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My bait won't stay on the hook

“My bait won’t stay on the hook!”

This is the biggest complaint I hear from new anglers. Some baits stay on the hook no matter how hard you cast them. Other baits are softer and more delicate and you have to know how to hook them and be careful when you cast them.

Sometimes, it’s little fish or crabs that are nibbling off your bait. The angler can barely feel them feeding away, so the angler thinks the bait is falling off the hook! If you are surf fishing with a top and bottom rig with Styrofoam surf floats, examine the floats and see if you can see teeth or claw marks in the Styrofoam floats. This is a tell-tale sign. If you are having trouble with crabs stealing your bait on the beach, switch from a two hook rig to a longer one hook rig so the Styrofoam float keeps your bait further off the bottom.

It’s harder to tell if the crabs or little fish are stealing your bait in the bay. I add a piece of squid to my bait, and let it dangle longer than the other bait and wait and see if crabs are hanging on. If you reel in slowly, a crab will hang on to the squid strip!

“What is the toughest bait that I can keep on my hook?”

Good old fashioned squid is one of the toughest baits there are. It’s a good all around bait and will stay on the hook better than any other bait. Just keep in mind that it is a crab and skate attractor! Box squid are smaller and thinner than the “cleaned and cut” squid which comes in a little tub and sold by most bait companies and tackle stores. Most of that is marinated in peeler crab oil. It’s extremely tough! Personally, I think the box squid is more effective bait when using it alone, but if you are sandwiching baits, or fishing in deep water where changing your bait is a pain, go with the “cleaned and cut.”

“My shiners fall right off when I cast them!”

Frozen shiners are really good bait for flounder and snapper blues. But they are delicate, and you must cast gently. You can cast them FAR, just don’t throw so HARD. The recoil of the tip whipping through the air when the bait hits the water will jerk them off the hook! To help alleviate this problem, put the shiner on first, hooked simply through the eyes, and attach a strip of squid or Fish Bites artificial bloodworm or squid strip to the same hook. This second, tougher bait will help stop the shiner from coming off the hook when casting. If you are still having problems or you are trying some larger varieties of shiners out there such as smelts, glass minnows, and sand eels that aren’t staying on the hook so well, try hooking them through the gill plate. The gill plate is very hard.

Live minnows are tougher, so if you are still having trouble, switch to these baits. Hook them under the chin and up through both lips. Again, a strip of squid or artificial strip bait will help hold the minnow on if you are a forceful caster. Fish Bite strips are especially good because they have that tough mesh that helps hold the other bait on the hook. Then if you fling your natural bait off, you’ll still have some bait on your hook!

“I was trying clam for bait, and it was terrible! It would fall right off!”

Clam is one of those baits that are hard to keep on the hook, even for an experienced angler. Hook it through the hard part first, and then drape the softer part over the barb of the hook if you are dropping straight down. If you are casting the clam, start with the hard part, hook the soft parts a couple times, and then end with the hard part so it won’t fly off the hook. Buy the salted clam, or if you have fresh clam, pour kosher salt over the meat of the clam to toughen them up. Many anglers use a rubber band or elastic thread material bought in a sewing, crafts, or tackle store to keep the bait on the hook.

“I’m having the same problem with peeler crab!”

After sectioning the peeler crab, hook the peeler crab in the hard part of a leg socket. Anglers also use rubber band or elastic thread material. Kosher salt will help you out with peelers too. Actually, Kosher salt will help you out with any kind of bait!

“My bait turned to mush when I cut it!”

Cutting bait such as finger mullet or bunker needs to be cut with a sharp knife. Over- handling the bait will make it fall off the hook even on an easy cast. Keep in mind, when cutting up a whole fish for bait, you need to keep the skin on. If it has scales, scale it first. Also, the toughest piece of bait if you are “chunking” is the hard piece right next to the tail. Cut off the tail, pierce that piece of meat right thru the bone, and it will stay on really good. Belly pieces of bait are softer. The head part of a bait is always tough of course. Anglers can bait up a chunk of bait through the head, piercing it through the eyes or snout.
If you fillet a fish such as spot, bunker or mullet for strip baits for surf fishing or drift fishing in the bay, use a sharp knife and a cutting board. Trying to fillet and cut a bait into strips on the beach or boat without a hard surface to work on makes it very difficult. Once you have your strips cut, put them back in the cooler on ice so the sun does not deteriorate them. Sprinkle them with a little salt if you like. Be sure to use sharp hooks too! Trying to hook a delicate piece of meat on a dull hook will mush it up as well!

Hint: If you fish a lot, keep one of those little ceramic knife sharpeners in your box. They only cost a couple bucks and will quickly re-sharpen your bait knife. Also, a little hook hone to keep your hooks sharp is a very handy tool. Both are small and easy to stash in the box.

“My finger mullet just won’t stay on the hook when I cut it, no matter what I do!”

Then use it whole! Small finger mullets make great “big flounder” baits when simply hooked through the eyes or snout. If you are fishing for bluefish (butt biters as the old salts call them), use a whole mullet rig. It’s a popular surf fishing rig, but can also be used in the bay or piers for bluefish. The mullet will not come off the hook! These rigs are made specifically to bait a whole finger mullet. It is a rig made with a wire rod and a detachable hook. Several companies make this rig and it is extremely easy to use. It is made with a two-hook treble hook that can be removed, allowing you to push a metal rod through the mouth of a finger mullet and out the anus. Then you re-attach the hook. It has a 3-way swivel and a Duo-Lock snap for simple attachment. These come with a pear-shaped float. You attach your sinker to the Duo-Lock and the three-way to your line or snap swivel.

If you are fishing the bay and decide you don’t want the float, cut it off with a sharp knife. Sometimes I cut off the float when I’m surf fishing for flounder with finger mullet or stripers. If you cut off the float, you got to keep your bait moving. Cast and slowly retrieve.

“How the heck do you keep a live eel on the hook?”

Under the chin and out through the eye socket for the best results. (Editors note: an easy way to handle eels is to put them into a bucket of ice, which puts the eels in a coma-like state. Once they hit the water, and thaw out a bit, they come alive and are frisky as ever.)

“Live spot and live bunker sometimes fall off!”

Take the hook in the mouth and up through the roof of the mouth, thru the snout. This part is very tough. Sometimes when you hook them thru the eyes, they swim sideways and fall off.

Bait! There are more baits, but we’re out of space…. If you can’t keep it on the hook, you can’t catch fish. Use a sharp knife, check your bait more often, use sandwich baits (squid and Fish Bites), and keep Kosher salt in your pantry.

Good fishing….

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 April 2011 15:09