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April 08, 2009

Bay Fishing with Bait 101

Bay fishing using bait

I see weekend fisherman that spend a lot of time on the water not really adapting to the methods that professionals use to catch fish consistently. If you are a lure aficionado or tournament angler then this article is not for you, sorry! I see a lot of authors writing about how fast to work your chartreuse, pumpkin seed, gold flakey, curly tailed fish whackers or to find sandy, shelly, grassy flats drop offs, so I thought I'd write something most of you could really use to catch fish more consistently!

I will go over the four or really five major types of fishing bait that we use as fishing guides. The first way to fish — although many guides have given up this method because it requires more effort to train the customers — is shrimp and popping cork (SPC). The second is anchoring up and fishing the sand pockets located in the flats. The third is anchoring up and fishing guts and isolated, deep-water areas locked within the flats systems. The four and fifth way are fishing with piggies (piggy perch, not pin perch) and croaker.

Now that I have the described the types of fishing we choose, let me explain when we use them — this is the most important part! Wind, is the most important indicator of what method we will use. I personally pray for wind so we can use the most popular, successful and frequently engaged method — shrimp and popping cork. SPC can be used for the longest time frame during the year! The SPC method also allows my customers more of a chance to do the fishing themselves instead of feeling all they do is reel in the fish! When the wind is blowing 15 knots or more this is the best option to catch fish! This is only an option in the Fall, Winter and Spring as the bait fish mature and others invade the flats system this methods becomes unfeasible, also the larger fish don't seem to gobble up the shrimp as readily. If you use the SPC method in the summer on the big bay, the fish seem to range in the 14-inch-and-under category, which will leave you hungry at the end of the day!

If there is no wind, put the shrimp and popping cork aside. Seriously — you've got to get used to fishing the sand pockets (pot holes) and put your time in doing it! This is a very important tip; don't try to revert back to drift fishing with shrimp and popping cork. It will take time to have confidence to do this type of fishing, but it is worth the effort because nothing is more effective on light wind or windless day. This type of fishing can be done with live mullet, cut mullet, dead shrimp, live shrimp, pin perch, piggy perch, ballyhoo or crabs. I like to use live bait predominantly when there is little wind, however I will almost always mix it up with cut bait too, just to add scent to the water. You can use everything from a jig head to a Carolina rig with various weights. We also add a water corks at times to get extra casting distance, which is very important on the days without wind!