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Live Bait is King!


It doesn’t matter where around the peninsula you ply your craft. Live bait certainly plays a vital role in every angler’s success. Without question, there is always a place and time for artificial lures, but day in and day out, NOTHING will out-produce a ‘live’ frantically flipping for freedom. Even the most modern technology can’t duplicate the irresistible come-eat-me vibration omitted from a struggling baitfish. Tournament competitors will pay up to $10 for each offering, another testament to live bait’s fish-catching ability.

Live bait is king! It doesn’t matter where around the peninsula you ply your craft; live bait certainly plays a vital role in every angler’s success. Without question, there is always a place and time for artificial baits, but day in and day out, NOTHING will out-produce a ‘live’ frantically flipping for freedom. Even the most modern technology can’t duplicate the irresistible come-eat-me vibration omitted from a struggling baitfish. Tournament competitors will pay up to $10 for each offering, another testament to live bait’s fish-catching ability.

If you’re not proficient in procuring your live bait, it’s time to smarten up. You’ll save money, catch more, and achieve gratification that only comes with enticing quality fish on bait that you invested your time and energy to see. You’ll also learn a lot about the region you fish in, including migration routes, seasonal patterns, and key focal points that will typically produce bait and game fish year after year.

If you’re tired of purchasing your live bait, the following will get you started. It also is a refresher course for those interested in advancing their bait-catching skills. Remember one thing: in the fishing world, there is no guarantee. Experiment and look way outside the box, as sometimes ingenuity is needed to achieve consistent bait-catching success!

1. Location, Location, Location

Bait fishing is just that; it’s fishing! And like most other species we target both inshore and off, baitfish are structure-oriented. They must be because they’re left vulnerable in the open; they’re dead meat! Rock jetties, barnacle-encrusted pier supports, shallow reefs, wrecks, and grass beds; depending on the precise species of baitfish you are targeting, these locations provide ideal security and solitude. If where to start your search for bait is still a mystery, paper charts and local tackle shops are great places for reliable information.

2. Moving Water

Now that you know where to begin your search, you must time your bait-catching efforts correctly. Incoming or outgoing, it doesn’t matter as long as the water is moving. You’ll typically find the last two hours of incoming and the first two hours of the outgoing tide to be the most productive.

3. Fish For Bait at night

During the daylight hours when boat traffic is at its peak, concentrations of bait generally seek shelter in deeper water, where they become skittish and increasingly challenging to find and catch. Once the sun has set, the same bait will typically move back in shallower and let their guard down. Statewide piers are a great place to take advantage of this phenomenon.

4. Don’t Be A Tool

Assuming you’ve struck pay dirt and located a solid concentration of baitfish, it is time to catch them, with two primary options. Sabiki rigs are ideal for plucking baitfish one, two, or four at a time. Remember that these innovative quill rigs are classified by style, size, branch strength, and main-line strength. When targeting hearty blue-runners, using a #6 or #8 Sabiki best suited for threadfin herring will frustrate you. The same theory applies to the alternative cast-nets. Cast nets are classified by diameter, weight per foot, and mesh size. Throw a perfect pancake with a 12-foot net on a thick school of finger mullet, and you won’t be able to lift the net out of the water. Utilizing the right tool for the job will make the entire bait-fishing experience more productive and enjoyable.

5. Here Fishy…Fishy

Why wait for baitfish to find you? Anchor over a shallow reef, wreck, or wide open grass bed, scatter some chum, and low and behold, whatever bait is in the area will soon appear in your slick. Tiny dimples on the surface will give away the bait’s presence, so keep a sharp eye out. Frozen chum blocks or your concoction of sand, ground oats, and menhaden oil will ring the dinner bell.

6. Bait Motel

While many anglers only invest time fishing for bait the morning of a big trip, many of Florida’s most competitive fishermen bait fish for weeks before an upcoming event, stockpiling hundreds and sometimes thousands of baitfish. Now comes the challenge of maintaining all this bait and ensuring it is in prime shape for the forth



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oming challenge. Bait pens in various sizes can be purchased at many retailers and manufactured with only a small investment in time and materials. A few things to look out for when storing bait in a pen at your dock are rain or drainage from washing your boat. If the heavy dose of freshwater doesn’t kill the bait, the soapy residue surely will. This is why those in the know prefer to sink their pen to the bottom. Like all fish, baitfish must eat to remain healthy. A daily schedule of ground chum will keep your baitfish fit and fed. Finally, don’t overcrowd your bait pen. Too many baitfish in a confined area that is too small will quickly take its toll

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