Fishing Live Bait : The Plus & Minus
Live bait is one of the most effective ways to catch fish, but generally requires more patience and effort in the presentation.
It’s also messier, but that’s what the kids love.
Live bait is effective because it moves naturally, gives off a natural odor and looks like something that fish are accustomed to eating. Live bait includes worms, minnows, frogs, leeches, eels, crayfish, shrimp, grasshoppers, crickets, mullet, shiners, shad and a whole lot more stuff.
You can cut up a larger fish and use bite-size pieces for bait or go to your local butcher and get some chicken parts. Chicken intestines are excellent bait for catfish. They’re tough, dirt cheap or often free and catfish love them. Gizzards and livers are also good bait but livers don’t stay on the hook very well.
The chicken heart is one of the best baits I’ve found for all-round freshwater fishing. Bluegill, perch, catfish and the occasional bass will eagerly eat them. One of the best aspects of the chicken heart is the meat is a very tough muscle that stays on the hook a long time.
Typically, any future slice of sushi is susceptible to taking live bait, presented properly.
Check local laws before setting out, because some live baits are restricted in their use. For example, gold fish are illegal in many states. The go to bait that’s unlimited, especially if you’re fishing with kids, is the ordinary garden variety earthworm, or if you live in northern climes you might be lucky enough to find some night crawlers. One of the great aspects of worms is you can find them in just about any place you dig where the soil is fertile and it’s a fun project for kids, catching their bait before they go.
Catching worms can be as much fun as fishing with them unless the kids get personally attached to them.
Plan your next camping trip with gear from Cabela’s. Just don’t forget your hammock for Hammock Day!
The number one rule for taking kids fishing is don’t name your bait!
To be most effective, live bait should be as fresh as possible. Minnows, chubs and shiners should be kept in aerated containers and changed often for best results. Aerators or bubblers work better than re-circulation systems because bait tires out from swimming against a constant current.
When you purchase live minnows, do not add tap water that can contains chlorine. Chlorine destroys the fish’s gills and will kill them before you get to the lake. De-chlorinators can be used, but it is best to augment the water from the lake you are fishing. During the summer, keep your bait container out of the direct sun and add ice to keep the water temperature lower. Since ice also has the potential to contain chlorine, either treat the water with a de-chlorinator or put the ice in a sealable freezer bag. Baitfish become sluggish in warm water, then die, due to a lack of oxygen.
Also, when baiting your hook, wet your hands before handling live minnows to avoid removing the protective slime layer.
Baitfish can be hooked either behind the dorsal fin, for a more lifelike swimming motion, or through both lips, coming up from the bottom. Once hooked, baitfish can be presented on a free-line, or fished at a precise depth using a bobber and sinker. If you’ve never used a slip bobber here’s a great how-to piece that will break it down for you.
When fishing deeper than the length of your rod, slip bobbers are most advantageous. With slip bobbers, you can preset the desired depth with a sliding bobber stop, which makes it much easier to cast and retrieve your setup.
Worms and leeches can be fished in a similar manner with slip bobbers, fished off the bottom, or pulled with worm harnesses using bottom bouncers when fishing for walleye or other bottom-related species.
Bobbers should be only large enough to support the bait and weight necessary to keep it at the desired depth so that it offers little resistance, which will alarm the targeted species. Longer worms can be fished with a stinger hook to avoid having the bait eaten away slowly, one bite at a time.
One of the most important things to remember about fishing with live bait is that you want to keep bait alive as long as possible. Casting should be done in a manner to minimize impact, and once the bait has been casted, exercise a little patience. Repeated casting of live bait will most often result in killing the bait and the only exercise your rod arm will get is from casting.
When fishing with worms, soak them in water before using and they will swell up, making them larger and more desirable.
When fishing for panfish and other smaller species, only use a small portion of a worm, just enough to cover the hook.
Grasshoppers and crickets can be kept for days by putting small pieces of potato in their container, which provides moisture as well as food.
Hook grasshoppers and crickets from the bottom, just behind the legs, penetrating upward through the hard shell of their back.
When fish take a live bait offering, they will often run for a short distance before stopping to inhale their prize. When you see your bobber begin to move slightly it often means that the bait has spotted a lurking fish and is trying to get away. When the bobber goes down or starts to move away slowly, allow the line to pay out for up to 30 seconds, to make sure the fish has the bait and hook completely in its mouth, then take all of the slack out of the line before setting the hook with a rapid upward motion.
A final live bait tip – take a towel to keep your hands clean. Live bait is effective, but a bit on the messy side. Crickets, grasshoppers and minnows aren’t bad, but you can usually spot a worm fisherman from a distance by the dirt and slime that covers their pant’s legs.