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November 12, 2013

5 Ways to Hook A Live Bait

Fine-tune hook placement for ultimate control of liveys.


Throat hooking forces a bait into the depths, perfect for midlevel fish. It’s a proven tactic when free-lining from a stationary position to jetties, seawalls, pilings or bait schools, as well as for bottomfishing from an anchored boat. It’s also good when slow-drifting. 

To manipulate the bait, free-line it, and then pause the line for several seconds and continue to free-spool. Repeat until the bait is in place. Every pause prompts it to swim harder, and a low, forward hook placement forces the bait to swim deeper.

When anchored for bottomfish, fishing a sinker behind a leader ranging from 5 to 40 feet long, the sinker rests on the bottom while the bait scurries just off the ocean floor with the freedom of the long leader.

Anal Fin

A bait hooked near its anal fin can be manipulated into a specific area. It’s also a great way to make baits swim away from a stationary platform, like a pier, jetty, bridge, beach or shoreline.

Similar to a throat-hooked bait, without forward momentum, the bait can’t breathe; it panics and swims forward aggressively, enabling the angler to guide it farther away, or to a specific spot.

This is a good bottom and even middepth bait with a long leader, such as 30 to 40 feet common when rigging for mutton snapper, because the extra-long leader provides enough latitude for the bait to swim.

Offshore anglers can free-line the bait out a few hundred yards, jerk it off the hook, reel in, and then ­rebait with a fresh one. A constantly working live-bait rod is an excellent addition for pelagics, particularly when live-chumming.

Anal Vent

When anchored and live-baiting for grouper and snapper with smaller live baits such as pilchards, herring or pinfish, threading the hook through the bait’s anal cavity and out near its stomach causes the bait to wobble and dart head-up, as if it’s injured. These panicked vibrations and the action of the distressed baitfish triggers ­p­redators to strike. The midbait hook placement virtually guarantees a solid hookup.

This is an anchored-boat, ­bottomfishing tactic for passes and inlets, shadow lines along bridges and, of course, wrecks and reefs.