I had a hard time deciding where I wanted to start this. Should I start with tips on the number of bait to buy or tips on fishing with it. They can each impact the other. If you buy a lower number of bait you might be more inclined to watch how you’re fishing with them, but at the same time if you land on a particularly hungry group of undersized trout you could go through your stockpile rather quickly. Not to mention if birds steal your bait, throwing it off on the cast, or any number of other circumstances that can cost you bait. So I figured I would start out of the water (unless you are catching your bait) and go from there.
Buying live bait can be expensive. I’ve seen some go for upwards of a dollar per. That being said you definitely shouldn’t skimp on the number you pick up. Don’t buy 10 Croaker and expect to catch 10 fish. A fantastic fishermen that’s been at it for years and knows the right spots and times might be able to get away with a 3:1 ratio. Meaning they are reeling in one keeper for every three pieces of bait they use. The rest of us mortals can generally count on a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio. Let’s say you are going to go with the safer 5:1 and you are going after your trout limit of ten, that means you would need to buy 50 pieces of your preferred live bait. However, I would strongly suggest you buy more to account for any accidents, bait thrown off during the cast, not getting your hook in just right, basically any eventuality. With that 5:1, 10 keepers, and planning for lossage you might want to go with 65 pieces.
Now that you’ve got your bait let’s catch some fish. Try to get your cast to be more of an arch than just straight out. If you just whip it out there you have a higher chance of throwing your bait off. Also the bait could be damaged from the torque of the hook or even the impact with the water. You want it to land fairly softly so that it mimics having just jumped out of the water and plopped back down. Once it lands give it time to swim for the bottom before doing anything with the line. Around one second for every two feet of water should be plenty. The reason for this is so that you stress your bait making swim against a taut line. Sometimes, especially with a third or forth cast of the same bait, you might have to flick your rod tip to wake the bait up to swim down.
Having given your bait time to get to the bottom you’ll need to flick the tip of your rod in the neighborhood of every 10 to 15 seconds. The flicks shouldn’t be too hard. Just enough to get the bait to move a couple of inches. The equivalent of going from 12 O’clock to 2 O’clock should do it. This will do a number of things. First, it gets the bait to react so you can tell how lively it is. If your bait has had enough and is just sitting there then it won’t look particularly tasty to what you’re after. Second, it pulls the bait away from the predators thus enticing a strike. Lastly, it will keep the bait from burying in the grass or shell.
One thing to keep in mind, if you are new to fishing with live bait or if your have someone out with you that’s new to it, make sure that the rod isn’t too stiff. If it is then you can actually run the risk of ripping the hook out of your bait. I don’t mean just dislodging the hook. For instance, one of the best places to hook something like a croaker or a pinfish is just behind the anal fin, if your bait is hooked in such a way when you start flicking your rod you can literally tear the hook through the rear of the fish. So make sure that you, or anyone sharing your bait, are using a pole that has some bend and flex to it so you don’t waste any of those pricey pieces of bait.
If you find that you are getting lots of bites but aren’t managing to set the hook and get the fish reeled in there could be a couple of things going on. You could just be waiting to long before you try to set the hook. The fish is getting the bait in it’s mouth feeling the hook and spitting it back out. Another possibility is the hook you are using. Possibly what you need to do is up the size of hook. The particular bait you’re using on any given day could be just slightly too big for the hook. Going up just one size might make all the difference in the world. If it’s not the size then it could be the way the hook is laying on the bait. If it’s laying just a little too flat then when the fish gets the bait in it’s mouth and you go to set it you are just pulling it right back out of the mouth. A way to fix this would be to grab a pair of pliers and offset the shank just a little bit. A centimeter or two won’t impact how well the bait stays on but will increase the odds of the hook landing true when you attempt to set it.
I’ll end today with a couple of tips on birds. They are an excellent way of locating fish but can be a huge pain if they start stealing your bait. One way to prevent this is to make sure you aren’t casting out dead bate. If you’ve always got lively bait then it should be able to swim down out of the reach of the pesky avians. In making sure you always keep live bait on the hook, as much as you can, make sure you aren’t discarding the old bait into the water around you. Keep something on hand that you can store the used bait in so you can throw them out later. Also, try not to cast into the flock or over it. You could end up hooking one of the or getting one caught up in your line.
Have fun out there and remember, make every trip a guided trip with MyFinFinder.