Here are some bait fishing tips that
just don’t seem to get through to most people. If fishing with Croaker,
you have to “read the bait”.
Read It Overall
Read the quality of the overall bait in
your tank and then read each bait individually. Grab a couple of handfuls
of the baits and look a their overall quality. In a perfect world, there
would be NO red nose, red belly, missing tails, etc. If you’ve got a bunch
of this stressed out bait, it’s going to be a tough day unless you can perhaps
get them into a swarm of Trout in the surf. If the bait looks pretty good
overall, then it should be at the bottom of your livewell and staying their.
Good bait will be free of redness and they will have tails an slime. There
shouldn’t be any baits in the upper or middle water column in the bait tank.
Whatever is in the upper or middle of the tank is probably going to be trash,
cull it out promptly. If the bait looks good and is at the bottom of the
bait tank, but starts to levitate toward the upper and middle water column,
problems are on the way and adjustments like water change out and/or more
or less O2 should be looked at.
Read It Individually
When it goes on the hook, read each bait
as you go. If you are putting a red belly red nose on the hook, recognize
that this bait isn’t going to fish well, so put it on a short leash. Some
type of weight is going to be needed on this poor bait, a) to get it beneath
a seagull, and b) to get it down to the fish. This stressed out bait will
stay in the upper end of the water column in the bait tank so guess where
it’s going to be fishing in the bay? The answer is nowhere near a Trout
but very near a “Skippy”. I don’t fish with any weight but sometimes
a good looking bait supply won’t fish right or an individual bait may need
some help. Start light, I use pinch weights that are so small some might
wonder why add them at all. It doesn’t take a lot to get the bait down and
lighter is better. If you have a good quality bait supply and it’s fishing
down, stay off the weight. If currents are encountered, try to find current
breaks rather than adding weight.
Good Croaker that are small require less
aggressive rod whipping. Bigger baits can tolerate a little more aggression,
but still with some common sense. You can turn a nice size good condition
Croaker into something that won’t catch a fish quickly by whipping the life
out of it. This is always a shame so adjust your whip depending upon size
and condition of the bait. Stressed out “red anything” baits should
be whipped very little. Think about it, why whip a stressed bait that is
struggling to get into the lower water column? Small baits need to be fished
gently and quickly.
Fish It Aggressively
One cast at most two, one missed fish,
and dump it. DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH THE BAIT! This is the #1 mistake among
recreational fishermen. Fishing the same bait multiple times until
it’s dead on the hook is a very big mistake.
Yes, they are .50cents a piece, who cares? After dumping $250 in out of
pocket expenses to get your rig in the water for a day of fishing, why get
cheap now? Before making a second cast with a bait, drop it in the water,
this is the test for a Croaker. If it’s swimming down hard, fish it. If
it is laying on its side or if it swims down 6″ then comes for the
surface, DUMP IT. Staying with the same bait until it is completely lifeless
will shut down a bite and suck up the trash.
Distance Is Key
Cast 10′ shorter than your buddy and your
buddy will catch all the fish. This is because Trout will typically eat
a Croaker at the end of the cast. Use slick reels loose on the settings
for maximum distance delivery. Backlashes will occur. What that means is
you are throwing it hard enough. Thumb the spool throughout the cast lightening
up or adding pressure depending upon the success of the cast. 200 Series
Curados or Plueger Trions are the main players. If you can’t get the distance
with a Curado, then jump to something slicker and more expensive to get
the distance. When making a good cast, keep the bait there. The reel hand
is the devil hand in this game, put it in your pocket if you have to. Making
a great cast helps little if you constantly reel the bait toward the boat.
Trust it, let it fish, don’t try to keep a tight line on it. At the same
time, don’t lose track of it by using rod tip elevation. More than two turns
on the reel (48″ plus or minus or 1 crank equal to 24″) and you’ve
either got a tide sweeping the bait back at the boat or it’s coming at the
boat with a fish on it. “Reel till you feel and apply a gentle, testing
Reading the bait is less critical although
upper and lower water column rules still apply. These baits are rarely stressed,
but they can have an off day. The difference is this bait is trapped rather
than drug up in a shrimp trawl. The smaller the better is the key. Three
inches or less for Trout down to something the size of a quarter. Piggies
require something like a rod on the light side of a medium light like a
Tradition series 7′ Rodsmith or a PRL10X All Star. The light action will
deliver a very light bait freelined to a farther distance and “distance”
is the key. However, Trout will eat Piggies closer to the boat than Croaker
so fish it at least a quarter cast from the boat.
Advantages of Piggies over Croaker:
* Piggies are heartier and can take more
bait tank abuse and amateur mistakes.
* Piggies are typically healthier out of
a bait camp to start with.
* Piggies bark louder and will fish bad
water, higher winds, and tougher conditions.
* Piggies fish better over grass.
* Trout will be larger over grass.
* Redfish would rather eat a Piggy than
just about anything.
* Trout may dislike a Croaker but they
despise a Piggie.
* Bite aggression will be much more exaggerated.
* Trout can be overall smaller over shell.
* More bait is required due to Trout kills
and spitting especially on larger Pigs.
* They are hard to come by in the POC area.
Capt. Kris Kelley
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