How to Catch Your Own Live Bait

A Sabiki Rig

No matter what species of predator fish you happen to be targeting, you can usually provoke a strike with a lifelike swimbait in the color of a local baitfish or with the bright, enticing flash of a chrome spoon like a Hopkins or Krocodile. However, there are many times when using live bait can be even more effective. The problem for many anglers fishing inshore and offshore is that finding reliable vendors of live baitfish in most fishing venues can sometime be a bit difficult. It is at times like these when a manufactured bait catching rig might very well end up being your best fishing buddy.

The Sabiki Rig

Originally referred to as a ‘Lucky Joe’ decades ago, this design has been perfected over the years by a Japanese firm, Sabiki, and has been imitated by numerous competitors. Whether they be anchovies, sardines or finger mullet, most forage fish suitable for use as live bait have relatively small mouths that make them difficult to hook using standard terminal tackle. Sabiki rigs, however, not only feature the tiny hooks necessary to get the job done, they are also strung together on a multiple hook gangion that allows you to take a greater number of baitfish with each drop of the rig.

Having a bait tank onboard is an invaluable asset when catching your own bait, but you can often get by with a 5-gallon bucket that is equipped with one of the small aerators that are available at most well stocked bait & tackle stores. Whether you are using one near a marina dock, an offshore island or out in the open water, having a few of these valuable tools in your tackle box can sometimes determine the difference between the success or failure of your fishing trip.

Techniques for Using the Rig

They are also fairly easy to use; simply take the rig out of its packaging and carefully unwind it. Begin by attaching a small weight, about ½ ounce or so, to the clip at the bottom of the rig in order to keep it hanging straight, and then tie the end on your line to the small swivel at the top. A good trick to ensure its effectiveness is to attach a very small strip of cut squid to each of the bottom two hooks. Drop the rig into the water and slowly lower it at least a meter in depth before lightly rigging your rod up and down to impart more lifelike action.

Experiment at various depths in order to find fish. You may catch a few at a time, but even if you just hook one, retrieve it quickly and promptly place it immediately into a bait tank or a bucket filled with sea water. If you must use the bucket method, it is a good idea to also purchase a battery powered aerator to help keep your bait alive. In many cases, you can still catch fish using dead bait, but it is always preferable if it’s still wiggling when it hits the water.

Hooking your bait can be tricky depending upon what species you are using. Generally speaking, however, the two most common techniques are hooking the fish through the tip of the lower and upper jaw or right above the anal opening. The former is best when you will be either trolling or slowly retrieving the bait; the latter is best when you are allowing the fish to swim away while your reel is in freespool.

But whether you end up using a live bait , dead bait or artificial lures one thing is certain; it never hurts to have as many tricks up your sleeve as possible when you set out to hook and land an elusive saltwater gamefish.