Live bait tips to land more fish

A Part Of The What's Biting Series

Offshore Fishing Rods and Reels

I like to catch fish on artificial baits. I like to troll pretty lures; I like to cast plugs, jigs, flies, or just about anything else that I can fool a fish into eating. But with that comes less fish caught. I know if I were to use more live bait, I would catch more fish. It doesn’t matter if I’m trout fishing in Old River or grouper fishing offshore, live bait always catches more fish.

When I am headed offshore for a bottom fishing trip, I can usually load my livewell with pinfish caught at the end of a condo dock. It takes a little time prior to the trip, but having pinfish – especially big pinfish – always makes for a better offshore adventure. Docks and most pilings will hold pinfish. I use a lightweight spinning rod, a couple of split shot weights, and a very small brim hook baited with either a little piece of shrimp or squid. Shrimp is very effective, but I have found squid will stay on the hook longer and gives you multiple chances at catching fish on each cast.

Even with my pinfish success, I have always felt I was a bit of a one trick pony when it came to catching live bait. I knew there had to be other ways and places to catch bait before heading offshore. So I did what I always recommend. I went and talked with a local expert at a local tackle shop. Chris Vecsey of Sam’s Stop and Shop in Orange Beach is always friendly and helpful to locals and visitors on all things fishing here on the coast. When it came to live bait information, he gave me more than enough to fill up the largest livewell.

“I always start by throwing a cast net to get some finger mullet in the bait well. They are plentiful, fairly easy to find, and a very effective offshore bait,” said Vescey. Private docks and piers all along our coastal bays are great places to throw a cast net according to Chris. Another bait producing spot is around the Perdido Pass Bridge, but with its strong current, you will need a big heavy cast net that sinks quickly.

Sabiki Rig
A Sabiki rig is a great way to load the livewell with live bait prior to heading offshore.

Another way to ‘make bait’ is by using a Sabiki rig. Sabikis are available at every tackle shop, and Vescey recommends using them before you even leave the pass. “You can catch lots of bait by using a Sabiki at the rocks along the pass, at the bridge, or at any of the buoys in our area.” Once you head out of the pass, it’s always worth the time to stop and drop your Sabiki at the farewell buoy.

If you don’t feel you have enough live bait when you start to venture offshore, Vescey has one last suggestion on where to go. “Any of the shallow water reefs, like the pyramids usually hold bait.” Drop down a two or three hook rig with small pieces of squid over the structure. You’ll have a good chance of catching everything from ruby red lips, threadfin herring, big pinfish to small porgeys. Having these baitfish in your livewell gives you some of the best bait possible when you get to your desired offshore location.

Catching live bait will not only help you catch more fish offshore, but it’s great fun for the kids. Kids love catching fish of any size, so having them help in loading the livewell sets the tone for a great trip. Then when you catch a big fish offshore on a live bait, of course, it was caught on a bait, caught by one of the kids.


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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1323 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…