I love bait. The smell of chum, the feeling of oily bunker, and the sight of wiggling bloodworms get me all charged up. But fishing from a boat, it’s easier than one might think to ruin perfectly good baits with little more than inattention. Pull any one of these bait blunders, and your catch rate will go through the floor.
1. Leave fresh baits in full sunlight. Even if it’s not terribly hot outside, allowing sunshine to beam down on any bait is a bad idea. And when it is hot outside, good bait can go bad in a matter of minutes. Ask yourself: would you want to eat the shrimp that have been sitting there for an hour? Then, how can you expect the fish to? Prevent this problem by keeping your baits in a tray, and place the tray in a cooler that’s easy to access. Keep those goodies cool and safe, and the fish will want to eat ’em.
2. Cutting baits with a dull knife. This may seem like no big deal—until you try to fillet a soft, thawed bunker and succeed only in turning it into mush and skin. Keep your bait knife sharp and in good shape, and you won’t waste nearly as much time, effort, and bait trying to get an intact morsel that’ll stay on your hook.
3. Leaving the net in the livewell. If you let that net sit in there with all your livies, the fish will swim into it and may get gilled, or otherwise ensnared in the mesh. Or, they may just swim into the net and freak out. Either way, your nice healthy baitfish will beat themselves up trying to get free.
4. Soaking cut bait in a different bait’s juices. I’ve seen guys keep squid strips soaking in a tub of peeler juice. Why should a chunk of squid smell like a crab? I don’t know, and the fish don’t know, either.
5. “Cleaning” the skin off of squid. Do the live squid those fish are chasing after have their skin intact, or are they bright white? Use a little common sense, and you’ll realize that skinning the squid only reduces how natural your bait looks.