It can be said of successful trophy fisherman who time after time land those “big ones’ that their secret to success in the boat or off the shore to catch those ever elusive fish of your and their dreams is to use the right bait at the right time. Not only that but depending on seasonal / water / geographic or even reason that only those fish, know – they will appeal to and strike different baits at different times and at different locations. You might like strawberry pie yet it’s what the fish wants and likes that counts. It’s as simple as that. Or as old uncle Einer, the long time fisherman would teach and expound “If you want to catch a fish – you have to think like that very fish”.
Several very effective forms of bait to land those “big ones” include:
1) Mealworms and Grubs: mealworms and grubs are good bait for panfish and trout. Most fisherman (or fisherwomen) simply buy mealworms (also known in angling circles as mealies), but they are relatively easy to raise in your garage area yourself. Mealworms are really not worms at all, but instead are the larvae of Tenebrio beetles- which are a major pest of stored grains. Place the mealworms in deep plastic trays (plastic shoeboxes are great for this very purpose), with a supply of grain and a half-potato for moisture. Let them breed.
This is definitely a ‘garage project”, because the odor of a mealworm colony is not pleasant at all. In some areas, maggots and other grubs are favorite panfish bait. Because of their food habits, they are obviously purchased rather than raised. Fish mealworms and grubs on small lightweight hooks with a minimum of weight on the fishing lines.
2) Grasshoppers and Crickets: Grasshopper and crickets are excellent summertime bait for trout, bass and panfish. Search through tall grass early in the morning, when the cool air has grasshoppers in a state of dormancy. They do not keep well for more than a day or so, and are best collected and gathered fresh each morning.
Crickets, which can be bought through your local pet, reptile or bait stores, fare far better in captivity. To keep your whole supply of grasshoppers and crickets from “jumping” out of the bait jar every time the lid is opened, try this trick – put a wad of nylon stocking in the bottom of the jar. Amazingly the insects hook feet snag on the fine mesh and they can thus be easily removed one or two at a time.
Fish crickets and grasshoppers on the surface, or just below it. Slip a fine-wired hook under the thorax or collar, so that the bug remains uninjured and even lively. A clear plastic casting bobber will help get the bait out further with spinning tackle.
3) Frogs and Salamanders: Frogs and salamanders are good bass, pike and pickerel bait. Small frogs work best; look for them along grassy stream banks and marshy areas. If legal in your area, they can be caught at night with a flashlight. Aquatic salamanders like mudpuppies can be caught with a minnow net, or by carefully lifting flat rocks and grabbing them as they scurry.
As with minnows, hook the animal lightly through the lips or a leg. Many fisherman, to keep their bait lively and to avoid injuring them, will use “frog harnesses” that hold the bait in place with rubber bands.
4: Hellgrammites and Crayfish: Hellgrammites and crayfish are unmatched as smallmouth bass-bait. The hellgrammite, the aquatic larvae of the dobsonfly, is a worm-like bug, with a pair of sharp, powerful jaws, commonly found beneath rocks in rivers and large streams. Use a seine while rolling rocks to catch them, they keep them in a minnow bucket – hellgrammites require the same care as minnows.
Crayfish will catch more than just smallmouths. Most game fish will eat freshly molted crayfish. These freshly molted crayfish are referred to by some fishermen and anglers as “soft-shells”, which are flabby and pale. Like hellgrammites, crayfish are easiest to catch with a minnow seined in shallow water, licking over rocks to chase them into the net. Many people prefer to catch soft-shells, by hand, however, slowly lifting rocks. Poised to grab them if one of them is underneath.
Hopefully with a wiser and more appropriate choice of bait and bait fish and verities of baits you will have a successful day on the water or on the river banks or shallows. Still there is no guarantee. That is the beauty of the sport – its hunting for that elusive prey. Fishing as well experienced anglers and fly-fishermen will even tell you to the greatest degree for them both a day of relaxation, socializing with good “fishing buddies” and a relaxing outing in the great outdoors. Always remember that the worst day fishing , with no catch or catches what so ever , or mealy tiny fish landed, or the “junk fish ” species rather than the “real fish” , that no matter how difficult or frustrating a day fishing can be – is always better than the best day at work.
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