Fishing on live bait still has its critics
After a month of fishing more live bait than I have fished in the past five years, I have found that little has changed as far as public perception of the technique. The general lack of respect exhibited by not only the purists, but fellow live bait fishermen as well is difficult to understand.
The folks crowded around the cleaning table are usually quick to offer congratulations until the angler says that he or she caught their fish on live bait. At that point, the catch is filed away in the “Aw, any one can catch fish on live bait” category and they saunter back to their lawn chairs to while away the evening.
From a guiding standpoint, I fish live bait on occasion for two reasons. I want customers to catch fish and I want customers tocatch fish. I would prefer to fish artificials only, but catching is still the name of the game for most folks.
As a rule, we generally resort to fishing live bait only when the lure bite is very difficult or when a client just does not possess the
casting skills necessary to give themselves a good shot at putting a lure in front of a hungry fish. Because the bite on artificials has been so sporadic since the middle of May, we have spent a significant portion of our fishing time nurturing a more consistent bite on mullet or shad.
The unexpected bonus for the extra work has been the size of the trout that we have been catching. We can still catch at least a few trout on artificials most days, but it is obvious that the larger trout are hunting meat right now.
I fully understand why trout fishermen committed to plugging for their fish abhor the thought of sitting on anchor and drowning live bait. I, too, much prefer to wade chest deep on a February day, stalk the flats under a full moon with topwaters, or even chase the gulls with plastics rather than cast net that first shad or mullet.
I can, however, get excited about fishing live bait if there is a very real potential for catching an eight-pound plus trout that will bite nothing else. That said, I would prefer to drift live bait in lieu of having to park in one spot while waiting on fish that may or may not show.
What I do not understand is why those that live or die with imitations go out of their way to berate the live bait fishermen. They seldom if ever vie for the same stretch of water as they are usually content to target a specific spot rather than run all over the lake.
On the other hand, probably ninety percent of all bay rage is the direct result of a more mobile lure enthusiast running right through the middle of a flock of gulls that folks are already working or plowing through the shallows within casting distance of wade fishermen. I have been assaulted with everything from Traps to Spoons by over anxious anglers crowding the gulls, but I am yet to have anyone race up, throw out an anchor, and cast a mullet into that melee!
I have learned a great deal about the habits of trout, reds, and flounder over the years from area anglers that fish nothing but live
bait all year long. They are attuned to the most productive depths to fish, the size of the bait the fish are chasing, and the affects of the tide changes. Even though I was fishing artificials, I have successfully altered a game plan more than once after talking with a live bait fisherman prior to leaving the launch.
What truly amazes me is the lack of respect many live bait fishermen unknowingly show for their own chosen approach to a possible fish fry. Their most glaring oversight is the selection and proper care of the bait. Live bait is supposed to be alive and an inadequate livewell or overcrowding is a death sentence for the bait.If you can only catch shad, then so be it, but more often than not I watch folks give up on mullet because they are catching only a few with each cast. I would rather run to my fishing hole thirty minutes late with 20 live mullet if that is the preferred bait than a box full of shad just because they were easier to catch!
I am equally surprised by the number of live bait fishermen that are willing to compromise their potential for catching big trout by using inferior equipment. Even more perplexing is the attitude that it is OK to arm a novice or a child with an old rod and a push button reel and wish them well.
A cane pole and ten feet of string is a better choice for me than any closed face reel. I can at least see what is going on with my line. I can assure you that bad things are either happening or about to happen under the enclosed cover of a push button reel with every crank of the handle.
At the same time, I observe a number of folks everyday fishing with gear better suited for the short rigs. Just because you have chosen to use live bait rather than a lure does not mean that you should not use quality tackle matched to the task.
While the optimum rod and reel for fishing live bait quite often works perfectly with lures, you have the advantage of not having to carry several rods with different actions. A low profile casting reel or spinning reel matched with a six and one-half foot or seven-foot medium action rod are both excellent choices. The spinning combination is the more user-friendly of the two.
We will stow away the cast net and anchor as soon as there is a viable alternative, but I will never doubt the effectiveness of fishing live bait for saltwater fish. If live bait is just not your bag, I urge you to continue to enjoy the merits of duping fish with an imitation, but show the live bait fishermen a little respect in the process.
Remember, they were doing their thing long before there were rod and reels!