How to Hook and Fish Live Bait


Fishing with Live Bait

Looking for the hottest big fish technique in bass fishing?  Get on board with the bait Mother Nature provided.

Shad are the most productive and easiest way of catching bigger and better bass. There are several steps in making this work for you.

Things to consider are: 

Handle Bait Properly

When dipping bait out of bait tank use fine mesh nets and try to handle quickly and as gently as possible. Try holding them on top and bottom with cupped hand placing your index finger on their nose to keep the slimly rascals from squirting out of your hand. Water temperature in your bait tank should make slow changes, not over 5�  if any, from the time shad are placed in live well, until they reach destination to be fished. Plenty of oxygen must be provided also. Bass rarely hit bait that can't run away from them. There are also many good products to treat holding tanks or bait wells to keep your shad lively, blackbass and stripers don't like sluggish bait. Keep your bait fresh and perky.

Fishing and Terminal Tackle

Using proper tackle to match bait size can increase number of hits. For example, if the bait is three inches long, stay with 3 ought or less on your hook size. For Big Gizzard Shad 8 to 18 inches long, use 6 and 8 ought hooks.  Seven foot heavy action rods with 30lb big game main lines work fine. Use a swivel and about 4 foot of leader line. You can vary the size of the leader from 15 - 30lb depending on the size of the bait and time of the year. I recommend good reels with clickers like the Garcia 6500 series. Circle Hooks will help you release your fish in good shape when using live bait.


Hooking a Live Bait

Shad live longer if hooked through front lips or bottom lip through nostril when trolling, If you are still fishing the most common placement of hook is under the dorsal fin. Front lip hook technique makes the shiner swim in a downward motion, and works great when trolling. Hooking in the dorsal fin will make the bait swim up and away from the line or bobber, thus creating more action, but the bait will wear down much quicker and die sooner, so wait until you are anchored to try this technique. Anal fin hooking close to back bone, but taking care not to touch spine, will make bait swim down and away. Shiners can actually be steered under vegetation to exact points where you want to be with practice.

Bait Presentation

When casting live bait, remember the object is to get them to the fish in good condition. Underhand pitching or swinging side arm prevent hard impact with the water, thus helps to keep all the scales intact. Scales that are knocked off leave white spots on your bait that can be seen under water as well as makes your bait weak. Take the time to hit your target the first time without repeated casts. Just remember you are not fishing with artificial bait, so let the shiner or shad do his job. when anchored set your lines at different depths and adjust to where hits are coming from.


Balloons and Bobbers

Keep them small, only large enough to keep up with, where, and what is happening on the other end of the line.  As far as bobbers or balloons, I personally like small party balloons, they have less resistance and let your bait swim freely and not wear them down as fast. Free line works great in running water or for trolling. It also works better in deep water or high skies days when fish do not want to come up. Carolina rigging in running water will normally blow your mind, it requires constant contact with weight in order to distinguish hits. Depending on the water speed, depth and size of shad use 1 � oz.- 4oz lead weights  with 3' to 4' leaders when downlinning.


Check your wind! If you know where the fish are, be sure to set the boat up properly first time in order not to spook your fish. Have adequate rope and heavy enough anchors to hold fast. Lock boat in front and rear with anchors to prevent shifting.

Setting the Hook

Most people and guides tend to lean toward super hard hook sets, the how is much more important than the hard. Women in the boat tend to prove this fact more often. Strength is good but skill is better. Remember nylon stretches, so retrieve all slack smoothly until you feel the fish, with rod tip down make an over head hook set surprising your catch, while maintaining pressure keep your rod up to help keep hook firmly in place. Experience says from the time the float goes down till the time to set the hook should be around a 10 count. The exception is if you are using live bait 10 inches or longer, where you may have to wait up to 20 seconds. Keep in ming if a bass starts off with a live bait in excess of 10 inches it will be a big fish.

Also see circle hooks on how to set circle hooks


Please Practice Catch and Release ....

And most of all Create Cherished Memories.

"There are many things in life that will catch your eye,  but only a few will catch your heart.....pursue those."  Arkansas Striper Fishing

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