Live Bait, Yes or No?

Live bait fishing is a very controversial subject among bass fisherman. As a professional guide I do a lot of both (live and artificial bait.) I prefer artificial when the fish are biting good but let’s face it, that’s only about 1/2 of the time, so instead of getting the sore wrist & elbow I resort to live bait & generally catch more fish. Most fishermen’s complaint about live bait is that it kills a lot of fish because they swallow the bait into their throat and stomach not true.

For instance last winter while fishing shiners on Lake Fork we caught 600 plus bass! Of these less than 10 had swallowed the shiner that is less than 2%. While on the other hand when we were fishing Carolina rigged plastic lizards & worms we caught about 100 fish & at least 15 of these had swallowed the lure into their throat or stomach, see my point. Not only is live bait easier on the fish but they also get a meal for their trouble. It’s a win, win situation; it also makes it possible for any fisherman or fisherwoman to catch the most & biggest fish no matter the angler’s skill level.

There is nothing bad or wrong about using live bait. When you do use live bait & your plan is to release the fish you should stay alert & set the hook as soon as possible this is why we have had such a good release ratio at Ducktrail Guide Service. We don’t allow the fish to swallow the bait. On a shiner let them take the float or balloon down for 3 seconds no more. Most fish will roll the bait around in their mouth till they get it positioned to swallow. This will only take them a couple of seconds, and then set the hook.

On lake fork last February Ralph Mallicoat a tournament fisherman from Lebanon, tn. Threw a shiner out at the edge of a small tree line & it disappeared immediately. Well Ralph being a skeptical live bait fisherman was surprised to see a 10lb. 15 ounce large mouth had his shiner. Ralph landed the biggest bass of his life with some help from his trusty sidekick nick apple & they found a perfect lip hooked bass. Their fish was perfectly safe & healthy, then Ralph (the villain) threw it in the livewell & on the wall it went. Good job Ralph. Since then Ralph has sold his ranger & bought an airplane. I told him a fiberglass replica was the way to go but no he had to kill the fish & the great fish god above took his love of bass fishing away.

My point is this it’s better to catch fish on live bait than not catch any on artificial when you can’t get a bite, also release the big fish. Weigh them take a picture & get a replica mount.

Don’t forget wear your life jacket set the hook & may the fish be with you.

Jim Duckworth

Ducktrail Guide Service