12. Rig a Live Bait
The critical key to all live-bait rigging is hook positioning. The bait must swim naturally but you need to be careful not to hook the fish so deep that you injure it, yet deep enough so the hook doesn't tear free. Here are four basic rigs.
A popular method for slow trolling is to nose-hook the bait (through the upper jaw, not both jaws, if you want it to live longer). However, when anchored or drifting, a nose-hooked bait will eventually want to swim back under the boat.
To encourage the bait to swim away from the boat, rig the hook in the fleshy part of the bait's shoulder, just ahead of the dorsal fin.
Rigging the hook sideways through the flesh at the front of the eye allows the bait to swim naturally at the surface or when trolled.
Finally, if you want the bait to swim away from the boat and down, hook through its meaty belly above the vent.
13. Stretch It Out
Longer casts equal more fish because you cover more water. One of the quickest ways to add distance to a cast is to go with a small-diameter, lightweight line and to keep the spool of the reel at capacity.
"When using a baitcasting reel, I'll loosen the right-side spool tension knob as much as possible," says Bruce Shuler, a veteran guide on the Laguna Madre, in South Texas. "I'll make 1/8-inch turns of the knob until I get it so loose that the spool will turn freely when disengaged."
With a spinning reel, you want to make sure the line-release trigger guard doesn't have any nicks. If you can bypass the guard, barely tip your casting finger with the line and let her rip. Shuler select rods with a soft or very flexible tip.
"The trick is to let the rod's soft tip load up, then come forward and make a smooth cast," Shuler explained. Also, a clean reel will cast farther every time. Jeremy Ebert, a professional at cleaning and repairing reels for Fishing Tackle Unlimited in Houston, Texas, says a few drops of light oil on the reel's shaft and the bearings is perfect for longer casts. "Don't ever submerge the reel," he says. "Use a light mist or wet cloth to clean it after each trip." Make sure the eyes on the rod are clean and free of salt buildup. After every trip, wipe down the rod with a wet towel, then spray the guides with lubricant.
- Robert Sloan
14. Find the Holes on the Beach
Finding the deeper water, the pockets that hold fish, is the key to finding fish along a beach. Some beaches are flat with just slight depressions; while others have distinct holes with severe drop-offs. In clear water and bright sun, look for the blue-green holes contrasting with the sandbars. In low light or when the water is discolored, you need to look at the shoreline and watch wave action for clues. Along some beaches, sand walls form in front of the bigger holes. They can be three to four feet high. A bowl between two points usually is a deep pocket of water, if the beach's slope is steep.
Watching wave action and how the white water moves over the beach's contour is the best way to find good water. Along flat sections of beach, which are devoid of holding water, waves break then roll all the way to the shore. In sections with sandbars and holes, the wave breaks over the bar, rolls for a distance, then disappears. Where this wall of white water disappears is the inside edge of the hole. Watch surface bubbles to determine the flow's direction. This flow moves from the corner back to the deeper water in the hole's middle, or in the case of a very large hole creates a long section of moving, fishable water. Without wave action look for a current line indicating a sandbar with a drop-off on the backside.