Surf fishermen know that having the right bait can be a key component in catching fish in the suds. But, which bait is best? All of them, and none of them. Truth be told, it depends on the season, location, target species, and countless other factors. So let’s take a look at some of the top picks.
Squid – Squid is super-rugged so it stays on the hook even in rough conditions, easily cut into strips or chunks, and will be eaten by just about anything that swims. It is also, however, rarely the number-one offering for any species of fish. Use it when the surf is rough and you need an all-around bait for multiple species.
Shrimp – Shrimp generates bites and there’s no doubt it’s a favored food of many different fish, but it’s too delicate to use in a heavy surf or when you’re making long casts with heavy weights. Reserve its use for calm days and ideal conditions.
Cut baitfish – Fish chunks are always a winner for fish like blues and flounder, and make a fairly good bait for redfish, too. Different species stay on the hook better or worse, so generally speaking firmer fish that haven’t been frozen are often the best bet.
Finger mullet – Finger mullet are a great choice for blues and reds, but you need to use a special mullet rig (with a forward hook, wire leader, and aft hook) to best utilize them. Otherwise, you’ll often get short strikes and reel in a mullet head.
Peeler crab – Like shrimp, these baits get washed out or washed off easily and on top of that, little fish often nip away the meat leaving you with just shell on your hook. However, at times you’ll have to put up with it because in some areas at some times, both red and black drum will become focused on crab and hit little else.
Mole crabs – This is another little delicacy that drum (blacks especially) sometimes show a serious preference for. Pompano also love them, making mole crab an excellent substitute for shrimp on rough days. But they may be hard to find, and fish-eaters like blues and flounder don’t always appreciate them so much.
Along with all these baits, remember that FishBites are often an excellent substitute for the real thing when conditions or bait shop supplies don’t allow you to use the natural bait of your choice. And of course, casting lures in the surf works, too!