Have you ever left the dock and headed out to fish after forgetting your bait?
How many of us have ever left the dock and headed out to fish only to find you left the bait in a cooler on the dock? It’s a long ride back to the dock, and at the price of fuel today, it makes it very expensive to head back and retrieve it.
I have left my bait on several occasions over the years. There were also some days when there was no bait to be found! There are some solutions to a dilemma like this. Being prepared ahead of time can allow you to fish without retrieving that bait.
I always keep several items on the boat. These are things I only remove when I do a complete cleaning, and I make sure they are stowed on the boat again before I finish. They include several Sabiki rigs in a variety of sizes, an unbreakable jar of salt-hardened shrimp pieces, and a cast net.
The Sabiki rigs are a staple item on my boat for catching live bait. The shrimp is what I use to tip my bucktail jigs, and it also can be used alone to catch small fish for bait. The cast net is, of course, the major bait catching item. I keep it stowed in a two gallon plastic bucket, always ready when a school of baitfish comes around.
Improvising also plays an important role on one of these days. I remember one trip in particular when I was growing up in Key West. We had a small skiff and outboard – an 11 hp Wizard from Western Auto – and we did a lot of trolling for barracuda. We trolled because the boat leaked so badly we could only anchor for a few minutes at a time.
The boat was tied to some mangroves in a small creek. A fishing trip entailed buying bait, usually three pounds of whole mullet, and taking all our gear to the boat.
On this particular day, we managed to leave the mullet on the counter at the bait shop. We discovered this fact after we had left the creek and run to the small islands near Sawyer Key, around which we planned to troll. With no bait, my father took his shirt and undershirt off. He tore several strips of cloth from his white undershirt. They were about ten inches long and two inches wide.
Normally we would have taken one filet from the side of a mullet and cut it in half long ways to make two strip baits. This strip bait would be placed on a tandem double hook rig, and trolled slowly behind the boat. Barracuda on the grass flats around these islands could not resist bait like this.
Today, we took the cloth strips and hooked them up just like we did the mullet baits. In short order, we had several fish in the boat. The belly of a barracuda is very nice and white, and my father did not wait very long to slice a few strip baits from the fish we had caught.
It turned out to be a good day, even “without bait”. I even went to “Show and tell” at school the next Monday to tell everyone how we had caught fish on a piece of cloth!
Next time you're on the water with no bait, try a little innovation. It just might work!