Lively Fishing With Dead Baits

Fresh and wiggling are not always required for tempting bottom fish

Lively Fishing With Dead Baits
Lively Fishing With Dead Baits

There's a visceral intrigue approaching giddiness each time an offshore angler drops a live baitfish to the bottom. Vulnerable forage restricted by a lead weight - this is gonna ring someone's dinner bell. True, livies will no doubt lead to a big rod doubled over.

But so will dead baits.

OK, tossing those flats of frozen sardines, Boston mackerel, menhaden or squid into the cooler isn't nearly as titillating as pursing a castnet full of baitfish into a livewell or shaking a set of baits off a gold hook "sabiki" rig. However, those deceased baits are much more than back-ups. In most cases, this should be your first choice.

For clarity, no one's suggesting we nix the live bait option. A frisky pinfish, pilchard or grunt can deliver the home run on that big grouper or sow snapper that's waiting for the right moment to feed.


Just consider these possible maritime maladies: You throw the castnet near your favorite piling and one of those phantom snags reaches up for a non-negotiable grasp. Turning to Plan B, you rig up a couple of Sabikis and on each load, marauding mackerel cut you off at the swivels.


Rough morning, huh? Well, say you run the gauntlet of fate and secure a day's supply of livies. Baitwells can fail, you know.

And even if you avoid such live bait frustrations, there are times when a breathing bait just isn't necessary - at least not initially. Take night fishing, for example. With the exception of full moon trips, visibility on offshore structures is minimal, so the flash and flutter of a live bait goes mostly unnoticed. Predators can detect the bait's frantic vibrations, but when you can't see very well, it's a lot harder to locate and catch a moving target than it is to find a smelly one that won't run from you.


Click image to see the dead bait photo gallery


Experienced captains will vary their offerings with half of the crew fishing livies and the others dropping dead bait. The fish will usually let you know which they prefer on that particular day, and adjusting to the signals means more bent rods. That being said, the instant activity that dead baits generate among all the "reef rats" typically attracts the attention of larger fish.


Live baiters use longer leaders (four feet or more) to give baits room to dance. Dead baits need no such latitude. In fact, the more space you leave between hook and weight, the longer it takes for you to feel the often-subtle tugs. For optimal performance, keep dead bait leaders to three feet max.

Now, using an entire sardine or squid will certainly garner plenty of attention, but it's usually wasteful overkill. Better to cut dead baits into 3-inch chunks - this makes the bait last longer, plus it releases more scent into the water. With large offerings like Spanish sardines, at least rip off the tail so the bait doesn't "helicopter" on its descent and twist your line. For the hefty Boston mackerel (the ones with the tiger stripes), try fishing a flank of meat filleted from the backbone.

When prepping dead baits, it's best to cut them while they're at least partially frozen, as it's easier to slice a firm object, rather than a soft, mushy one. Also, a squid's top section is the toughest and therefore better to fish with.  You can use the soft tentacles, but it's difficult to get them all arranged on the hook. Left to flutter in the current, tentacles give bait stealers too much easy leverage.


Of course, if you caught live baits and some or all have expired, don't hesitate to grant them posthumous duty. It's best to cut recently deceased baits to release more scent. With larger baits, you might even butterfly one or filet it and use a single flank. It's more about scent than sight, so the bloodier the better.

Again, no one's eschewing live baits or the attempt to capture it. However, dead baits can make your day more pleasant by reducing offshore stress when livies just don't happen. So on your next bottom-fishing excursion remember, dead heads are the life of the party.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

Major League Fishing pros Alton Jones, Jeff Sprague, Anthony Gagliardi and James Watson share their thoughts on how to approach fishing a new lake for bass.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against the pandemic with special giveaway. News

Outdoors Industry Honoring Healthcare Heroes: COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against...

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Fishing

Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee

Larry Larsen - April 28, 2020

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more...

Bow fisherman arrows fish of a lifetime on South Texas trip. Other Freshwater

240 Pounds! Massive Alligator Gar Taken on Father's Day

Lynn Burkhead - June 22, 2020

Bow fisherman arrows fish of a lifetime on South Texas trip.

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now