You could experiment by using a couple of rods and letting one troll further out than the other. If you do troll a lure closer than 20 meters, use a paravane to sink deeper. 

Trolling Tackle

The tackle you choose is always an essential part of fishing- no matter the species you’re targeting. With kahawai, you have a few different options to use and can pretty much use what you prefer. Spinning tackle, handline, and soft bait tackle can all be a good choice.

The important thing is always to ensure the reel drag gives line when a kahawai strikes. If there is too much pressure, your rod could end up snapping, or the hooks can tear. The kahawai is a fast striking fish, so make sure the drag is firm but still gives a little leeway. 

Although trolling can be a hit, there are more reports of casting as a successful fishing option than trolling. This is especially true when schools are feeding just below the water’s surface. 

How to Spot Kahawai

There are several tell-tale signs that there are kahawai feeding. Seabirds like terns can give a good indication of kahawai activity. Terns will often make rapid movements, diving into the sea. And when you see them wheeling and diving, the chances are pretty high that there is kahawai activity.

Their behavior can be challenging to predict- but not impossible. They will move rapidly through the water, surfacing and then popping back up several hundred feet away. 

How to Target Schools

Use the birds to indicate where the schools are. Once you’ve reached the school’s position, position yourselves just ahead or next to the school. Use metal lures and cast them straight into the feeding school. This is not only the most successful way to catch kahawai, but it is the most fun too. 

Aside from our favorite lures mentioned above, if you aim for any small Pirk-stal slug or metal jig, you should have success. Spoons and any small-sized lure with a natural color flash in a fish shape will be good options. While we admit the small size is the best, you also have to make sure they are heavy enough to cast. The chrome slice is one of the most dependable options, and you can get them in a variety of weights too. 

Feeding Kahawai

Fishing tackle

When you use a small lure, it is best to combine it with a more robust rig and a heavier single hook. Just make sure you strike the right balance with your rig, as the lightweight lure can quickly become unbalanced. 

It can be useful to match your lure with what kahawai are feeding on that day. Of course, this is not always possible. But when the visibility is great, and there are baitfish chases, it pays to have various lures to choose from. When they are feeding on mullet, opt for a matching soft plastic lure around 5 inches.

If the fish are feeding on anchovies, then a smaller soft plastic lure will do the trick, 3 or 4 inches. Other days, you might have no luck on the soft baits. In that case, switch it up and use a fly. They are probably feeding on smelt or whitebait in this instance. 

If there is a flurry of activity, a work-up, then cast your soft bait into the rush and allow it to sink low. The kahawai will see this as a wounded prey and go in for the kill. 

Aim for the smaller jigs when you want to use the vertical jigging technique.

As a fly fisherman, cast into the work-up and you are almost guaranteed success. Just remember you’ll have to retrieve faster than usual and use both your hands. 

Final Tips

And before we head out, here’s a final list of dos and don’ts for your next kahawai fishing trip:

Although we advocate for surface trolling, have one lure that you allow to sink deeper down into the water column.

Experiment! If you aren’t having success with one lure, switch it up. Change the color, the size, and even the trolling distance. If you’re surfcasting for Kahawai, try moving down the beach to a new spot if you don’t catch anything.

Don’t be boring. Change your trolling speed. This can help to entice the kahawai and encourage more strikes. Whatever you do, don’t troll too fast!

Always match the lure size with the baitfish they are targeting. This goes for coloring as well. Kahawai aren’t known to take chances on sizes and colors that don’t match their preferred prey of the day. Keep the lures small. 


Do you spot terns diving? Then you’re in luck. Not only do they let you know that kahawai are in the area, but they are also an indication that the baitfish is small. So, match your lure accordingly. 

Never come head to head with a feeding school. Always let your lure troll in the same direction as the school is traveling. Logically, a frightened prey under attack will try to swim away from the kahawai. 

We hope you enjoyed this article on the best lures for Kahawai.

Happy Hunting!


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