Bay Fishing with Bait 101

Bay Fishing with Bait 101:

Calm Summer Mornings to
Windy Afternoons – Croaker & Piggy Perch

3rd of 5 Articles

This is the 3rd in the
series of articles written for the average bay fisherman who wants
to use bait.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the bait
house on a summer morning and hear a customer ask “What are they
biting on?” after which a slow drawl from Ron would follow “Been
bite’n on croaker” and an excited “I’ll take a couple of dozen of
those!” would shoot out of beginner croaker fisherman’s mouth. 
I can’t help but wonder what those 24 croaker will go through during
the day!  Hopefully after reading this article the croaker and
the fisherman will have a more pleasant day!  For example: a
three person charter I’ll take anywhere from 12-18 dozen baits and
this could be the difference between 4 fish or 40 fish!

Now some fishermen ask what
is best Piggy Perch or Croaker that can be a tricky question. 
Croaker actually show up at the bait shop earlier (May) than Piggies
(June), so that is an easy choice in the beginning of the summer. 
Wherein lies the problem, determining when and what size the Piggies
are when they become productive as fishing bait.  I start using
piggies as early as possible and sometimes for more than a month
after they show up at the bait shop I’m still buying both. 
Because of their size croaker are stronger swimmers for deeper water
but the Piggies doubled up in the shallower sand pockets can be
awesome fish catchers!


Croaker  

 Pin Perch are
NOT Piggy Perch

and they do NOT
catch fish with these techniques, often confused with a
true Piggy Perch!


Piggy Perch

Let’s get down to the rigs I
prefer when fishing these baits.  I always use 20# fluorocarbon
leader tied to the main line, I do not use a swivel because I
believe it is in the way, snags more grass and is more visible. 
As with most live bait or lures I use a loop knot at the terminal or
hook end.


Leader

– Easy, I use only 20# fluorocarbon!  The leader length should
be about 18” give or take.  It should be long enough to were
the knot does not have to go through the eye when casting which
prevents longer casts. 


Hooks

– 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 6/0 Gamakatsu or VMC Kahle hooks depending on the
size of the bait.


Corks

– I predominantly use Cajun Thunders.  On lighter wind days the
old Mansfield Mauler could be an option too.  I even save old
corks for those days that the Redfish don’t want a lot of sound!

Cork Colors
– I always start with two primary colors, pink and chartreuse. 
Most of the time you will find Redfish like one and not the other
and the same for Trout…however they may be hitting both or you can
select the color depending on when you are fishing an area more
conducive to the fish you expect to catch.

Knots
– I use a line to leader knot instead of a swivel.  The only
time I use a swivel is when fishing the bait on the bottom using a
weight because at times I need a longer casts on the calm shallow
flats.  I tie a loop knot at the Kahle hook for more realistic
movement.

Accessories
– Beads are not as important in this type of fishing but can be
used.  If you’re going to try beads the general rule of thumb
is to start with small beads and at least one rig without a bead. 
Really make sure your buddy’s is fishing the bait properly before
ruling out any combination!  Sometimes going to a larger bead
when the water is very muddy or stirred up makes a difference!

Now that the terminal gear
has been laid out it is time to talk about presentation!  The
cast should be made in an arch and slow the bait down just before it
hits the water to make a softer presentation – then allow the bait
to swim to the bottom (allow 1 second for every 2 foot of water)
otherwise you’ll stress the bait by having to swim against the tight
line.  Occasionally, 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.  You’ll probably notice a bird swooping down
to get the bait at this point!  Darn Birds!  Once that
bait is down where the fish are you’ll need to flick the rod tip
about every 10-15 seconds, this does a combination of things 1) It
gets the bait to react so you can tell how lively it is 2) It pulls
the bait away from it’s prey thus enticing a strike 3) It will keep
the bait from burying in the grass or shell.  The flicks are
more of just whipping the tip of  your rod from a 10 O’clock to
12 O’clock position in a manner that only moves the bait several
inches at a time (when doing this on the flats fishing sand pockets
you don’t move the bait too much or you grass him up and have to
recast).

Hook Set
– This style of fishing
requires that you feed line to the fish in a manner that he doesn’t
detect tension on the line and the perfected Bass angler hook set
(Bill Dancing) will lose you a lot of fish!  The proper way to
hold the rod and set the hook is to:


Spinning Rod


1)

Hold a spinning rod at 12
O’clock with a slight bow in the line while waiting on a strike. 

2)
When you feel the thud of a
fish drop the rod tip as the fish is taking the line, remember to
keep the same slight bow in the line.  If and when the fish
stops running with it you must immediately (I mean immediately!)
flick the rod tip back to the 12 O’clock position and be ready for
it to come back, which it usually will!  Sometimes you have to
do this 3 or 4 times before he really swallows the Croaker or Piggy
and makes the longer run.


3) Reel up to set the hook
and
when
you feel the weight of the fish firmly lift the rod back to the 10
O’clock position.


4)

Keep good pressure on the
fish to get him up to the surface and into the net, Trout like to
shake their heads and regurgitate the bait and if you are fishing
the rigs there are a lot of snags if you let the fish stay deep.


Bait Caster

1)
Hold a bait casting rod and
reel at about 10 O’clock position with a slight bow in the line and
be ready to free spool during the run (works better for this type of
fishing).

2)
When you feel the thud of a
fish drop the rod tip as the fishing is taking the line keeping the
same slight bow in the line.  If and when the fish stops
running with it you must immediately (I mean immediately!) flick the
rod tip back to the 10 O’clock position and be ready for it to come
back, which it usually will!  Sometimes you have to do this 3
or 4 times before he really swallows the Croaker or Piggy.

3) Reel up to set the
hook and

when you feel the weight of the fish firmly lift the rod back to the
10 O’clock position.

4)
Keep good pressure on the
fish to get him up to the surface and into the net, Trout like to
shake their heads and regurgitate the bait and if you are fishing
the rigs there are a lot of snags if you let the fish stay deep.


Locations

I use Croaker and Piggies
when fishing the bay oil rigs, deeper bay oyster reefs, outside bay
islands and channels with deep water access to grass in about 3-5
foot of water.  I also use these baits on the flats in many
capacities such as fishing sand pockets or even right in the grass
itself.  In the flats on a windy day putting a Piggy 12” – 20”
under a Cajun Thunder can be killer when nobody else has had a good
bite, keep the bait fresh, they don’t last long casting under a cork
(expensive but effective)! I even use a cork sometimes when I’m
anchored up fishing pot holes and grass just for something a little
different! 

Special Techniques

Here are some special tips
to work these baits in the areas I mentioned, after time you’ll be
adding your own special touches that work for you or your fish,
whatever the case may be!

  • Double up your small
    baits in the flats, it keeps them from burying in the grass.

  • Cut the tail on the
    bigger piggies in the flats so they don’t bury in the grass and
    they put off a sent.

  • When the bite is slow
    try varying techniques double your bait (smaller), try piggies,
    try croaker.

  • Sometimes the Redfish
    and Flounder love a Piggy/Croaker combo (usually smaller Piggy)!

  • The Piggy doesn’t
    have to be alive under the popping cork in the flats for
    Redfish…but I like’em that way.

  • I have caught some
    great fish on piggies big enough to keep the cork under while
    fishing in the deeper areas off the flats, especially on busy
    days that may have pushed the fish off the flats.

  • The Piggy or Croaker
    have to be lively has hell in the deeper bay; they also must
    swim toward the bottom!

  • After a morning of
    Trout fishing in the deeper bay come back to the flats to throw
    some of your weaker and smaller baits into pot holes for some
    Redfish action.  This is good because they can’t bury in
    the grass as easy!

  • I never really use
    croaker under a popping cork but I might try it one day! 
    Use your imagination!

In closing remember that
nothing about fishing is set in stone, pay attention, vary your
approach and find what works!  If fishing gets slow after a
couple of good catches I find that the angler gets a little pumped
and not letting the fish run enough!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this
article and remember if you don’t eat it release it and try to
release all big Trout especially over 25”…get a picture it
will last longer, preserve some fish for our kids!

Fish
More, Live Longer!
Capt. Scott McCune
____________________________________________
Capt. Scott McCune (USCG Master)

fishntexas.com with ‘The
Saltwater Cowboy’

361.563.TUNA(8862)cell

Email:

scott@fishntexas.com

Web Page:

www.fishntexas.com

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