Let’s Go Fly A Kite…For Sailfish
To say HMY Yacht Broker and Captain Mike Simko enjoys kite fishing is a gross understatement. The 30-year kite fishing veteran owns 50+ kites! Some may call that being a bit overzealous. Mike calls it doing what he loves, especially when it involves chasing sailfish.
In addition to working with Scott Calloway as the other half of the Calloway-Simko Team at HMY out of North Palm Beach, Mike is also a lifetime member of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, a tournament captain, a professional angler, and the creator of several innovative marine and kite-fishing products, including the Kite Keeper (keeps assembled kites dry and safe) and the Bait Bar (hollow tube that holds live baits in flowing water). Mike’s fishing passion and products have been featured on the likes of ESPN Outdoors, Krusing America, FLW Outdoors magazine, Florida Sportsman magazine, and the Palm Beach Post.
Mike started chasing large game fish on the piers of Daytona Beach as a youngster in the 70s using a clever, improvised system. Using a long heavy rod with the capacity for long casting, he would take a running start and launch the line as far as his young arms could manage. He’d strap the butt of the rod onto the pier, and crank down hard until the anchor rig grabbed the sand and locked in. In place of fancy kite clips for his fighting rod, Mike used his mom’s clothes pins. This quickly became Mike’s favorite way to fish (watching those pelagic fish destroy the bait was a sight to behold!) as he quickly discovered its advantages, such as a much more natural bait presentation of the fish just below the surface. “It’s the most natural, incredible psyche-out of a fish!” Mike exclaims.
Mike bought his first kite in 1985, and My, Oh, My how the times have changed. The industry has exploded in popularity and is loaded with innovative products. As tends to happen in the marketplace, the increased competition resulted in a flood of new products and has driven some companies to use cheaper materials and outsource some of the manufacturing in an effort to keep costs down. Mike cautions against going the cheap route, as it could potentially negatively impact your kite’s performance and your enjoyment (and success).
Whether you’re just getting into kite fishing, or have dabbled a good bit and want to up your game even further, it can be hard to know which products are best without spending time and money experimenting. That’s why we talked with Mike to get his expert insight on the best kites currently on the market, as well as a few general tips to increase your chances of success.
Now, we know recommending fishing gear can trigger intense debates about what anglers consider “the best”, but remember, as Mike says, “There are so many good products out there that it comes to personal preference.” For this piece, we’re leaning on Mike’s more than three decades of kite-fishing experience to recommend some of the highest quality kites currently available on the market (for the weekend warriors and tournament anglers alike), and that’s it. No debates on best rods, reels, spars, clips, etc. We’ll save that for another day over a couple of beers at the bar.
When considering kite brands, Mike keys on three important topics—the ability to adjust the kite as needed (low, stable; weighted edges for wind adjustment, etc.); having a variety of kites readily accessible for varying wind conditions (which is why Mike has 16 kites at all times and where his Kite Keeper comes in handy); and quality products that have the features you want and are built to last. All three brands below check these boxes.
Without further ado, here are Mike’s top three brands currently on the market.
Lewis Fishing Kites
Capt. Bob Lewis brought kite fishing to the masses in South Florida in the mid-20th century and his son, Capt. Jimmy Lewis, continues the family tradition today. Mike has flown Lewis Fishing Kites exclusively for the last 30 years and swears by them.
This 15-year-old company out of Sebring, FL, makes a “very high-quality product,” according to Mike. They took more expensive fabrics, spars, etc., and upgraded the quality of materials while keeping price in line.
Pearl is a newcomer to the kite fishing world, but they’re already making a splash. Mike is “very impressed with their quality and stability.” This custom kite builder builds one kite at a time. They’re not the least expensive on this list, but they’re worth it.
In addition to sharing his favorite kites, Mike also provided us with a few general tips that all kite anglers should keep in mind to increase their chances of having a successful day on the water.
• Always keep kites assembled. This is a key to longevity. Disassembling weakens the product. And keep your kites dry. (Both good reasons to check out the Kite Keeper, which can hold between 4-16 kites.)
• Wash new kites out of the box to eliminate manufacturing funk and allow air to pass through as designed. Some captains will bleach their new kites before the first use. Mike highly recommends you don’t ignore this. Although it’s not officially recommended by manufacturers, experienced captains agree on the importance of this step.
• Even if you have a lighter kite for lighter winds, always carry a helium tank for balloons. Mike’s 120cc tank is a big part of his arsenal.
• “Kites are like people; they have personality,” Mike says, “and they’re as good as the guy flying them.”
• Mike prefers a NW wind. No matter what you prefer, with the kites flying downwind of your boat and covering only one side, you have the entire other side of the boat open for multiple rod fishing.
Lastly, while there are lots of talented captains out there who are quite proficient in kite fishing, Mike suggested a few major influencers to check out for a day on the water or just for inspiration.
• Capt. Ray Rosher, Miss Britt Sportfishing, Coconut Grove, Miami
• Capt. Jamie Ralph, Old #7; winner of 2017 Final Sail, the final leg of the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series
• Capt. Travis Ralph and First Mate Roy Rice, Reel Captivating
You can learn more about Mike and his fishing exploits at KiteFishing.com (it’s currently under construction, but still features some great fishing content). Many thanks to Mike for the fantastic insights.
Happy kite fishing!