In the search for specimen fish; or come to that any fish there are three essential keys to success. Put the right bait in the right place at the right time. The second and third of these are undoubtedly the most difficult the first ingredient is simple so long as it is given a little thought.
Bait selection will of course depend upon the species of fish being targeted. In this article we will take a look at baits for shore fishing for cod, ray, tope, bass, huss and conger. Fishing for such species is typical of the fishing we pursue off my home waters of the North Devon coast.
For these species one of the most convenient baits of choice is blast-frozen bait such as those marketed by Ammodytes, a company based in St Ives Cornwall. I visited the company a couple of years ago and was given an insight into the process involved in producing quality baits. The key is undoubtedly getting the bait from the sea and into the blast freezer as quickly as possible. On the day we visited we netted sandeel’s and had them from the store nets to the factory within an hour. The eels are alive on arrival and anaesthetised before being bagged and blast frozen at temperatures of -30 degrees C. They are frozen solid in 7 to 10 minutes.
The frozen baits are distributed far and wide to tackle shops providing quality convenient bait. It is essential that the angler who purchases this prime product gets it home and into the freezer without delay. If the journey home is more than a few minutes the bait should be placed within a cool bag or cool box with freezer packs.
When taking the bait to the shoreline try to take what you think you will need and then add at least one more pack for when the fish feed hard. Again transport in a cool-bag with ice packs. The bait that is left at the end of the trip can often be salvaged if it has not totally thawed out. On the next trip the bait can be used as back up in case you run low or used early in the tide when there is less chance of action. Never rely on bait that has been allowed to thaw out; this can be kept for use as ground bait at a later date. Grey mullet, mackerel, bream and garfish all respond well to mashed up fish mixed with bread crumb or bran during the summer and autumn months.
Those seeking larger fish may choose to freeze down old bait and use it for rubby dubby when targeting shark from a boat.
The first and foremost rule of bait presentation is to match the hook size to the bait ensuring that the hook point is free to penetrate. The other consideration is of course hook length material. For toothy critters such as tope it has to be wire whilst for conger it should be heavy mono of perhaps 150lb. For other species I would seldom go below 50lb as the heavy line especially when fishing after dark or in coloured water seldom deters fish.
Remembering that one of the other keys is ensuring that the bait is in the right place when it is worth thinking carefully about how we make the bait as streamlined as possible. Bait clips that hold the bait tight behind the lead whilst in flight will add yards to the cast and help to protect the bait.
Before we embark on baiting up there are a few tools and additions we may find of use. A sharp knife and a pair of quality kitchen scissors are essential to enable shaping and trimming. Elastic thread will help to bind the bait to the hook shank. Bait additives can also be used to add even more scent to the bait.
One negative aspect that has blighted sea angling for many years has been the careless and disgraceful discarding of angling rubbish on the shoreline. One of the most commonly seen items has been the plastic wrapping within which the bait is stored. This behaviour by a significant sector of the angling community has impacted on anglers’ image and has lead to the loss of access to numerous venues. I have despaired at this problem for many years and applaud Ammo’s latest initiative to encourage anglers to take their litter home.
Ammo Eco Angling is a new campaign with the mottos only keep what you eat – “Have it for tea or Set it free” and “Help protect our world – Take all your litter home”. The first project of this campaign is to try and reduce the litter left behind by anglers by offering reward. Participating Ammo stockists will be signing up to provide 1 free bag of Ammo bait for every 20 clean empty Ammo packet returned to them.
This initiative is I believe to be applauded but it seems sad that we even need to provide an incentive. I for one do not enjoy fishing from litter-strewn shores and have always taken my litter home. The sight of litter and the stench of urine blight many popular angling venues. Whilst it is no defence I must add that a disregard for the environment is not restricted to angling. Take a walk along any town centre street before the council clean up in the early hours and you will see piles of litter from the fast food outlets along with the stains smells and of over indulgence.
In this feature I have covered frozen convenience baits that are widely used by anglers. In a future feature I will discuss natural baits their collection and presentation.
Baiting Sequence for a large Snake Launce
Kevin Legge holder of the British Tope record demonstrates how he baits up with this top big fish bait. Snipping off the head and tail ensures that scent is released quickly into the water to start attracting the quarry immediately.
Note the hooks are size 6/0 to 7/0 Sakuma Manta’s needle sharp with plenty of hook point showing. Exposing the hook point is essential if a large percentage of hooked fish are to be landed. When shore fishing pennel rigs give far better presentation but remember that the top hook will be most likely to sink home. For this reason it is generally best to use two matching sized hooks. The top hook should ideally be an upturned eye pattern that will sit better along the line.