Choosing the Right Bait

Summer fishing can test even the most passionate angler. With the occasional storm front and daytime heat, fishing is anything but guaranteed. Anglers must tempt their prey with the best there is to be successful. Choosing the right bait is one of those factors.

Bait or food for the fish can come in several different variations: Live, fresh or artificial. And each one has a place in your bait arsenal. Of course, we want to keep this simple so we are only going to talk about fresh baits. These should be easier to use for the new angler.

A brief example of the most popular saltwater fresh baits are: Live shrimp, crabs, bait fish and blood worms. Fresh baits – dead shrimp, cut mullet, and squid. And examples of artificial baits are synthetics like fish bites or fish gum. Obviously, there are many more baits but let’s limit them to the few that I like to use when fishing on the Outer Banks.

Fresh Shrimp

Shrimp is probably the best bait, most frequently used and readily available. It seems everything that swims eats shrimp. It is important to buy only fresh shrimp. Tackle shops or seafood retailers sell the best bait shrimp. But you need to make sure it’s fresh not frozen. Frozen bait shrimp works but loses its scent quickly.

Next to shrimp, a live crustaceans such as a peeler crab or sand fleas are irresistible. These baits are readily available during the summer months. We are finding even frozen sand fleas work well.  

Next popular bait is cut bait. Cut bait comes from another fin fish species. Anglers use a variety of different fish for cut bait but jumping mullet gives off scent that will attract fish. I like mullet because it stays on the hook better. These whole mullet fish usually come in two sizes corn cob size and finger. Either one works.

Next is squid. Squid is an overall good bait and works well for just about every species. Unfortunately, I have found it attracts some of the unwanted species such as skates and sharks. So a last resort bait.

Finally, blood worms can be on both the live and fresh bait list. I consider them right up there with shrimp. And some cases, better. They are really good at catching fish but also attract small bait stealers and crabs. One disadvantage is their cost but I will overlook this when nothing else works.

Regardless of which bait you use, make sure its fresh when you purchase it. It is imperative that you keep it on ice in a cooler and not in the heat or sun. I also recommend that you never use yesterday’s bait – buy fresh each day.

When using either baits, don’t oversize. Shrimp should be cut into segments, not whole. Cut mullet into small chunks and leave skin and scales on. I use only a small piece or less of the bloodworm. And when using squid, cut pieces in one inch by three inch strips. Finally, a single soft sand fleas on a hook can provoke a quick strike.

When baiting your hooks, just use enough bait to cover the hook. It’s important to leave the tip of the hook and a little bit of the barb out. During the bite, the exposed hook helps it penetrate into the fish’s lip quickly.

Remember, fresh is best. But shrimp seems to be the bait of choice of most anglers. Don’t be afraid to try them all. Each one has its benefits and each one catches fish.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony