Bait Fishing Justified: Part 1/3


Bait works best! At most times and in most places, baits take more fish than artificials. The advantage bait offers widens as conditions get tough, fishing pressures increase, or the angler wants to concentrate on trophy fish results rather than fashionable techniques that use artificials. Sturgeon on Bait

Clearly, a properly selected, fresh live bait presented in a subtle manner on appropriate tackle, suits today's conditions for the beginner and expert alike. For example, nothing beats a big live shiner for bass in the summer heat when the fishing's slow. No nymph pattern works better than a live hellgrammite drifted to a picky brown trout on a rocky mountain stream. Otherwise, if baits did not work best they would not be banned in so many places? The reason baits work best is simple. While incredible amounts of ingenuity and tons of technology focus on lure shape, color, action and, yes, taste, fish know the difference between the real thing and imitations. That's not just piscatorial. In life is any imitation ever better than the real thing? Margarine may look like butter, but gourmets know the difference. Gourmet fish, the survivors of today's piscatorial wars, know the differences too.


That's why early man, as far back as Neanderthal days, used fish hooks baited with who knows what, to take fish. Unfortunately, not too much primitive fishing tackle survives. The earliest tackle seems to be some stone age hooks from Czechoslovakia, or whatever they're calling it by the time this sees print. Clearly early man fished with bait. It's easy to see their hair lines and wood poles wouldn't survive. Language might solve the problem. In Latin, and in Hebrew, the same word means both "thorn" and "hook." So it's easy to see that the fur garment set used for hooks.


Fishing hasn't always had good press. Plato called it "a lazy deceitful occupation, unworthy of a gentleman . . ." Romans felt fishing a suitable occupation as it "encourages contemplation." However, the first literary mention of fishing was by Aelian who used natural flies to catch fish. One wonders how, for he talks about converting pesky mosquitos into bait. Maybe, like some of today's fishermen, his imagination exceeded his dexterity, or perhaps he used crane flies or maybe he flat lied. Aeolian also started the glut of fishing literature on artificial like flies. Why do so many fishermen look down on bait even though most experts agree that baitfishing is, at it's most sophisticated, both the most productive and the most subtle form of the sport? Why do many claim some higher art exists with lures and flies? After all, Dame Juliana Berners published her BOK OF ST. ALBANS or TREATISE OF FISHING WITH AN ANGLE in 1496, and she meant angle worms, not ways to skirt fish and game regulations! Shortly after Dame Berners, and there's argument that she actually wrote the book, men took over with Isaak -- that's how it's spelled on his grave in Winchester Cathedral -- or, if you like, Izaak Walton's, THE COMPLETE ANGLER. Fishing's been a mess ever since. Don't get it wrong. Within the limits of the day's technology the old boys had some good ideas about tackle. For example, they used tapered leaders up to 20 feet long. Cotton the rather raffish fellow who held up the other end of the dialog of THE COMPLETE ANGLER, popped for a line that tapered from two horsehairs next to the hook, then three horsehairs for three links, or sections, and so on. Horsehair, assuming the proper horse, and horse players know all horses aren't equal, runs about 0.5 to 1.3 pound test. A two and a half pound leader on the pole of the day must have been fun with a big brown! That's why most fishermen of the time used six or eight hairs and, if a big fish hit, would toss their poles into the water until the fish wore down. Granted that not all bait fishers used horsehair. Wire lines became popular for pike after a German invented a way to draw wire for chain mail. It seems warfare created technological advances early on!