Philosophical Bait Fishing

by Louis Bignami

Bait fishing gets little ink and less advertising. American fishermen find more status with flyrods or, where trout are not the common quarry, with artificials such as spoons, spinners and plugs.

Manufacturers and tackle shops profit more selling lures than bait, hooks, sinkers and other bait fishing gear. So rods run to fast tips which cast lures best, not softer, parabolic rods that softly sling bait into the right spots. Then too, most black bass tournaments prohibit bait. So lures get the editorial and advertising ink and too many fishermen turn to bait only as a "desperation technique" when all else fails.

So we'll offer a great many short pieces on bait fishing fine points like bobber fishing, line selection, terminal tackle choices, hook use and more. After all, in today's harried world few contemplations beat dangling a worm, salmon egg or shrimp under a bobber and lazing away the day until fish cooperate.

Europeans fish bait first. Freshwater game fish cost too much for the average angler. Few can afford $15 to $30 daily fees for trout and thousands of pounds for a week's Atlantic salmon fishing. So fishermen turn to bait when they seek rough fish inland and also when they turn to sea angling. As a result, their bait fishing techniques and tackle are much more sophisticated than our own. For example, the French popularized spinning reels. Fewer Europeans fish from boats, so they developed special long casting techniques that now rule tournament distance casting.

This isn't to say that you won't catch fish if you drag a lip-hooked hickory shad around the lake until you get action. Such methods work at times. In current, for example, you can hook your live shad or other minnow through the tail and freeline it with minimum weight down to fish which wait below the fast water.

However, you will catch more fish with bait if you pay more attention to basics. Good hooks, carefully triangulated and resharpened with a file after every snag and hookup improve your percentages. So do barbless hooks with tough-mouth fish. Use premium extra-tough line in diameters larger than most ten pound test around cover and you won't lose as many fish to snags. Use appropriate extra thin line in ultra clear water. Pay attention to line nicks too. I replace lines every half-dozen trips and always run the tag ends through my lips to check for nicks and wear. Checking the new ceramic guides often avoids snagging lines too. Of course, all fishermen need to know how to tie two or three reliable knots -- see directions on line containers.

Adequate tackle keyed to your method and bait selection is vital. Use revolving spool reels when you troll and you reduce line twist. Add a decent ball-bearing swivel or a Gaspen's Poor Man's Troller® or Baitwalker® -- different types of sinkers on mini spreaders -- and you further reduce twist and the chance of snagged baits and "vegetables" that slide down your line to make your bait less attractive. Each of these items improves your chances by a few percentage points, but the total is a major improvement in results if you remember to check each point each time. At least once a year I forget something on my check list. Most of the time this results in a lost fish!

Water Gremlin How-to Index - Over 30 different rigs with diagrams and step-by-step instructions.