Sometimes, the wreck action fires up as soon as you drop the first bait. Other times, the locals need a little convincing. Experienced wreckers know that beating the surface with a rod tip will bring curious amberjack topside to investigate. For other species, the scent of potential meals holds a powerful attraction.
Chumming tactics may vary by particular scenario and innovative approaches are limited only by personal creativity. Here's a rundown of effective tactics that will handle most wreck objectives.
Frozen Chum Block
The most common and utilitarian option, a chum block comprises ground fish parts and added fish oil. Drop the block into a mesh bag and attach the bag's drawstring to a cleat so the block hangs at the surface. Waves and warmer water temperature will melt the block and release a trail of fish oils, while also dispersing a cloud of tasty chum bits throughout the water column.
When slow trolling a wreck for kingfish, barracuda, sharks and the like, hang your chum bag amidships so the melting bits drift under the boat and back to the stern where the prop wash will force the fish-attracting goodness deeper. Also, occasionally shaking the chum bag releases a concentrated burst of chum particles.
And for deep chumming, place a chum block inside a wire chum cage that clips to your anchor line or deploys independently on a weighted line. This stimulates the bottom bite while protecting the chum block from instant depletion by the scores of tiny reef rats.
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Call 'Em with a Carcass
For whatever reason, sharks seem to be the only creature attracted to the foul smell of a freshly cut barracuda. Live or dead, 'cudas stink worse than week-old gym socks, but if sharks are your target, hang a filleted or butterflied cuda carcass from your transom and watch the action increase.
A popular tactic for kingfish pursuits, dispersing concentrated menhaden ("pogy") oil from a IV style dripper bag leaves a sheen of scent at the surface that leads kings and other pelagic to your bait spread.
Savvy kingfish pros will often soak sinking fish feed pellets or oat in menhaden oil to get the scent trail farther into the water column.
Tossing handfuls of live pilchards, threadfin herring or other local forage over a wreck will quickly stimulate a feeding frenzy that generally converts well-placed lures or hooked baits into bent rods. The sudden appearance of disoriented baitfish is more than any self-respecting kingfish, mackerel or amberjack can stand, so expect plenty of white water frothing, swirls, boils and probably a few skyrocketing gluttons who hit the gas way to close to the surface.
For smaller appetizers that don't require any chasing, use a pair of shears to snip live baits or frozen sardines into thumbnail-size nuggets that will drift down through the water column and grab your quarry's attention with a shimmering trail of edibles that drive them to madly search for bigger bites. Frozen anchovies, ("glass minnows") also work well here, but drop these tiny shards whole and watch the snapper rise topside to gobble the snacks.
However you chum, keep it in moderation - just enough to attract the crowd and keep them interested. Overdoing it with the freebies runs the risk of filling up your quarry to the point that they won't touch a hooked bait.
A couple other things: First, take care to avoid soiling your clothes or shoes with fish oil - either the stuff you put in the dripper bag or the drippings from a chum block. Simply put, you're better off trashing anything stained with fish oil.
Lastly, when chum efforts yield the results you seek, don't stop. You might enjoy a strong flurry of activity that yields plenty of rod-bending fun, but if you let the bite die down, the restart may take longer than you care to wait, so keep the attraction train rolling.