3 Tips for Live-Lining Baitfish

Trolling with Spoons and Planers
September 3, 2019
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Live-lining with baitfish isn't quite as KISS as it sounds.

Live-lining with baitfish seems really simple, right? You stick a fish on a hook, pitch it out there, and let it swim… what could be simpler?

Live-lining with baitfish isn’t quite as KISS as it sounds.

Truth be told, if you look at live-lining like this you will catch some fish. But if you consider a few details when you next go live-lining, you’ll catch a whole lot more.

  1. Hook the baitfish depending on where you want it to swim. When hooked in the back, most baits will swim down. In many cases you won’t even need to add weight, to present your bait down deep. But when hooked through the nose or lips, most swim at or near the surface. So if the predators are cruising around up top, choose this hooking method.
  2. Use circle hooks. In most cases, predators take a moment or two to eat a live baitfish and many will attempt to injure it before they try to swallow it all the way down. J-hooks and quick hook-sets usually won’t work as well in this scenario as a circle hook, which allows you to let a fish eat for several seconds without too much risk that the hook will end up deep in the fish’s gut  – and your leader will be rubbing up against its teeth. Since the circle hook usually lodges in the corner of a fish’s jaw you stand a much lower chance of being bitten off even if you give the fish more time to take the bait.
  3. Never re-use a baitfish that’s already been hit. Sure, you can take that poor, ragged thing and toss it back out, and sooner or later you’ll probably get a bite. But predators get excited by lively-looking baits that are swimming erratically as though they’re in danger. That’s what a fresh bait looks like. One that’s already been hit once or twice, on the other hand, rarely acts lively and often can barely swim upright. The hits will come faster, if you swap them out for a freshie.

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