Bait fishing involves rigging and presenting bait in a multitude of ways and techniques to attract and catch saltwater game fish. Bait may be live, dead, whole or cut into strips or chunks and may be presented alone on a hook or in tandem with an artificial lure, such as a jig, to make the lure more appealing to game fish.
Types of Bait
There are many different types of organisms used as bait. Of all the types used in salt water, the majority consists of small fish. These include popular baitfish such as anchovies, herring, pinfish, menhaden, sardines and several others that are native to certain regional waters. Larger fish such as mullet, small mackerel, bonito and others are also used, usually as cut bait or chunks. The size of the baitfish used usually corresponds with the size of the game fish being sought. Other naturally occurring organisms used for bait-fishing include shrimp, clams, crabs, worms, eels, squid and sand fleas, with shrimp and crabs among the most popular.
A bait rig is the means by which an angler hooks a particular bait or piece of bait to present it to the fish. In addition to the many shapes and sizes of hooks available, bait rigs include other types of terminal tackle such as sinkers, leaders and swivels and come in a variety of arrangements, some employing multiple baited hooks. They can be used in a variety of casting, trolling, bottom fishing or stationary fishing situations.
Anglers can acquire bait either by purchasing it in bait shops or catching it themselves. The former has the advantage of convenience, while the latter can be less expensive and more effective, especially if the bait is used soon after capture. Catching live bait can involve activities such as collecting clams on a beach after a storm, digging for worms, gathering crabs or sand fleas by hand, rake or other device, and catching baitfish or shrimp with a seine or cast net. Some larger fish used for bait can even be caught with a baited hook. Because naturally occurring local organisms are almost always effective bait for catching the game fish in a given region, acquiring the bait from the same environment is often worth the extra effort.
Bait, whether used live or dead, is usually more effective when its as fresh as possible. Like any organic matter, bait is subject to spoiling and therefore needs special equipment and procedures to keep it fresh and effective. These can be as simple as Styrofoam bait buckets or as elaborate as aerated livewells that cost thousands of dollars. The main factors to maintaining fresh bait are temperature (bait should be kept cool) and, for live bait such as minnows, the oxygen level of the water in which they are stored.